Got The Holiday Blues? Try Positive Psychology

December 15, 2006

by Frank Raczkiewicz

The holiday season is a time filled with happiness - family gatherings, parties, presents and resolutions for the upcoming year. But for people dealing with depression, the holiday season is a very difficult time. Psychologists, such as Baylor University's Dr. Michael Frisch, are now treating depression and other mental health problems by focusing on the other end of the spectrum - what's positive in a person's life.

This new type of treatment is simply called "positive psychology" - the study of how to improve a person's happiness and quality of life.

Frisch has put forth the newest and, some say, the most comprehensive approach to positive psychology in his new book, "Quality of Life Therapy."

At October's International Positive Psychology Summit in Washington, D.C., Frisch presented some of his most interesting findings about happiness and quality of life:

? As much as 50 percent of your happiness is inherited from your parents. The other 50 percent is made up of 16 specific areas, which range from health to goals to relationships.

? For many, faith and one's spiritual life are vital to happiness and fulfillment. Frisch said having faith allows people to be optimistic, which is a key trait found in generally happy people.

? Helping others and strong, rewarding relationships with loved ones and friends also are key factors.

? The physical setting of your home and other areas of life such as recreation, play and interaction with others can influence your life satisfaction.

? People who are more materialistic and place being rich as a high value tend to be more pessimistic and unhappy. Frisch found that while money can't buy happiness, happiness can buy you money.

"Happier people seem to have more initiative and productivity at work, and their customers and bosses are more satisfied, which can lead to a raise in pay," said Frisch, an internationally recognized positive psychology practitioner and researcher.

The positive psychology approach was recently tested empirically in a controlled clinical trial and found effective by an independent researcher at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston. Moreover, Frisch's approach is now being taught in university psychology programs across the nation.

Positive psychology teaches a person how to apply his or her strengths, along with new psychology skills, to specific areas in their life in order to increase their overall happiness. Frisch's approach asks participants to rate the importance and satisfaction they feel in 16 different areas as part of the Quality of Life Inventory, a test he created.

The 16 areas are:

1. Health
2. Self-esteem
3. Goals, values and spiritual life
4. Money
5. Work
6. Play
7. Learning
8. Creativity
9. Helping
10. Love
11. Friends
12. Children
13. Relatives
14. Home
15. Neighborhood
16. Community

"Overall happiness is like a salad and, in that, different people like different ingredients," Frisch said.

For more information, contact Dr. Frisch at (254) 710-2252.