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Coaching and the Science of Positive Psychology
At Lumia Coaching, you’ll hear us talk a lot about positive psychology in our life coach training program. That’s because evidence-based and science-backed training is the foundation of what we do. When it comes to helping people achieve their goals and live in alignment with their values and dreams, we think coaches need to understand how the human mind actually works!
What Is Positive Psychology?
Simply put, positive psychology is the study of human happiness. It’s a movement that began back in the 1960’s, driven by the work of psychology researcher Martin Seligman. At the time, the field of psychology was dominated by the study of human pain and suffering. Seligman and his colleagues wanted to take a different spin on things, with an empahsis on the factors and conditions that lead to contentment in life.
The aim of positive psychology is to study -- and teach -- the practices, mindset, and beliefs that contribute to not just surviving, but thriving.
In positive psychology, our focus is on cultivating an inner toolkit centered around personal strengths and values.
In this process, we’re not seeking to deny pain, suffering, or trauma that is a part of life. Nor does positive psychology advocate for bypassing negative thoughts and emotions. Instead, it uses them as a starting point for investigation. This involves recognizing our inner voices of criticism, diminishment, and self doubt, and learning how to work with them.
Whether we’re working to increase emotional intelligence or cultivate gratitude, positive psychology is not just theoretical. It’s an experiential practice that encourages clients to try on specific techniques, trust themselves, lean into their strengths, and discover what works best for them.
How Does Positive Psychology Apply To Coaching?
Positive psychology provides evidence-based tools that can help drive lasting change and increase overall satisfaction in life. For coaches who want a framework for helping their clients get consistent and measurable results, it’s useful to be familiar with the science and practice of positive psychology.
Some positive psychology techniques and interventions that apply well in a coaching context include:
- Knowing and appreciating your strengths
- Identifying personal values and priorities
- Cultivating positive emotions
- Resilience and coping skills
- Reframing a situation to recognize where you have agency, ability, and tools to make change
- Self-acceptance and compassion
- Future visioning: imagining and working toward a “best possible future self”
- Developing healthy habits and strengthening personal accountability
Let's take a look at just a couple of areas of research in the field of positive psychology that we teach in the Lumia life coach training program.
One of our favorite researchers to look to for information on how and why optimism works is Barbara Fredrickson. She’s a giant in the field of positive psychology and runs the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at UNC Chapel Hill.
Fredrickson published a theory called Broaden and Build based on her research. (We believe these findings are so impactful that it should be foundational for all coaches!)
According to Fredrickson, when we broaden our thought repertoire with positive emotions, we become better at problem-solving. Positive emotions also help to prepare us for growth by broadening our mindset. The more moments we experience inside a broadened mindset, the more we can make conscious choices that lead us toward our desired future state.
Want to learn more about how you can apply Fredrickson's work? Check out our blog and accompanying podcast: Using Broaden-and-Build Theory In Your Coaching Practice.
In the world of positive psychology, what we understand as a person’s strengths has a specific, research-based definition. One that is centered not on what you're good "at," but "how" you are good.
In other words: your virtues.
According to the VIA Institute on Character, “character strengths are the positive parts of your personality that impact how you think, feel and behave. Character strengths are different than your other personal strengths, such as your unique skills, talents, interests and resources, because they reflect the 'real' you—who you are at your core.”
Scientists including Martin Seligman ahave identified 24 character strengths that we have the capacity to express. Every one of these are present within us, but there are generally a handful that rise to the top.
Character Strengths are morally valued, internal strengths that contribute to the good life for ourselves and others. When we are in touch with our unique constellation of strengths, it allows us to set priorities and make decisions from the inside-out, rather than the outside-in. All of the research in this area shows that consistently drawing from your top 5 character strengths leads to the development of deeper authenticity, connection and contentment in life.
Curious about how you might weave this into your practice? Check out our blog by Lumia graduate and Business Coach, Stacy Kehren Idema: How to Use VIA Character Strengths With Coaching Clients.
Ready to Be A Coach?
At Lumia Coaching, we champion principles of positive psychology for one very simple reason: they work. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited life coach training program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, business instruction to prepare you for liftoff as an entrepreneur, and fellow students dedicated to becoming a collective force for good. If you're interested in becoming a coach, come explore the possibilities with us!