Three for three: 3 techniques to reduce depression, increase happiness and improve effectiveness

I’ve been reflecting on my last blog, and have concluded it was a bit of an unplanned tease! 🙂

I proudly shared that last week Professor Martin Seligman said something very significant to we eager beavers there to hear him speak. He announced that there are now ten Positive Psychology interventions that have been rigorously tested and proven to reduce depression, increase wellbeing/happiness, or improve results/effectiveness – or indeed two or even three of these.

I then raised the stakes by pointing out that wellbeing lifts corporate performance so the enlightened are now elevating wellbeing to a must have (viz Google & Apple). My tease was that I didn’t go on to share what those interventions are. I’m going to begin to remedy that right now by explaining three of the ten:

1. Active Constructive responding

How do you react when you arrive home tired from work and your spouse announces that s/he has won the promotion? It turns out that of the four types of response only one builds long term resilience into the relationship:

  1. The passive constructive “Congrats, you deserve it” as you head into the kitchen won’t add anything – too brief & off hand
  2. The passive destructive, comments like “Great, what’s for dinner?” – unsurprisingly this turns out to be damaging
  3. The massive negative impact of the active destructive ” Do you realise how much tax we’ll have to pay now!?” is self-evident
  4. But the active constructive response that takes time and shows genuine interest adds massively to the quality of the relationship “Wow! Where were you when he told you? What exactly did he say? How did you feel? Have you thought about how you’re going to get started? Come on sit down over here, now tell me everything…”. Prof Seligman, who has the psychologists’ knack of discussing delicate things in a way that makes you comfortable, told us that the data is in on three areas with this one: love increases, sex increases, and longevity of the marriage increases.
2. Three Good Things

This is writing down three good things that happened today at the end of every day. In its most powerful form that includes why it was good, how you contributed to that, and how it made you feel, then going to sleep visualising your favourite.

The evidence is that this exercise both lowers depression and increases wellbeing (those are two separate and different things btw). Furthermore the findings are that Three Good Things is addictive (in a good way) so people tend to keep it up – because they enjoy it.

3. Signature Strengths

We all have a handful of strengths that are us at our best, and we love to use them. There are 24 of them and if you go to and complete the VIA Survey of Character Strengths you will discover yours in about 30 minutes – free. Three million people have done so in the last decade.

Using our signature strengths drives flow (or engagement – the E in PERMA – see my last blog if that’s drawing a blank for you). The intervention is to do the thing you don’t like doing, but have to do, in a new way that uses your signature strengths. The example Marty gave us was a guy who had to make two tiresome journeys by foot every day – so he started rollerblading them and keeping track of his times, always trying to beat his record.

Again, proven to improve happiness and reduce depression!

In my blog next week I’ll share a couple more and also talk about a senior leadership strategy for building wellbeing in your company or business. Again it’s based on what Martin Seligman reported back to us as having worked. It’s incredibly easy, and only takes fifty words to explain.

If you’d like personalised help with building PERMA amongst those you lead, get in touch with us at New Impetus International where we’ve been dramatically improving wellbeing in businesses for 16 years.

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