How an untraditional form of psychotherapy can protect you from getting sick. Three scientists from China found a way via positive psychotherapy.
Positive psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy based on principles of positive psychology and is a strength-based approach that emphasises the importance of building and enhancing human “positives” and the positive aspects in a person’s life. In contrast, traditional psychotherapy focuses on reducing weaknesses or “fixing negatives” which is achieved by the absence of symptoms.
In a 2012 study, a team of scientists tried to find if they can change a person’s level of positive affect by using positive psychotherapy and thereby influence something called vagal tone and respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Complicated scientific terms aside, high levels of these are an indicator for physiological flexibility and therefore also for good physical health. Positive affect on the other hand describes a person’s tendency to experience positive emotions when interacting with their environment.
To investigate this Lü and her colleagues took some college students and looked at their levels of positive affect and how they differed in these complicated physiological measures that were mentioned before. After that, they continued with the students having low levels of positive affect and conducted 16 sessions of positive psychotherapy over 4 months. At the end of this period, the students were measured again for affect and the physiological data and the scientist found that both measures increased meaning the therapy sessions increased the students’ positive affect and subsequently benefited the students’ health outcomes.
Reference: Lü W, Wang Z, Liu Y. A pilot study on changes of cardiac vagal tone in individuals with low trait positive affect: the effect of positive psychotherapy. Int J Psychophysiol. 2013 May;88(2):213-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.04.012. Epub 2013 Apr 23. PMID: 23623952.