More than eight million people in the Netherlands suffer from chronic physical disorders. And this number is steadily increasing.
The University of Twente’s Department of Psychology, Health & Technology carried out a study on behalf of the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw). Prof. Bohlmeijer, who holds a position at the university, says that “For many people who suffer from chronic disorders, self-management (good quality of life) is a major challenge. We have concluded that, from the scientific perspective, we have a satisfactory understanding of positive sources of resilience and mental well-being in the chronically ill. However, the healthcare sector is not yet making sufficient use of these sources in the care of individuals with a chronic physical disorder”.
Prof. Ernst Bohlmeijer, Dr Christina Bode and Dr Hester Trompetter have produced a knowledge synthesis entitled ‘Positive psychology and self-management of chronic physical disorders’. This work was commissioned by ZonMw. The main goal, as far as ZonMw was concerned, was to develop new scientific frameworks to help boost the resilience and mental health of individuals with chronic physical disorders, in the context of self-management. Prof. Bohlmeijer points out that “Many people find effective ways of living with a chronic disorder, but at least one out of five people cannot cope by themselves. They also develop severe psychological complaints that make it even more difficult to live a normal life. We can and should do more to strengthen the resilience of the chronically ill. Positive psychology has an armoury of scientifically proven skills such as optimism, gratitude, compassion and positive relationships”.
People’s ability to experience emotions and to deal with them effectively is often crucially important to their recovery and resilience. Aside from negative emotions, such as sadness or anger, this also involves positive emotions. Dr Bode, Dr Trompetter and Prof. Bohlmeijer are convinced that positive psychology can help those suffering from a chronic disorder to experience more positive emotions. Many studies have shown that when people experience positive emotions they develop a greater sense of control and become more creative in finding solutions. People can be trained to invoke such emotions at will, by means of relatively simple exercises. These involve ‘more moments spent reviewing what went well during the day’ or ‘imagining an ideal future’.
Want to find out more about positive psychology and its significance in terms of healthcare (and mental healthcare)? On 9 March 2018, the University of Twente will stage the National Conference on Positive Psychology. The main themes of this conference are positive psychotherapy and coaching.
Two editions of the knowledge synthesis entitled ‘Positive psychology and self-management of chronic physical disorders’ have been published: an abridged version and an unabridged version. For details of an interview with the authors, see this link.