56 Free Positive Psychology PDF Handouts

positive psychology pdfsPositive psychology didn’t just appear. Even over 2,000 years ago, Greek philosophers were pondering how “the good life” might look.

And while many others have asked the same question since, it was not until psychologist Martin Seligman’s work on learned helplessness that we see the beginnings of positive psychology in its modern form (Seligman, 2006).

Seligman had a big ask. He wanted psychology to focus on the positives: What could be right with our lives rather than what is wrong (Seligman, 2011)?

This article shares a large selection of free resources inspired by positive psychology and what it means to live “the good life” by learning to flourish.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

PDF Introduction to Positive Psychology & Martin Seligman

Starting with animal studies and then moving on to humans, Seligman recognized that when things go wrong and appear outside our control, we can adopt a state of hopelessness. It led to a revelation in 1999 that re-shaped his personal view of psychology and, as head of the American Psychological Association (APA), changed the direction of the field as a whole (Seligman 2011, 2019).

While the traditional ‘disease model’ focused on what was wrong and the problems people faced, positive psychology turned its attention to what is right—the good life. And it was a radical turnaround that received some opposition. His controversial pledge was to use psychology to answer the questions: What makes life worth living? And how do we focus on people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses? (Seligman 2011, 2019).

But first, he had to answer a more fundamental question: “Is the good simply the absence of the bad?” (Seligman, 2019, p. 268). And he knew the answer from his research—the opposite of unhappiness is not happiness.

In fact, wellbeing is even more than that. To flourish “is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships, and accomplishment” (Seligman, 2011, p. 25). As a result, positive psychology offers us the tools to move away from negative thoughts that distract us from the life we want.

Instead, the focus is on positive emotions, relationships, and meaningful engagement, leaving us energized and uplifted, and motivated toward positive change (Boniwell & Tunariu, 2019).

As a short recap of the origin and history of positive psychology, we share this free positive psychology PDF introducing you to positive psychology, ideal to put up in schools and classrooms.

Goals of Positive Psychology Resources

Positive communication at workOngoing research has shown positive psychology to be effective in many life domains, including healthcare, education, and the workplace.

Interventions promoting positive emotions, finding engagement and flow, increasing resilience, and identifying and using strengths have a long-term beneficial effect, helping children and adults become less anxious and stressed while improving happiness (Seligman, 2011).

As a result, Seligman created the PERMA model of wellbeing. Each letter of the acronym defines an aspect of life that, individually and taken together, is vital to a life of flourishing—where we perform and feel at our best (Seligman 2011, 2019):

  • P- Positive emotions – encouraging and focusing on positive emotions such as joy, hope, and optimism.
  • E- Engagement or flow – feeling fully engaged or immersed in an activity, often associated with using our strengths.
  • R- Positive Relationships – forming meaningful relationships is a fundamental human need and is associated with wellbeing.
  • M- Meaning – identifying and working towards our purpose in life offers deep fulfillment.
  • A- Accomplishment and achievement – pursuing growth and change for the intrinsic sake of achievement boosts feelings of wellness.

The PERMA model has since been expanded to include health, leading to a revised acronym PERMA-H (Morgan & Simmons, 2021):

  • H- Health – encourages a more holistic view that includes practices for a more integrated psychological and physical health.

This article provides many positive psychology PDFs with exercises, interventions, and activities that are encompassed by the PERMA-H model.

Our goal is to make people more aware of positive psychology and to give away free positive psychology PDF worksheets, which can help people in their own lives or help coaches, counselors, and therapists working with clients.

21 Activities for Teaching Positive Psychology

Positive psychology can be taught, both as an academic subject and practically, through exercises and activities that support each of the elements of the PERMA-H model and therefore encourage wellbeing and flourishing (Seligman, 2019).

The following activities are powerful tools for self-use or with clients to explain and explore the benefits of positive psychology:

Replacing unhelpful thoughts/ events

Cognitive-behavioral therapists, amongst others, recognize the importance of identifying dysfunctional thinking, evaluating and ultimately replacing it with something more realistic and adaptive (Beck, 2011).

Positive psychology interventions that recognize unhelpful, negative thinking patterns and transform them into something positive can set the client on the path to wellbeing:

  • Identifying ANTS: Challenging Different Types of Automatic Thoughts
    Automatic Negative Thoughts can guide our behavior without our realizing, and are often hard to control. And yet, becoming more aware and replacing them with more adaptive, rational thoughts is an effective way to enhance our mood, health, and overall quality of life.
  • Cognitive Restructuring of an Event
    The Cognitive Restructuring worksheet provides a useful tool to prevent our thoughts from worsening a situation by positively re-framing, or accepting, what has happened.
  • Replacing ‘What if’ Statements
    Like Albert Ellis’s ABC model, this activity leads to a more positive, beneficial belief system that reduces the anxiety associated with catastrophizing.

Managing Grief

To manage and move through our grief, we must recognize and accept the feelings associated with loss. Coming to terms with our personal emotions is an important aspect of the grief process (Samuel, 2019; Brown, 2021).

The following exercises can prove helpful:

  • Challenging Unhelpful Thoughts Arising from Grief
    These steps provide a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) based approach for replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones.
  • Moving Forward from Grief
    Use this worksheet to consider what you would like your life to look like on the other side of grief.
  • Seeking New Opportunities
    While you may never regain the life you had, it is possible to create a new one. This worksheet helps reflect on your opportunities to try new things and how life may look.
  • Understanding the Mediators of Mourning
    Spend time building a picture of the mourning process using a series of questions as prompts to understand the situation’s impact and the loss’s potential effect.

Finding meaning

When we find meaning in what we do, we soon realize that nothing is mundane and that we can find pleasure and a sense of flow in the simplest things (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).

One of the goals and pillars upon which the Japanese practice of Ikigai stands, is recognizing and experiencing such joy and significance (Mogi, 2018):

  • Reflecting on Three Things
    This worksheet helps explore what defines us by looking at who we are and are not, objects that represent us, relationships, and what we like best about ourselves.
  • Focus on the Little Things
    Use this activity to explore some of the many seemingly innocuous activities we perform daily and how to become more Ikigai, feeling more present and engaged.
  • Identifying Your Ikigai
    Reflect on times and aspects of your life and answer a range of questions to help find your ikigai.
  • Job Crafting For Ikigai
    We don’t need to change jobs to find more meaning. We can look at the many tasks we currently perform and find ways to transform them into something more engaging and meaningful.
  • Review the Enemies of Ikigai
    Work through fears that could prevent your client from finding deeper meaning in their actions.
  • Strengthening Ikigai in the Workplace
    Apply the four ikigai questions in your professional lives to make your time more enjoyable and meaningful.

Growth mindset

Adopting a growth mindset means we not only cope better, but actively seek opportunities for learning and growth (Dweck, 2017).

  • Adopt A Growth Mindset
    A powerful guide to replace fixed mindset thinking with growth statements.
  • Growth Mindset Phrases for Children
    A worksheet to help replace fixed mindset phrases with growth mindset phrases in children and young adults.
  • Learning New Skills
    These questions encourage reflection on when new skills were learned and help us normalize and accept the feelings accompanying the growth process.
  • Benefit-finding In Difficulties
    What people do or say to us can be upsetting and, at first sight, harmful. And yet, spending time focusing on their positives or identifying benefits can help us become stronger and more resilient. Use this activity to learn how to use difficult experiences to enhance self-growth.

Positive thinking and emotions

Increasing positivity over time will re-shape your life by changing how you view yourself while prioritizing self-confidence (Fredrickson, 2010):

  • Dispute Negative Thinking
    Positivity grows as we experience positive emotions such as gratitude, joy, interest, and inspiration. Capture and dispute the inner critic by writing down these, and associated, feelings and thoughts.
  • Build An Emotions Portfolio
    Use the attached questions as prompts to identify and reflect on positive emotions from the past.
  • Replace Negative Self-Talk
    Words are powerful. They can bring up images of success or failure and significantly affect how we approach tasks and overcome obstacles and challenges. Try this exercise to replace negative self-talk statements with positive ‘can-do’ ones.
  • Things I Like about Me
    The client is prompted to write down five things they like about themselves.

15 Free Positive Psychology Exercises (PDF)

Resilience worksheetsResearch has confirmed that using the right positive psychology intervention at the proper time can boost mood, lead to more positive emotions, and generally increase wellbeing (Boniwell & Tunariu, 2019).

The following exercises can help clients facing challenges or wishing to improve their outlook on life:

Affirmations

Affirmations and positive self-talk can redress the often negative balance of things we say to ourselves. Try some of the following to practice a more positive inner voice (Kross, 2021):

  • Stacking the Deck
    This exercise involves creating a personal deck of positive affirmation cards that can be used anytime and anywhere as a reminder of our remarkable and unique qualities.
  • Designing Affirmations
    Use these tips to design personal, goal-oriented affirmations.
  • Positive Assertiveness Statements
    Daily affirmations to assist assertive communication.

Problem-solving

Problem-solving is a vital aspect of coaching and therapy and will improve with practice (Ryan & Deci, 2018):

  • Problem Solving Worksheet for Adults
    Try out the following seven steps to evaluate, breakdown, and solve problems.
  • Social Problem Solving: Brainstorming
    Define a social (or any other) problem, then use this worksheet to create many possible solutions.

Strengths

Identifying and using our strengths boosts our performance–energizing and motivating us–and can improve our wellbeing. Use the following activities to identify your or your clients’ strengths (Niemiec & McGrath, 2019):

  • Recognizing Your Strengths Worksheet
    Four guided questions to assess personal strengths.
  • Children’s Strength Cards
    Ten cards to be cut out and used to help children identify their own strengths.
  • Workplace Strength Cards
    Ten cards containing strengths and their descriptions that apply to the workplace.
  • General Strength Cards
    Twelve cards to be cut out with strengths and their descriptions on the reverse.

Managing Anxiety

We often can’t–and indeed shouldn’t–try to avoid and ignore our stress. Instead, recognizing it, accepting it, and moving forward is essential (Forsyth & Eifert, 2016):

  • My Worry Journey
    When you have worries that feel out of control, they tend to take you on a worry journey. Part of that journey is to realize what could happen is not the same as what will happen.
  • Worry Bank
    Reduce the time spent worrying and regain control in your life by focusing five minutes a day on ‘worrying.’
  • Anxiety Strategy Cards
    Use these cards with clients to develop strategies to cope with anxiety. The cards will be printed and kept by the client.

Practicing Assertiveness

Assertiveness often begins by understanding what we want and then communicating it clearly (Williams, 2020):

  • Assertiveness Obstacles
    Identifying potential obstacles that hinder assertiveness is vital. These helpful suggestions help identify and overcome them.
  • Rights of Assertiveness
    A set of assertiveness rules that remind you that you have the right to individual needs and can expect them without guilt or doubt.
  • Self-Evaluation Questions for Assertiveness
    Self-image affects assertive communication. These questions help with self-assessment and identify where more help is needed.

9 Practical Positive Psychology Worksheets for Mindfulness (PDF)

“It’s never too late to change your brain,” writes mindfulness expert Shauna Shapiro (2020).

The following exercises should help that process by encouraging the client to feel more present and grounded:

  • Nature Play
    This simple worksheet provides six questions to encourage mindfulness while walking in nature.
  • The Raisin Meditation
    This classic mindfulness meditation exercise encourages savoring the moment by engaging the senses.
  • Anchor Breathing
    A seven-step breathing meditation using the analogy of a boat secured by an anchor to encourage grounding.
  • Breath Awareness Guide
    The six steps within this mindfulness exercise teach us how to become more aware of each breath.
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing
    Focusing on nasal breathing is a valuable exercise for bringing awareness to your breath.
  • Square Breathing Exercises
    Square breathing is an easy-to-learn yet effective way of developing better breathing techniques while improving mindfulness.
  • Three Steps to Deep Breathing
    Exercises to improve deep breathing by identifying three types: abdominal, thoracic, and clavicular.
  • Yogic Breathing
    Practice yogic breathing as a powerful approach to mindfulness and creating a better awareness of the present.
  • The Five Senses Worksheet
    We can use the potential of our five senses to engage in valuable and effective mindfulness practice.

5 Positive Psychology Interventions for Mental Health (PDF)

positive psychology interventionsWhile mental health awareness is more widely discussed than ever, depression and other mental illnesses continue to affect a high percentage of the population.

Positive psychology, while focusing on mental wellbeing, has been shown to have a positive effect on reducing symptoms (Seligman, 2011).

Peruse the following worksheets which can be useful when addressing mental health illnesses:

  • Fact Checking Thoughts Worksheet
    This worksheet helps clients recognize that thoughts–especially dysfunctional ones–are not facts.
  • What is Depression? A Fact Sheet for Teenagers
    This list of signs and symptoms of depression guide the teenager regarding when to seek help.
  • Unhelpful Thinking Styles
    Here we provide examples of cognitive distortion, plus an exercise where thinking patterns and statements have to be matched.
  • My Depression Story
    Create a life timeline and a depression timeline and see how they affect future goals.
  • Letter to a Loved One About My Depression
    A template to help someone verbalize their emotions and guide them to reach out for help.

5 Positive Psychology Assessments (PDF)

The following free positive psychology assessments can help us better understand the client sitting in front of us during coaching, counseling, and therapy.

The more we can display empathy, the more likely we can support them in the challenges they face and help them reach for the lives they wish to lead:

  • Thoughts and Feelings – Struggle or Acceptance
    The following statements help clients assess the extent to which they struggle with negative feelings and thoughts.
  • Basic Needs Satisfaction in General Scale
    This valuable assessment scores each of the 21 statements on a scale of one to seven to assess whether the client’s basic needs are being met.
  • Self-Consciousness Scale
    These 22 scoreable questions assess the client’s degree of self-consciousness.
  • Your Core Values Worksheet
    If we know our core values, it becomes easier to live a meaningful life. Reflect on this list and select the ones that apply.
  • Finding My Values
    Identify the values you hold dear; consider whether your actions align with them, and reflect on how much time you spend on each one.

A Take-Home Message

Positive psychology is widely researched and well validated. While relatively recent in psychology theory terms, it has proven far-reaching with the potential to deliver psychological benefits across many life domains to individuals and clients in various settings (Seligman 2011, 2019).

The exercises, activities, interventions, and worksheets offered here are free. Together, they form a valuable addition to the field of positive psychology in sharing its theory and practical application.

Our goals are to share the incredible power of positive psychoeducation by educating readers on the theories and models that support it and exercises, worksheets, activities, and assessments to be utilized within sessions or as homework with clients.

We have many more free resources. While a good selection is contained within this article, you will find various others as you read our blog and a wealth of information on positive psychology and related theories. Please take time to explore and review the material available and share the knowledge and practices with those seeking your help.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.

References

  • Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond. New York: The Guilford Press.
  • Boniwell, I., & Tunariu, A. D. (2019). Positive psychology: Theory, research and applications. London: Open University Press.
  • Brown, B. (2021). Atlas of the heart. Vermilion.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). The contribution of flow to positive psychology. In J. E. Gillham (Ed.), Laws of life symposia series. The science of optimism and hope: Research essays in honor of Martin E. P. Seligman (pp. 387-395). West Conshohocken, PA, US: Templeton Foundation Press.
  • Dweck, C. S. (2017). Mindset. London: Robinson. Fredrickson, B. (2010). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to release your inner optimist and thrive. Richmond: Oneworld.
  • Forsyth, J. P., & Eifert, G. H. (2016). The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide to breaking free from anxiety, Phobias & Worry Using Acceptance & Commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
  • Fredrickson, B. (2010). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to release your inner optimist and thrive. Richmond: Oneworld.
  • Kross, E. (2021). Chatter: The Voice in Our Head and How to Harness It. London, UK: Vermilion.
  • Mogi, K. (2018). The little book of ikigai: The secret Japanese way to live a happy and long life. London: Quercus.
  • Morgan, B., & Simmons, L. (2021). A ‘perma’ response to the pandemic: An online positive education programme to promote wellbeing in University Students. Frontiers in Education, 6.
  • Niemiec, R. M., & McGrath, R. E. (2019). The power of character strengths: Appreciate and ignite your positive personality. Cincinnati, OH: VIA Institute on Character.
  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2018). Self-determination theory: basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York: The Guilford Press.
  • Samuel, J. (2019). Grief works: Stories of life, death, and surviving. Scribner.
  • Seligman, M. (2006). Learned optimism: How to change your mind and your life. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A new understanding of happiness and well-being and how to achieve them. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
  • Seligman, M. (2019). The Hope Circuit: A psychologist’s journey from helplessness to optimism. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
  • Shapiro, S. L. (2020). Rewire your mind: Discover the science + practice of mindfulness. London: Aster.
  • Williams, J. W. (2020). Assertiveness Training: Stop People Pleasing, Feeling Guilty, and Caring for What Others Think [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/AssertivenessTraining-Confident-Practical-Intelligence-ebook/dp/B08BXDGLL4/

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What our readers think

  1. Aura

    Hi I am working to structure my graduation project in clinical psychology and the topic is related to vulnerabilty and resilience factors in Covid times. I would like to include and use few positive psychology worksheets, such as Techniques for Disputing Irrational Beliefs. Would you be kind to suggest few other worksheets you consider valuable for this topic? Thank you very much.

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