Bruce Smith, associate professor for the University of New Mexico course “Positive Psychology,” is creating a workbook to help UNM staff and students to navigate mental health struggles through positive psychology.  

“(The workbook) is really about enabling people to become their best,” Smith said. 

Much of the workbook is based on work that Smith has taught in his positive psychology courses. 

Smith said the goal is to release hard copies and PDF versions on several UNM websites, including the department of psychology website, on Sunday, Dec. 6. Hard copies will be available on Amazon for $6.

Smith said positive psychology and positive thinking are not the same. While positive thinking centers more on the positive sides of life, Smith said “(Positive psychology) really is something that enables us to appreciate and approach the suffering and the painful part of life.” 

Tanya Kallan, a former student and former teachers’ assistant for Smith, helped create the workbook and admired the amount of time that Smith put into the project.

“(Smith’s positive psychology course a) helped me to get through a lot of changes that I made in my life,” Kallan said, referring to his psychological tools that helped her get through her divorce.

Because people have more time on their hands during the coronavirus pandemic and are thinking about how they can “make the best of this time,” Smith said his students are more inclined to enroll in graduate school than they had been in the past. 

“A lot of this workbook is based on what he has done with those (positive psychology) classes, and it’s a way of getting it to a broader group of people,” Kallan said.  

He described an exercise in the workbook that prompts the reader to write about their best self and then write about how they can get to their best self. This is among several other exercises, many having to do with gratitude for others and for yourself.

“One of the simple (exercises) that a lot of people love is to start noting good things that happen every day, which gets you to pay attention to more and see more of the good things that happen,” Smith said. 

Smith also noted another exercise in the workbook that allows people to savor moments in their lives that may seem mundane, such as going for a walk or spending time with pets, so they can bring themselves back into the moment.  

“There’s this idea that if we avoid pain that our lives will be better, but oftentimes … trying to escape that keeps us from being able to really embrace and appreciate so much of what we can experience in the moment,” Smith said. 

According to Smith, listening to other perspectives and experiences is important, because it allows people to feel as if they are on a common journey.

“Part of the idea (of the workbook) is to really give people a new way to think about how they can move beyond this (difficult period),” Smith said.

Sarah Bodkin is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @sarahbodkin4