Have you ever heard of the term positive psychology?
How to be happy? What is the true meaning of life? How do we become the best version of ourselves? - these are a few questions that we might ask ourselves in our life and the answer to all of them lie within the field of positive psychology.
Positive psychology is the newest field of psychology that talks about encouraging people to discover and nurture their character strengths, rather than channeling their efforts into correcting shortcomings. The field was developed by noted psychologists Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and focuses on encouraging effective pro-active behaviors.
“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (Peterson, 2008).
While most other fields of psychology study abnormal behavior and dysfunction, positive psychology emphasizes on ways to help human beings prosper and lead healthy, happy lives.
Positive psychology focuses on the positive events and influences in life, including:
- Positive experiences (like happiness, joy, inspiration, and love).
- Positive states and traits (like gratitude, resilience and compassion)
- Positive institutions (applying positive principles within entire organizations and institutions).
As a field, positive psychology spends much of its time thinking about topics like character strengths, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, well-being, gratitude, compassion (as well as self-compassion), self-esteem, self-confidence, hope, and elevation.
Positive psychology began as a new domain of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association. The field emerged as a reaction against past practices, which have tended to focus on mental illness and emphasized maladaptive behavior and negative thinking. It builds on the humanistic movement by Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, James Bugental, and Carl Rogers, which encourages an emphasis on happiness, well-being, and positivity, thus creating the foundation for what is now known as positive psychology.
Positive psychology is the newer branch of psychology that studies eudaimonia, which is an Ancient Greek term for "the good life" and the concept for reflection on the factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life. Positive psychologists often use the terms subjective well-being, and happiness interchangeably.
Benefits of positive psychology
In general, the greatest potential benefit of positive psychology is that it teaches us the power of shifting one’s perspective or the way we look at life. Human beings have a natural tendency to focus and overweigh the negative events in their lives.
Many techniques, exercises, and even entire programs based on positive psychology tend to shift the perspective because a relatively small change in one’s perspective can lead to astounding shifts in wellbeing and quality of life. Injecting a bit more optimism and gratitude into your life is a simple action that can give you a radically more positive outlook on life.
Some of the important findings in the field of positive psychology suggest that-
- Spending money on experiences provides a bigger boost to happiness than spending money on material possessions (Howell & Hill, 2009)
- Gratitude is a big contributor to happiness in life, suggesting that the more we cultivate gratitude, the happier we will be (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005)
- Oxytocin may provoke greater trust, empathy, and morality in humans, meaning that giving hugs or other shows of physical affection may give you a big boost to your overall well-being (and the well-being of others; Barraza & Zak, 2009)
- Happiness is contagious; those with happy friends and significant others are more likely to be happy in the future (Fowler & Christakis, 2008)
- People who perform acts of kindness toward others not only get a boost in well-being, they are also more accepted by their peers (Layous, Nelson, Oberle, Schonert-Reichl, & Lyubomirsky, 2012)
A WORD FROM SOCIALLY SOULED
For many years, psychology was regarded as the study of mental illnesses and their treatment. The emerging, newer, and lesser-known field of positive psychology gives us all an alternate perspective of looking at the field of psychology. Positive psychology focuses on character strengths and virtues in an individual and its knowledge can help us manifest the good in life by strengthening and appreciating what we have.