Positive Psychology: What Does It Mean?

positive psychology

Positive psychology is a subdiscipline of psychology that focuses on the character traits and behavior that enable people to create meaningful lives and flourish rather than just survive. The components of the good life have been sought after by theorists and researchers. Additionally, they have suggested and tested methods for raising well-being and life satisfaction.

Finding one’s character qualities (such as courage, humanity, or justice) is thought to be a crucial step toward the sound and fulfilling life that positive psychologists envision. Additionally, there are positive psychology techniques that one can use at home to foster well-being. For instance, psychologists have researched the effect of gratitude exercises on happiness over time. These involve simple actions like listing three things to be thankful for every day, as the name suggests.

Positive psychology is not a form of self-help or a new name for “the power of positive thinking.” It is not “happy ology” in the American sense, and it is not a passing trend. Replication, controlled causal studies, peer review, and representative sampling are just a few of the scientific virtues that positive psychology applies to the question of how and when people flourish. (2008) Robert Biswas-Diener.

Not to replace it, but to support it, is the goal of the field of psychology. Instead of attempting to minimize the importance of researching how things go wrong, it emphasizes the value of using the scientific method to determine how things go right.

PERMA Model 

Seligman developed the PERMA model to clearly define and explain well-being, which is the main objective of positive psychology. The acronym PERMA stands for the following five aspects of well-being:

  • Positive feelings, or feeling upbeat and thankful for the past, content in the present, and hopeful about the future
  • Engagement, or experiencing “flow,” with pleasurable pursuits
  • Relationships, or establishing social ties with relatives and friends
  • Finding meaning or a larger purpose for your life
  • Achievements, objectives, and successes

Positive Psychology’s Impact

Positive psychology has made some significant discoveries, including:

  • Although happiness cannot always be purchased with money, it can make people happier to spend money on others.
  • Most people are content.
  • Solid social ties and character strengths are some of the best ways to deal with disappointments and setbacks.
  • Even though genes play a role in happiness, people can learn to be happier by cultivating their optimism, gratitude, and altruism.
  • When people are able to engage in work that is meaningful and purposeful, it can have a positive impact on their overall well-being.

Four of The Main Objectives of Positive Psychology

  • To overcome obstacles and make the most of setbacks.
  • Be social and interact with others.
  • Discover happiness through productivity and creativity.
  • To find lasting meaning, fulfilment, and wisdom, look beyond oneself and assist others (Keyes & Haidt, 2004)

Interventions in Positive Psychology

1. Mindfulness

In the field of positive psychology, mindfulness—described as “the awareness that results from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”—has attracted a lot of attention (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). Practising mindfulness is one of the ways Seligman claims can help us live “the Pleasant Life,” amplifying or making us more conscious of pleasurable feelings and experiences.

2. Positive Psychology and Gratitude

Seligman gives the exercise below as an illustration of how cultivating gratitude can enhance one’s life: Consider a person who made an impact on your life and for whom you never expressed your gratitude. Make a 300-word recommendation for that person, and then read it to them. According to studies, those who perform this exercise are happier and less depressed (Seligman, 2011).

3. Activities for Relationships

According to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, solid relationships are essential for long-term well-being because they “keep us happier and healthier” (Waldinger, 2016). He outlines the exercise that will help you build relationships while also incorporating the idea of positive psychology known as recognizing and maximizing your strengths. To complete this exercise, a couple chooses their top strengths and plans an evening that makes use of them all.

Another activity Waldinger recommends to emphasize the value of relationship is to engage in both enjoyable and charitable activities, and then compare the results. While you will enjoy the enjoyable activity, according to Waldinger, the sense of fulfilment that comes from engaging in charitable work and improving the lives of others will last longer.

4. Journaling

Self-reflection is frequently encouraged by positive psychologists as a way to assess one’s current state of well-being. Finding one’s strengths and happy spots directly improves well-being and point out areas that need improvement. On a website Seligman founded, you can rate various aspects of happiness and contrast your results with the average.

Journaling may be useful for keeping track of changes over time, reflecting on areas that need improvement, and recording your results.

Ilona Boniwell also offers advice on journaling for positive psychology (2008). For instance, the next two questions invite you to consider how you can use the present to be your happiest self in the future.

  • Who would you like to be in 5 years?
  • What is the one step you can take to make that reality?

How Can Positive Psychology Help?

Humans are conditioned to focus more on unpleasant experiences. As a result, it frequently happens that clients in therapy are unaware of the factors that affect their happiness from one circumstance to the next. Some mental health professionals believe that this difference is due to their viewpoint. During an experience, a person might not be able to pinpoint particular emotions. But when they think back on the experience, they might be able to clearly identify these feelings. The goal of positive psychology is to divert someone’s attention, expectations, and memory from the negative. In an effort to achieve a balanced viewpoint, it emphasizes the positive.

According to studies, both cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology are effective in easing the symptoms of depression. One study comparing the two methods found that positive psychotherapy may be more effective at increasing happiness. It has been demonstrated to improve depressed individuals’ overall satisfaction.

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