Positive psychology: the "science of happiness"

The "science of happiness" was born as a result of Martin Seligman's (the father of positive psychology) endeavour to approach psychology beyond the idea of restoring normality in individuals and to look at happiness and contentment as ways to not only restore normality, but also to prevent and protect as well as potentially cure.

Positive psychology has three main areas: Generation of both short and long term healthy pleasures, joy obtained through the connection with others and happiness that comes from a meaningful life.

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Positive psychology - the Pollyanna of psych?

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Neuroscience research demonstrates the power of positive psychology:

  • Studies showed that repetitive negative thinking causes one pattern of brain activity, while positive thoughts can produce another.
  • Practices such as gratitude, mindfulness, and physical activity can change certain pathways within the brain.
  • Medication can also stimulate or suppress brain activity. Martin Seligman found a combined treatment plan of medication and therapy can help patients recover sooner.

Positive psychology treatments focus on four fundamental areas:

  • Strengths: Finding one's inner strength and resilience.
  • Quality of life: Goals and achievements should be underpinned by meaning and purpose.
  • Hope: Ensuring a positive attitude when faced with life's trials and knowing that they have the support to cope.
  • Wellbeing: A sense of environmental mastery, full engagement with the world, and personal satisfaction.
Intervention techniques for positive psychology
  • Reflective journaling
  • Mindfulness and gratitude
  • Identifying and balancing negative thoughts
  • Accepting and managing emotions
  • Forming healthy interpersonal relationships, including forgiveness.

Studies show that individuals with a positive outlook on life have lower blood pressure, fewer illnesses, faster healing times and higher recovery rates.

Positive psychology, just like the the majority of interventions, is not enough on its own. The right importance should be given other aspects such as: overall physical, mental and social wellness of the individual.

Positive psychology will not prevent life's problems but will give a lens through which one can view difficulties. Finding the silver lining in every cloud lays the foundation by which resetting is made possible.

Positive psychology will not necessarily prevent illness, but their approach can be beneficial when combined with other treatments.

  • Make a list of the things that make you happy. Take photos of them or write them down on post-its to remind you when you need a lift.
  • Don't repress painful experiences. Instead, ask what you can learn from it.
  • Do something to boost your overall health every day. Think about something you're looking forward to today, even if it's taking the time to enjoy a cup of tea.

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