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Is positive psychology all it's cracked up to be?

Reasons for popularity

There is no major conclusion in positive psychology that has not been challenged, modified or even rejected.

Yet the fact that positive psychology is becoming more popular means that it gives hope, optimism and perhaps happiness to millions of its consumers.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Is positive psychology all it's cracked up to be?

Is positive psychology all it's cracked up to be?

https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/11/13/20955328/positive-psychology-martin-seligman-happiness-religion-secularism

vox.com

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Key Ideas

Concerns with positive psychology

  • There are worries about its replicability and unreliable self-reports.
  • Promoting material achievement as part of happiness can make well-being seem out of reach.
  • Positive psychology gives the impression you can be happy by thinking the right thoughts.
  • At its core, positive psychology promotes the idea that we can achieve well-being by our own efforts, not considering physical illness and undeserved tragedy.
  • Positive psychology has become a commodity and has been cheapened by the thousands of coaches, consultants, and therapists who benefit from using wild claims for their lucrative products.

Reasons for popularity

There is no major conclusion in positive psychology that has not been challenged, modified or even rejected.

Yet the fact that positive psychology is becoming more popular means that it gives hope, optimism and perhaps happiness to millions of its consumers.

The beginning of positive psychology

The story of positive psychology started just 20 years ago with Martin Seligman, head of the American Psychological Association. The idea he considered was: What if every person was encouraged to nurture his or her character strengths, rather than being scolded into fixing their shortcomings?

He reorientated the entire discipline of psychology away from mostly treating mental illness and toward human flourishing, then used his authority to promote it.

Personal transformation

The term “positive psychology" was coined by Abraham Maslow in 1954. Martin Seligman used this term to promote personal change through the redemptive power of devotional practices like counting your blessings, gratitude, forgiveness, and meditation.

It is expressly designed to build moral character by cultivating the six virtues of wisdom, courage, justice, humanity, temperance, and transcendence.

Not a science

Martin Seligman insists on the value-neutral purity of the research on positive psychology. Yet even its fans say it seems to have some of the characteristics of a religion.

Philosophers such as Mike W. Martin say positive psychology has left the field of science and entered the realm of ethics. Science is a factual enterprise, not promoting particular values.

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Increasing your well-being

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Two categories of happiness
  • The level of positive emotions. This includes pride, joy, contentment, and curiosity we experience on a day-to-day basis. How happy you are on an immediate basis fluctuates by the day or even the hour.
  • The overarching sense of contentment. How happy you are overall, generally remains the same. When you rate your happiness on a 10-point scale, if you are a seven kind of person, you will often stay around seven.
Buy time

Buying time by outsourcing unpleasant or disliked tasks can benefit our well-being. 

Unfortunately, we're not great at valuing time over money. To change our spending habits, it helps to value time more than money. It could mean that we seek a job for its flexibility rather than the salary and prestige.

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True happiness
True happiness

It isn’t about being happy all the time.

Striving for a happy life is one thing, but striving to be happy all the time is unrealistic.

Psychological flexibility

Being open to emotional experiences and being able to tolerate discomfort can allow us to move towards a more meaningful existence.

The way we respond to the circumstances of our lives has more influence on our happiness than the events themselves.

The 2 philosophical paths to happiness
  • Hedonistic: in order to live a happy life we must maximize pleasure and avoid pain. This view is often short-lived.

  • Eudaimonic approach: it takes the long view and argues that we should live authentically and for the greater good. We should pursue meaning and potential through kindness, justice, honesty, and courage.

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Positive Psychology's New Approach
Positive Psychology's New Approach
  • Due to its fleeting and fickle nature, our levels of happiness cannot be gauged, measured or rated accurately.
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Four Types of Well-Being

To address the disconnect between happiness and deeper levels of satisfaction, researches proposed a model that characterizes people as falling into one of four well-being types.

  1. Optimizing one’s positive emotions, and denying the reality of their negative experiences.
  2. Feeling unhappy seeing the complexity of the world around them, and neglecting the positive aspects.
  3. Having a generally negative view of themselves and the world.
  4. Having a generally positive and empathetic view of the world.
The Real Meaning Of Happiness

Being happy means more than feeling good. True happiness comes from handling challenging and adverse situations, while collaborating and building lifelong bonds with the people in our lives.

A collective thinking process, where the good of all is considered leads to a level of happiness that cannot be attained by being selfish or self-concerned.

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  • They surround themselves with other happy people.
  • They cultivate resilience.
  • They appreciate simple pleasures.
  • They devote some of their time to giving.
  • They get immersed in activities that bring joy.
  • They nix the small talk for deeper conversations. 
  • They make a point to listen. 
  • They look on the bright side.
  • They make exercise a priority.
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Self-Reliance

It's "a reliance on internal resources to provide life with coherence (meaning) and fulfillment” (Baumeister, 1987: 171)."

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Self-Reliance

Self-Reliance is the topic (and title) of an 1841 essay from US philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.

He argues strongly that self-reliance, self-trust, and individualism, amongst other things, are ways that we can avoid the conformity imposed upon us.

Examples of Self-Reliance
  • Thinking independently: The ability to think autonomously goes hand in hand with trusting your own instinct.
  • Embracing your individuality.
  • Striving towards your own goals, bravely.

It’s important to remember that self-reliance is not about cutting yourself off from everybody.

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Productive solitude

Solitude doesn't have to be a negative experience.

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Feeling active

In determining our pathway to wellbeing, it doesn’t just matter how physically active we are but how active (how energetic, vigorous, and vital) we feel.

Future-mindedness

Even though our predictions aren’t always accurate, the simple act of contemplating the future might be a key to well-being.

It usually is a 2-steps process: first, we dream big and imagine fantasy outcomes; then, we “get real” and come up with pragmatic plans.

Human nature is more than biology
Human nature is more than biology

The level of happiness is part of our genetic makeup - we have a set level and cannot rise above or fall below it.

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Quantifying happiness

Happiness has always been difficult to quantify because it is subjective, depending on if you have a short- or a long-term outlook on life. Recently, researchers have started to distinguish between two types of happiness: 

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The staples of happiness

People will always be happy when they see their children prosper when they feel loved, secure, and well-fed.

But, this formula for happiness is so obvious that most people dismiss it. They would rather look for a secret ingredient. The answer is that there is no secret.

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Subjective well-being

This is the primary way Positive Psychology researchers have defined and measured people's happiness and well-being.

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Subjective Well-Being components

It consists of 3 parts: positive affect, negative affect, and life satisfaction.

Positive affect and negative affect are basically your emotions and moods, and life satisfaction refers to the evaluation of your life as a whole (how satisfied you are with your life, what you would change etc).

Measuring Subjective Well-Being

Tracking your own subjective well-being can be very powerful if you keep alongside a journal of your life's events. 

Keep it up for some time and you will see trends emerge. You'll also be able to adjust your activities in order to maximize positive affect and life satisfaction and minimize negative affect.

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Recognizing the "Victim"

A Victim Complex sufferer is a person who has difficulties when dealing with trauma, in any shape that this can take

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Suffering from the Victim Complex

Persons who suffer from the Victim Complex tend to manipulate their partners, in order to hide their own lack of responsibility and maturity. 

Therefore, it is very often that these relationships end up after having become extremely tenuous.

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Hedonic adaptation

Hedonic adaptation refers to people’s common tendency to return to a determined level of happiness regardless of life’s ups and downs.

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Examples of Hedonic Adaptation
  • People who win the lottery are likely to revert to their original levels of happiness after the novelty of the win has worn off.
  • It is also true for those who are in major accidents. People generally tend to return to their pre-accident levels of happiness after a period.
  • Research has found that the first bite of something delicious is experienced as more pleasurable than the subsequent bites.
How Much Control We Have

Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky has examined this set-point:

A full 50 percent of our happiness set-point is due to genetics. 10 percent is affected primarily by circumstances like where we were born and to whom. 40 percent is subject to our influence.

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