Positive psychology: the "science of happiness"

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 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.

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 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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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.

Positive Psychology's New Approach
  • Due to its fleeting and fickle nature, our levels of happiness cannot be gauged, measured or rated accurately.
  • While earlier psychology focused on the bad apples, emphasizing on psychopathology, a relatively new approach to psychology is positive in nature, and focuses on psychological health.
  • Positive psychology’s newer avatar focuses on the various virtues, meaning, resilience and well-being.
Describing Hope

Hope is a positive cognitive state based on determination and planning to meet a goal successfully. It consists of three things:

  • Goals thinking : the ability to create goals.
  • Pathways thinking : the capacity to plan specific strategies to reach those goals.
  • Agency thinking : the ability to stay motivated for using those strategies.

According to psychologist Charles Snyder, hope is in the context of doing (the capacity to achieve goals), not in the realm of being.

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