Do you know what ‘positive psychology’ means?
Positive psychology as a term can be a little misleading. It might sound like encouraging you to “just be positive” and “cheer up”. However, this is not what positive psychology is about, and it should not, by all means, be confused with pop-culture self-help books and motivational speakers.
For a long time, psychology as a field focused on negative aspects of human life, on people’s shortcomings and pathology. The main question was: “What is wrong?” However, about two decades ago, Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, proposed a new approach that asks: “What is right?”.
The Science of Happiness
Positive psychology is a science of positive aspects of human life. Its goal is to, using scientific methods, find and promote factors that increase our wellbeing. Hence, it puts a spotlight on topics such as happiness, creativity, meaning, wisdom, personal strengths, core values, resilience. Nevertheless, this does not mean that positive psychology neglects to repair what is ‘wrong’; it just emphasizes that building strength is equally important. It is intended to fulfill, not to replace traditional psychology.
Positive psychology proposes three kinds of a happy life:
- Pleasant Life (“Life of enjoyment”) – Focused on experiencing positive emotions. This is how happiness is most often viewed in everyday life and popular culture.
- Good Life (“Life of engagement”) – Focused on personal strengths, immersion in activities that have a purpose for us, and accomplishing goals. We derive happiness from being optimally engaged and from “getting lost” in activities we love. This state of being absorbed in the activity we enjoy and are skilled at is referred to as a state of “flow”.
- Meaningful Life (“Life of affiliation”) – Aimed toward a higher purpose, how we derive a sense of meaning and belonging when we are contributing to a greater cause.
Positive psychology is a wide area encompassing a variety of different techniques that aim to encourage people to identify and further develop their positive traits, experiences, and emotions. It teaches us how to function optimally from the place of authenticity and inner fulfillment.
According to research, there are 5 pillars that contribute to positive well-being, the model known as PERMA:
1. Positive emotion
We all like to feel good, to experience joy, gratitude, optimism, etc. Positive psychology believes that positive emotions are more than just smiling; they reflect the ability to remain hopeful, optimistic, and creative in the face of setbacks and challenges.
Our sense of well-being increases when we pursue activities that stretch our skills and in which we get so lost that the time seems to fly by. This kind of intense immersion in the activity is, as mentioned before, known as “flow”. It can be anything, from playing an instrument or a sport to solving an intellectual task or engaging in a hobby we love.
We are social creatures, and connections with other people play an incredible role in our positive well-being. We derive the sense of meaning and happiness from healthy relationships, from feeling safe, loved, and nurtured, and providing those feelings for other people.
A great sense of fulfillment comes from the feeling that our personal and professional endeavours have a purpose, that they contribute to a greater cause. Knowing why we do what we do leads to the feeling that our lives matter, which is a big source of life satisfaction.
Having realistic goals and ambitions and working toward them is a significant part of positive well-being. Accomplishing a goal that required utilizing our skills and investing notable effort boosts our motivation and gives us a sense of pride and moving forward.
Positive psychology teaches us how to flourish and thrive. Its empirical findings are proof that normal life doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be good.
How do YOU show up in those five areas of your life? What does a good life mean to you? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below. Also, if you find this article interesting, please be free to share it on your social media.
The search for happiness is the greatest search of all. Numerous philosophers, artists, poets, writers, and creatives tried to answer the greatest question of them all: “What is happiness and how to achieve it?”. We all want to be happy; everything we do in life is directed to that one goal: achieving happiness. But is there a happiness formula that, if you follow it, you’ll finally get to your goal? Well… yes and no.
Seligman’s Happiness Formula
Seligman came up with the idea that happiness is the sum of someone’s genetic capacities, voluntary control, and their circumstances. He emphasizes that person’s circumstances don’t have a significant impact on their happiness. This means that, although it often looks like that we’ll be happier with the new car or more money, it actually doesn’t have a high impact on our happiness in the long run. Seligman doesn’t say this out of the blue: research constantly shows that people have a “baseline of happiness” that stays the same no matter the life circumstances. But does this mean that we cannot have an impact on our happiness? Not exactly. Seligman says that voluntary control over our happiness has the most powerful effect on it. In other words, we can “learn” to be happier.
To achieve greater happiness, positive-psychology advocates “learnt optimism” exercises, such as sitting down each evening and listing things that went well that day; learning to feel grateful for what we have; and practicing random acts of kindness. Seligman also points out that lasting happiness has nothing to do with the hedonistic pleasures – shopping and partying – and more to do with solid values: a sense of community and meaningful work.
On the other hand, there is no specified set of rules that you can follow, as we’re all different. However, these are some ways that can help you be more satisfied and happy with your life.