Last updated on November 28th, 2023.
Positive psychology is a science that involves focusing on the positive aspects of human life. According to American psychologist, educator, and the founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, it is the scientific study of optimal human functioning that promotes all factors allowing communities and individuals to flourish.
This particular psychological approach does not emphasize on fixing problems. Rather, it focuses on identifying elements that make life worth living. In simple words, positive psychology helps us to feel and be better. Positive Psychology inspires people to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives and to improve their experiences of work, play, and love.
Positive Psychology Practitioner - School of Positive Transformation
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What is Positive Psychology, and why is it important?
As humans, we are hardwired to focus more on negative experiences. In countless cases, people in therapy are unaware of the elements that play a crucial role in making their life happier. Most mental health care professionals conclude that this incongruity is because of perception. An individual fails to identify their emotions during an experience. However, they successfully recognize and identify all such emotions when they recall these experiences later.
Positive psychology is important because it allows a person to become optimistic by recalling and focusing on his positive experiences. The approach attempts to attain a balanced perspective, so an individual’s focus shifts from negativity to positivity.
Positive psychology is majorly responsible for developing several key concepts that are highly therapeutic for individuals suffering from anxiety and depression. Few scientific studies reveal that a lack of positivity leads to a depressed mood. But, that’s not the sole reason for developing depression.
Positive psychology not only targets negative symptoms, but it also boosts our strengths and enhances positive emotions. Hence, it benefits individuals who want to develop in these areas. Because of this new approach, Positive Psychology Certificate programs and centers to study positive psychology are popping up all over.
This is how psychology works within a disease model. Dr. Martin Seligman also highlights other important accomplishments of the disease model, such as treating anxiety attacks, depression, and other previously incurable mental disorders.
What are the Three Levels of Positive Psychology?
Positive psychology operates on three different levels. Let us take a look at each of these to understand positive psychology better.
1. Subjective Level
This level involves the study of positive experiences. For example, all experiences that make us feel happy, such as satisfaction, well-being, joy, contentment, well-being, happiness, contentment, flow, and optimism. Subjective level is not about being a good person or doing good things but all about feeling good.
This level focuses on the personal qualities that you need for becoming a ‘good person’ or the constituents of a ‘good life.’ The individual level of positive psychology involves virtues and human strengths, courage, forgiveness, capacity for love, and future-mindedness. It also includes interpersonal skills and wisdom.
3. Group level
The emphasis of the group level is on social responsibilities, civic virtues, altruism, work ethics, and all positive factors that play a role in the development of communities and citizenship.
What is Positive Psychology, and what is it not?
Many people underestimate positive psychology because it usually conveys the image of cheap self-help and does not address people’s real problems.
However, it caters to both the strengths and weaknesses of individuals so they can fix the worst and build the best of life. It does not give a universal solution because every individual is different. What satisfies one person may not work for another. Hence, the goal is to address individual needs and make them accept all sad and angry moments to become hopeful for the future.
To be happy, we must accept that our life will have certain sad moments. However, there is no need to become negative or disappointed. The only thing to do is learn from these experiences and accept them to move on.
Since it’s a popular subject, there are some common misconceptions about positive psychology. Here are a few myths about positive psychology.
Positive Psychology teaches you to ignore negative emotions
That is perhaps one of the most popular misconceptions. This form of psychology does not teach us to eradicate the negative elements. Rather, it helps us learn to deal with negative phenomena such as depression or fear by putting the spotlight on the positive side of our behavioral and emotional continuum to attain a balanced view.
Positive Psychology is only for the rich
While it is true that the concepts of positive psychology originated at high-end private universities in the U.S., the approach works for all individuals. Like most psychological theories, the researchers usually test their theories on samples of undergraduate students who study at the same universities where the researchers are teaching. A large percentage of these students are predominantly affluent white people. However, this criticism is true for almost any research work in any branch of psychology.
The good thing is that positive psychologists realize this caveat and make attempts to broaden their research to target diverse groups.
Positive Psychology is ignoring its Roots or Humanistic Psychology
Positive psychologists recognize the findings and theories that surfaced thanks to Humanistic Psychology and acknowledge the work of giants like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Moreover, it relies heavily on the wisdom of many ancient great philosophers. However, the crucial difference lies in its strong foundation in experimental research.
Dr. Martin Seligman YouTube video from TED to help answer the question "What is Positive Psychology?"
A great overview from Dr. Martin Seligman to help answer the question “What is Positive Psychology” as well as where it’s going. In addition, Dr. Seligman helps to build context on the brief history of modern psychology beginning with the disease model and outlines how psychology has evolved for the better.
Video Source: TED YouTube Channel
What is an Example of Positive Psychology?
- The Meaningful Life (Meaning and Purpose)
- The Engaged Life (Flow and Mindfulness)
- The Pleasurable Life (Positive Emotions)
However, in 2011, he revised this theory and re-named it to ‘Well-being Theory.’ According to his new model, there are two additional components: Accomplishment and Positive Relationship. Here is the PERMA or well-being theory.
- P – Positive Emotions
- E – Engagement
- R – Positive Relationships
- M – Meaning
- A – Accomplishment
These theories give a better understanding of some of the most common examples of positive psychology. Some of these include:
- Learning how to forgive
- Learning to deal with struggle and failure. Mastering the skills of grit and resilience
- Learning to serve and reach out to people who need help. Understanding the purpose behind being helpful and becoming a positive community member
- Developing positive habits
- Character education for kids
How Can I use Positive Psychology in my life?
For years, psychology only focused on treating behavioral problems, psychopathologies, and disorders. However, positive psychology sheds light on elements that make us feel good. Today, psychologists go beyond offering solutions to treat mental disorders but also seek answers about finding what makes us happy to create our own happiness.
Here are a few ways we can use positive psychology in our daily life.
Seligman reveals that finding our unique strengths is a critical part of learning to enjoy the positive aspects of our life. These could be anything such as humanity, creativity, integrity, or strength.
Individuals who have at least one or two close friendships are happier. Having people you can count on makes us feel good and valued. We must be able to express ourselves with our loved ones for cultivating relationships. You don’t have to make dozens of friends. Just find a couple of close friends who share the same interests and activities as yours.
Physical well-being is crucial to our mental health. Consuming a healthy diet and maintaining a level of physical activity improves our overall health. For that reason, psychologists stress the importance of exercise for reducing depression which is fairly common, especially among teens and middle-aged adults.
We must understand that physical exercise has a big impact on regulating mood swings. But the important thing to remember is that we exercise, we do so to look good or lose weight. That makes you lose the pleasure of exercising. Indulge in a variety of exercises to make your workouts fun and interesting. Learn more about why and how exercise benefits the overall body. Once you know the amazing effects of physical activity on your mind and body, you will never want to skip your gym or home fitness routine.
Humor lengthens life and improves our well-being. But above all, it makes us laugh and become happier. Anyone can learn to have a sensor of humor because it’s something you can train it. Here are a few tips for developing your sense of humor:
- Humor is contagious. Surround yourself with friends and family members who have a great sense of humor.
- Take yourself less seriously and learn to laugh at yourself without demeaning yourself
- Wait for the right moment and use humor intelligently, not indiscriminately
People who practice gratitude in their daily life are happier and healthier. We all have something to be thankful for, but sometimes we just don’t realize it. You can cultivate gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal. Every week, jot down at least three things you appreciate in your life. You can also write a thank-you letter to a special friend or family member or thank him/her personally. When we are grateful every day, our brain makes a habit out of it. It might be time to learn how to live a lifestyle of appreciation.
(Once you have practiced all the steps above, it might be time for you to write your own personal narrative!)
Positive Psychology and Children
Positive psychology is not just limited to adults. You can teach your children to become happy and positive through small acts of kindness. Teach your children to find out how good it feels to help someone. Plan a few good things you can do with them over the weekend and encourage them to help their siblings whenever possible.
Positive Psychology at Work
Applying positive psychology in the workplace is not as complicated as it seems. Even if you dread going to work every morning, it is still possible to make your workplace a less hostile place if you implement the principles of positive psychology.
You can increase your levels of satisfaction and happiness if you give your job a new meaning. Visualize how every small task will contribute to the greater good. Focus on the outcome and avoid procrastination to achieve better results. Regardless of what you do, think about the services you provide to people and the benefits you get as rewards such as economic stability, knowledge, and resources. You can also practice yoga, mindfulness, and meditation to reduce anxiety and stress.
Positive Psychology Practitioner - School of Positive Transformation
For a special 10% off use coupon: MindMaster10
Although positive psychology was initially used to enhance the well-being of healthy people, its techniques are now used along with traditional forms of therapy. Positive psychology encourages us to slow down our routine so we can learn how to make every moment count. Advocates of positive psychology describe its core ideology as a ‘build what’s strong’ belief that has the potential to improve the ‘repair what’s wrong’ methodology of traditional psychotherapy.
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