What is Positive Psychology?

Most of Psychology focuses on what makes people depressed, anxious, lethargic and generally shitty. Whereas Positive Psychology focuses on what makes people happy, fulfilled and content.

Here’s a proper definition for you:

“Positive psychology is a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior with a focus on strengths instead of weakness, building the good in life instead of repairing the bad, and taking the lives of average people up to “great” instead of focusing solely on moving those who are struggling up to ‘normal'” (Peterson, 2008).

“…Positive Psychology is not to be confused with untested self-help, footless affirmation, or secular religion—no matter how good these may make us feel. Positive psychology is neither a recycled version of the power of positive thinking nor a sequel to The Secret.” (Peterson, 2008)

As a field, positive psychology spends much of its time thinking about topics like character strengths, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, well-being, gratitude, compassion (as well as self-compassion), self-esteem and self-confidence, hope, and elevation.

These topics are studied in order to learn how to help people flourish and live their best lives.

Here are the results of some of the studies done in Positive Psychology:

– People overestimate the impact of money on their happiness by quite a lot. It does have some influence, but not nearly as much as we might think, so focusing less on attaining wealth will likely make you happier (Aknin, Norton, & Dunn, 2009).
– Spending money on experiences provides a bigger boost to happiness than spending money on material possessions (Howell & Hill, 2009).
– Gratitude is a big contributor to happiness in life, suggesting that the more we cultivate gratitude, the happier we will be (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).
– Oxytocin may provoke greater trust, empathy, and morality in humans, meaning that giving hugs or other shows of physical affection may give you a big boost to your overall well-being (and the well-being of others; Barraza & Zak, 2009).
– Those who intentionally cultivate a positive mood to match the outward emotion they need to display (i.e., in emotional labor) benefit by more genuinely experiencing the positive mood. In other words, “putting on a happy face” won’t necessary make you feel happier, but putting in a little bit of effort likely will (Scott & Barnes, 2011).
– Happiness is contagious; those with happy friends and significant others are more likely to be happy in the future (Fowler & Christakis, 2008).
– People who perform acts of kindness towards others not only get a boost in well-being, they are also more accepted by their peers (Layous, Nelson, Oberle, Schonert-Reichl, & Lyubomirsky, 2012).
– Volunteering time to a cause you believe in improves your well-being and life satisfaction and may even reduce symptoms of depression (Jenkinson et al., 2013).
– Spending money on other people results in greater happiness for the giver (Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008).

The PERMA Model

One of the popular models in Positive Psychology, is the PERMA Model. The PERMA model was designed by Psychologist Martin Seligman with five core element of psychological well-being and happiness. Seligman believes that these five elements can help people reach a life of fulfillment, happiness, and meaning.

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If you’re interested in living a happier life, Positive Psychology can provide a lot of very useful information to help you on that path, and it’s for that reason that I’m very interested to learn more!

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