While the science of Psychology has offered explanations of how and why things are not right with people, Positive Psychology offers us an understanding of how and why things go right.
Martin E.P Seligman, often referred to as the founder of positive psychology, describes it as: “The scientific study of optimal human functioning that aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive.”
Seligman promotes what he calls a worthwhile life – one that is pleasurable, engaging and purposeful and the importance of using a strengths-based approach to psychology.
The reason I am drawn to Positive Psychology is this very focus on using strengths rather than weaknesses within individuals to manage their challenging situations. Seligman’s studies (and many others) suggest that focussing on identifying strengths in the individual can help balance dysfunctional emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
Seligman’s model for wellbeing and happiness (PERMA) includes five important building blocks:
Positive emotions – feeling good
Engagement – being completely absorbed in activities
Relationships – being connected to others and having positive relationships
Meaning – having a purposeful existence; working for and contributing to something you believe is bigger than just you
Achievement- having a sense of accomplishment and success
Positive psychology techniques are used to equip individuals with the skills and confidence, to build positive emotions, character strengths and meaning which in turn reduces negative symptoms and supports individuals to manage life and its challenges. Integrating traditional psychological practices such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and strengths-based approaches including mindfulness-based interventions have been found to be effective in treating depression and anxiety.
Positive psychology interventions have also been applied to many other contexts including education, in workplaces, for parenting and relationships, the military, communities and health rehabilitation programs.
Here are just a few ways we can apply Positive Psychology to work and life:
- Focus on Strengths: think of our strengths and how to best use them rather than what is wrong with us and what needs fixing. Identifying our personal strengths and using them in everyday life helps promote a sense of achievement and mastery, helping us feel engaged and influential. Seligman and colleagues found that using our strengths in new and different ways regularly results in higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression.For a simple and interesting online strengths inventory visit http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey or (https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/),
- Express Gratitude: appreciating what we have rather than yearning for what we don’t have allows us to experience greater joy, pleasure and optimism.
- Acts of Kindness towards others: research suggests that finding opportunities to practice acts of kindness, volunteering in the community, helping colleagues is an effective way of boosting psychological well-being, improving social bonds and ultimately increasing optimism.
For further reading and useful information see:
Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York, Atria Paperback.
Revive Health and Happiness have a team of psychologists who use Positive Psychology techniques to help people feel good.
Our friendly team at Revive are happy to help answer queries or book an appointment by phoning 6381 0297.