Positive Psychology is the study of happiness.
It can be summarized in the words of its founder, Martin Seligman, as the
‘scientific study of optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive’.
Positive Psychology is the study of what makes life fulfilling. It pushes psychological science to be as focused on strengths as on weaknesses; as interested in developing the best things in life as in fixing the worst; and as concerned with making human lives fulfilling as with curing pathology.
Traditional Psychology should not disregard the very real problems that people experience.
The important work of Positive Psychology is to supplement and extend the problem-focused psychology that has been dominant for many decades.
Positive Psychology has roots in many truths.
- The good things in life are just as important as the bad.
- Good is not simply the absence of what is bad.
- The good life requires its own explanation. Good is not a disorder in reverse.
Positive Psychology is science-based.
Science requires testing theories against evidence.
Do not confuse Positive Psychology with untested self-help, affirmations or religion. Positive psychology is not a new version of the power of positive thinking nor a follow-up to the secret.
In recent years much has been learned about the “good life” side of psychology.
- Happiness is a catalyst for good things in life. People who are pleased with life eventually have even more reason to be happy.
- Most people are resilient.
- Joy, strengths of character, and strong relationships are barriers against the damaging effects of frustrations and obstacles.
- Crisis reveals character: Post Traumatic Growth.
- Other people matter a great deal, especially as we strive to understand what makes life most worth living.
- Having a higher purpose matters.
- And work that engages and provides meaning and purpose matters.
- Money can buy happiness if it is spent helping others.
- The “heart” matters more than the “head.” We are taught critical thinking among other skills throughout school and work. We should also be learning unconditional caring and how to seek joy.
- Good days have things in common: feeling independent, capable, and connected to other humans.
- The good life can be learned!
I’ll say the last point again…
The good life can be learned!
This is such great news! This means that happiness is not simply the product of nature or nurture. There are things that we can do to lead better lives! It does take work, but it is worth it!