What is Positive Psychology?
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing, character strengths and virtues. It’s aim is to increase wellbeing in individuals, communities, schools and organisations by applying evidenced based interventions to increase life satisfaction. This branch of psychology seeks to find out how people and communities can cultivate a meaningful and fulfilling life and through research has come up with scientifically proven ways to help others live to their fullest potential.
Positive Psychology is a fairly new branch of psychology intended to complement traditional psychology. It’s theories, research and practices are
filtering into all areas of society from individuals, communities, corporations, policies and education. Unlike traditional psychology which studies how things go wrong, positive psychology studies how things go right.
Traditional psychology treats mental illness and aims to take individuals from -10 to 0 whereas positive psychology treats normally functioning individuals and aims to take them from 0 to +10 in order to create human flourishing. This is accomplished by changing the way we think and act with the underlying theme that by doing this life can be made better. When life is better, you are flourishing and experiencing wellbeing.
WHAT IS WELLBEING?
The World Health Organisation recognises that mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. They define mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Wellbeing and positive human functioning are important elements of mental health. Individuals can be free from mental illness and still feel unfulfilled and unhappy. Psychological wellbeing focuses on how to live optimally and how to flourish.
Studies and research show that wellbeing can improve productivity, create more meaningful relationships, improve physical and mental health, reduce stress, improve immune systems and increase positive emotions.
In Positive Psychology wellbeing consists of 5 elements, namely positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. The underpinning of these is the recognition, development and use of our character strengths. In addition to these 5 elements, mindfulness and self compassion add to the wellbeing formula of living the good life with kindness, gratitude and compassion. Martin Seligman, who is widely seen as the father of contemporary positive psychology believes that wellbeing is flourishing.
The application of scientific interventions proven to increase wellbeing helps relatively untroubled individuals to live happier, fulfilling, positive and productive lives.
WHAT ARE SCIENTIFIC INTERVENTIONS BASED ON?
Researchers in the field of Positive Psychology base their findings on theoretically-grounded and empirically-validated studies and activities that are designed to enhance wellbeing. The aim is for everyone to be able to self-help, however, applying these interventions through a trained professional who may appropriately modify them to individual circumstances will positively help.
In an attempt to answer the question what makes us happy, Neuroscientists have discovered that our brains are malleable and able to change. This means that we can, in effect, change our brain simply by changing our thoughts (which can be negative or positive thoughts) which means that as the brain changes, the mind changes for better or worse. Through functional MRI techniques, it has been shown that our left pre-frontal cortex has increased neural activity when people are happier and is therefore associated with creating positive emotions. Our thoughts can increase neural activity which can ultimately have a positive or negative effect on us physically. With practice whatever we repeatedly sense and feel is sculpting our neural structure and pathways so we know we can train our brains to cultivate positive states of mind to increase happiness and wellbeing. Positive Psychology is based around this and it’s interventions, along with mindful awareness, create changes in the mind which then change the brain to release feel good neurochemicals which can have temporary and lasting effects on your wellbeing. For example, consciously practicing gratitude releases the reward hormone dopamine which makes you feel good. With my help, you can learn how to feel better and live a flourishing life.