Have you ever asked yourself these questions?
What are your strengths and how could you utilize them?
What is happiness and how can you reach it?
How can you achieve self-confidence and self-esteem?
In the 1960s and 1970’s someone attempted to answer these questions for you.
Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, laid down the foundation of this field on the answers to these questions.
Positive psychology delves into studying the aspects that make life worth living.
It is a scientific approach to studying human’s feelings, thoughts and behaviors from a positive perspective rather than a negative one.
It looks deep into our character’s strengths, happiness, well-being, hope, self-confidence, self-esteem, compassion and the like.
Positive psychology is more of a manual to living happily with confidence.
But how did it evolve?
A Brief Account on The History of Psychology
For every branch of science, there is always a “defining moment of truth”.
A moment after which this field changes course or direction.
For psychology, this defining moment was World War II.
Before World War II, the field of psychology was merely a field of theories and observation, rather than practical science.
After World War II, however, psychology turned from a mere philosophy framed into academic studies into clinical practices.
Psychological theories were brought into practice as a need for treating post-war mental illness and abnormal behavior aroused.
It was the turn for clinical psychology to prove its worth.
Yet, until the 1950 clinical psychology focused on treating mental illness rather than achieving mental health.
It focused on the negatives more than the positives.
The year 1988 witnessed the birth of the field of positive psychology which came to life as a counter-reaction to behaviorism and psychoanalysis.
Positive psychology came to re-affirm the shift to achieving mental health rather than treating mental illness.
Ever since it became a best practice for many clinical treatments.
Positive Psychology and Our Lives
Though nowadays, we are not in war, yet, war persists in our hearts and minds.
Owing to the stressful world of the 20th and 21st centuries, the need for happiness and ease of mind turned from a luxurious need at the top of Maslow’s pyramid to a survival need for one’s well-being.
As per the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people are suffering from depression.
Depression is becoming the epidemic of the millennia.
Many people around us are depressed or at least indifferent about life.
Sad news, traumatic events, suicidal actions, corruption, capitalism, poverty, and life demands are enough to get the worst out of us.
The focus on the negatives became a code of life and people became lost in the sad realities that haunt their attempts to peacefully exist.
Consequently, in light of this modern chaos, a need for understanding ourselves and looking for relative strength to keep moving became a necessity.
Simple answers to questions of character strength and achieving well-being are sought by many.
Not only in interview rooms, but in personal effort to understanding oneself.
From there, a thrive for positivity became the call of many social reformers.
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life.
Therefore, positive psychology filled the gap of personal development that was sought after by many.
Positive Psychology and Three Paths to Happiness
As positive psychology looks into ways of achieving happiness, its theories of happiness evolved from authentic happiness, to flourish then flow.
Seligman first proposed three categories of a happy life.
– Pleasant Life
In which daily positive feelings arising from healthy relationships, interests, and new entertaining experiences are examined.
Understanding how people achieve these normal positive feelings.
– Good Life
Which discusses how people happily engage in life when their strengths are utilized in their current tasks.
– Meaningful Life
A derived sense of well-being from belonging and contributing to something bigger than oneself.
Building on his proposal of a meaningful life, Seligman further developed his categories of happy living into what is known as PERMA
PERMA is an acronym for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Purpose, and Accomplishments.
According to Seligman, these five elements are the essential elements for well-being.
Positive Emotions are not exclusive to joy and happiness, but it also includes excitement, peace, pride, and the like.
It is the ability to develop an optimistic view of different life events.
More of a paradigm shift towards your life, work, relationships that motivates you to bring out our best and keep moving forward.
Engagement refers to the activities that engage us fully.
As such activities are very important to personal growth and hence happiness.
When one feels engaged and utilized, one is fully absorbed in the present moment and become a complete human being.
Relationships are key to people happiness.
We are created as social beings.
Loneliness is feared by many.
Our need for connection, intimacy, love, and inclusion is an essential need that is born with us.
Our ability to establish successful relationships with our parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues directly contribute to our happiness.
Meaning is a life-long quest.
We all search for a life purpose and a meaning.
Though purpose comes at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, for Seligman it is an essential element of happiness.
Those whose lives have meanings and internally feel that they are up to something bigger than themselves are the happiest.
Accomplishments are the realization of self-worth.
The ability to achieve and realize one’s goals is a source of happiness and joy to everyone.
PERMA is adopted by educators and psychologists to help children as well as adults to achieve well-being and a balanced well-established character.
Positive Psychology and Character Strength
Seligman and Peterson developed the character strength and virtues handbook to define the positive traits of human beings.
They defined six important virtues and 24 strengths.
These six virtues are:
Each of these virtues have its own traits
Wisdom includes creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective and innovation.
Courage includes bravery, persistence, integrity.
Humanity includes love, kindness and social intelligence.
Justice includes citizenship, leadership and fairness.
Temperance includes forgiveness, mercy, humility, self-control.
Transcendence includes appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, spirituality, excellence.
Through their classification, people were able to understand themselves better and hence contribute to living with quality.
Because when you know what you are good at and what your strengths you would probably excel better and hence feel more accomplished and achieved.
Positive Psychology Interventions
1- Keeping A Gratitude Journal
When you keep a habit of recording the things you are grateful for, gratitude, as well as happiness, becomes a habit.
A good outcome of this intervention is consciously changing perspectives from negatives to positives.
It gives us a chance to re-evaluate the negatives and see the un-noticed bless in them.
2- Showing Gratitude
When we express our positive emotions towards others it magnifies and becomes contagious.
We both get affected positively and it builds our confidence in establishing positive relationships.
3- My Best Future Self
Reflecting and contemplating about your best future version automatically shifts your mind’s focus from
what you want rather than what you don’t want.
What we think of multiply.
So, if you want improvement, think an improvement.
4- Daily Strength Awareness
Building upon character strength, utilizing the six virtues and the 24 strengths to remind yourself daily of how well you are doing is a game changer.
When you allow your mind to focus on your strengths, you are concentrating its effort towards your well-being rather than a fixation.
The Past and the future are scary, uncontrollable and unliveable.
We only live in the present, and in our present, we are entitled to fully being.
Happiness comes from being not overthinking or dwelling and hence, mindfulness is a catalyst to being.
According to Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, “The aim of Positive Psychology is to catalyze a change in Psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life.”
Positive psychology is the psychological shift from mental illness to mental health.
It is the field that guides people into a happy living rather than an ordinary one.
It focuses on one’s strength, thoughts, and behaviors to achieving happiness.
One’s happiness is dependent on one’s ability to experience positive emotions, engage with others, establish healthy and nurturing relationships, have a sense of purpose in life and achieve.
Positive psychology also helps people understand their character strengths and invest in them.
Through its intervention, one can manifest on his adoption of a new optimistic paradigm and see through happiness.