Perhaps one of the strongest motivations for the development of the recent branch of psychology known as Positive Psychology is the desire to move away from viewing the purpose of care as the treatment of mental illness. Professionals see things that are wrong with patients and they go to work to try and correct or fix the problems.
If the names Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers sound familiar to you, somewhere, you were exposed to another branch of psychology from the 20th century known as humanistic psychology, focusing heavily on happiness and fulfillment. Fast forward about 30 years and in 1998 tens of millions of dollars in research was invested in the formation and development of Positive Psychology with the names of Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi carrying the banner this time.
Positive psychology is grounded in the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. This foundation views people wanting to cultivate what is best within them, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.
The three central threads of positive psychology weave together positive emotions, positive individual traits and positive institutions. When we develop and maintain these positive emotions, traits and institutions we enhance the experiences in our lives and create the meaningful and fulfilling lives we are intended to live.
Possessing positive emotions means we are pleased with and have come to terms with our past, we experience contentment and happiness with where we are in our present; and we have a sense of positive anticipation and hope for the future.
Positive traits involve an individual’s strengths and virtues. Wisdom, self-control, moderation, self-knowledge, integrity, curiosity, creativity, resilience, compassion, courage, and a person’s capacity for love and work are all examples of such virtues and strengths.
Strengths that foster tolerance and justice, promote responsibility and civility, encourage nurturing and parenting, help develop positive work ethics, leadership and, teamwork, and define purpose all help a person develop and maintain positive institutions.
It is said the average person has upwards of 60,000 thoughts daily. For most of us, many of these thoughts are repetitive – things we tell ourselves over and over again. If we can learn to pull our attention away from the chronic negativity and focus on more positive self-nurturing, this can have amazingly positive advantages to our overall well-being. It is to this end that positive psychology commits continued research and development.
Positive Psychology Test-Drive
Feelings don’t last forever, whether they are wonderful or miserable. A quick, painless way to perform your own experiment about the effectiveness of positive psychology is to develop a sense of “mindfulness” about anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Mindfulness is a zeroing in on the present, pulling and pushing thoughts of the past and the future aside and focusing intently on the exact moment.
As soon as the negative inner chatter starts it is time to be mindful and turn the situation into an opportunity to know you better. Strongly ask yourself the question “How long is this going to last?”
You will be instantly transported from the stressful thoughts and emotions that piggyback on each other to make it much worse and cause the negative event to last much longer. By stepping away from connections to your past experiences and concerns about the future outcome you have placed yourself directly into the present, into the moment. You have taken the focus off the negative and directed your attention onto something you have the ability to determine right here and now.
Please let me know how this turns out for you. Comment below or drop me a quick comment at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about your first experience with positive psychology.
I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. I combine professional experience in the mental health field along with my love of writing to provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. I hope my down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life is easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!