When you hear the words ‘positive psychology’, many things may come to mind… ridiculously happy people walking around with the sun shining on their faces, people humming and being all zen-like in a quiet room or someone giggling hysterically! Despite how fun it is imagining these things, it really isn’t like that at all (well maybe just a little!!).
Positive psychology is by far the most interesting and important area in the psychology field (mind you there are some VERY interesting abnormal psychology stories out there!). This is because there is a key difference that sets positive psychology apart from all the other areas… it focuses on improving happiness, life satisfaction and wellbeing, rather than on treating illness. A clever man called Martin Seligman decided enough was enough and created the field of positive psychology because he felt that we spend too much time worrying about what’s ‘wrong’ with us, and not nearly enough time celebrating what’s ‘right’ with us. I like his thinking!
Sooo… positive psychology isn’t about making people so happy that they are walking around with a massive grin on their faces all day long (because that would be more annoying than anything!), but rather it’s about promoting strategies and habits that make our lives better. Positive psychology focuses on encouraging people to develop positive relationships, environments, experiences and emotions which in turn enable them to cope with stressful situations (which unfortunately will still continue to occur…. regardless of how ridiculously positive we are!).
Essentially, positive psychology aims to help people to function the best they possibly can and to live a happy, fulfilling and satisfying life… now that’s the kind of psychology I’m all for! This is done through a variety of strategies, including: practising mindfulness, seeking out ‘flow’ experiences, setting goals and finding meaning in everyday life. I know, I know.. this all sounds a little crazy but it’s actually based on a huge amount of testing and research and the results make a lot of sense! Anyway, I am going to stop rambling now as this was only meant to be a little intro into what positive psychology is… keep tuned for posts on mindfulness and ‘flow’ coming up soon. In the meantime, feel free to whip out a goofy grin, say something nice to someone and give yourself a pat on the back because you really are awesome… and you don’t need a psychologist to tell you that!!!
If you want to find out more… check out the Authentic Happiness website: http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx