“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 a branch of psychology that focuses on the personality traits and behaviors that enable people to live lives with meaning and purpose—to thrive rather than just survive. Theorists and intellectuals have sought to describe the elements of a happy existence. They’ve also created and tested strategies for enhancing happiness and well-being in everyday life.
Positive psychology is often referred to as having three different levels:
- Subjective level: focuses on feelings of happiness, well-being, and optimism, as well as how these sentiments influence your everyday life.
- Individual level: a collection of subjective sentiments and values such as forgiveness, love, and courage.
- Group level: Positive engagement with your society, including values such as generosity and social responsibility that create social bonds at the group level
What Positive Psychology Focuses on in a Nutshell
Positive psychology focuses on the positive events and influences in life, including:
- Positive experiences (like happiness, joy, inspiration, and love).
- Positive states and traits (like gratitude, resilience, and compassion).
- Positive institutions (applying positive principles within entire organizations and institutions).
Character qualities, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, well-being, gratitude, compassion (including self-compassion), self-esteem and self-confidence, hope, and elevation are all topics covered by positive psychology. These topics are investigated in order to determine ways to aid people in flourishing and living their best lives. Character qualities, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, well-being, gratitude, compassion (including self-compassion), self-esteem and self-confidence, hope, and elevation are all topics covered by positive psychology. These topics are investigated in order to determine ways to aid people in flourishing and living their best lives.
The basics of positive psychology
Positive psychology prioritizes significance and genuine fulfillment above fleeting pleasure. Martin Seligman, widely regarded as the father of positive psychology, has offered a variety of perspectives on what it means to live happily, including the Pleasant Life (based on Hollywood’s definition of happiness), the Good Life (centered on personal strengths, and participation), and the Meaningful Life. Happy psychologists have studied a wide range of experiences and behaviors connected with different types of good living, such as unique positive emotions, “flow” moods, and a sense of meaning or purpose. Proponents of positive psychology have also sought to document character strengths and virtues.
How is positive psychology different from the rest of psychology?
While there is some overlap, positive psychology has been defined as distinct from other branches of psychology owing to its emphasis on discovering and developing mental advantages rather than treating deficiencies and difficulties.
Who created positive psychology?
Positive psychologists Martin Seligman (who popularised the notion while president of the American Psychological Association in 1998), Christopher Peterson, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi are major proponents. However, many others have contributed to the development of the area, which mirrors earlier work by humanistic psychologists like Abraham Maslow, who coined the phrase “positive psychology” in the 1950s.
Positive Psychology and the PERMA Model
In order to better explain and define well-being, which is a primary focus in positive psychology, Seligman created the PERMA model. PERMA is an acronym for the following five elements of well-being:
- Positive emotions, or experiencing optimism as well as gratitude about your past, contentment in the present, and hope for the future
- Engagement, or achieving “flow” with enjoyable activities and hobbies
- Relationships, or forming social connections with family and friends
- Meaning, or finding a purpose in life larger than you
- Accomplishments, or goals and successes
Other Key concepts in Positive Psychology:
Flourishing is a crucial idea in positive psychology since it contains and extends to so many other positive notions. In a nutshell, “flourishing” refers to the condition we are in when we pay attention to every part of the PERMA model and develop a strong sense of well-being. We thrive when we develop our abilities and strengths, form deep and meaningful connections, experience pleasure and delight, and make a significant contribution to the world. When we actually live the “good life,” we flourish when we find fulfillment in life while still accomplishing more traditional achievement objectives (Seligman, 2011).
Positive psychologist and professor Dr. Lynn Soots (n.d.) describe flourishing as the following:
“Flourishing is the product of the pursuit and engagement of an authentic life that brings inner joy and happiness through meeting goals, being connected with life passions, and relishing in accomplishments through the peaks and valleys of life.”
-Dr. Lynn Soot
Flow is another well-known concept in positive psychology. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (our second “founding father” of positive psychology) was the first to scientifically investigate and describe the notion of flow. Csikszentmihalyi discovered that many artists fell into a certain condition when working in the latter few decades of the 1900s; this state was marked by particularly intense attention and considerable concentration on the task at hand, to the point of losing track of time for hours at a time. Professional athletes, singers, authors, and others from all artistic and creative vocations have all described losing themselves in their job in the same way.
As he gathered additional reports of this phenomenon, he noticed six characteristics that define a flow experience:
- Concentration on the current moment that is intense and concentrated;
- The union of action and consciousness, or being completely present in your activities;
- A loss of reflective self-consciousness (a lack of self-awareness);
- A sense of personal activity or control over the situation;
- A skewed perception of time;
- Having an innately satisfying experience with the activity or circumstance (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975).
What are some of the benefits of positive psychology?
According to research, practices related to positive psychology, such as gratitude treatments, can improve social and emotional well-being. Positive psychology has also led to investigations into how particular character characteristics, positive emotions such as awe, and other attributes such as a feeling of meaning and purpose in life might lead to positive life outcomes.
What is the significance of meaning and purpose?
Life-meaning measures have been demonstrated to be related to other good life outcomes. According to a study, older persons who feel their life is meaningful have better physical and mental health. Other research suggests that having a feeling of purpose in life may have health advantages.
Positive Psychology Tips that can Improve Your Everyday Life
For good reason, gratitude is one of the most popular positive psychology practices. People who practice thankfulness on a daily basis report feeling more alive, sleeping better, expressing more compassion and generosity, and even having stronger immune systems. We’ve all heard of maintaining a gratitude diary or making a daily habit of writing down numerous things we’re grateful for. However, there are several additional ways to reap the benefits of appreciation. Here are a few more suggestions:
- Take photos of things you’re grateful for and spend a few minutes each day going through your virtual photo gratitude book.
- Volunteering or giving back to your community
- Make a thank-you note
- Spend time in nature, taking in its wonder and beauty.
- Share the highlight of your day around the dinner table.
- Call a buddy and tell them you’re thinking about them.
- Post something extraordinary about your family on the refrigerator.
- Bring your coworkers or employees tea and sandwiches.
- Instead of concentrating on your shortcomings when you look in the mirror, appreciate your body for everything it does.
- Daily Strength Awareness
Character Strengths and Virtues is a revolutionary taxonomy of highly appreciated good characteristics. The researchers investigated all major faiths and intellectual traditions and discovered that the same six qualities were prized across all civilizations.
These qualities (compassion, courage, knowledge, and so on) needed to be scientifically studied, thus they concentrated their research on the character characteristics that contribute to those virtues. They followed it by developing measuring instruments.
Positive psychology employs a variety of strategies to assist individuals and organizations in identifying and utilizing their strengths in order to develop and maintain their levels of well-being. Strengths development involves a process of self-examination, self-discovery, and introspection. Looking inward is necessary for someone to truly comprehend their own capabilities. This technique is an excellent approach to improving self-awareness. Self-growth is important for developing and maintaining well-being and is a result of gaining awareness of strength, virtues, and qualities.
There’s a reason why movies of laughing infants and dogs in pajamas are so popular: they instantly redirect our emphasis to something happy, positive, and uplifting. We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine! Laughter also decreases physical pain, boosts mood, reduces stress, and enhances resiliency, according to a study.
- Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that focuses on the present moment by focusing attention on one’s immediate experiences, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations. It entails paying attention to our thoughts and feelings while remaining accepting and non-judgmental. In the most basic sense, it means that instead of focusing on what we should be feeling or experiencing, we are present and aware of how we truly feel. It is not about attempting to change anything, but rather about tuning in to our current experience.
Mindfulness meditation has been identified as one of the most potent and effective strategies for promoting psychological well-being by a wide body of research. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness research has revealed the following benefits:
- Reduced rumination
- Stress reduction
- Improvements in working memory
- Improved capacity to focus
- Less emotional reactivity
- Greater cognitive flexibility
- Relationship satisfaction
It turns out that you don’t even need to laugh hard to reap these mental and physical health advantages. Simply smiling may change your mood from negative to good. Smiling not only enhances happiness and emotional well-being, but it also decreases stress, makes you more pleasant and competent, and is related to longer-lasting and more rewarding marriages, according to studies.
All you have to do to harness some of the tremendous capabilities of smiling is to smile more. Because smiling is contagious, aim to spend more time with people who smile frequently.
- Visualize success and practice flexible thinking
Visualizing oneself doing differently is a further strategy for maintaining motivation and a good outlook. This fosters a success-oriented mental image, which boosts confidence and supports optimistic or positive thinking. Find a peaceful area to sit, unwind your body and close your eyes. Imagine yourself successfully finishing your major job task or confidently delivering your presentation. Pay close attention to every little element, including your voice, posture, and self-talk. Exercises in visualization promote physical and mental relaxation. They provide a sense of peace and well-being that may lead to improved attention and confidence as well as reduced stress and anxiety.
You can envision a desired mental state, such as relaxation, contentment, or peace of mind if you have trouble seeing success or simply want to try something different. Consider yourself at a cozy, enjoyable location where you identify with the desired mood. Using all of your senses and your imagination, visualize yourself at this location. If you’re strolling in a peaceful forest, pay attention to the birds chirping, the scent of the wildflowers, the cool air on your back, and the way the light reflects off the calm stream. Take note of how your breathing deepens, your muscles relax, and you experience a profound sensation of satisfaction. This kind of guided visualization is like taking your thoughts on a brief vacation.
You can also start practicing flexible thinking which can help you visualize success hassle-free. Flexible thinking is the ability to think about things in a new or different way. It helps us deal with uncertainty, solve problems, adjust to changes, and incorporate new information into our plans and ideas.
The majority of us are really harsh on ourselves. Were critical and judgemental, finding fault in even the smallest flaw. We teach ourselves to concentrate on the negatives by fixating and exaggerating our errors and weaknesses. This not only undermines our self-worth and confidence but also lowers our mood and makes it difficult for us to fully appreciate the good things that happen in our life. The natural response to self-criticism is self-compassion. When we are nice and gracious to ourselves, we are accepting of our flaws and difficulties while yet loving ourselves.
Self-compassion practitioners are less prone to experience bodily aches and pains, sleeplessness, or sadness. Additionally, self-compassion is linked to improved motivation, psychological well-being, and relationship satisfaction.
- Anticipate, savor, remember
There are three simple ways to increase the enjoyment of pleasurable experiences.
Anticipate: Imagine a small child’s delight on a joyful morning. Nearly tangible, in fact! The excitement of all the rituals and conversations around the holiday that enhance the fun of Christmas is part of what makes it so enjoyable for children. The same techniques work to increase happiness. Try to spend time anticipating the delight a forthcoming pleasurable occasion, such as a trip or birthday celebration, will provide when you are aware of it in advance. The idea is to consider these pursuits as a component of delight. By consciously choosing to concentrate on the pleasure and excitement, you may heighten the delight of anticipation by taking a peek at your calendar to see what’s coming up this week as well as further in the future.
Savor: Savoring happy occasions is how to increase your happiness in the second step. It’s simple to let moments pass without really participating in them since life moves so quickly. To really enjoy an experience, one must be in the moment. Therefore, refrain from using electronic devices or worrying about your to-do list while attending your son’s piano concert. Put everything else aside and try to just take in this moment.
Remember: Looking back and remembering the wonderful moments is the last and most enjoyable method. The majority of us achieve this through recalling tales and looking at pictures. You might also accomplish it by maintaining a journal, creating a scrapbook, or simply browsing your old calendars. By doing so, we are able to refresh our memories and relive some of the happiness we had at the time the event initially happened.
Download our free worksheet to practice positive psychology in your everyday lives!