What Is Positive Psychology?

If you have been hearing the term “positive psychology”, but you are not quite sure what it is, you are at the right place! There are some common misconceptions about Positive Psychology, both about what it is and what it is not.

Definition Of Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behaviour, with a focus on strengths instead of weaknesses, building the good in life instead of repairing the bad, and taking the lives of average people up to “great” instead of focusing solely on moving those who are struggling up to “normal”.

Positive Psychology focuses on the positive events and influences in life, including:

1. Positive experiences (like happiness, joy, inspiration and love)
2. Positive states and traits (like gratitude, resilience and compassion)
3. Positive institutions (applying positive principles within entire organizations and institutions)

As a field, Positive Psychology spends much of its time thinking about topics like character strengths, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, well-being, gratitude, compassion (as well as self-compassion), self-esteem and self-confidence, hope, and elevation. These topics are studied in order to learn how to help people flourish and live their best lives.

Benefits Of Positive Psychology

It will be impossible to list all the benefits of positive psychology, but we’ll try to give a comprehensive overview of some of the most impactful and influential outcomes of practising positive psychology.

In general, the greatest potential benefit of positive psychology is that it teaches us the power of shifting one’s perspective. This is the focus of many techniques, exercises and even entire programs based on positive psychology because a relatively small change in one’s perspective can lead to astounding shifts in well-being and quality life. Injecting a bit more optimism and gratitude into your life is a simple action that can give you a radically more positive outlook on life. Of course, no respected Positive Psychologist would tell you to think about, act out and focus on only the positive in life – balance is important. Positive Psychology was not established to replace traditional psychology, but to complement it with a positive bias that’s just as strong as psychology’s negative bias over several decades.

Studies and Research

Positive Psychology teaches how to harness the power of shifting one’s perspective to maximize the potential for happiness in many of our everyday behaviours. For example, each of these findings gives us a concrete idea for improving our own quality of life:

1. People overestimate the impact of money on their happiness quite a lot. It does have some influence, but not nearly as much as we might think, so focusing less on attaining wealth will likely make you happier.
2. Spending money on experiences provides a bigger boost to happiness than spending money on material possessions.
3. Gratitude is a big contributor to happiness in life, suggesting that the more we cultivate gratitude, the happier we will be.
4. Oxytocin may provide greater trust, empathy, and morality in humans, meaning that giving the hugs or other shows of physical affection may give you a big boost in your overall well-being.
5. Those who intentionally cultivate a positive mood to match the outward emotion they need to display, benefit by more genuinely experiencing the positive mood. In other words, “putting on a happy face” won’t necessarily make you feel happier, but putting in a little bit of effort likely will.
6. Happiness is contagious, those with happy friends and significant others are more likely to be happy in the future.
7. People who perform acts of kindness towards others not only get a boost in well-being, they are also more accepted by their peers.
8. Volunteering time to a cause you believe in improves your well-being and life satisfaction and may even reduce symptoms of depression.
9. Spending money on other people results in greater happiness for the giver.

Positive Psychology also lends itself to improvements in the workplace. Studies from the field have found that:
1. Positive emotions boost our job performance.
2. Positive emotions in the workplace are contagious, which means one positive person or team can have a ripple effect that extends through the entire organization.
3. Small, simple actions can have a big impact on our happiness, meaning that it doesn’t take much to encourage your workplace to become a happier and more positive place.

Goals Of Positive Psychology In Therapy

Applying Positive Psychology to therapy is undertaken with the best of intentions and care for others.

In general, the goals of Positive Psychology are as follows:
• Increase the client’s experience of positive emotions.
• Help clients identify and develop their strengths and unique talents.
• Enhance the client’s sense of happiness and well-being.
• Nurture a sense of gratitude in the client.
• Help the client build and maintain healthy, positive relationships with others.
• Encourage the client to maintain an optimistic outlook.
• Help the client to learn to savour every positive moment.