POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY

Source :Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is a recently developed branch of psychology that, unlike other branches, turns away from the focus on treating those deemed “mentally ill,” and instead shifts its attention on what makes individuals, and communities, thrive and live happily.

It first began through the theories and practices of humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, who is famous for his theory on the hierarchy of needs (1943), Carl Rogers, and Erich Fromm. But Positive Psychology really first got started in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme of his presidential term at the American Psychological Association. Seligman has been previously known for his work on the theory of “learned helplessness”, and is now the current director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania (which offers a compact one-year Masters in Applied Positive Psychology for professionals in the domain of psychology, education, business, health, life-coaching, and research).

RESEARCH INTERESTS

Positive psychologists research interests include:

1. Research into the Pleasant Life, or the “life of enjoyment”, examines how people optimally experience, forecast, and savor the positive feelings and emotions that are part of normal and healthy living (e.g. relationships, hobbies, interests, entertainment, etc.).

2. The study of the Good Life, or the “life of engagement”, investigates the beneficial affects of immersion, absorption, and flow that individuals feel when optimally engaged with their primary activities. These states are experienced when there is a positive match between a person’s strength and the task they are doing, i.e. when they feel confident that they can accomplish the tasks they face.

3. Inquiry into the Meaningful Life, or “life of affiliation”, questions how individuals derive a positive sense of well-being, belonging, meaning, and purpose from being part of and contributing back to something larger and more permanent than themselves (e.g. nature, social groups, organizations, movements, traditions, belief systems).

THEORIES OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY

Positive psychologists have theorized three main components to building positive experiences: mindfulness, flow, and spirituality.

Positive psychologists characterize mindfulness using terms such as non-judging, non-striving, accepting, patient, trusting, open, letting go, gentle, generous, empathetic, grateful, and kind. Researchers believe mindfulness can lead to physical and mental health benefits including reduction of stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. It is a skill that can be developed to some degree in all individuals.

Flow is referred to as state of absorption, and can be characterized as intense focus, concentration, and being in the moment. Flow is considered a rewarding experience to have and has also been shown to optimize skillful performance in achieving one’s goals. The concept of “flow” was first formulated by Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (who now teaches at Claremonte University in California, which also offers graduate degrees in applied Positive Psychology). Colloquial terms for flow include: “in the zone,” “on the ball,” and “in the groove.” The concept is comparable to the Buddhist notion of jhāna meaning “states of absorption”, or samadhi, a technical term for a high level of concentration where the subject “becomes one” with the object of attention (leading to the loss of self-awareness).

One Response

  1. I really believe that if people really understood what this message is people would be a lot kinder and a lot more understanding towards others, which i’m still trying to learn that myself.
    Evan

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