One of the hardest questions that someone will ever have to answer is– what do I need to be happy? This answer has eluded so many people over the years and can be nearly impossible for some to ever find.
When searching for happiness, it’s best to maintain a positive outlook. After all, how can you ever find light if you are only ever looking at the dark? However, having a positive perspective and looking on the bright side of life can be an extremely difficult task in modern society as it seems that so problems are being created so much faster than solutions.
The crushing weight of these problems can make living a happy and fulfilled life so much harder to attain. The endless pursuit of happiness and the desire to live a fulfilling life have created an entire industry that is focused and dedicated to providing programs, guides, remedies and various tips in order to help a person to live as positive and optimist a life as possible. This industry is known as positive psychology and has been growing exponentially in popularity.
What Is Positive Psychology?
There are many ways to describe what positive psychology means, but the easiest and most common definition is that it’s the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. The positive qualities of life such as well-being, happiness, satisfaction, and the ability to thrive in daily life are all studied scientifically. The field also goes into learning how to effectively build a life that has purpose and meaning that will allow for an individual to flourish mentally and emotionally.
One of the core principles of positive psychology is that it focuses on the strengths of humanity. So much of traditional psychology focuses on flaws and disorders that a person suffers from or experiences, but positive psychology is focused on building up the best aspects of life and helping people to live fulfilling lives. This scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior places a heavy emphasis on a person’s strengths, as opposed to weaknesses, in order to help them build a more positive life that will repair the weaknesses along the way.
The main focuses of positive psychology are influences like optimism, hope, happiness, and joy, but it also covers character strengths, self-esteem, and well being and how all these influences and traits can be applied to work, relationships, and life in general in order to create a more positive and meaningful life.
The Three Levels of Positive Psychology
The science of positive psychology operates on three distinct levels: the subjective level, the individual level and the group level.
- Subjective. The subjective level centers around feelings such as happiness, well-being, optimism, joy, satisfaction, contentment, and other similar emotions or feelings as they relate to the daily experiences in life. This level is mostly about feeling good, as opposed to doing good or even being a good person.
- Individual. The next level combines the subjective feelings of well-being with the qualities or virtues that make a person well rounded, such as forgiveness, love and courage, perseverance, forgiveness, and wisdom. The aim is to identify the constituents of the “good life” and the personal qualities required in order to be a well-rounded and “good person.”
- Group: The final level focuses on positive interactions with the community and includes traits such as altruism, social responsibility, civic virtues, tolerance, and civility. The goal is to discover ways that someone can positively influence the development of their community and citizenship.
Why Is Positive Psychology Important?
The main goal of positive psychology is to encourage people to discover and nurture their character strengths as opposed to focusing too much on correcting their shortcomings. Positive psychology emphasizes the need for someone to shift their negative outlook into more optimistic viewpoints in order to improve the quality of their life. One of the main driving forces of life is positivity.
Everyone will routinely experience both good and bad outcomes in life, but so often, people tend to focus more on the negative outcomes. By spending so much of their attention on these negative situations, a person is ignoring the potential ways that they could harness the effect of the good things in order to fix the bad ones. A large majority of psychological research is spent into discovering defects and anomalies in people that make them different from others and diagnosing mental illnesses to explain their negative actions and patterns of harmful behavior.
However, the research into positive psychology places a stronger focus on scientific explanations for why a person has positive thoughts and actions. It doesn’t deny the existence of flaws or issues in thoughts or behaviors, but it just argues that equal consideration should be given toward a person’s strengths and virtues as well. Positive psychology is very important as it helps to discover what leads people to live more meaningful lives and this knowledge can help to translate into better strategies for managing mental illnesses, correcting negative behaviors and generally increasing overall happiness and productivity.
If someone is addicted to drugs then what is more helpful: analyzing the underlying traits that are associated with drug addiction or studying the resilience of the people that have managed to overcome their addiction and led a successful recovery? While both are necessary to study, one of these seems much more likely to help the person in need as opposed to the other.
The PERMA Model
One of the primary focuses of positive psychology is to foster well-being. High levels of well-being are linked to increased productivity, long life spans, and more satisfying and fulfilling relationships. The PERMA model is used to explain and define well-being in a broader sense. This acronym represents the five elements of well-being and has become a widely recognized model in the world of positive psychology.
The breakdown of PERMA is:
- Positive emotions. The experience of positive emotions will have a major impact on boosting an individual’s well-being. Positive emotions may stem from fostering gratitude and forgiveness of past events, enjoying the current moment, and being optimistic about the potential future.
- Engagement. In order to enhance a person’s well-being, it’s important to develop a sense of engagement. This can be achieved by completely absorbing oneself while doing something that is enjoyed or excelled at. The sense of engagement will produce an experience referred to as ‘flow,’ which is a sensation a person has when their skills are sufficient enough for a particular challenge.
- Relationships. Humans are social creatures, and therefore, individuals often rely on building connections with other people in order to thrive. The support that is gained from these connections will often give life a sense of purpose and meaning.
- Meaning. The experience of positive emotions alone is not enough to maintain a happy life. Finding meaning is considered to be the highest form of happiness. This sense of meaning can be achieved by applying personal strengths to the service of something that is larger than the individual, as a social cause, or is a substantial contribution to the community the person is a part of.
- Accomplishment. Whenever goals are achieved and success is obtained, then a sense of fulfillment will wash over a person. If there is no drive to accomplish these goals, a true sense of wellbeing will be very difficult to attain.
The PERMA model helps to give a comprehensive framework for understanding wellbeing in addition to a foundation for improving wellbeing. In order to enhance your own sense of authentic happiness and well being than try focusing on:
- Experiencing more positive emotions, do more of the things that make you happy, and find ways to bring enjoyment into your daily routines
- Working on upping your engagement, pursue hobbies that you find interesting, further develop your skills, and look for a job that is more suited to your passions
- Improving the quality and quantity of your relationships, work on building more positive and supportive relationships with friends, family members, and significant other
- Seeking out meaning if you don’t already have it in your work, look for it via volunteering, personal hobbies, or acting as a mentor for other people.
- Keeping your focus on achieving your goals but not focusing too much and keeping your ambition in balance with the other aspects of your life
Positive psychology places a strong emphasis on focusing on a person’s positive attributes as opposed to their negative ones. The main goal of positive psychology is to help a person to find purpose and meaning in their lives in order for their overall happiness and well being
Positive psychology is a relatively young style of therapy but is increasing rapidly in the scientific community. As opposed to focusing on the negative things about a person and how to treat them, the focus is placed on the positive things in their life. Increasing the positivity will naturally wash out the negativity, or so the main theories seem to suggest.
The more information that is learned about positive psychology, the more proof emerges that focusing on the positive things in life can be very effective in eliminating the negative ones.
- Positive Emotions What is Positive Mindset: 89 Ways to Achieve a Positive Mental Attitude (positivepsychology.com)
- Positive psychology in practice – Harvard Health (health.harvard.edu)
- What Is Positive Psychology? (verywellmind.com)
- What is Positive Psychology & Why is It Important? [2020 Update] (positivepyschology.com)