Positive Psychology

I love this! It is about time the focus for therapy shifts from "what's wrong" to "what's right?"

http://psychology.about.com/od/branchesofpsycholog1/a/positive-psychology.htm

Positive psychology is one of the newest branches of psychology to emerge. This particular area of psychology focuses on human prospering. While many other branches of psychology tend to focus on dysfunction and abnormal behavior, positive psychology is centered on helping people become happier.

Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describe positive psychology in the following way: "We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise that achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities."

Over the last ten years or so, general interest in positive psychology has grown. Today, more and more people are searching for information on how they can become more fulfilled and achieve their full potential. In 2006, Harvard's course on positive psychology became the university's most popular class. In order to understand the field of positive psychology, it is essential to start by learning more about its history, major theories and applications.

The History of Positive Psychology

"Before World War II, psychology had three distinct missions: curing mental illness, making the lives of all people more productive and fulfilling, and identifying and nurturing high talent," Seligman wrote in 2005. Shortly after WWII, the primary focus of psychology shifted to the first priority: treating abnormal behavior and mental illness. During the 1950s, humanist thinkers such as Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm and Abraham Maslow helped renew interest in the other two areas by developing theories that focused on happiness and the positive aspects of human nature.

In 1988, Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association and positive psychology became the theme of his term. Today, Seligman is widely viewed as the father of contemporary positive psychology. In 2002, the first International Conference on Positive Psychology was held. In 2009, the first World Congress on Positive Psychology took place in Philadelphia and featured talks by Martin Seligman and Philip Zimbardo.

Important People in Positive Psychology

  • Martin Seligman
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Christopher Peterson
  • Carol Dweck
  • Daniel Gilbert
  • Kennon Sheldon
  • Albert Bandura
  • C. R. Snyder
  • Philip Zimbardo

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Major Topics in Positive Psychology

Some of the major topics of interest in positive psychology include:

Research Findings in Positive Psychology

Some of the major findings of positive psychology include:

    • People are generally happy.

 

    • Money doesn't necessarily buy well-being; but spending money on other people can make individuals happier.

 

    • Some of the best ways to combat disappointments and setbacks include strong social relationships and character strengths.

 

    • Work can be important to well-being, especially when people are able to engage in work that is purposeful and meaningful.

 

  • While happiness is influenced by genetics, people can learn to be happier by developing optimism, gratitude and altruism.

Applications of Positive Psychology

Positive psychology can have a range of real-world applications in areas including education, therapy, self-help, stress management and workplace issues. Using strategies from positive psychology, teachers, coaches, therapists and employers can motivate others and help individuals understand and develop their personal strengths.

Understanding Positive Psychology

In a 2008 article published by Psychology Today, Christopher Peterson, author of A Primer in Positive Psychology and professor at the University of Michigan, notes that it is essential to understand what positive psychology is as well as what it is not. "Positive psychology is … a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology," he writes.

He cautions, however, that positive psychology does not involve ignoring the very real problems that people face and that other areas of psychology strive to treat. "The value of positive psychology is to complement and extend the problem-focused psychology that has been dominant for many decades," he explains.

References

Gable, S. & Haidt, J (2005). What (and Why) is Positive Psychology? Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 103–110

Goldberg, C. (2006). Harvard's crowded course to happiness. Boston Globe. Found online at http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/03/10/harvards_crowded_course_to_happiness/

Peterson, C. (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Peterson, C. (2008). What Is Positive Psychology, and What Is It Not? Psychology Today. Found online at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-good-life/200805/what-is-positive-psychology-and-what-is-it-not

Seligman, M. E. P. & Csikszenmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5-14.

Snyder, C. R. & Lopez, S. J. (Eds.) (2005). Handbook of Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

History

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. – Maya Angelou

Life is Difficult

Life is difficult: This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. – M. Scott Peck

Service

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. – Rabindranath Tagore

Caring for Others

The human capacity to care for others isn’t something trivial or something to be taken for granted. Rather, it is something we should cherish. Compassion is a marvel of human nature, a precious inner resource, and the foundation of our well-being and the harmony of our societies. – DALAI LAMA

Forgive

You can sit there forever, lamenting about how bad you’ve been, feeling guilty until you die, and not one tiny slice of that guilt will do anything to change a single thing in the past. Forgive yourself, then move on.