Psychology is an evolving field and it assimilates new ideas and practices which can add to the aim of psychology to improve the life of humans and help them live fulfilling lives. Positive psychology can be thought of as a branch of psychology which focuses on the using of strengths and positive aspects of an individual's character to achieve contentment and satisfaction. Let us know about this interesting branch of psychology in detail.
Positive Psychology: An Overview
Positive psychology was developed by Martin Seligman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Ray Fowler in the year 1998. Martin Seligman, one of the founders of this theory believed that although psychology plays an important part in helping people deal with mental illness, it doesn't encourage people to nurture their talents. This can be explained with the help of this example. If you were to tell your friend that you are going to visit a psychiatrist, his immediate reaction would be, "What happened? Is everything alright? What is bothering you?" If psychology had established itself as a science, which along with curing mental illness helped an individual with personality development, may be your friend would have reacted in this way, "Wow, that will immensely help you in self-improvement". Positive psychology is not to be viewed as distinct from traditional psychology, instead it complements the existing methods of psychology by adding a whole new perspective. If psychology takes care of 'what isn't right' with an individual, positive psychology focuses its attention to work on 'what is right'.
Seligman points out that the need to develop this new branch of psychology was because of the fact that before World War II, the aim of psychology was to cure mental illness, help people in their pursuit of happiness and nurture talent and genius. But after the war was over, psychology inadvertently dropped the latter two objectives and started focusing solely on treating mental disorders.
Positive psychology focuses on making the ordinary lives of people much more fulfilling. The gist of positive psychology is that an individual should try to be content with his past experiences, happy with the present and hopeful about the future. This attitude can help an individual to place an emphasis on his strengths and utilize them in the best possible way to grow in life. Positive psychology places a lot of emphasis on three factors. They are:
Positive Emotions: Positive psychologists believe that positive emotions help broaden one's vision and create a sense of well-being in an individual. Positive emotions spread positive vibes and energies and help in achieving better results, both in personal and professional life. Positive emotion includes being happy with yourself, which gives you a better way of looking at life. Positive emotions help in creating a sense of accomplishment and prepare us to face any challenge in life with optimism.
Positive Individual Traits: Studies show that individuals with positive traits have greater chances of excelling in various fields, be it at academics or work. Those possessing positive traits lead a better and more productive life. Research shows that those with virtues like confidence, positivity, creativity, perseverance, sensibility, spirituality, etc. have brighter chances of succeeding than those who hold a pessimistic and narcissistic view on life. Positive individual traits prepare an individual to face the adversities of life with confidence rather than cynicism.
Positive Institutions: Institutions like the education system, marriage, parenting, organizations can contribute to ensure that the strengths of an individual are nurtured. For example, as a parent praising your child for his good qualities and helping him to deal with the challenges can go a long way in preparing him for his future life. Rather than threatening, condemning or pressurizing the employees towards achievement, appreciating them for their effort and rewarding them for achievements is a more effective way to instill confidence in them and achieve more productivity. Adhering to a philosophy like this, can lead us to a healthier society.
Positive Psychology and Positive Thinking: Is There a Difference?
Positive psychology is not to be confused with positive thinking. Positive thinking is a mindset in which a person believes that all right things will happen to him and he will be rewarded for his actions. Positive psychology on the other hand is a science that takes into account both the positive and negative aspects of a situation. Positive psychology does not rule out the probability of negative things happening to an individual, rather it focuses more on his positive aspects and works on how to utilize these to make a positive impact on his life. Positive psychologists believe that being happy is not putting a fake smile and reassuring yourself that all is fine, but it is more about confronting the negative aspects and appreciating the positive aspects to use them to develop your personality.
If you are looking forward to reap the benefits of this new branch of psychology, then we would like to tell you that there are numerous positive psychology exercises which can be useful for you. In the end, we hope, this article helped you in understanding the concept of positive psychology and its use in the overall well-being of human beings and the society.