Positive Psychology is one of the recent science and it compliments concepts and existing theories of Psychology and also aids in facilitating better mental health. However, as the traditional psychology focuses on what's wrong with people, positive psychology looks at what's right with people and there lies a bit of difference
Positive Psychology is also referred to as a science of well-being and among various things, it suggests that people with sustained levels of well-being live longer and healthier lives.
Positive psychology maintains that it is possible to improve one's level of well being. Positive psychology, as an idea has been in existence for a long time. Some interventions of positive psychology, such as counting one's blessings and practicing forgiveness and compassion, have their origin in ancient religious practices, especially those related to Buddhism. New Age gurus also have espoused some of the theory and interventions of positive psychology. The field of humanistic psychology, founded in the 1960s by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rodgers, had similar hypotheses as positive psychology. This field now is led by trained psychologists who have demonstrated through empirical research the importance and efficacy of this science.
It was Dr. Martin Seligman, a professor of Psychology at University of Pennsylvania who pioneered the term "Positive Psychology". Marty is a respected academic, researcher and leader in the field of positive psychology. In 1998, as the newly elected president of the American Psychological Association (APA), he was instrumental in launching the positive psychology movement by choosing it as the central theme during his presidency. During the 30 years prior to his becoming APA president, he sought to understand and cure mental ailments. As president of the APA, he wanted to focus his work in a new direction: prevention.
An incident between Dr. Seligman and his 5-year-old daughter clarified his mission of prevention using positive psychology. Dr. Seligman was weeding his garden and his daughter was singing, dancing and throwing weeds. Her behavior annoyed him and he yelled at her. She walked away but soon returned to remind him that, on her fifth birthday, she had decided to stop her habit of whining. She brilliantly analyzed the interaction with her father, declaring if she could stop whining, he could stop being a grouch.
Dr. Seligman realized that he was and always had been a grouch, and he decided to change his perspective
Dr. Seligman also realized parenting his daughter was not about correcting her weaknesses, as she could do that herself, but instead nurturing the strength she had just demonstrated. He realized this strength, sometimes referred to as emotional or social intelligence, would serve her well throughout her life, balancing her weaknesses and helping her cope with the complexities and challenges of life.
Dr Seligman (also known as Marty Seligman) devised a model called PERMA (Stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment). His premise is that if all these five factors are in cohesiveness, people can thrive and have a flourishing life, with sustained levels of well-being
PERMA model is explained in the video below
Positive Psychology is influenced by spirituality as a trigger for happiness and hence concepts like Mindfulness Meditation are deeply embedded in the positive psychology practice. You can find detailed explanation of Mindfulness in the blog The Art of Mindfulness: Why Mindfulness Matters by John Parott
Components of Positive Psychology
Positive psychology components include the study of:
• positive emotions and experiences;
• positive traits, strengths and virtues; and
• positive institutions such as democracy, healthy families and free press, which then support and enable positive experience and traits.
Benefits of positive psychology include:
• the experience of the full life versus the empty life;
• increased happiness;
• increased life satisfaction and meaning
Scientific research has been used to seek an understanding of positive emotions, and to build strengths and virtues.Techniques that work and those that don't are being identified so practitioners can be confident in their positive psychology coaching.
The following are examples of research findings related to positive psychology:
• The Nun Study looked at the correlation between the amount of positive statements or feelings in autobiographical admission papers submitted by 180 new nuns and their health and longevity. The study found 90 percent of the most cheerful nuns were alive at age 85, while only 34 percent of the least cheerful were alive at age 85.
• Physicians who experience positive emotions make more accurate diagnoses.
• Widows were asked to talk about their late spouses. The widows who told happy stories were more likely to be enjoying life and dating again 21/2 years later.
Resources and Links:
Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania (Founded by Dr. Seligman)
Positive Psychology Program - Resources on Positive Psychology
A short video on Positive Psychology: