Why Positive Psychology Could Change Your Life
The difficulty with positive psychology is that it can be a little cringe worthy. Like Alec Baldwin’s character in Friends whose insistence to always look on the bright side became downright annoying.
You’re probably already familiar with the principles of Positive Psychology. In fact, it’s so familiar that we forget there was a time when it was a revolutionary idea.
However, when you begin to look at the evidence, it becomes clear that the origins of positive psychology were nothing short of groundbreaking.
The History of Positive Psychology
Martin Seligman is the godfather Positive Psychology. In 1998, he became President of the American psychological Association (a PA).
He had a somewhat radical thought. He put forward the idea that by spending the last 100 years dutifully studying conditions that negatively affected the human mind, psychologists had missed a trick. That they had been so caught up with understanding suffering (in conditions such as depression and anxiety), that they had skewed their overall approach to wellbeing.
He proposed a groundbreaking idea. That instead of only looking at people who suffer, we should also focus on people who flourish. Namely, rather than looking at the causes and consequences of psychological problems, research should move in another direction. That we should begin to understand why some people are able to be happy, fulfilled and engaged in life despite obstacles. This was the movement that would go on to be coined the ‘Positive Psychology’ movement.
It makes sense. We all know people who, despite setbacks, flourish whilst others are profoundly unhappy regardless of external circumstances.
The principles of positive psychology
The main principles of Positive Psychology can be broken down into the following:
Hope: Feeling optimistic about the future despite negative situations.
Gratitude: Feeling a sense of thankfulness for events, people and situations.
Inspiration: Connecting to a higher purpose and meaning.
Love: Building meaningful connections with the people around us.
Amusement: The ability to laugh at oneself and situations
Joy: Awareness and enjoyment of the present moment.
Serenity: Contentment for taking the time to appreciate and favourable moments.
The Benefits of Positive Psychology
It’s fairly obvious that nurturing a positive attitude correlates with happiness. It’s also evident that optimism and gratitude lead to greater mental well-being. However, what’s interesting is that optimism and gratitude are also linked to greater physical well-being.
People who are optimistic are likely to have better health outcomes. This has been demonstrated across a range of conditions, ranging from the common cold to cancer.
Those with a positive attitude are also likely to live longer. One of the most interesting studies that looked at this studied the diaries of young nuns. They found that those nuns who expressed higher levels of positive emotions in their diary entries (they measured this by looking at the use of words such as joy), ended up living 10 years longer than their more negative colleagues.
We’ve already discussed the many negative impacts of chronic stress in previous posts. On the flipside, happy people are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors and less likely to become ill.
How positive are you ?
An important thing to remember is that the key to contentment does not solely lie in having a positive attitude. It’s understanding that a fulfilling life will inevitably bring up both positive and negative emotions. Indeed, negative emotions are important as they help us to identify things that are harmful or situations where our needs are not being met.
They key to happiness lies in making sure that you feel positive emotions more often than negative emotions.
We’ll be diving into this in our next blog post and showing you a quiz that will help you figure out your positivity rating. Subscribe to stay upto date!
Danner, Deborah D., David A. Snowdon, and Wallace V. Friesen. "Positive emotions in early life and longevity: findings from the nun study." Journal of personality and social psychology 80.5 (2001): 804.
Seligman, Martin EP, et al. "Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions." American psychologist 60.5 (2005): 410.