Positive psychology is one of the newest branches of psychology to emerge. This particular area of psychology focuses on how to help human beings prosper and lead healthy, happy lives. While many other branches of psychology tend to focus on dysfunction and abnormal behaviour, positive psychology is centered on helping people become happier. Positive psychology is designed to “complement and extend the problem-focused psychology that has been dominant for decades,” explained the late Christopher Peterson, author of “A Primer in Positive Psychology” and professor at the University of Michigan, in a 2008 article published in Psychology Today. “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,” Peterson wrote.
According to leading authorities in the field, Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, positive psychology will help achieve “scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities.” In order to understand the field of positive psychology, it is essential to start by learning more about its major theories, applications, and history.
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,” wrote Seligman and Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi in 2000. Shortly after WWII, the primary focus of psychology shifted to the first priority: treating abnormal behavior and mental illness. In the 1950s, humanist thinkers like Carl Rogers, Erich Formm 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.
General interest in positive psychology has grown tremendously since the concept was introduced. Today, more and more people are searching for information on how they can become more fulfilled and achieve their full potential.
Positive psychology can have a range of real-world applications in areas including eduction, therapy, self-help, stress management, and workplace issues. Some of the major topics of interest in positive psychology include: Character strengths and virtues, Flow, Gratifications, Gratitude, Happiness, Pleasure, Helplessness, Hope, Mindfulness, Optimism, Positive thinking, Resilience .
Impact of Positive Psychology
Some of the major findings of positive psychology include: Money doesn’t necessarily buy well-being, but spending money on other people can make individuals happier, People are generally happy, Some of the best ways to combat disappointments and setbacks include strong social relationships and character strengths, While happiness is influenced by genetics, people can learn to be happier by developing optimism, gratitude, and altruism, Work can be important to well-being, especially when people are able to engage in work that is purposeful and meaningful.
Positive psychology is often confused with positive thinking, and misconstrued as self-help tactics rather than research-backed theories. Positive thinking is a way of thinking ourselves into better behavior and greater resilience, rather than behaving our way into a different frame of mind. Positive psychology, on the other hand, is the scientific study of what makes people thrive. It focuses on behaviors that can lead to a more optimized frame of mind as well as on thought patterns that lead to more functional behaviors.