Friday, February 11, 2022

                                                 Positive Psychology 

The old question is still true. Are you a person that sees the glass as half full or  half empty? Almost from the start of the modern study of  psychology, researchers were glass half empty  people. The focus of the research was on mental  illness, abnormal behavior, or why people did bad  

things. There was a lot to study. The research has  

benefited our world in many ways with  

medications, treatment options, and hope for  

those suffering. Yet, the focus was on healing after  

damage or illness had already taken place. 

Interestingly, there wasn't a corresponding  

amount of study focused on the positive elements  

of humanity. Questions regarding how someone  

seems to be "unsinkable" just never got the full  

attention of the world of psychology. It was attributed to personal strength,  heredity, or pulling one's own bootstraps. 

In 1998, the world of psychology started to really take notice that new insights  could be gained by making serious science of how resilient and successful  people are resilient and successful. You may have noticed new concepts and  terms such as "mindfulness," "self-care," and "gratitude." These concepts  and terms have been covered in past posts on this blog. All came out of this  new world of psychological study. 

What are some of the most important things science has learned about positive  psychology? First, each person is unique and there is no secret plan to the  perfect life that fits for all of us. Science has taken a look at happiness and  identified three common building blocks; positive emotion, engagement, and  meaning (Seligman et al., 2004). 

Positive emotion is what most people are talking about when they casually  mention happiness. This may involve finding forgiveness for past events or  actions. It could involve savoring the moment as we live it. Of course, it also can involve optimism and hope. This is highly personal. It could be the simplicity of a hot bath. It can be  forgiveness for a long-held mistake. It can be the joy in the future of a new grandchild. 

Engagement is that thing that gets some people out of bed in the morning or drives them to work late without a sense of time passing. We enjoy being involved in something that earns us gratification. Engagement draws out our creativity,  perseverance, and appreciation. The interesting thing about engagement is  that shortcuts to success dampen the enjoyment. The experience and required  endurance are all part of the joy we find from the effort. 

Meaning is what brings color to our perspective of what we have done, what we  do in the moment, and what we will do in the future. Connection to something  bigger or of greater importance than our individual life is fulfilling. What holds meaning for someone can be highly unique. There are some common ideas  about what adds meaning to life such as knowledge, community, and justice. 

Positive psychology is relatively new and who knows what we will discover  about ways to develop and nurture happiness in the future. You can do your  part to further advance our knowledge by paying attention to the things that  bring you joy, the work that you love, and the purpose that drives you. Of  course, make sure to share your research with others. 


Seligman, M. E. P., Parks, A. C., & Steen, T. (2004). A balanced psychology and a  full life. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B:  Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1379–1381.

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