Positive psychology (a quest for the good life)

Is this for you? Or is it just “fluffy science” or “happiology”?

Positive psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. Positive psychology studies what makes life most worth living.

Its theory is more than an edict to “be positive” and is far more than self-help material based on nothing but opinions or wishful thinking.

Most of us, every now and again, pick up on our negatives, rebuke ourselves and resolve to do better. But positive psychology focuses on our strengths, instead of weaknesses, building the good in life instead of repairing the bad.

This relatively new formal science of positive psychology commenced with the publication of a foundational paper on this new field by Martin Seligman (whose earlier research laid the foundation for the psychological theory of “learned helplessness”) and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (founding father of “flow”) in 2000.

The call of this publication was for a greater focus (particularly in psychology) on the positive in life, what is life-giving rather than life-depleting, and for a move from psychology’s overly narrow focus on the negative.

To some extent this subfield of psychology is “old wine in new bottles” but it has taken old concepts and re-branded their applicability, contributing to the science of well-being.

Two of the principal benefits of the positive psychology movement are that it:
1. Teaches us the power of shifting one’s perspective.
2. Gives us a more well-defined idea of what “the good life” is.

So what does positive psychology do? It focuses on the positive events and influences in life, including:
1. Positive experiences (like happiness, joy, inspiration and love).
2. Positive states and traits (like gratitude, resilience and compassion).
3. Positive institutions (applying positive principles within entire organisations and institutions).

So what makes life worth living for you?