A lot has changed since the days of Sigmund Freud. Psychology in traditional models was all about fixing and changing things, typically in response to a mental illness. But today, things are changing in psychology, we want everyone to thrive! We don’t want to be just getting by in life… we want to flourish, to be really living!
Psychology started changing in 1998 when Martin Seligman proposed a new way of working in practices. In a groundbreaking speech, he declared that psychologists need to start studying what makes happy people happy! After decades of working in depression and studying what was going wrong, he decided to start looking in the opposite direction – how to achieve optimal wellness. His mission was to change the perspective in which psychologists were working, to start embracing the good and focusing on strengths.
Simply, positive psychology is the scientific study of what contributes to a meaningful life. It focuses on positive emotions and how these contribute to overall health, wellbeing and life satisfaction. The idea behind the model is that you take someone from good to great, rather than traditional models of psychology that aimed to take someone from bad to good.
Positive psychology has a focus and emphasis on positive experiences and influences on life. It focuses on enhancing life satisfaction, happiness, wellbeing, gratitude, compassion, self-esteem, self-confidence and hope. Positive psychology teaches us how to be happy and how to get the most from life. That sounds like something we all want in on!
The positive psychology approach brings together two conflicting theories on happiness. Do we cultivate happiness through individually emphasizing ourselves or altruistically through others? Well Seligman proposed it was a combination. First, we learn to appreciate the basic pleasures in life, these come from the natural environment, companionship and our human needs. Second, we can then progress towards discovering our unique strengths and pair these with our values and use this knowledge to creatively enhance our lives. The third and final stage of cultivating a happy life, is to find a way to use our value and unique strengths for a purpose greater than ourselves. That means, giving back to others and the community to find a deeper sense of meaning. So, within the theory of positive psychology, we learn, that not only do we need to look after ourselves and focus on happiness within, but once we do this and we learn to share it with others, we will flourish even more.
It is framework that helps to promote wellness and life satisfaction. We all want to live happy, healthy lives. We all want to be our best selves. We can all benefit from questioning ourselves, who we are, where we are at and where we want to go and how to get there. If you need a little support to point you in the direction we are always here to guide you. It takes a lot of courage to take those first few steps, but once you have, you won’t look back.