Positive Psychology

Understanding positive psychology

What is positive psychology?

Positive psychology is a branch of the conventional psychological theory which has a big focus on well-being. Sometimes described as the study of what makes a life good, it aims to deal with individuals and societies on an equal footing to ensure that positivity is maintained in all situations. It is often seen as a reaction to psychoanalytical techniques and so-called behaviourism which tend to have much of their focus applied to psychological problems and mental health conditions. Instead, the principle is to find out what makes people happy and content and to place much more of an emphasis in such areas. To some, it is the study of eudaimonia – a Greek word – that roughly translates as happiness or welfare.

 Who founded positive psychology?

Martin Seligman is usually ascribed as the major pioneer of positive psychology. He was made the president of the American Psychological Association in the late 1990s and decided to highlight it during his time in that role. Nevertheless, Seligman was building on the work of humanist psychologists that had come earlier, such as Abraham Maslow and Erich Fromm. In fact, Maslow is often regarded to have coined the term positive psychology in his book, Motivation and Personality, which was first published in 1954.

How can you apply positive psychology in your life?

There are three main concepts to take on board if you want to apply this theory in your life. The first of these is to engage in a pleasant life which centres on enjoying things. Examples include taking part in hobbies, enjoying entertainment and having a significant relationship. The next is called the good life, which means achieving flow – or a sense of absorption – in what you are doing in any given task. Finally, developing a meaningful life is the last aspect of positive psychology. This means doing something that is larger than ourselves, such as getting involved in a social group, taking part in activism or volunteering.

Is positive psychology evidence-based?

One of the significant criticisms of positive psychology is that it is not very evidence-based, certainly compared to other therapeutic and well-being methodologies. That said, because it has many examples of success, it is widely defended by its practitioners from case studies. According to some research, people who are involved in it for between three and six months tend to enjoy the greatest well-being outcomes.

How can positive psychology help in the treatment of depression?

An academic analysis produced in 2009 showed that positive psychology was particularly effective at dealing with lower levels of depression. This study found that activities such as writing gratitude letters, reliving positive experiences and socialising more could help in this regard effectively. That said, some clinical psychologists remain critical because, in their view, it does not adequately address all of the life problems some depressed people face and that its focus on positivity can sometimes be illusory.

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Happiness is one of those traits which is described as both a mental and emotional state. For example, you can mentally be happy at an event or for someone else while your overarching mood is sad. However, being happy is also an emotional state where we feel genuine joy coursing through us. It is often hard to capture happiness and to bottle it. However, the state can lead to higher levels of contentment, which is something that is more sustainable in the longer term. Of course, it is an entirely subjective matter, and what makes one person happy may be very different from how someone else might think about it. Wanna learn more about happiness? Join our community now!
In essence, volunteering is an altruistic pursuit that means offering one's skills, labour or resources to another person or group without any reward in return. It is often tied up with concepts like the quality of human life because people who volunteer are usually doing so in order to improve things, either by acting in a charitable way or by sharing their ideas for the good of the whole community. Volunteering programmes now run in many walks of life, such as charity retail shops, mentoring schemes and overseas development projects. Volunteers often report they are rewarded from their activities even though they receive no pay.
The concept was first pioneered by the sociologist Max Weber and is, therefore, sometimes referred to as Weberian social action to distinguish it from other theories that lay behind social behaviours. In sociology, an action is a behaviour or an act that is carried out by an individual. Such individuals – or agents, as they are more often called – do not behave in a social vacuum without reference to any other person. As such, Weber argued, actions must always be seen from the social point of view. A social act could consequently be seen as any type of act that a human being does which takes account of other people, whether this is a conscious thing or not. Anyone who interacts with other people in any way, therefore, could be carrying out some form of social action.
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