Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Simply put, why do some people see the glass as half empty when others see it full? Why do some people focus on what is wrong instead of what is right? The field of positive psychology is based on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, and that they want to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play by cultivating what is best within themselves. There are three central facets to the discipline:
Understanding positive emotions involves the study of contentment with the past, happiness in the present and hope for the future.
Positive Individual Traits
Understanding positive individual traits involves the study of strengths, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation self-control, and wisdom.
The study of the strengths that foster better communities such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturing, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance.
Psychologists are learning how to build the qualities that help individuals and communities not endure and survive, but also flourish. The job of therapists is becoming not only to relieve the negative, but also to build the pleasant life, the engaged life, and the meaningful life. Based on the three central facets above, these are:
The Pleasant Life
Research suggests that building positive emotions will buffer against depression. The pleasant life consists of having many positive emotions about the present, past, and future as well as learning skills that will amplify the intensity and duration of those emotions.
The Engaged Life
Lack of meaning of life is a symptom of depression and may be a cause as well. A life that pursues engagement, involvement and absorption in work, intimate relations and leisure is an engaged life.
The Meaningful Life
The pursuit of meaning consists of using your personal strengths and talents to belong to and serve something that you believe to be “bigger” than yourself. Whatever the institution served (family, community, religion, nation, etc.), such activities produce a sense of meaning and satisfaction.
Positive Psychology Counseling
Psychologists have become concerned with prevention, recognizing that if they want to improve the human condition, it is not enough to help only those who suffer. The majority of “normal” people also need examples and advice to have a richer and more fulfilling life. On the flip side, people who carry heavy psychological burdens care about more in life than just relieving their own suffering. They also want to live a life filled with more joy, satisfaction, meaning and purpose…things that do not automatically happen when suffering is removed. (Also, building character and fostering positive emotions may help undo some causes of that suffering.)
Behavioral therapy – The techniques that help build a pleasant, engaged and meaningful life are called “positive interventions.” Positive interventions may actually help counter psychological disorders, but are justifiable and valuable in their own right. Individual and/or group therapy may incorporate these techniques.
*The most important thing to know about Positive Psychology is that it doesn’t mean that we pretend problems do not exist or that we avoid finding solutions to problems. It simply means that we pay close attention to what is right and find a way to learn or gain understanding from things that go wrong.
We’re here to help people when they are in crisis; however, we’re also here to help people who want more out of life. People who want to “thrive” instead of merely “survive.” The power of Positive Psychology can help us all focus on what is meaningful and fulfilling and attract that into our life experiences.