Positive psychology is the scientific study (through research, experimentation etc) of how people can be helped to perform at their OPTIMAL LEVEL in life and to FLOURISH (to use the current buzz words).
Research is increasingly showing us that it is NOT so much what you HAVE in life that is important, but what you DO in life. The well known British psychologist Oliver James has written an excellent book on this called Affluenza, for those who are interested.
It seems that two of the main keys to becoming happier are :
a) changing how we spend our time
b) changing our outlook on life
Positive psychology is the scientific study of how best to implement these two changes.
The first requirement is to summon up the motivation to really want to make significant life changes. The second is to be prepared to make a consistent effort.
TWO CATEGORIES OF HAPPINESS :
Positive psychologists employ the use of two different terms to describe two different forms of happiness. I define them below:
1) HEDONIC WELL-BEING – this refers to short bursts of pleasure of the ‘wine, women and song’ variety. Many sources of this type of happiness can be paradoxically damaging over the long-term (an obvious example being , for instance, using a drug like cocaine recreationally).
2) EUDAIMONIC WELL-BEING – this is a much more SUSTAINABLE type of happiness and derives from having a life in which we find meaning and purpose and are able to fulfil our potential.
MARTIN SELIGMAN’S POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY WELL-BEING MODEL (PERMA) :
Marin Seligman is a well-known positive psychologist who proposed the ‘PERMA’ model of well-being. Let’s take a look at what the letters in the acronym PERMA stand for :
Below I give brief descriptions of each of these 5 key elements :
1) POSITIVE EMOTION – this is self-explanatory
2) ENGAGEMENT – this is when a person becomes intensely involved in a task and is living entirely in the present, rather like a young child at play. Psychologists often refer to this mental state as’ FLOW’, whilst sports-people usually refer to it as being ‘in the zone’.
3) RELATIONSHIPS – close and supportive relationships seem to be essential in maintaining a person’s psychological well-being.
4) Interestingly, research consistently shows that pursuing activities in line with one’s values, which gives one purpose and direction in life, is much more strongly related to happiness than constantly taking part in pleasurable/hedonistic activities for only pleasure’s sake.
5) ACCOMPLISHMENT – Again, fairly self-explanatory : achievements, successes, mastery of skills etc, which help the individual move towards his/her life goals and fulfil his/her ambitions.