How to Bring More Positivity into Your Life:
4 Practical Actions to JumpStart Your Happiness, Well-Being and Potential
You’ve probably heard of positive psychology – sometimes called the science of happiness, positivity, or flourishing. This growing area of psychology is transforming the ways we think about life’s possibilities for individuals, organizations, communities, and nations.
On a personal note, positive psychology has rocked my world, personally and professionally, inspiring and reshaping my life – as a coach, teacher, speaker, writer, partner, parent, friend, spiritual seeker, and social change agent.
In a Nutshell, What is Positive Psychology?
There are many ways to describe the rapidly growing field of positive psychology. Chris Peterson, PhD, (2008) one of the leading figures in the movement, explained:
“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.”
Positive psychology is evidence-based with solid scientific research to help us live our best lives. The focus is on strengths – what’s right with us rather than what’s wrong with us. Positive psychology helps us shift our perspective and create action – not asking us to ignore what’s wrong, instead inviting us to bring out the best in ourselves and others with applications in every facet of our lives – relationships, leadership, workplaces, healthcare, education, coaching, personal development, and much more. Positive psychology offers practical applications and clear steps to inspire us to turn potential into action.
What’s New and Different about Positive Psychology?
In the past, psychology primarily studied people’s problems and how to fix them. The positive psychology movement is turning some of these perspectives upside down by studying what’s right with us, defining well-being, and focusing on what makes people resilient, able to bounce back from life’s challenges. Positive psychology asks – What makes a good life? How can we live well, targeting strengths, well-being, and resources, rather than weaknesses or deficits?
Psychology’s roots evolved with experts who offered important ideas about becoming our best selves. Father of psychology, Sigmund Freud, understood love and work as two factors needed for a person to do well (Erikson, 1968). Humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow, proposed a hierarchy of needs suggesting that when our basic needs are met – biological, physical, safety, and connections – we are able to grow toward becoming our unique selves, building on our capabilities and creativity toward “self- actualization,” the ability to become our fullest, happiest selves (Maslow, 1987). Carl Rogers (1961) postulated that we have a natural tendency to develop toward our best selves facilitated by relationships that are genuine, accepting and support our personal growth.
Then in 1998, as president of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman, PhD laid the groundwork for what became the science of positive psychology. He called for an intensive focus on the factors contributing to resilience, well-being, happiness, personal strengths, and flourishing. Seligman with his colleague Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2000) began assembling multifaceted, evidence-based building blocks outlining ingredients for flourishing and living happier, more meaningful lives. And it’s not just about the individual – these life-affirming benefits extend to our relationships, communities, and social action – making a positive difference beyond ourselves.