Homaira Kabir
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Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life worth living.

It’s a shift from psychology’s post WWII focus on what goes wrong with humans, and expands the lens from which we view ourselves and others. As such, Positive Psychology studies the characteristics, conditions and processes that lead to individual and collective flourishing.

Interestingly though, the focus on the positive is not something new. Age-old traditions, Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, and psychologists in the past couple of centuries, such as William James and Carl Rogers, have also delved into what helps humans thrive.

The difference lies in that as a science, Positive Psychology takes an evidence and research based approach to human flourishing, and focuses on the practical application of the science towards our well-being.

This is especially important given the rise in psychological disorders, depression and suicide rates across the world. Even though all of us want to be happy, not all of us know what leads to happiness. Positive Psychology gives us a foundation and a framework of well-being, so we understand what it takes to get from a +3 to a +10, and are empowered to apply it to our own lives.

Is it just about the

smiley face?

Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, has clearly stated that positive psychology is not a “happiology” of cheerful mood. In fact, there are 5 pathways to a well-being, each of which needs to be addressed if we’re to live fully.

Nor is it about the Pollyannaish thinking of putting a positive spin on well, everything! Instead, it’s about stepping away from emotional reactions in order to balance our inherent negativity bias, and arrive at a more hopeful way of viewing situations.

Because the positive does not come naturally to us – and unless we make an effort to focus on it, we dismiss the best of ourselves, of others and of the situations we find ourselves in.

In a nutshell, a positive psychology approach to life is not about denying the negative. Instead, it’s about expanding the focus from the problem or disorder, to also include the strengths and resources that can help individuals and societies harness the best in themselves so they can rise to challenges, find meaning in struggles and continue to grow and flourish.

You can find out more at University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center where this science originated.

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