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What Positive Psychology Teaches Us About Happiness

What Is Positive Psychology?

Positive PsychologyPositive psychology studies the strengths and virtues that can make us happier and more fulfilled.

Historically, psychology has been primarily concerned with relieving suffering. The focus has been on psychological disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

One result of this focus on the negative is that psychology has had little to say about the positive. That is, while psychology has been effective treating problems, it has not offered much guidance on how to be more happy, how to prosper, flourish, thrive.

To correct this imbalance, over the last 10 to 20 years, or so, the field of positive psychology has evolved to empirically study such things as happiness and well-being.

9 Happiness Lessons From Positive Psychology

Research in the field of positive psychology has yielded these valuable lessons that we can apply to our lives:

  • Money doesn’t necessarily buy well-being. Especially where income is above the poverty level, the correlation between wealth and happiness is weak. However, interestingly, research has shown that spending money on other people can make people happier.
  • People who express gratitude regularly are more optimistic, make better progress toward goals and have better physical health and more well-being. And they help others more, too.
  • When people see others perform good deeds, they experience an emotion called ‘elevation’ and its motivates them to perform their own good deeds.
  • In some situations, negative thinking leads to more accuracy and optimistic thinking can be associated with an underestimation of risks.

    However, most of the research shows that people who are optimistic or happy are more successful in work, school and sports; are less depressed; have fewer physical health problems; and have better relationships with other people.
  • People are resilient. Healthy human development can take place even under conditions of great adversity.
  • Engaging in an experience that produces ‘flow’ is particularly gratifying, so gratifying, in fact, that people are willing to do it for its own sake, rather than for what they will get out of it. The activity is its own reward.

    What’s “flow?” It is where you are so fully engaged in an activity that your self-awareness disappears and your sense of time is distorted. Time seems to stand still. Athletes call this being “in the zone.” You’ve probably experienced flow either at work or in some activity that you enjoy and are good at.
  • Strong social relationships and character strengths are some of the best ways to combat disappointments and setbacks.
  • Work can be important to well-being, especially when people are able to engage in work that is purposeful and meaningful.
  • While happiness is influenced by genetics, people can learn to be happier by developing optimism, gratitude and altruism.

Where You Can Learn More About Positive Psychology

You can learn more about positive psychology at the Positive Psychology Center website.

They even have a series of questionnaires, such as the Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire that you can confidentially complete and get immediate feedback on how you compare to others who have completed the questionnaire.