Positive Psychology: The Key to Unlocking Happiness?

Positive Psychology is a relatively recent field of psychology that attempts to uncover what makes people happy and what factors improve their emotional well-being. Rather than finding answers based on pathology, it looks at a variety of circumstances that allow people to succeed and feel better about themselves, along with managing stress more effectively.

Historical Background

Early beliefs related to Positive Psychology can be traced back to the theories of humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, who was less interested in pathological factors and more on a healthy mindset. However, it was not until 1998 that it became established as a mainstream concept. Founded by psychologist Martin Seligman, he used his American Psychological Association presidency as a platform for bringing these ideas to the forefront. 

Seligman became inspired to help start this new field of psychology as a result of his daughter. As he considered which parental techniques would be best for raising his young child. He had a clear understanding about the role that pathology plays in terms of psychological health but less about how to encourage mental strength, determination and emotional well-being. As a result, he wanted to help grow this area of research.

What Positive Psychology Seeks to Achieve

The purpose of Positive Psychology is to find out what makes humans prosper. It examines questions like, “What factors lead to happiness?” “How do positive emotions impact health?” and “What can people do to become more resilient?” 

Thus far, this branch of psychology has already been making great contributions. For instance, it has been well-established that when an individual experiences negative emotions such as sadness, stress or anger, it has a profoundly negative effect on our health, even leading to chronic stress and increasing the likelihood of developing heart disease. On the other hand, findings related to Positive Psychology indicate that positive emotions can actually reverse these outcomes. 

Usage in Stress Management

Positive Psychology has uncovered a large number of positive emotional states that can lead to better emotional health, strength and feelings of satisfaction. Below are just a few of them.

Flow

Think back to a moment where you were so engaged in something – whether it is work you enjoy or a hobby – that you lost track of time. This is referred to as “flow” and is something we can all relate to. So get out there and find an activity that has your complete attention!

Gratitude

If you appreciate what you have, you will feel happier and more fulfilled. In fact, both having what you want and enjoying the fact that you have it makes you feel grateful. Being mindful of this everyday – for example, by keeping a journal – also helps. Ultimately, by appreciating things, you feel more alive and just feel better overall. 

Mindfulness

This involves being aware of the present and fully accepting one’s emotions, thoughts and senses unconditionally. It takes some amount of effort to master this, but it is worth it. 

Optimism

As cliché as it might seem, there is a lot of truth in the notion that people think optimistically rather than pessimistically will find more joy. It is really up to the individual to decide they want to be optimists; it is just a matter of striving to make this attitude a part of our everyday thinking. 

Spirituality

Whichever path you choose, developing a sense of spirituality can give your life more purpose, and it also gives you the strength to deal with stress. Praying and meditating are common ways to foster spirituality. As an added benefit, involving yourself with like-minded spiritual groups and institutions is a great way to find social support. 

Move Forward

Utilizing these strategies and behaviors can help you reach the next stage of self-development. You can become a happier, more complete person by focusing on the things you enjoy in life. 

What is “positive affect?” This is when you harness the power of positivity in everything whether it is interacting with others or responding to life’s challenges. On the other hand, “negative affect” involves confronting things with a negative attitude including the environment and relationships. Although these states are opposites, they operate independently from one another. Thus, it is possible to experience both at the same level – whether at high or low levels – or high in just one. 

Positive Affect and Stress

Along with positive affect, there are other traits that people who feel happy possess, such as feeling successful, being extraverted and having an optimistic outlook. However, positive affect is not merely the result of a happy life, it also causes it. In particular, positive affect can lead to less stress. So how can you combat stress? By either pursuing positive affect or finding ways to improve your mood. The impact of being able to develop greater resilience towards stress should not be understated. It works as something of a virtuous cycle – If you feel positive, you build up more resistance to stress which in turn makes it easier to experience positive affect. 

On the other hand, negative affect can result in a vicious cycle in which your experiences of negative affect make it more difficult to deal with stress, which results in stronger feelings of negative affect. For this reason, it is essential to work on maintaining a positive outlook and focus on the joys of life. Keep in mind that these feelings are not just about finding immediate gratification in the now; it is about a long-term objective of living a stress-free, happier life. Working on those behaviors that foster positive affect is worthwhile, and luckily, it is not difficult to increase positive affect if you just try.

Ways to Cultivate Positive Affect

Positive affect is not something that you can create overnight; it takes time and effort to achieve. Although it is true that some individuals’ brains are hardwired to give off positive emotions as a key part of their being, there are nonetheless steps that everybody can take to change their habits and experience positive affect with greater frequency, which will result in positive emotions that feel even better. So what can you do? Among other things, we can start by changing the way we think and avoid putting ourselves in situations in which we might have negative experiences. 

Here are some other strategies you can use to increase positive affect:

Keep a journal in which you record your positive thoughts. In particular, focus on the things that you appreciate the most. By doing this, you will experience higher levels of positive affect, and these feelings will continue in the long term. 

Allow yourself to enjoy the things you love. If you make it a point to plan experiences that make you feel good, you will increase your feelings of positive affect along with all of the other positive things that come with it. Make sure to incorporate new pleasures into your life from time to time to keep things interesting.

Pick up a hobby. While you might not think you have time for new hobbies, it is essential that you put them into your schedule. Along with increasing positive affect, it serves to distract your mind from life’s stresses, and you will feel like you have accomplished something.

Practice metta meditation. Mediation in itself is an effective way to manage stress, but metta medication is an especially good way. It involves sending kindness, goodwill and warm feelings to others by silently repeating positive expressions to yourself. 

Exercise – but do it in a way that you enjoy! It goes without saying that physical activity is one of the ultimate ways to relieve stress. The tricky part is staying motivated, which is why you should take up an activity that is fun. It does not even have to be anything intensive. You do not have to learn how to play basketball or kick box. It can be as simple as going for regular walks with a friend. 

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Bio: Tim Case is a freelance writer at Place-4-Papers.com. He is an author of Positive Psychology: The Key to Unlocking Happiness? and many other articles. He is dedicated to educating and inspiring the world on how to become a better yourself. 

 

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