Positive psychology

Psychology can be seen as mental excavation. Psychologists dig and dig into our psyche, trying to find and expose abnormalities that might be causing dysfunction. But is this the best way of helping improve patients’ mental state? Some might say “yes,” but many are moving into a camp that is saying “no.” This camp is called positive psychology, and its focus is on making patients happier with their normal daily life, not on rooting out and exposing mental dysfunctions and abnormalities.

Martin Seligman, author and psychologist, along with his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania are accredited with developing the field of positive psychology, and introduced the science to the American Psychological Association in 1998. William Compton, author and professor at Middle Tennessee State University, defined positive psychology in his 2005 paper, Introduction To Positive Psychology, “Positive psychology studies what people do right and how they manage to do it.” This optimistic definition of positive psychology points directly to the science’s core issues.

At the center of positive psychology are three issues: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Positive emotions have to do with individual’s state of happiness, both presently and how they hope to be happy in the future. Positive individual traits have to do with individual’s strengths and virtues. Positive institutions reference how strong an individual is at bettering their community. Positive psychology aims at understanding happiness levels individuals experience on a day-to-day basis, instead of the long-term all encompassing causal factors that traditional methods of psychology employ. A recent study took the idea of understanding day-to-day happiness to the next level and looked at types of happiness and how they affect our genome.

Researchers at University of North Carolina and the University of California, Los Angeles looked at eudaimonic and hedonic happiness to examine the different effects it has on humans, particularly in regard to genes. Eudaimonic happiness happens when a sense of purpose and meaning of life is experienced. Hedonic happiness comes from consumption, and is similar to a sense of self-gratification. The study found that those with high levels of eudaimonic happiness had impressive antiviral and antibody gene expressions. And those with high levels of hedonic happiness had weak antiviral and antibody gene expressions. The idea that happiness is directly linked to health is nothing new. What is interesting about this study is that not only does happiness and mood affect your health, but also the type of happiness has an impact that wasn’t previously understood.

Jurriaan Kamp, President and Editor-in Chief of The Intelligent Optimist, touched upon this idea of relative happiness in his article There’s Always a Way, published in the May/June issue of The Intelligent Optimist. “Long ago, you were born on a farm and you were needed to help in the fields and in the stables. You knew what your life would look like and what you would do,” Kamp explains “That clarity provided something to hold onto. Today, everyone can be anything, but the flip side of everything is nothing.” Our capacity to process happiness developed during agrarian times, and though finite and intangible, provided a definitive source of true happiness. In today’s society we have lost this definitive source and replaced it with materials, while these sources of happiness are tangible they provide an imitation of what we once knew as real happiness, which might fool our minds, but not our bodies or our souls.

So, what’s the answer to finding true happiness? Quit your day job and start a farm so your happiness is definitely real? Not necessarily. The answer is to look at everyday, every action and try to find a way that it makes you happy. You might not find happiness everywhere you look, but you will never find it if you never look. In agrarian societies happiness came at the end of every workday, in our post industrial society happiness for many comes once or twice a month in the form of a paycheck. Don’t look for happiness in a bank account, or in a shopping mall. Look for happiness in the things you do, the city you live in, and the people that surround you. There is happiness everywhere- you just have to look.

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Positive psychology

Psychology can be seen as mental excavation. Psychologists dig and dig into our psyche, trying to find and expose abnormalities that might be causing dysfunction. But is this the best way of helping improve patients’ mental state? Some might say “yes,” but many are moving into a camp that is saying “no.” This camp is called positive psychology, and its focus is on making patients happier with their normal daily life, not on rooting out and exposing mental dysfunctions and abnormalities.

Martin Seligman, author and psychologist, along with his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania are accredited with developing the field of positive psychology, and introduced the science to the American Psychological Association in 1998. William Compton, author and professor at Middle Tennessee State University, defined positive psychology in his 2005 paper, Introduction To Positive Psychology, “Positive psychology studies what people do right and how they manage to do it.” This optimistic definition of positive psychology points directly to the science’s core issues.

At the center of positive psychology are three issues: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Positive emotions have to do with individual’s state of happiness, both presently and how they hope to be happy in the future. Positive individual traits have to do with individual’s strengths and virtues. Positive institutions reference how strong an individual is at bettering their community. Positive psychology aims at understanding happiness levels individuals experience on a day-to-day basis, instead of the long-term all encompassing causal factors that traditional methods of psychology employ. A recent study took the idea of understanding day-to-day happiness to the next level and looked at types of happiness and how they affect our genome.

Researchers at University of North Carolina and the University of California, Los Angeles looked at eudaimonic and hedonic happiness to examine the different effects it has on humans, particularly in regard to genes. Eudaimonic happiness happens when a sense of purpose and meaning of life is experienced. Hedonic happiness comes from consumption, and is similar to a sense of self-gratification. The study found that those with high levels of eudaimonic happiness had impressive antiviral and antibody gene expressions. And those with high levels of hedonic happiness had weak antiviral and antibody gene expressions. The idea that happiness is directly linked to health is nothing new. What is interesting about this study is that not only does happiness and mood affect your health, but also the type of happiness has an impact that wasn’t previously understood.

Jurriaan Kamp, President and Editor-in Chief of The Intelligent Optimist, touched upon this idea of relative happiness in his article There’s Always a Way, published in the May/June issue of The Intelligent Optimist. “Long ago, you were born on a farm and you were needed to help in the fields and in the stables. You knew what your life would look like and what you would do,” Kamp explains “That clarity provided something to hold onto. Today, everyone can be anything, but the flip side of everything is nothing.” Our capacity to process happiness developed during agrarian times, and though finite and intangible, provided a definitive source of true happiness. In today’s society we have lost this definitive source and replaced it with materials, while these sources of happiness are tangible they provide an imitation of what we once knew as real happiness, which might fool our minds, but not our bodies or our souls.

So, what’s the answer to finding true happiness? Quit your day job and start a farm so your happiness is definitely real? Not necessarily. The answer is to look at everyday, every action and try to find a way that it makes you happy. You might not find happiness everywhere you look, but you will never find it if you never look. In agrarian societies happiness came at the end of every workday, in our post industrial society happiness for many comes once or twice a month in the form of a paycheck. Don’t look for happiness in a bank account, or in a shopping mall. Look for happiness in the things you do, the city you live in, and the people that surround you. There is happiness everywhere- you just have to look.

Did you get your free issue of the Intelligent Optimist?  Click here for a free download.

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