Positive Psychology

A Different View of Psychology: For years, psychology has had a reputation of digging into people’s psyches, probing their pasts and coaxing them to share their deepest secrets, all with the ultimate goal of coming up with a label of one kind or another to diagnose whatever is “wrong” with them, their emotions, brains, relationships, lives, and so on. Tired of psychology’s emphasis on these “wrongs” and on mental illness (as opposed to mental health), in 2000, Dr. Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association, shifted his perspective on psychology and came up with his own definition of a new branch of psychology called Positive Psychology.

The basic idea of Positive Psychology is that positive emotions, strength-based character, and healthy institutions (including families, schools, communities) play a role in people�s happiness. Instead of focusing on people as victims and their struggles as diseases, Positive Psychology looks at what is healthy and good about people. Dr. Seligman’s research has shown that by using Positive Psychology interventions, people can experience more happiness and satisfaction with life, find more meaning, dream bigger, and smile more. Depressive symptoms can also be reduced for the long-term.

Do Try This at Home: Here’s a Positive Psychology exercise that you can try out and see what happens. Every day for one week, stop and think of three things that you are grateful for in your life that day. You can write them down or just think of them before drifting off to sleep or while riding the subway to work, whenever you are relaxed and able to think quietly for a few minutes. Try to let yourself experience your happiness or gratitude about the three things you choose each day. After one week, see if you notice any difference in your mood, if you feel happier, less stressed, or more content.

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