When it comes to mental health, the defining focus of psychologists for many years was on addressing problems and ‘fixing’ dysfunction. Positive Psychology turns that on its head. The discipline – and it is a discipline backed by rigorous scientific theory and research – focuses instead on behaviours and character strengths that allow individuals to not just survive (what we could call a ‘neutral state’), but to flourish and thrive (a fulfilled and happy state).
“Positive Psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.”(Peterson, 2008)
Positive Psychology Basics
Known by many as ‘the Father of Positive Psychology’, American Psychologist Martin Seligman outlined a theory of well-being that he described as the PERMA model:
P Experiencing Positive Emotions – not just happiness and joy, but also hope, curiosity, awe, gratitude and love.
E Achieving a state of ‘flow’ – a deep Engagement with enjoyable activities or hobbies.
R Maintaining and strengthening Positive Relationships and social connections with family and friends.
M Finding Meaning – whether it be religion, a cause, or a sense of being part of something larger than oneself.
A Mastering a skill, achieving success or reaching a goal – personal Accomplishment as you define it
Seligman’s theory proposes that these five elements – positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment/achievement – are the building blocks of a good (read: satisfying, fulfilling, happy) life.
But what about the negative stuff?
Positive Psychology is not just a ‘Be Positive!’ mantra and nor does it dismiss or overlook the very real problems that individuals experience. After all, negative events (and feelings) are an inevitable part of being human. Acknowledging and making room for these emotions can be highly constructive in building resilience and a growth mindset. What Positive Psychology does do, however, is extend beyond repair towards growth and deep contentment. Positive Psychology acknowledges that a good life is hard work, but demonstrates that the elements of PERMA can be cultivated. Thus leading to an experience of sustained happiness.
How can Positive Psychology help me?
It can help every day in small and large ways! Our Happy Minds team use the evidence-based theories of Positive Psychology to help you focus on what is right with you, rather than what is wrong. Using these realisations as leverage to create sustainable and meaningful positive change. If you are experiencing anxiety, relationship difficulties, struggling with a life transition or just feeling ‘not quite right’, our compassionate counsellors will support you through the process of cultivating your strengths and feeling your way towards joy.
Counselling sessions are available via Telehealth across Australia or face-to-face in our Bellarine Peninsula office. Reach out to the team at Happy Minds Psychology on 0431 666 050, fill out our contact form on our website to request a call back or email us at [email protected].