So much of Western thinking about health, including mental health, is focused on what is wrong followed by a prescription or a directive to fix the problem. Positive Psychology was formulated in 1998 by psychologist Martin Seligman, Ph.D. as a reaction to the mental health field’s focus on mental illness, maladaptive behavior and negative thinking. Emphasizing happiness, well-being and positivity are the foundation of Positive Psychology. Eudaimonia or “living the good life” as in having a life that is in accordance with what you value most greatly in your life to experience happiness, fulfillment and meaning is the desired outcome of this type of therapy.
Techniques are used to foster positive attitudes toward a person’s subjective experiences, embrace individual traits and to encourage acceptance of past experiences through gaining understanding of their meaning. Positive psychology includes collaboration with the therapist to generate excitement and hope about one’s future experiences while sustaining focus in the present moment to increase well-being and contentment.
Examples of techniques to increase a person’s experience of “living the good life” include attending to gratitude through methods such as keeping a gratitude journal or having a gratitude visit in which your relationship with an important person in your life is strengthened. This is done through your communication to them about how they have positively influenced your life, designing your day with intention and practicing acts of kindness. You begin developing meaning in your life through writing and processing your life story with a therapist’s support, to highlight your strengths in overcoming challenges and understanding ways in which you have grown and determining a vision for your future self.
While not a replacement for other psychotherapeutic approaches, Positive Psychology is a valuable supplement to treatment.
For Further Reading:
- Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin E. P. Seligman
- Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts by Suzanne Pileggi Pawelski MAPP and James O. Pawelski PhD
- Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath