Optimal and Positive Psychology

So much of Western health—including mental health—is focused on what is wrong with us and what drug can be prescribed as a quick fix.

But what if we’re looking at everything the wrong way?

What if we shifted the focus on the positive instead? Would that open up a whole new world to us?

These are the kind of questions that led psychologist Martin Seligman, Ph.D. to create Positive Psychology.

It was a direct response to western medicine’s focus on maladaptive behavior, and negative thinking when it came to mental illness. 

In more specific words, he defined it as the “scientific study of optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive.”

Reframing our difficulties as adaptive strivings rather than illness, Positive Psychology helps us see ourselves through the lens of our strengths rather than our weaknesses. 

This doesn’t mean denying our pain or ignoring our problems. 

It simply means that just because we’re struggling it doesn’t mean we’re broken. 

It just means we’re human. 

Emphasizing happiness, well-being, and positivity, we focus on how to optimize our lives and build upon our strengths. 

The ultimate goal with Positive Psychology is living a life that allows you to experience happiness, fulfillment, and meaning. 

In its inception, psychology used to center on a couple different components, like improving normal lives, curing mental illnesses, and identifying and nurturing peoples’ talents. 

However, after World War II, the field shifted to only curing mental illnesses, which meant focusing almost exclusively on what wasn’t going right. 

After the war, many people came back with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and so resources were put towards curing and treating mental illnesses. 

That’s when psychology adopted the “disease model” rather than a wellness and optimization model.  

While this led to some positive discoveries, such as finding treatments for once-incurable illnesses like depression and panic attacks, the tendency to view ourselves through the lens of our brokenness has become endemic in our culture in ways that are hurting us rather than helping us grow and thrive.

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Positive Psychology Techniques

Positive Psychology uses specific techniques to foster positive attitudes toward a person’s subjective experiences, embrace individual traits, and encourage acceptance of past experiences through gaining understanding of their meaning. 

This mode of therapy involves collaboration with your therapist to generate excitement and hope about your future experiences while sustaining focus in the present moment to increase well-being and contentment.

One method that supports creating an optimal life includes tuning into your gratitude by keeping a journal or having a gratitude visit with your loved ones.

Gratitude visits involve communicating to important people in your life how greatly they impact you, as well as designing your day with intention and practicing acts of kindness. 

Journaling is another method used in Positive Psychology practice.

After your therapy sessions, you will begin to develop meaning in your life through writing and processing your life story, with our support.

You will discover your strengths in overcoming challenges, begin to understand ways in which you have grown, and create a vision for your future self, a “North Star” for who you want to be, so to speak.

The Levels of Positive Psychology

There are three levels that were used to determine how to use positive psychology. These include the following:

  • The subjective level
    • This is the study of experiences that are positive, and any experiences you might have that make you feel good, or that give you feelings of excitement, joy, and optimism. 
  • The individual level
    • This is the study of our virtues and strengths, which helps us understand what makes us good people and what makes us experience life as meaningful and satisfying
  • The group level
    • This is the study of positive factors that help develop communities and groups, which include things like altruism (which is the concern for the happiness and well-being of other people and your society), work ethics, and tolerance.

Research-based, personalized therapy.

At My LA Therapy, our warm and experienced therapists specialize in anxiety, depression, trauma, & relationships.

Benefits of Positive Psychology

There are many, many benefits to using Positive Psychology, mostly because it

emphasizes and teaches you how to shift your entire perspective into a positive one. 

Based on numerous studies, some of the benefits include:

  • Realizing that money doesn’t buy you happiness; it may increase your mood a little, but focusing less on money will make you happier. 
  • Gratitude, or being thankful, has one of the biggest impacts on your mood, and the more thankful you are, the happier you tend to be. 
  • People with happier friends tend to be happier as well! It is important that you surround yourself with the right people.
  • Dedicating time to volunteering can help improve your satisfaction in life.
  • Acts of kindness can make you feel better inside and boost your mood as well.

Some benefits that positive psychology can have on your workplace include:

  • A contagious environment of positivity; having positive people in the workplace can affect the entire team.
  • A boost in your job performance.

Our Therapy Methods

Therapy can successfully improve your life by helping you minimize anxiety, identifying and changing underlying thought and behavioral patterns that contribute to your struggles, and providing you with strategies to decrease discomfort while restoring an overall sense of peace.

Our evidence-based, scientifically proven interventions are demonstrated by research to be effective in living a more positive life. 

Learn more about our empirically based therapy modalities by visiting our Methods page. 

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