Positive Psychology is a young science with an interesting history, from Karen Horney (1985 – 1952), who broke away from her mentor, Sigmund Freud, to focus on “the light in our nature” to behaviorist Abraham Maslov (1908 – 1970) who wrote about the idea in 1954. But it was Dr. Martin Seligmann who, as president of the American Psychological Association in 1998, declared the need for a different kind of psychological study — a study of WHAT WORKS. What makes people resilient? What makes them thrive? Before this time, no one was really asking these kinds of questions, they were only looking at what wasn’t working, at the pathology of mental illness.
Now we have research-based answers to these new questions — What qualities make some people flourish, despite difficult situations, challenges and struggles? What makes people happier?
One thing Positive Psychology has proven without a doubt is that success doesn’t lead to long term happiness. In a study by Daniel Gilbert, of Harvard University, professors were asked how happy that would be if they were granted tenure at the university. They basically all said they’d be devastated if they didn’t get tenure. Three to six months later, just about every person reported being at about the same level of well-being as before the tenure decision – no matter the outcome. This study, and others, confirm that successes and failures lead to temporary shifts in our wellbeing, but that we quickly return to our normal, baseline levels.
Why is that some people with very little are happy, while some with all the money in the world aren’t? The way we perceive the world, our interpretation, determines how we experience life. Positive Psychology research shows that we can raise our base level of happiness, but success is not the way to do it. In fact, there’s no correlation between success and long-term happiness. But it has been shown that happiness causes success!
We now know the practices that increase positive outlook and decrease negativity, and, most importantly, we have the science to show us how to rewire our brains to raise our base-level of happiness, for good.
Because it all comes down to wiring.
Genetics, environment, early influences, and your choices hard wire your brain into certain habits of perspective, interpretation, and response. Maybe you see the glass as half full most of the time, or maybe half empty. That’s how you’re wired. Maybe you find fault with things or you’re pressured by the need to be perfect. Again, wiring. What Positive Psychology studies show is that you can actually rewire your brain, and, most importantly, it only takes a small shift in outlook, focus, and action to achieve big results.
Increasing the Positive + Decreasing the Negative = Rewiring Your Brain To Experience More Positive Emotions.
Creating more positive emotions leads to:
- higher levels of creativity
- increased generosity
- better relationships
- enhanced resilience
- better physical health
- more success
One small change of habit can lead to big changes in your overall outlook. And the changes are lasting.
Is there a catch? Yes. You actually have to make a change and keep it up, until it becomes a habit.
This isn’t about wishing things to be different and then continuing as you always have. Positive Psychology isn’t a panacea and it can’t solve every problem. It’s not a substitute for medical care. You have to be willing to try new habits of mind and take different actions every day. I hope you will, because the rewards are deep and long lasting.
Becoming happier is a lifelong journey. To start on this journey, you have to stop asking yourself, Will I be happy? or Will I be successful? and ask a new question — How can I become happier?
The empowering questions and practices from Positive Psychology can answer this question and so much more, they can lead to a deep transformation in how you see and experience the world. And this is what Positive Psychology is most deeply concerned with, creating new neural pathways in the brain through focusing on and building the positive, while decreasing the negative influences and choices in our lives.
If you haven’t yet joined the Happier You! 30 Day Challenge, I hope you will. Together with other people from around the world, we’ll learn, explore, discover, and transform our experience of being alive.
To join, click HERE!
My Very Best,
As someone who has suffered on and off with the emotional challenges of depression along with some anxiety, for more than two thirds of my life, I can personally attest to the efficacy and power of maintaining – or continuing to try to maintain, even when the going gets tough – a positive outlook and attitude. After many years of therapy and various types of counseling, I finally realized that I simply need to change myself. It’s a simple, if not an easy, concept. And I have done it! Although I continue to see a counselor on a regular basis, and I still have my challenging, even sometimes ‘down’ moments, I am basically much more content and in control because I believe I have changed my mindset and flipped the proverbial switch to seeing that old glass as half full. If I can do it, anyone can!