What is Positive Psychology?

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of what makes life worth living. It looks at our thoughts, feelings and behaviour, with a focus on building the good in life instead of repairing the bad. Positive Psychology is one of the trusted therapy techniques that form the basis of our app, My Possible Self.

It’s not designed to counteract problem-focused psychology, but rather to complement it. While approaches such as problem-solving therapy help people deal with life’s difficulties, Positive Psychology then helps people to lead fulfilling lives day-to-day.

What does Positive Psychology help with?

Positive Psychology teaches people to focus on enriching, worthwhile, enjoyable experiences. It also teaches us to focus on positive states of mind, like gratitude and compassion. The idea is to help people build resilience, optimism, confidence and wellbeing. This in turn helps us lead happier lives, and when life’s challenges come along, we’re better placed to cope with them.

For example, Ali has had a lot of pressure at work recently. She tends to get the feeling that ‘everything is going wrong’ when the pressure builds up. So she decides to use a positive psychology technique and start a gratitude journal. For a week, every day, she writes down five things she’s grateful for. At the end of the week, she is feeling more able to cope. This is because she has shifted her focus towards the good things in her life, and the bad things seems less significant.

How does Positive Psychology work?

One of the earliest teachers of Positive Psychology was a man called Martin Seligman. He started talking about Positive Psychology in the 1960s. His research indicated that humans can ‘learn’ feelings of both happiness and helplessness. By learning to become more resilient, people can, according to Seligman, reduce their risk of depression.

Many writers, coaches and therapists have incorporated Seligman’s research into their work, and some of its principles are used in our app.

What is involved in learning Positive Psychology?

Many therapists use Positive Psychology as part of their approach. However, many people simply incorporate its principles into their day to day lives, and many books and teachings are available on the subject.

It is not designed to replace the need for other forms of therapy – we all experience events in our lives that need a problem-solving approach. Positive Psychology can be effective as a preventative measure. Just as we eat well to keep our bodies healthy, Positive Psychology can be seen as a way of building up our mental health, to help us cope better with whatever comes our way.

Does Positive Psychology work?

Positive Psychology is a science, and many studies have been carried out to put its principles to the test. Research has shown that our outlook on life can indeed have a profound influence on our mental wellbeing. For example, a study by Layous, Nelson, Oberle, Schonert-Reichl, and Lyubomirsky in 2012 found that performing acts of kindness towards others can boost our wellbeing.

It’s important to distinguish Positive Psychology from the idea of telling people to ‘just think positively’. Simply telling someone to change the way they think can have a negative impact. Instead, positive psychology aims to help us increase our self-care, show kindness to others, and take small, realistic steps to leading a more fulfilling life.

My Possible Self is a digital mental health toolkit that uses Positive Psychology techniques to take you on a self-development journey. It uses content that’s proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression in eight weeks. Get the app now, and why not start with our free module, Managing Fear and Anxiety.

Sam Weston

I am a social media manager, content writer and audio enthusiast - I set a world record once upon a time!