Positive Psychology

Psychologists and Psychiatrists spent much of the past century exploring mental illness. Their efforts led to the comprehensive Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  Eventually a group of social scientists decided to explore and identify factors necessary to develop one’s true personal potential. “Be all you can be” is a perfect way to describe the ultimate hopes of the positive psychology movement. 

Martin E.P. Seligman
Ph.D. a Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania has deftly summarized an enormous amount of research in his very readable text Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. He also hosts a comprehensive website that contains revealing self-tests.

My Limited Take on Authentic Happiness

Dr.Seligman suggests that millions of people waste much of their personal potential because the societies within which they live fail to promote the deliberate identification and expression of strengths and virtues.  The worship of materialism, craving for instant pleasure and immersion in the twilight world of TV among other traps insulate people from sources of “authentic happiness.”  He asserts, “Authentic happiness comes from identifying and cultivating your most fundamental strengths and virtues and using them every day in work, love, play, and parenting.”

The first step is to identify your strengths and virtues by completing the free Values in Action Signature Strength Questionnaire on Dr.Seligman’s website.  Once your values are identified, the challenge is to tailor your life to allow opportunities for their expression. Authentic Happiness arises from within when you surrender to your true nature. 

Since I began reading psychology, philosophy and religious textbooks in 1972 I have never encountered a more believable pathway to enlightenment. (Higher consciousness.) 

Exceptional Human Beings

Michelangelo is one of the finest examples of a human being having successfully explored and expressed his uniqueness through art. According to Wikipedia; “For Michelangelo, the job of the sculptor was to free the forms that were already inside the stone. He believed that every stone had a sculpture within it, and that the work of sculpting was simply a matter of chipping away all that was not a part of the statue.”

The Positive Psychology movement strives to identify methods we may use to free our true selves from the “soft stone” Mother Nature created us from and also from the socialized spell of false personality. More contemporary examples include Sir Winston Churchill, Mohandas Gandhi and Canada’s own Terry Fox

Key Points of Positive Psychology

  • Seek a life imbued with meaning, purpose and gratification.
  • Attach yourself to a noble cause such as the Military Families Fund or other charity.
  • Cultivate an optimistic outlook.
  • Invest in a happy marriage or other intimate relationship.
  • Develop a rich and fulfilling social life.
  • Minimize resentments and worry.
  • Avoid expressing anger and hostility (Venting anger damages health.)
  • Learn to forgive.
  • Space out your pleasures to avoid habituation
  • Congratulate yourself when you’ve accomplished a goal.
  • Seek opportunities for Flow, the state of mind that likely indicates psychological growth.
  • Limit TV watching.
  • Remembering that rich people are, on average, only slightly happier than poor people is a potent way to eliminate envy.
Positive Psychology in Action

To sample the effects of Positive Psychology with little effort try the following “gratitude exercise” which structures the age old adage “count your blessings.” Place a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed.  Set aside about five minutes before going to sleep to note what you’ve appreciated about your life over the past 24 hours. This may include good health, loving relationships, a roof over your head, and a peaceful community. Do this for two weeks and see whether your general outlook improves
– I bet it will.