Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology decided that instead of focusing on studying all the negative aspects of human emotions and attitudes, why not study happiness? What makes us happy and how can we improve our happiness levels? So what is Positive Psychology all about?There are four disciplines called The Four Pillars:
So the first is about happiness, it’s the study of positive emotion. For example people interested in this look at the most catastrophic thoughts that people say when bad events happen, and how to find a realistic perspective on catastrophic thoughts. Positive Psychology teaches people to argue against the catastrophic and to see good possibilities; so one field is positive emotion.
The second field is meaning. Human beings want to be part of something bigger than they are, to belong to and serve something bigger than they are. We need to identify our highest strengths, our highest virtues – humour, fairness, kindness and to learn to use them, more particularly in difficult tasks and to use them to be part of something larger than we are.
The third discipline that people in positive psychology work on is positive relationships, how to get along better with people. There have actually been discoveries that weren’t common knowledge ten years ago. In positive psychology they teach people to celebrate together rather when something good happens. If you tell me something enormously good that happened to you, the technique not of being destructive about it but of getting you to relive it and to elaborate it. So, the third discipline is positive relationships.
And the fourth discipline is positive accomplishment—, mastery, competence, achievement. Examples of high grit, people who never give up, people with high self-control and how they have managed to be that way.
So those are the four things that positive psychologists do and work on. If you teach people early in life techniques of positive emotion, of engagement, of meaning, of good relationships, of accomplishment, you can prevent many of the ills of life; depression, anxiety, anger.
Three types of life have been identified:
1) The pleasant life – Life in which you have as much pleasure and positive emotion as possible and the skills to amplify those emotions.
2) The good life – Knowing what your highest strengths are and re-crafting your life to use them in work, love, friendship, parenting, etc. When you do this, you will constantly find yourself â€œin the zone.For example, when someone’s passion is writing, they will find that time stops when sitting down to write. Dr. Seligman refers to this as flow, the time when you feel nothing because you are completely immersed in what you love to do.
3) The meaningful life – Knowing what your strengths are and using them to contribute and belong to something bigger than yourself.
So which of the three types of lives is most fulfilling? Which results in long-term happiness? The results of Dr. Seligman’s studies are fairly surprising
THE PLEASANT LIFE OR THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE HAS LITTLE TO NO EFFECT ON LONG-TERM HAPPINESS. THE ONLY TIME HEDONISM HAS AN EFFECT IS WHEN AN INDIVIDUAL ALREADY HAS A GOOD AND MEANINGFUL LIFE SO THAT THE PLEASURE IS JUST THE ICING ON THE CAKE.
THE GOOD LIFE AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE BOTH HAVE EXTREMELY LONG-TERM POSITIVE EFFECTS ON HAPPINESS.
Here is the original video of Dr. Seligman at a TED Conference in 2004.