Positive Psychology: Happiness Within Reach

Positive Psychology: Happiness Within Reach

Are you searching for happiness? How will you know when you've found it?

Does success follow happiness or happiness follow success? Can you have one without the other?

What does happiness look like? Is it after you lose those extra pounds, or when your children go to college or you get that new job/husband/dog? 

Those questions are the types of inquiries Positive Psychology aims to help you answer.

Martin Seligman and his colleagues developed this research in the late 90s and it was a significant departure from the traditional focus of psychology. Instead of studying mental dysfunction, these psychologists began to research mental health, and what makes people feel happy and fulfilled. They found that in order to be successful, a person needed to feel passionate about, and engaged with what they do in their lives. They also found that having a purpose or meaning in life considerably increased one's level of satisfaction. This new approach to the psychology of happiness meant that pleasure was not synonymous of happiness but one of its components, and not necessarily the most important one! Pleasure doesn't create happiness, but happiness may create pleasure!

The best news positive psychology brings us is happiness is not only something we're either born with or not born with. If you frequently feel sad and gloomy because of your circumstances, researchers advise cultiving a practice of happiness as it might very well be an emotion that can grow with you over time, evolving along with your life goals.

In my clinical experience, I find Positive Psychology works well as an incubator for understanding what happiness looks like to each individual. I use it to explore strengths, passions and purpose. It takes on the problem in reverse, so to speak, by focusing on what the positive outcome looks like and jumping through the area of stuckness. Positive Psychology helps us understand the glass can be half full while simultaneously working through our discomforting situations. Clients tend to experience greater choices, expand their worldview while smiling at the same time.

For more information on Happiness, see this article on the Science of Happiness.