“As a pearl is formed and its layers grow, a rich iridescence begins to glow. The oyster has taken what was at first an irritation and intrusion and uses it to enrich its value. How can you coat or frame the changes in your life to harvest beauty, brilliance, and wisdom?”
By Susan C. Young.
Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that cares about happiness. What makes us happy?
Experts argue that happiness depends on three factors: 50% of our character that is genetically determined, 10% of the events in our lives and 40% of what we do to be happy. It is in that 40% where positive psychology intervenes.
What is positive psychology? Definition and concept
For decades, psychology has been focusing on disorders, psychopathologies, behavioral problems, diseases… and the tendency nowadays is to worry about what makes us feel good. Beyond seeking treatment to stop being bad, start looking for answers about what makes us flourish and be happy. It does not obviate the problems but also looks for what gives us satisfaction.
Positive psychology could be defined as the scientific study of what makes our life worthwhile, but without forgetting our personal problems.
Positive psychology promotes a balanced enhancement of our strengths, to give us a more objective view of ourselves. This is necessary because some strengths are not good either by excess or by default, such as positivity. Being too positive can make us believe that we are invulnerable. It can make us believe that everything we are going to achieve, and lead us to assume too many risks, get involved in too many projects at the same time, more than we can carry out. If we are negative, on the contrary, we can not enjoy what good life has.
What is not positive psychology?
Positive psychology is often underestimated because it can convey the image that it is a type of cheap self-help. However, it does not obviate the real problems of the people. He cares as much about strengths as weaknesses, about building the best of life and repairing the worst, about making people’s lives satisfactory, as well as treating pathology. Nor does it try to give universal solutions of happiness to all people. Each person is different and what one satisfies another may not. And his goal is not to make us happy and happy all the time. To be happy is to accept that there are sad moments, that we get angry, disappoint and discuss. But it helps us not to focus on the bad and to find that which provides us with well-being.
And that is, happiness can be taught.
Why do we focus on the negative? The selective filtering
It is true that in our daily lives, many times positive things are forgotten, go unnoticed by our mind and we only give importance and remember those negative events. You may think: “I got a horrible traffic jam”, “the water in the shower came out cold”, “I got fat again, I’m horrible!”, “I’ve argued with my co-worker”, etc. On the contrary we forget those good things that happen in our day to day: enjoy a meal that we like, a pleasant conversation, a hot shower.
This tendency that most of us have to pay more attention to and to remember more the negative aspects and to underestimate the positive ones is called selective filtering.
Some experts consider that selective filtering is an adaptive mechanism, that is, it is beneficial for our survival. This is due to the fact that negative or unfavorable events require an answer on our part with the objective that we face them and solve them. However, the positive events, by not compromising our survival, do not require an answer and go unnoticed for our attention and memory.
However, if we only focus on the negative, our mood will get worse and we run the risk of suffering anxiety, depression and other psychological problems.
Seligman and positive psychology
Martin Seligman is considered the creator of positive psychology. He was one of the first to explore happiness from a scientific point of view.
According to Seligman there are three dimensions of happiness that can be cultivated: pleasant life, good life and meaningful life. We focus on them below:
It consists of seeking the pleasures of life, experiencing as many positive emotions as we can, tasting each moment. The problem is that the ability to know how to experience positive emotions and amplify them is not very modifiable and depends in part on genetics. Although we can learn to get more out of them.
We achieve this when we discover our strengths and virtues, and when we use them to improve our lives. We feel it when we really do not feel anything, when we are focused on a task and we are abstracted from everything else. It is what Csikszentmihalyi called flow or flow.
According to Seligman, the third step of happiness is to find a deep sense of fulfillment, of satisfaction, using our strengths for a purpose greater than ourselves.