I’ve mentioned that my discovery of Positive Psychology has had a great influence upon helping me put together some of the pieces while developing my philosophy on mental healthiness. I would love to say that this discovery was made while reading academic journals, or that it was the product of a profound experience of enlightenment while deep in meditation. The real story is that a couple of years ago I was in a documentary binging phase on Netflix, and it was suggested to me by Netflix’s secret algorithm that I might like a documentary called “Happy.” At this point, my range of subject interests for documentaries was quite broad, from the world’s best sushi to the history of fonts, so a film on happiness seemed appealing enough. It made quite an impression, personally and professionally. I’ve since recommended this documentary to many friends, colleagues, clients and to every person who’s attended my seminar. Now I’m recommending it to you too.
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the positive, adaptive, creative and emotionally fulfilling aspects of human behavior. The term Positive Psychology was coined by Abraham Maslow in 1954 but its association with academic study starts with Martin Seligman in 1998 when he served as the president of the American Psychological Association. His own experience mirrored mine in that his work as a clinical psychologist left him with the unexpected discovery that just because someone is relieved of their depression, it doesn’t make them happy. They’re just no longer depressed. This motivated him to initiate a new area of academic research – to learn about what actually makes a happy person happy. Since then, Positive Psychology studies have given us an empirically based view of our positive emotional experiences and the outcomes of feeling good. It has discovered the common traits, behaviors and perspectives of people who are naturally happy. It has taught us that not all happinesses are created equally. It has demonstrated that new behaviors, mimicking those of naturally happy people, can take average people like you and me, and make us more happy. It has shown that certain types of happiness can affect our life satisfaction, our physical health, and mental health. More recently, there have been studies that have demonstrated that even in populations that are sick, these same changes in perspectives and behaviors can improve the symptoms of illness. For my practice and in my own life, it’s given me a valid foundation to pursue a more worthwhile endeavor. Aiming for what is good and meaningful, rather than preventing what is bad – not only because it feels better, but because it is better.