Monday, 18 February 2013

Pursuing Happiness through Positive Psychology

Prof. Jitender Sharma,
Librarian & Marketing Manager - Journal of Marketing & Communication


Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Philosophers and religious thinkers often define happiness in terms of living a good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. Scientifically, happiness can mean many things to many people. Part of the challenge of a science of happiness is to identify different concepts of happiness, and where applicable, split them into their components.

President of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman is popularly known as the father of Positive Psychology. He is one among world leading psychologists. Martin Seligman also worked a lot on “happiology”. He has provided a systematic theory about why happy people are happy and used scientific method to explore it. He has also provided an acronym PERMA to correlate positive psychology's findings that humans seem happiest when they have:
  1. Pleasure
  1. Engagement,
  1. Relationships,
  1. Meaning, and
  1. Accomplishments
He writes that the most satisfied, upbeat people were those who had discovered and exploited their unique combination of “signature strengths,” such as humanity, temperance and persistence. This vision of happiness combines the virtue ethics of Confucius, Mencius and Aristotle with modern psychological theories of motivation. According to Seligman happiness has three dimensions that can be cultivated: the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life.

The Pleasant Life is realized by appreciating basic pleasures such as companionship, the natural environment and our bodily needs. The Good Life is achieved through discovering our unique virtues and strengths, and employing them creatively to enhance our lives. The Meaningful Life is achieved when we find a deep sense of fulfillment by employing our unique strengths for a purpose greater than ourselves.

Seligman’s theory reconcile two conflicting views of human happiness, the individualistic approach which emphasizes that we should take care of ourselves and nurture our own strengths, and the altruistic approach, which tends to downplay individuality and emphasizes sacrifice for the greater purpose.

People now live longer, healthier, and most likely happier lives than ever before and this will almost certainly continue in the near future. As life gets better, people increasingly seek methods to fulfill their need for self-actualization and happiness. Positive psychology theory guides people toward more meaningful lives by developing new methods, testing of its theories and strategies, as well as the engagement of professionals in the field in more quantitative and qualitative work. It tries to understand, document, and promote the factors that make lives most worth living and encompass strategies that help individuals and communities to flourish. Research based studies in happiness reveal that we can teach happiness and that we can understand what happiness is, what it means, and how it can be attained, if we study it scientifically i.e. using positive psychology theories.

Psychology practitioners while dealing with clients those facing depression, or feeling low in life need to recognize that they can help them the most by focusing on happiness, making the understanding of what makes life worth living their primary task, and amplifying their clients’ strengths rather than repairing their weaknesses. Seligman advocates that the positive social science of this century provides the probability of preventing serious mental illnesses by focusing on human strengths, scientific understanding of happiness, and the building of what makes life most worth living. Moreover, this provides a scientific understanding of human strengths that can act as buffers against mental illnesses.

The positive psychology and its focus on happiness can help health professionals reconnect with the positive side of life, make them and their clients stronger, more resilient, and happier human beings. Seligman writes that there is no reason for people to fidget until death. Happiness can add years to life, as well as life to years. In very relevant phrase, he writes that we can learn more by lighting candles than by cursing the darkness. After all, “those who understand happiness have the best chance of attaining it”.

With an increased knowledge of happiness, as we age and look back at our accomplishments and failures, we will be able to ask ourselves how close or how far we are from a good life and using happiness-enhancing strategies, we will be able to make vital adjustments.

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  1. I agree with you positive thinking is need of healthy life. So think positive and stay healthy and fit.

  2. There is only one life that we have got. Why not to live it positively. Positive psychology impacts your over all personality.