I’m a glass half full kind of guy. After being introduced to the Power of Positive Thinking, by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, as a young man, I’ve done my best to keep a positive mindset and see the world through a beneficial lens. This is known as positive psychology.
I first learned about positive psychology in the early 2000s when I read “Authentic Happiness” by psychologist Martin Seligman. What I liked most about his book was it aligned with my own philosophy which is we should focus on being mentally healthy and well instead of unhealthy and unwell.
Today, we’re going to examine this philosophy, who uses it and how you can apply it to live a longer, happier life.
Positive Psychology Background and Roots
Psychologist Martin Seligman founded positive psychology in the late 1990s. He recognized there was a need to focus on the positive aspects of human experience instead of just treating psychological disorders.
As the 1998 president of the American Psychological Association (APA), he gave a presidential address. In it he called for a new focus based on the study of well-being and positive emotions. He wanted to develop an empirically based system that would identify the factors that contribute to a meaningful and fulfilling life.
Before this, the dominant focus was studying mental illness and dysfunction. Known as the “medical model,” psychologists viewed mental health as the absence of illness. Its primary goal was to diagnose and treat mental disorders.
This new approach wanted to shift the field’s focus away from the medical model and towards a more holistic and positive approach. It emphasized the study of positive emotions, traits, and behaviors, and aimed to help individuals and communities thrive and flourish, rather than simply treating mental illness.
Positive Psychology Tools for Improving Your Psychological Well-Being
Now, let’s look at some positive psychology tools that you can incorporate into your daily activities and use to help you live a happier and more meaningful life.
Every day, write down three things you are grateful for. If you’re having a difficult day, this can help shift your focus towards more positive experiences. Focusing on what you are grateful for can improve your outlook and your feelings of overall happiness.
Let’s face it, much of our self-talk is negative. In fact, people can live their whole lives focusing on “what’s wrong” in their life.
You can shift this mindset by challenging your negative statements and replacing them with positive affirmations.
Let’s say you’re faced with a difficult challenge, and you find yourself saying, “I can’t do this”.
As soon as you hear yourself saying that, tell yourself, “With the right effort and focus, I can do this!”
Once you do this, not only will it help you feel happy, but it will also direct your mind to look for solutions. You can then use these solutions to overcome whatever life brings.
Mindfulness is an amazing positive psychology tool that will help you feel happier and live longer. Scientific research has found it to be an excellent method for improving many areas of your life.
Set aside a few minutes each day to focus your attention on your breathing. As you do, observe your thoughts without judgment. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breathing.
Do this for three to five minutes a few times each day, longer if you can. This practice will not only calm, but also focus your mind, which can improve your productivity.
Reframing is also an NLP technique that helps you look at things differently. You can use it to identify limiting beliefs and find solutions to overcome them.
Let’s say you recently lost your job. Initially, you might feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. You might wonder about your future job prospects. By reframing the situation, you allow yourself to see it in a more optimistic light.
You could focus on having the opportunity to explore new career paths. You might be able to learn new skills which potentially might lead you to a job that is a better fit.
By reframing or looking at the situation differently, you can see them in a more optimistic light. This can help reduce your stress which can improve your physical health and overall well-being.
Prosocial Behavior (a major part of positive psychology)
One of the easiest ways to increase happiness is to be around people who care for you. Science-backed research has found that happiness is determined by the quality of your connections with other human beings.
Take time every day to cultivate your important relationships. Strive to develop meaningful social connections with others. Spend time with friends and family, join a club or community group, or volunteer for a cause you care about.
Good relationships have been shown to promote well-being and reduce stress. They are one of the better predictors of longevity as well as overall happiness.
How these Positive Psychology Tools Change People’s Lives
As you’ve seen, having a positive focus can help us live a long and happy life. Many people have used these tools to improve their happiness and mental well-being.
For example, the Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps. Michael has spoken about how he used techniques like visualization and positive self-talk to overcome his fears and achieve his record-breaking success.
Lately he has been advocating for mental health awareness and treatment in the sports community. He suggests using these tools as a way to help athletes improve their performance and how they feel about themselves.
The author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, has shared how she used techniques such as visualization and positive self-talk to overcome depression and anxiety caused by her twelve rejections by publishers.
Using these tools, she changed her mindset, overcame rejection, and experienced tremendous success. She also experienced a great deal of happiness as well.
Take the Next Step and Rediscover your Joyful Self
If you want to find a book on this topic on Amazon, you have thousands of titles to choose from. Three of my favorites are “Authentic Happiness” by Martin Seligman, “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor and “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.
Want to listen to a Ted Talk instead? You can choose from around fifty, including “The Surprising Science of Happiness” by Dan Gilbert, “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brené Brown, and “Want to be happy? Be grateful” by David Steindl-Rast.
Researchers have found these methods can make people happy throughout their lives. Science shows these techniques can transform lives, businesses, and even entire communities.
These are practical tools that anyone can use. Many psychologists believe these are key to unlocking new secrets to happiness and well-being.
So, whether you’re helping others as a teacher, a manager, a healthcare professional, or just someone who wants to lead a happier, more fulfilling life, positive psychology has something to offer you. It can make you more resilient, focused, and help you live a happy life.
Stop waiting, use these tools to help make you feel better about yourself and the world around you.
Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be a little more positive?
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