Positive psychology is the scientific study of happiness. Positive Psychology is further defined as the "scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. It is based on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play".
Positive psychology shares a strong connection with mental health since one of its goals is to focus on what is right about a person and how those traits can be increased- the desired result being a happier, more fulfilled life. Similarly, mental health also tries to increase positive traits to help people deal with mental disorders.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community."
Happiness, well-being and life satisfaction are components of good mental health. What are some of the other components that might influence good mental health?
- Most people are generally happy where some personality types seem naturally happier than others, but this can be changed over time.
- Relationships matter where having good relationships with other people is the most important factor contributing to a sense of wellbeing.
- Happiness and circumstances where life events, whether positive or negative only have a short-term effect on happiness. In the same way, people usually recover from traumatic or stressful events with time and become just as happy as before.
- Happiness and money where beyond providing for our basic needs, the level of income is not related to happiness. So although people living in extreme poverty are less likely to be happy, having more money does not make people any happier.
- Meaning and pleasure, where finding a sense of meaning or purpose in life and seeking out pleasure, are two paths to happiness.
- Religion where faith, religion, and spirituality are interrelated to happiness.
Positive Psychology has three central concerns:
- Positive emotions
- Positive individual traits
- Positive institutions.
"Understanding positive emotions entail the study of contentment with the past, happiness in the present, and hope for the future. Understanding positive individual traits involves the study of strengths, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation, self-control, and wisdom. Understanding positive institutions entail the study of the strengths that foster better communities, such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance."
In an utopist world, positivity and positive emotions are the only characteristics worth fighting for but human beings are an amalgamation of positive and negative emotions and experiences.
Negative emotions have a very important role to play in our lives, as do positive ones. A healthy balance would be something to strive for. Eliminating all negative emotions isn't realistic or healthy. For optimal brain functioning and wellbeing to exist, positive emotions and experiences should overshadow negative emotions and experiences.
Enhance your Emotional Wellness to develop a more positive mindset by following some simple rules:
- Use hope as an alternative for fear by coming up with creative solutions for fearful situations in your life.
- Track your positivity ratio daily, discover what makes you come alive and give those activities a higher priority. We need 3 positive emotions for every negative emotion to stay in balance.
- Keep your negativity in check by questioning your mental habits
- Remember your good deeds. Give yourself credit for the good things you do for others each day.
- Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from what went wrong, but don't dwell on it.
- Spend more time with your friends. Surround yourself with positive, healthy people.
- Explore your beliefs about the meaning and purpose of life.
- Develop healthy physical habits.
- Gratitude visits where one writes a letter of gratitude to someone who has been especially kind but has never been properly thanked. Then deliver the letter personally.
Article by Shruthi Rao
Clinical Psychologist, Kauvery Hospital