Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on improving the mental functioning of human beings above that of normal mental health. Researchers in this rapidly growing field investigate what makes human beings happy and how an individual can lead a fulfilling and satisfying life. As a field of inquiry, its purpose is to understand and foster the factors that allow individuals, communities, and societies to flourish (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), adapting what is best in the scientific method to the unique problems that human behavior presents.
Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness discussed positive psychology and how a human being’s happiness can be created, focusing not only on what is broken in an individual but what facilitates growth and wellness. Researchers in the field address empirical studies of positive emotions and how to be content, find meaning, and remain engaged with life despite external conditions. They examine how people optimally experience, forecast, and savor the positive feelings and emotions that are part of healthy living.
Despite a lack of empirical evidence behind their work, several humanistic psychologists, such as Abraham Maslow, Erich Fromm, and Carl Rogers, developed successful theories and practices that involved human happiness. Their work held enormous promise but according to experts, it did not attract a cumulative empirical base. It did spawn many therapeutic self-help movements (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi) that may have provided the foundation for positive psychology.
Like many others in today’s human development field, Joe Dispenza and Candace Pert argue that certain emotions brought on by stress do have a negative effect on the body, leading to illness. Positive emotions help people relax back to their physiological baseline. When an individual feels positive emotions, they show heightened levels of creativity. In the long-term, they can develop more resilience and ultimately flourish.
The study of positive emotions include awareness of an individual’s internal state, and how that translates into reactions and behaviors. Combined with empirical research, it is possible to find new ways to develop the mind to support who we want to be, rather than being an effect of our world. Practical applications of positive psychology include helping individuals and organizations correctly identify their strengths and use them to increase and sustain their respective levels of well-being.
For a more complete definition on positive thinking, see The Evolution of Positive Thinking: Views from Science, Spirituality, Psychology and Hollywood by Charlene M. Proctor, Ph.D.
Fredrickson, Barbara. The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions, March 2001, American Psychologist.
Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi. Positive Psychology: An Introduction. American Psychologist.
OTHER RESOURCES FOR POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY
This definition was written by Charlene M. Proctor, Ph.D., the Official SelfGrowth.com Guide to Positive Thinking. Dr. Charlene M. Proctor is the founder of The Goddess Network, Inc. an on-line educational resource for topics on spirituality, relationships, and women's studies. Author of Let Your Goddess Grow! she is a researcher and educator in the field of women's empowerment and develops self-empowerment strategies for women in all walks of life. She is a subject matter expert for Beliefnet.com, the world's largest self-help and personal growth website. Her affirmations from The Women's Book of Empowerment reach 2.7 million web visitors daily. She currently facilitates the PATH to Empowerment program for Lighthouse Path in Michigan, a residential women's shelter for homeless mothers, teaching them how to cope with life and increase self-esteem and confidence. To learn more, visit http://www.thegoddessnetwork.net
Additional Resources covering Positive Thinking can be found at: