Written by Dr. Mara Windsor
Positive psychology was created in 1998 when Martin Seligman, Ph. D. gave his presidential address to the American Psychology Association (APA). It emphasizes the positive influences in a person’s life. Its core topics include happiness, wellbeing, resilience, flow, and mindfulness.
Dr. Seligman is widely regarded as the Father of Modern Positive Psychology. As part of his research, he identified five elements that are important for happiness – positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. The acronym for these elements, PERMA, is the term that they are most often referred to.
Positive psychology focuses on positive emotions and personal strengths. This includes focusing on our character strengths, optimistic emotions, and constructive institutions. This practice is based on the belief that happiness is derived from both emotional and mental factors.
When I found myself at a point of burnout in parenting and in my personal life 7 years ago, when I created and founded L.I.F.E., I was researching how to find and sustain happiness. I was searching for how to find sustained happiness, fulfillment, and enlightenment in my life. This is when I came across Dr. Seligman’s work and research in Positive Psychology. Through his research, he found that the best way to sustain happiness was through philanthropy, community, and mentorship.
Positive psychology focuses on positive emotions and personal strengths, not the dysfunction, deficits, or improving weaknesses. It can complement rather than replace traditional psychotherapy. I personally have found this to be a more successful approach when coaching physicians, nurses, and students.
Studies evaluating outcomes of interventions using positive psychology have mostly been small and short term, however, I believe in this work and supporting people from a place of positivity in order to help them build on their strengths and to let go of their shortcomings. Dr. Seligman found that if he supported highly functional people that they could reach great levels of success and happiness. He found that they only needed minimal support and small nudges which carry them so far. He found this much more rewarding and successful than focusing on people’s dysfunction and deficiencies.
Focusing on positive experiences, positive individual traits, and positive institutions, carry individuals much further and helps to guide them to find fulfillment and meaning in their work and lives. I wanted to create an organization that focuses on the positive attributes of its members, supports their needs and well-being through providing education, community, mentorship, and philanthropy.
This is what I believe that I have created with L.I.F.E., and I hope to maintain this as I believe that there is no better time than the present time to support our community.
Here are 5 ways to practice positive psychology in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month:
- Gratitude Journal.
- The Gratitude Visit.
- Best Possible Self.
- Daily Strength Awareness.
- Mindfulness Meditation.
Please look up our organization on social media and our website to learn more and see what we are up to! We need and appreciate all of the support we can get from our community in order to share it forward.
To learn more about these five practices and to take the Personal Strengths test as well as rate your overall happiness and optimism to see where you’re currently at as well as to monitor your progress, visit https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/.