Free Essays On Positive Psychology

Sandali Wijekoon 625342 There are many definitions of positive psychology (PP), which may all be just as valid as each other. However, this paper will work to define and describe PP, as well as discuss underlying assumptions, and how PP came into prominence in both psychology and our society. Positive Psychology Interventions (PPIs) such as character strengths will also be defined and described. The research on its impact on our wellbeing and possible limitations will also be discussed to gain a holistic view. Positive Psychology is a scientific study, of ordinary human strengths and virtues. PP seeks to understand how we manage to exist, adapting to stresses while maintaining a degree of positive wellbeing (Compton & Hoffman, 2013; Sheldon & King, 2001). The aim is to identify and nurture qualities that allow us and contribute, to flourishing and the optimal functioning of people, groups and institutions (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Gable & Haidt, 2005). Therefore, PP focuses on the average person to find out what works, is right and improving (Compton & Hoffman, 2013). As individuals, we face many obstacles that can cause negativity within our psyche; we manage to adapt in highly creative ways using different factors that allow us to feel good and live well. Generally, psychology studies what has, and can go wrong with a human mind through life. This obsession is known as negative bias, where the focus and interest are only on the negative. Humans are known to find negativity fascinating; it is engrained in our biology, being a tool that may have in the past aided in our species survival (Brain, 2016a). Positive psychology, however, works to build the positive qualities within us rather than repairing the worst things in our lives (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). This ingrained survival mechanism of negative bias may be the cause of the field of psychology focusing mainly on the negative, leaving scant attention on all the positive. Given the obstacles we face daily, we may have underestimated the capability of our psyche as well as the power of positivity. Given that PP is still fairly new in the wider field of study, there are still many assumptions associated with it both internally and externally. For instance, it does not imply that everything else in psychology is negative. It does not deny the negative aspects of life, however, it makes an effort to focus on the positive which has for so long been disregarded (Gable & Haidt, 2005). Seligman (as cited in Brain, 2016a) further addresses this by stating that PP is not a happy-ology. A common misconception is that our mind follows a deficit model, where getting rid of the bad will lead to good, this is known as a paradigm shift. Without nurturing what is good, standard clinical psychology may get rid of the negative and find that there is nothing there that has been exercised and addressed in a holistic manner. PP did not invent positive emotions, and so if positivity was only the absence of negativity then clinical psychology today would be complete, the mere relief of suffering does not equate to wellbeing, it only removes the barriers to wellbeing (Lee Duckworth, Steen & Seligman, 2005). PP only works to address and exercise our positivity, our strengths and virtues. M.E.P Seligman brought positive psychology into prominence around 1998, he strived to remind the field that the intended mission was to focus on human strengths, to nurture what makes us good, and the genius we all have within us (Compton & Hoffman, 2013). Psychology was never about weakness and damage, Sandali Wijekoon 625342 it was to be able to build an individual holistically in terms of their minds and wellbeing. Psychology since World War II focused mainly on the pathology of the mind, leading to a model of nothing but negative emotions and its following results, lacking the positive components that make life worth living (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). The model, therefore, led to a ‘band aid' affect; fixing what was broken but never really addressing the cause. PP does not focus on the cause but instead works to nurture and give strength to what makes us good, providing tools to address the negativity of our minds. This was not the first time psychologists tried to focus on the positive, Humanistic psychology focused on what is healthy, adaptive, and creative looking at the full range of human emotion. PP differs because it mainly focuses on the benefits of happiness, and satisfaction in life compared to humanistic psychology and the full range of emotions (Compton & Hoffman, 2013). PP grows in prominence due to the recognition of this imbalance in clinical psychology today (Gable & Haidt, 2005). Post World War II psychology was not able to adequately explain the fact that despite all the difficulties we face we still manage to live lives of dignity and purpose (Sheldon & King, 2001). Character strengths (CS) is defined as positive traits that reflect our thoughts and feelings; they are our beneficial qualities that aid us in our daily encounters (Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Compton & Hoffman, 2013; Yearly, 1990). Our strengths exist in degrees, and can be qualitatively measured by individual qualities that fall under families of positive strengths (Peter, Petersons & Seligman, 2004). CS are very much like a muscle in nature; they can be developed, and strengthened over time through practice in different circumstances. In the instance we do not give enough time and attention to these strengths, it becomes lost or weaker, and has less influence over our identity. Typically we embody a handful of CS at a time; signature strengths that are personal traits that we feel we completely embody, understand, celebrate and practice frequently (Proctor et al., 2011). PPIs in regards to CS show a relationship with happiness by measuring life satisfaction and well-being after its integration. Life satisfaction specifically reflects the individual's assessment of their life and how content they are with it (Diener, 2000), this includes levels of psychological and social problems such as depression and toxic relationships. Initial and further awareness of CS can help people increase their well-being and life satisfaction, identifying strengths allows the individual to then practice and utilize (Huta & Hawley, 2010). CS based interventions conducted show that adults that use strengths in a new way every day have lasting effects on happiness, significant increases in well-being, and a notable decrease in depressive symptoms (Seligman et al., 2005; Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009). Over time, it was measured that these lasting effects of positive wellbeing, also protected the subjects against negative feelings, stress, and the development of psychological problems (Park, Petersons & Seligman 2004; Seligman et. al, 2009). This left participants more hopeful and confident, leading to more acts of altruism and the achievement of higher grades in the case of students (Hodges & Clifton, 2004; Hodges & Harter, 2005) Analysis of CS commonly uses some sort of test to evaluate the individuals' signature strengths; what they employ in their lives in order to maintain a level Sandali Wijekoon 625342 of wellbeing. Park, Petersons & Seligman (2004) used the Value in Action inventory of strengths (VIA) system, demographic questions and then satisfaction life scale (SWLs) on participants sourced through the Internet; specifically, PP related websites. In comparison, Donald Clifton and colleagues developed and used the Clifton strength finder (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001; Clifton, Anderson, & Clifton et al., 2006) to evaluate college students. Proctor et al. (2011) in contrast used appropriate strength based exercises for his schoolaged respondents. The tests conducted, therefore, were tailored to the respondent's capabilities in order to gauge an accurate understanding. The analysis varied from strength-based tests to strength-based programs and so provided varied ways of identifying the degree to which a change in wellbeing had taken place. It must be noted that the various methods used in each study may have potentially biased the results, both through conduction of the test as well as the method of sourcing respondents. In Response to internet based recruiting (Park, Petersons & Seligman, 2004), there is a potential that the respondent may already have knowledge of PP, given they were sourced from PP related page, familiarity with Seligman's work may hinder the aim of focusing on the average person and how they deal with life. Overall limitations resulting in bias include the strategy at obtaining research participants, for example if it is online this, therefore, constitutes that the respondent has access to a computer, and The Internet. For the respondent to participate in the testing itself they must also have specific characteristics that make them want to visit that particular site, and complete the test or questionnaire making up the participant group (Park, Petersons & Seligman, 2004). Further external limitations to testing include the possibility that individuals may not complete the test or program accurately, or that they are affected emotionally at specific periods of time. Limitations such as these must be accepted considering there cannot be a controlled environment in regards to emotional states as well as complete comprehension. Positive psychology in our society of constant sensory and psychological stimuli may prove to be relevant considering the obstacles we all face as a population physically, emotionally and psychologically. PP and more specifically PPI gives us the tools to which we may cultivate and strengthen the good in our lives, as well as managing the bad. From the rise of PP, the field may once again focus on its initial mission of building human strength. The character strength intervention was just one of the many tools that may be employed in order to build psychological strength. There is a clear correlation between the intervention and happiness, suggesting that increased wellbeing and life satisfaction is possible for anyone who seeks it with the aid of Positive Psychology. Word count: 1625 References Brain, N. (2016). Wellbeing & Performance. Lecture, University of Melbourne. Sandali Wijekoon 625342 Buckingham, M., & Clifton, D. (2001). Now, discover your strengths. New York: Free Press. Clifton, D., Anderson, E., & Schreiner, L. (2006). StrengthQuest: Discover and Develop Your Strengths in Academics, Career, and Beyond. Gallup Press. Compton, W., & Hoffman, E. (2013). Positive psychology (pp. 1-9,20-21,). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34-43. Gable, S., & Haidt, J. (2005). What (and why) is positive psychology?. Review Of General Psychology, 9(2), 103-110. Hodges, T., & Clifton, D. (2004). Strengths-Based Development in Practice. Positive Psychology In Practise, 256-268. Hodges, T., & Harter, J. (2005). A review of the theory and research underlying the StrengthQuest program for students. Educational Horizons, 190-201. Huta, V., & Hawley, L. (2008). Psychological Strengths and Cognitive Vulnerabilities: Are They Two Ends of the Same Continuum or Do They Have Independent Relationships with Well-being and Ill-being?. Journal Of Happiness Studies, 11(1), 71-93. Lee Duckworth, A., Steen, T., & Seligman, M. (2005). Positive Psychology in Clinical Practice. Annual Review Of Clinical Psychology, 1(1), 629-651. Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. (2004). Strengths of Character and Wellbeing. Journal Of Social And Clinical Psychology, 23(5), 603-619. Proctor, C., Tsukayama, E., Wood, A., Maltby, J., Eades, J., & Linley, P. (2011). Strengths Gym: The impact of a character strengths-based intervention on the life satisfaction and well-being of adolescents. The Journal Of Positive Psychology, 6(5), 377-388. Seligman, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14. Sandali Wijekoon 625342 Seligman, M., Ernst, R., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review Of Education, 35(3), 293-311. Sheldon, K., & King, L. (2001). Why positive psychology is necessary. American Psychologist, 56(3), 216-217. Sin, N., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: a practicefriendly meta-analysis. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 467-487. Yearley, L. (1990). Mencius and Aquinas. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.



Why a Positive Psychology Movement, and Why Now?

Why do we need a


in positive psychology? The answer is straightforward.The science of psychology has made great strides in understanding what goes wrong inindividuals, families, groups, and institutions, but these advances have come at the cost of understanding what is right with people. For example, clinical psychology has madeexcellent progress in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses and personality disorders(e.g., American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Researchers in social psychology haveconducted groundbreaking studies on the existence of implicit prejudice and negativeoutcomes associated with low self-esteem (e.g., Josephs, Bosson, & Jacobs, 2003;Wittenbrink, Judd, & Park, 1997). Health psychology has shown us the detrimentaleffects that environmental stressors have on our physiological systems (e.g., Dickerson &Kemeny, 2004). And cognitive psychology has illuminated the many biases and errorsinvolved in our judgments (e.g., Gilovich, Vallone, & Tversky, 1985). These are allimportant findings in our field, but it is harder to locate corresponding work on humanstrengths and virtues.


So why has our field been so much more interested in foibles than in strengths? We seethree reasons. The first is compassion. Those who are suffering should be helped beforethose who are already doing well. We certainly agree with this notion; however, we alsothink that an understanding of human strengths can actually help prevent or lessen thedamage of disease, stress, and disorder. For example, research on coping hasdemonstrated that appraisals of negative life events that put them into perspective withone’s own capabilities for meeting the challenge mediate the actual experience of distress(e.g., Folkman & Lazarus, 1988). And Taylor and colleagues (Taylor, Kemeny, Reed,Bower, & Gruenwald, 2000) have provided per-assuasive evidence that beliefs such asoptimism and a sense of personal control are protective factors for psychological and physical health.2 One can point to inspiring work such as the jigsaw classroom of Aronson, Blaney,Stephan, Sikes, and Snapp (1978), which brought out the best in students, but such casesare few and far between.

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