What is Positive Psychology? Six Ways to Go from Good to Great.
There is a paradigm shift towards wellness happening right now before our very eyes. The irony in that statement is that the biggest shift must happen behind our very eyes.
Positive Psychology: The Science of Leveraging What’s Right With You
Chances are if you’ve seen my posts or heard me speak, you’ve heard me mention Positive Psychology and you’re like, “Ok, what is all this talk about this psychology stuff and what the heck does she mean?” Since my days as a city girl at a bougie, suburban high school, I have been intrigued by what makes certain people able to reach astronomical levels of success and what they are doing differently than people who live average or lower than average lifestyles. As I grew older, I noticed that successful people aren’t always happy and happy people aren’t always successful. As someone with high hopes and big dreams, I began to seek answers and the truth is: I still do. This curiosity combined with my desire to create a life around my passions and purpose led me to Positive Psychology.
What is Positive Psychology?
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of happiness, well-being, and optimal human functioning. It is a study and practice that aims to discover and promote the factors that enable individuals, organizations and communities to thrive. Prior to the formation of Positive Psychology in 1998 by psychologist and University of Pennsylvania professor, Martin Seligman, there wasn’t much research conducted on happiness, how to build positive emotion and what allows humans to flourish.
What's the difference between Psychology and Positive Psychology?
In short, traditional psychology focuses on what’s wrong with people and positive psychology focuses on what’s right with people. Traditionally, a Mental Health Psychologist works with people suffering from mental disorders. There job is to diagnose patients and clients and determine treatments based on their observations. They may work with a team including a psychiatrist who will prescribe medication to tackle a patient’s mental health disability or symptoms. Their goal is to get their patient to neutral or “moderately mentally healthy” as we say.
Positive Psychology is about getting people to progress from surviving to thriving. It focuses on getting people north of neutral, building on their strengths and creating greater life satisfaction. It is both preventative and proactive. As a Certified Positive Psychology Practitioner, I work with clients who want to go from good to great. I have studied the research and science behind how people think, feel and behave and I’ve been trained in a series of interventions that help move people progress from moderately mentally healthy to high-level well-being.
It’s not about being happy all the time. That’s unrealistic. Positive Psychology encompasses the wholeness of the human experience. People need tools for dealing with the negative events and life circumstances of their lives, as much as we need tools for building more positive events and experiences.
Many illnesses, both physical and mental, stem from people’s lack of skills to take care of their physical, emotional and spiritual selves. The true goal of wellness goes beyond the physical and encompasses the mind and spirit of a person. True well-being is from the inside, out.
I have studied the profound and undeniable benefits of positivity, optimism, gratitude, resilience, engagement, relationships, achievement and vitality. I have been trained to coach, teach and train individuals and groups to develop proven skills to deal with negative emotions, handle stressful situations, build more positivity and develop a greater sense of control. The goal is to help people show up in the world the way they truly want to and reach their fullest potential.
Unlike a psychiatrist, I’m not going to diagnose you or prescribe any pharmaceutical drugs, although I’ll gladly talk to you about holistic healing. If I detect that a person has a mental illness, I will recommend they see a psychiatrist or psychologists who can work with them and move them to be mentally stable.
The perfect client or student is someone who wants go from good to great, is ready to be increase their awareness, focus on where they need to grow, develop their life skills and is open to implementing the change required to transform and reach their highest potential.
Want to go from Good to Great?! Here are 5 ways Positive Psychology can help you!
1. Positive Psychology helps you achieve a MINDSET that serves you best.
Your happiness, success and fulfillment in life depend on what you think about, what you do, how you approach problems and how you approach opportunities. The golden key to success, happiness and fulfillment is being optimistic about your future, comfortable with your past, and having a growth mindset. I go in depth discussing growth mindset in my Flourish Series, but the bottom line is: Mindsets become self-fulfilling prophecies. Our beliefs determine our thoughts. Our thoughts determine our actions. Our actions become our habits. Our habits become our character. Our character determines our destiny. So if we want to be extraordinary, we have to train ourselves to think extraordinary thoughts and do extraordinary things.
2. Positive Psychology helps you find more opportunities to ENGAGE in experiences that serve you best.
We talk a lot about mindfulness, self-regulation, savoring and cultivating our strengths in Positive Psychology. Let’s briefly look at each one.
Mindfulness. In the words of Tich That Hanh, “Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and what you are doing. Through mindfulness, we can learn to live in the present moment instead of in the past and in the future. Dwelling in the preset moment is the only way to truly develop peach, both in one’s self and in the world.” Mindfulness allows us to be less impulsive, less stressed, have better emotional handling of the past and more pronounced future orientation.
Savoring is being attentive or appreciative of a particular experience. It increases positivity, shifts our focus to what is beautiful and life-enhancing, increases our gratitude and counters our tendency to get bored with the mundane.
Self-Regulation. WHEWWW!!! This is a big one! Discipline is a mo-fo, but oh so necessary if we want to go from good to great! The demands of everyday life can be quite depleting. Self-regulation can be defined as control over emotions, behaviors, and desires to obtain some reward or avoid punishment. It’s also referred to as self control, self-discipline and will power. But did you know that psychologically we only have a limited pool of discipline to draw upon in a day? That’s why it’s harder to stop eating that tub of ice cream after a long day at work. Most major problems, personal and social, center on failure of self-control. Positive Psychology helps us understand how to increase our self-regulation through awareness and engaging in healthy habits.
Strengths. In the English language, there are 4,000 labels to describe what’s right with people and 40,000 labels to describe what’s wrong with people. Positive Psychology focuses o identifying our strengths and how to use them in building well-being and the resilience that is necessary to get through the ups and downs of life. People who are aware of their strengths and how they best serve them have greater life satisfaction, success, and well-being or in other words, they know how to be their best version of great.
3. A core belief and finding of Positive Psychology is that OTHER PEOPLE MATTER. Positive Psychology focuses on how to create FLOURISHING RELATIONSHIPS in our lives.
As humans we have an inherent need to belong, connect and bond. Having high quality connections and friendships has more influence on our happiness than any other factor in life. People with strong social ties are significantly less likely to mentally unhealthy, sick, or die prematurely.
Through Positive Psychology interventions, we learn the skills to manage conflict, transform negative relationships, build thriving relationships in love, friendship and work, how to embody SoMo (Social-Emotional) Leadership, and how to positively affect the people around us.
4. Positive Psychology aims to help people find more MEANING in life.
As a coach trained under the Positive Psychology method, I believe that every person has all that they need inside of them. My main goal is to work with them to ask them questions and identify the best methods of bringing out their inherent awesomeness. The starting point often lies in uncovering their purpose and the exploring the meaning behind why they do what they do in life and work. I help people to focus their ATTENTION on their INTENTIONS.
Clues to your life’s purpose lie at the intersection of your passions, skills, strengths and experiences within the context of what you value. The Japanese refer to this as your Ikigai, your reason for being. The word roughly translates to the “thing that you live for” but it also has the nuance of “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”
Meaning and purpose are what make life most worth living. Positive Psychology research has uncovered assessments and interventions that help people examine their passions and values, and understand their strengths and experiences. I work with my clients to help bring them awareness and come up with ways to instill more meaning and purpose in their lives so that they can be more fulfilled, satisfied, and happier with their lives and work.
5. At the core of Positive Psychology is a focus on building on what’s right with people in an effort to maximize their level of ACHIEVEMENT.
Hope and change are both necessary components to accomplishment and high-level achievement. Hope and optimism predict many desirable outcomes. Positive Psychology research provides us with ways of enhancing hope, embracing change and increasing the motivation one needs to make positive change. It also recognizes the importance of grit and resilience to the process of powering through the ups and downs of success.
I work with clients to help them set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (or SMART) goals, create more flow in their lives, and create methods proven to manifest their goals and desires. This is the part of the work that excites me most! The joy I experience when helping people get clear about what they want and watching them manifest a life of their dreams is why I do what I do. It goes back to the teenage girl in me who admired the lives of the accomplished parents of my peers and set out into this world determined to take control of my life and figure out how to harness my power. It is the part of my experience and training that I love sharing the most.
6. Positive Psychology explores ways of increasing our VITALITY.
Original Positive Psychology methods did not have a strong focus on the importance of vitality to well-being, however in the progression of the study and field, it has evolved to highlight how vital vitality is to our well-being.
I studied and was certified through the CAPP program created by Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, the founder of the Flourishing Center, a New York based B-Corp that is dedicated to increasing the flourishing of individuals, organizations and communities worldwide. Emiliya received a Masters Degree in Positive Psychology studying under the founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman at University of Pennsylvania. She continued on to become a Master Certified Coach, working with a multitude of clients for thousands of hours and is currently getting a PHD in Mind-Body Medicine from Saybrook University. Through her research, work and life experiences, she has joined other leaders in Positive Psychology in recognizing the importance of vitality as it is defined as the power to live or grow. Just because a person is not sick, doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Just because they are not depressed doesn't mean they are happy or fulfilled with their lives.
Vitality includes our physical activity, sleep, breath, nutrition, balance, alignment and even our sexuality. A lack of vitality increases stress, inflammation, and ultimately leads to illness. The mind affects the body and the body affects the mind. As the late, great Louis Hay taught us, dis-ease equals disease. Like mostly everything in the Universe, our bodies seek balance. Too much or too little of something can lead to our detriment. As a positive psychology practitioner, I am trained to help people uncover ways of increasing their vitality in order to create the balance, strength and energy to go from good to great!
After all of this, are you still wondering why I am so passionate about Positive Psychology?
In a 2010 study by Rath & Harter from Gallup, five essential elements for well-being were determined: career, social, financial, physical and community. Only 7% of people surveyed were doing well in all five. I aim to sustain a lifestyle where flourish and thrive in all of the aforementioned. I find fulfillment, excitement and happiness in a life well-lived. I’m passionate about training others to do so as well, because at the core of my being, OTHER PEOPLE MATTER.
Whether you need a partner, guidance or accountability in creating and sustaining a flourishing lifestyle, I offer online and in-person workshops, group and one-on-one coaching that through which I will support you in living the life of your dreams. I invite you to:
peruse my website
read some blogposts
stay in touch by signing up for our monthly newsletter or
make the leap and sign up for a coaching session
Don’t be too busy to do the work that really matters! The most important work you do working on yourself. I encourage you to push beyond your comfort zone and realize your true potential. Mediocrity is not meant for you!
Amber Lee Forrester, CAPP
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