The concept of psychology is considered to be incredibly topical in the current course of time. The notion of positive psychology is comparatively new as far as this branch of psychological science was defined only in 1998. Though, the development of positive psychology is quite intense and efficient. As a consequence, there are many considerable and significant achievements in this field in the current course of time.
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The major reason why I have chosen the topic of positive psychology as a science is the high level of efficiency and limitless perspectives it opens for the future investigation and, subsequently, practical implementation. Moreover, the essence of this branch of psychological science is quite close to me, as far as I try to follow its basic principles in my own life. Furthermore, I see effective ramifications and I believe that positive psychology is the science of the future. The aspect that makes it original and special is that it concentrates primarily on the positive side of life. It is a perfect motivation for qualitative change and efficiency improvement.
Positive Psychology as a Science
The definition of the term of positive psychology as a separate science was made by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. According to Joanna Fishman, positive psychology “looks at all aspects of a person’s psychology. It does not discount traditional psychology, nor supersede it. Rather than viewing psychology purely as a treatment for the malign, however, it looks at the positive. Positive psychology is a recognized form of therapy and is offered by some counselors and psychologists.” The essence of positive psychology appears to be in such positive phenomena as joy, happiness, flourishing and well-being. These aspects of human life are regarded as the most predetermining, influential and necessary to work on. The target of all the practices which have been introduced in the course of the development of the science of positive thinking and attitude is to help the individual thrive and improve himself/ herself, as well as the world around.
It is essential to quote the definition of the founder of the term of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, who regards it as “the scientific study of optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive” (Positive Psychology Org).
It is also essential to underline that positive psychology extends the generally accepted standards and moves beyond the sheer treatment of anxiety and depression. It offers a better dimension to live in. The course of the development of positive psychology provided not only the significant theoretical background and research data, but also supplied the psychologists with the sufficient experiential database, tremendous challenges, and huge opportunities. The theoretical background defines such concepts as life, happiness, thriving, etc., and offers profound insight and significant comprehension of the categories positive psychology implicates to help people flourish, be happy and healthy.
It is necessary to dwell on the practical side of positive psychology as a science. According to the article by Richard Layard (2011), “The exercises it offers include the systematic practice of kindness, gratitude to others, counting your blessings, and exploiting your strengths rather than attacking your weaknesses. It also teaches resilience and optimism. These two characteristics are apparently better predictors of a person’s educational achievement than their IQ. And they can reduce your annual chance of dying by 20%.”
It is quite evident that positive psychology has numerous dimensions and is being developed in the diversity of directions.
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The basic essence of the phenomenon of positive psychology is relevant to every individual, comprehensive and easy to accept on the theoretical level as well as to implement in practice. It provides the individual with a powerful instrument of construction and improvement. Once a person accepts the basic principles of positive psychology, he or she receives an excellent opportunity to create and improve own dimension of reality. The responsibility this person is to take concerns only the process of permanent development of the positive attitude and the positive outlook. The subsequent ramifications of the whole process of practical implementation depend absolutely on the efforts and the trust the person was involved.
The Black Dog Institute in Australia offers 3 practical strategies which are considered to be the most commonly used in the course of improving the well-being. They include the processes of enhancing the pleasure, engagement and finding the meaning. These empirical methods may be easily implemented in the course of the daily routine of the average citizen in the current course of time. For instance, the key concept of the first strategy is the notion of savoring. “Savouring is the awareness of pleasure and of giving deliberate conscious attention to the experience of pleasure. Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff of Loyola University have identified five techniques that promote savoring” (Black Dog Institute, n.d.). These techniques involve sharing with others, as far as only in such a way a person can enjoy the precious moment and it is one of the basic principles of true happiness; memory building and self-congratulation are one of the most essential stages in the creation of a new reality, sharpening perception and absorption. These keys to happiness seem to be quite simple, though, at the same time, they may appear to be rather complicated as far as the feelings and emotions are hard to simulate, control or manage. The strategies and techniques also demonstrate quite vividly the necessity to alter the outlook and many basic priorities and opinions. Moreover, positive psychology may often find a serious obstacle within the stereotypes. Therefore, positive psychology practice always should start with the alteration of thoughts and attitudes. Positive psychology proclaims that thoughts and inner feelings are responsible for the events and actions which take place in the real world. They tend to predetermine the reality a person experiences and observes and also influence everything that happens with a person.
It is obligatory to mention the incredible influence of positive thinking on the state of human health. According to the article by Joanna Fishman, “Scientific studies also show that there is a direct link between stress and the immune system. When a person is experiencing a period of stress and negativity, his or her body is less able to mount an inflammatory response to attacks from bacteria and viruses. This results in an increase in infections such as the common cold and cold sores. Having a positive outlook on life also equips people better for dealing with serious illness.”
For instance, the sheer optimistic attitude and strong self-belief are proved to have a beneficial effect on the process of recovery from such serious illness as cancer. Moreover, the effectiveness of the medicine is considered to depend sufficiently on the attitude and the trust in future recovery the ill person has. It also has been proven on the scientific level by numerous studies and practices.
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Actually, these benefits are not the only ones concerning the health condition. The followers of positive psychology also possess a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. The blood pressure does not tend to raise so much in comparison to depressed people or those with negative thinking. The emotional side is closely connected with positive thinking, too. The overall mental and physical well-being is the direct ramification of positive thinking. Any situation may be sufficiently eliminated by means of positive psychology strategies. Therefore, the perspectives for future development in this field are tremendous. This science is topical in the current course of time, especially in case the medicine is helpless in the course of the disease treatment.
It is also necessary to underline that positive psychology is not a universal panacea from all the diseases and grieves. It is not a panacea – it is a helpful and powerful instrument. Therefore, the level of its efficiency depends on the level of trust and relevance a person displays, as well as on the sincerity of positive thoughts and emotions a person experiences.
According to Positive Psychology Org UK, there are three levels of positive psychology practical performance. They comprise the subjective level, the individual level, and the group level. The first level involves the study of positive experience. It may be the feeling of satisfaction, contentment, happiness or simply joy, well-being, optimistic attitude to life and flow. The subjective level deals with the ability to feel good, whereas other levels involve such activity as being a good person or doing good things. “At the next level, the aim is to identify the constituents of the ‘good life’ and the personal qualities that are necessary for being a ‘good person’, through studying human strengths and virtues, future-mindedness, capacity for love, courage, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, wisdom, interpersonal skills and giftedness” (Positive Psychology Org UK, n.d.). The third level emphasizes social responsibilities, civic virtues, and other influential factors which may subsequently contribute to the evolution of communities and citizenship. They usually include the feeling of altruism, civility, tolerant attitude to other people and their actions, work ethical standards and norms, positive institutions, etc. There may be observed a certain sequence in the course of these three levels. The initial stage in following the milestones of positive psychology is the process of alteration of the thoughts and attitudes to positive ones. Once a person succeeds on the subjective level, it is time to move to the next one and develop the appropriate qualities, features, and habits positive psychology offers. The first two stages appear to be a preparatory period to perform efficiently on the group level and, consequently, lead a good life that is based on positive thinking and positive doing.
The course of the development of the new branch of psychology targeted at a happy life is a rather controversial issue in the current course of time. The followers of the approach of positive thinking, positive doing and positive being present as a natural knowledge that should be an inseparable part of our lives. According to Carole Cadwalladr (2009), “Positive psychology, the so-called new “science of happiness”, has, in just 10 years, become a cultural orthodoxy and a burgeoning field of academic study. It’s the single most popular course for undergraduates at Harvard, and in Britain, it has been instrumental in persuading the government to back large-scale funding of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).”
The tradition of positive thinking is gradually becoming an overwhelming tendency, and, therefore, it is so active and sometimes fiercely discussed. It is evident that any innovative approach or extraordinary strategy will lead to the debates and opposing. It means that the approach is really topical and perspective. As a direct consequence of the permanently growing popularity of positive thinking, it is observed a strong opposition to this approach. It is an inevitable part any know-how is to endure. The point is that nothing happens unless a person is ready for it and believes in it as well as positive thinking does not erase everything bad and negative in life. In case these points are comprehended properly and relevantly, the essence of the approach of positive thinking appears to be absolutely sane, consistent and efficient.
As Martin E. P. Seligman (2002) underlines in Handbook of Positive Psychology, edited by C. R. Snyder and Shane J. Lopez, “The aim of positive psychology is to catalyze in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to building the best qualities in life. To redress the previous imbalance, we must bring the building of strength to the forefront in the treatment and prevention of mental illness.” It is quite apparent that the process of positive thinking is a creative, responsible and long-lasting process.
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The science of positive psychology is a relatively young branch of psychology. Though, it obviously develops fast and effectively. The phenomenon of positive thinking is the key in the course of comprehension of positive psychology as science appears to be controversial and miscellaneous. Though, the efficiency and relevance of the strategies and technologies which positive psychology offers in the current course of time have been proved by means of experiential measures. Positive psychology has tremendous perspectives for future development, as far as it faces numerous challenges and questions for further investigation. Thus, it may be considered to be the science of the future.