Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology and Mental Health

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology and Mental Health

Article excerpt

The term "positive psychology" is a broad one, encompassing a variety of techniques that encourage people to identify and further develop their own positive emotions, experiences, and character traits. In many ways, positive psychology builds on key tenets of humanistic psychology. Humanistic psychology as we know focuses on each individual's potential and stresses the importance of growth and self-actualization. The fundamental belief of humanistic psychology is that people are innately good and that mental and social problems result from deviations from this natural tendency. In 1962, Abraham Maslow published 'Toward a Psychology of Being', wherein he had described humanistic psychology as the "third force" in psychology. The first and second forces were behaviorism and psychoanalysis respectively. However, it is not necessary to think of these three schools of thought as competing elements. Humanistic psychology added yet another dimension that takes a more holistic view of the individual.

Seligman (Seligman &Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) defined positive psychology at three core levels the subjective level, the individual level, and the societal level. According to Seligman, the field of positive psychology at the subjective level is about valued experiences: well-being, contentment, and satisfaction (in the past), hope and optimism (for the future) and flow and happiness ( in the present). At the individual level, it is about positive individual traits: the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, future mindedness, spirituality, high talent and wisdom. At the societal or group level it is about the civic virtues and institutions that move individuals toward better citizenship: responsibility, nurturancc, altruism, civility, moderation, tolerance and work ethic.

SHELDON et al. (2000) define positive psychology as, the scientific study of optimal human functioning. It aims to discover and promote factors that allow individuals, communities, and societies to thrive and flourish (Sheldon, Frederickson, Rathunde, Csikszentmihalyi, and Haidt, 2000). The Journal of Positive Psychology (2005) defines positive psychology as, "scientifically informed perspectives on what makes life worth living. It focuses on aspects of the human condition that lead to happiness, fulfilment, and flourishing." Positive psychology initially developed as a way to advance well-being and optimal functioning in healthy people.

Well-being is a paradigm, a construct; it should not be misunderstood as just happiness per se, it is the topic of positive psychology. As Seligman puts across in his widely published influential 2011 book, "Flourish.", well-being has five measurable elements under the acronym PERMA:

® Positive emotion: For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotion in our lives. Any positive emotion such as peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, or love falls into this category and the message is that it's really important to enjoy yourself in the here and now, just as long as the other elements of PERMA are in place.

* Engagement: When we're truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow: time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present. The more we experience this type of engagement, the more likely we are to experience well-being. One can preferentially use one's highest strengths to perform and engage in the tasks which one would perform anyway.

* Relationships As humans, we all are "social beings," and good relationships are core to our well-being. Time and again, we see that people who have meaningful, positive relationships with others are happier than those who do not. Relationships really do matter!

* Meaning: Meaning comes from belonging to and serving a cause bigger than ourselves.

* Accomplishment/Achievement: Means striving to better ourselves in some way, whether we're seeking to master a skill, achieve a valuable goal, or win in some competitive event. …

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