Positive Psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. For too long the field of psychology has been focused on mental illness, and has insufficiently focused on mental health. In the past, the field did not pay attention to positive emotions, fulfillment, connection, and the development of meaning, all of which are crucial to the quality of daily life. In contrast, positive psychology examines how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled. It seeks to restore the positive features of our human nature, such as happiness, personal strengths, and virtues. It focuses on how everyone can build on their individual strengths and develop the wisdom needed to live a more fulfilling life. Positive psychology researchers are finding effective ways to help individuals, organizations, and communities flourish.
Research shows that when people are happier and more fulfilled, they live longer, healthier lives. Happiness may not just make you feel better emotionally, it may improve your physical health too. There is an abundance of scientific evidence that proves that psychological traits, particularly optimism (a tendency to believe that good things will happen), can produce good health. Positive emotions have been linked to a lower risk of some of our nation’s leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Conversely, helplessness has been shown to negatively affect the immune system. The cultivation of optimism prevents helplessness and helps keep the immune system strong. Mental outlook clearly influences physical health.
Healthy positive emotions (having a feeling of hope, happiness, enjoyment, and overall well-being), and engaging in meaningful activities, seem to override negative feelings that often underlie unhealthy habits, such as smoking, not exercising, excessive alcohol consumption, and eating an unhealthy diet. All of these habits, and others, have significant health implications. People who are happier tend to be more flexible and resilient, which makes it easier for them to modify these habits, as well as cope with stress and change in their daily life. They take better care of themselves and experience more relaxation and more unstressed moments. This creates an opportunity for additional benefits such as better quality sleep and improved social interactions. These positive effects in turn help open the door to other aspects of psychological well-being, such as fulfilling one’s potential, identifying meaningful life pursuits, and having vitality and enthusiasm for life.
Positive psychology provides a wide range of practical tools and techniques that can help increase your overall happiness, improve your well-being, and promote a longer and healthier life.