Gratitude as Positive Psychology
Are you interested in increasing your overall sense of happiness and satisfaction with life? Have you heard the term gratitude, or taken part in a gratitude challenge on social media, with the intention of attracting more good things into your everyday existence by acknowledging and celebrating the good at the outset?
Gratitude is far more than just seeing and seeking the positive, although it is true that the simple act of showing appreciation is where it all begins. The concept of gratitude as a
life long beneficial practice is part of an overarching philosophy pioneered by the University of Pennsylvania's Director of Psychology, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, beginning in 2008.
Seligman is considered by some to be the godfather of positive psychology. His groundbreaking studies on the effects of positive thinking on human neurology have garnered support from prominent educational and science-based institutions worldwide. His work came to the forefront in 2013, with the Positive Neuroscience Project that was funded by the John Templeton Foundation and supported by studies conducted at Harvard University, Stony Brook University, Emory University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and many others.
Seligman's approach to human psychology is decidedly different and more evolved than the psychology of decades past-- the presupposition is that the human psyche is malleable and ever-evolving which paints a far brighter picture for those in need of mental health support. Until just about ten years ago, forays into the human mind didn't go much beyond simple diagnoses of various psychological disorders, and recommendations for treatment. This left more of a black and white portrayal of mental health or mental illness as it was stigmatized in decades past. Either you were sick and needed treatment, or you were healthy and did not, with no notion of a spectrum or a hope for recovery, which is the more accurate portrayal of human psychology.
With positive psychology, we come to learn that happiness is something that we can cultivate in our own minds, and nurture into being. In other words, we can actively choose to take care of our mental health needs, and engage in specific activities to help us grow on the path to a healthy mental outlook.
Here, the focus is on developing a happiness mindset as a proactive approach to mental health that can be applied in simple yet profound ways. Even just the simple shift away from the words "mental illness" to "mental health" connotes hope and healing for those impacted. Gratitude is just one of a series of basic tenets of positive psychology, and the world's citizens have hungered far too long for this type of support. The main principles of positive psychology include but are not limited to:
Social and Emotional Learning
According to the University of Penn Positive Psychology website's mission page: Some of the goals of Positive Psychology are to build a science that supports:
Families and schools that allow children to flourish
Workplaces that foster satisfaction and high productivity
Communities that encourage civic engagement
Therapists who nurture their patients' strengths
The teaching of Positive Psychology
Dissemination of Positive Psychology interventions in schools, organizations, and communities.
The proactive practice of cultivating gratitude, mindfulness, happiness, and other aspects of positive psychology work to improve relationships, deepen human connection, and give meaning and purpose to our life's work. In this way, positive psychology has the capacity to deliver profound positive changes in a distinctly different way than prior generations of psychology may have only served as a kind of band-aid treatment.
The science of positive psychology is supported by worldwide funding of studies that measure the effects of positive principles and practices on our neurology, behavior, and overall wellbeing; and in turn how these changes that begin in our brains and bodies can have a positive effect on society as a whole.
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