For decades, psychology had focused on disorders, psychopathologies, behavioral problems, illnesses; but now, it has started to focus more on what makes us feel good. Beyond seeking treatment to stop being ill, psychology begins to seek answers about what makes us happy.
Positive psychology could be defined as the scientific study of what makes our life worthwhile, but without forgetting our personal problems. Positive psychology promotes a balanced empowerment of our strengths, to give us a more objective view of ourselves. Being too positive can make us believe that we are invulnerable. It can lead us to believe that we are going to achieve everything, and lead us to take too many risks, to involve ourselves in too many projects at once, more than we can carry out. If we are negative, on the other hand, we will not be able to enjoy life.
According to Martin Seligman, there are three dimensions of happiness that can be cultivated:
- Pleasant life
- Good life
- Meaningful life.
It consists of seeking the pleasures of life, experiencing as many positive emotions as we can and enjoying every moment. The problem is that the ability to experience positive emotions and amplifying them is not very modifiable and depends, in part, on genetics.
We achieve this when we discover our virtues and strengths, and when we use them to improve our lives.
The third step of happiness is to find a deep sense of satisfaction by employing our strengths to a purpose greater than ourselves.
A study replicated Seligman’s findings to find out if positive psychology exercises worked. They found that positive psychology interventions did indeed enhance happiness.