Positive psychology

director today - october 2015For a decade or so, there has been a fairly dramatic shift in the way in which psychologists look at the human condition. For the last hundred years or more, they have based most of their understanding on our problems… essentially by studying people with known medical conditions and mental health issues, they have evolved a science of human dysfunction.

The radical change in direction has been to study instead what is ‘normal’ and what makes the majority of humans ‘normal’. At one extreme of this has evolved a branch of psychology known as ‘positive psychology’ – which takes as one of its guiding principles the idea that it is not satisfactory to be ‘normal’ but instead it is preferable to be positive.

‘Positive psychology’ emerged as a new area of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association. The term originates though with Abraham Maslow, who coined it in his 1954 book ‘Motivation and Personality’.

Recently a number of ‘meta-analyses’ of positive psychology have been published, and from them some interesting aspects unfold. One such dimension involves happiness and what makes some of us predominantly happy and some of us predominantly unhappy. Three studies in particular have contributed to our current view of happiness – the German Socio-Economic Panel, the US General Social Survey and the World Values Survey. The findings provide a useful focus for those of us working with individuals who would like to be happier, organisations seeking to become places renowned for the happiness of their employees, as well as to policy makers in Government who are concerned with ways of promoting happier societies.”

Full article published in Director Today, October 2015 issue. Link to PDF here.

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