Positive Psychology – basics

Positive psychology and the regular psychology

Positive psychology does not imply that the rest of psychology is negative, although it is understandable that the name may imply that to some people. In fact, the large majority of the gross academic product of psychology is neutral, focusing on neither wellbeing nor distress. Positive psychology grew largely from the recognition of an imbalance in clinical psychology, in which most research does indeed focus on mental illness. Researchers in cognitive, developmental, social, and personality psychology may not believe that things are so out of balance.

Despite these inequities, positive psychology’s aim is not the denial of the distressing, unpleasant, or negative aspects of life, nor is it an effort to see them through rose-colored glasses. Those who study topics in positive psychology fully acknowledge the existence of human suffering, selfishness, dysfunctional family systems, and ineffective institutions. But the aim of positive psychology is to study the other side of the coin—the ways that people feel joy, show altruism, and create healthy families and institutions—thereby addressing the full spectrum of human experience. Moreover, positive psychology makes the argument that these positive topics of inquiry are important to understand in their own right, not solely as buffers against the problems, stressors, and disorders of life (although we believe the evidence is clear that many positive processes shield us from negative outcomes, a point we return to later). Sheldon and King (2001) defined positive psychology as “nothing more than the scientific study of ordinary human strengths and virtues,” one that “revisits the average person” (p. 216; italics added). In this definition is the acknowledgment that our field as a whole is relatively silent regarding what is typical, because what is typical is positive.[1]

[1] Gamble & Haidt (2005)

The Positive Psychology – basics is part of online learning tools for personal and professional development of youth workers. The course is developed under the project “ACHIEVE” – innovative methods for training and development of youth workers (2016-2-BG01-KA205-023835) funded by European Erasmus + Programme. The content of the course is based on a literature review.

“There is only one person who could ever make you happy, and that person is you!”

David Burns

In this course you can find out the key elements of positive psychology, the study of happiness.

Being happy is something that all people want, no matter where or how old they are. But are the benefits of happiness a worthwhile goal or is it just about feeling good? A review of the available literature has revealed that happiness does indeed have numerous positive effects, which appear to benefit not only individuals, but also families, communities, and the society at large (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). The benefits of happiness include higher income and better work outcomes (greater productivity and higher quality of work), larger social rewards (stronger social support and richer social interactions), more activity, energy, and flow, and better physical health (a bolstered immune system, lowered stress levels, and less pain) and even longer life. Happy people are more creative, helpful, charitable, and self-confident, have better self-control, and show greater self-regulatory and coping abilities.

The science of happiness has flourished the last 2 decades. It has been applied in various fields of science, in psychology, business, health and more importantly in education. It is called “Positive Education”. Positive education focuses on developing both well-being and social responsibility, without changing its primary goals. It contributes in identifying and developing strengths, nurturing gratitude, and visualizing best possible selves (Seligman et al., 2005; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006). It is proven that it makes people more successful and showed to have a more lasting impact and change on having pro-social behaviour. It increases happiness and reduces depressive symptoms significantly (Sin and Lyubomirksy, 2009). Compared to unhappy learners, happier learners pay better attention, are more creative, and have greater levels of community involvement. It increases engagement, creates more curiosity and helps develop and overall love of learning (Fisher, 2015).

With this course we aim to introduce positive education into youth work and initiate a “Positive Non-Formal Education (NFE)”. Having unhappy youth who focus on the complains and the hassles will not solve the problems of unemployment, inactive participation and social exclusion. Instead, having happy youth will contribute in reinforcing their learning, their personal development, their professional progress, their authentic self, their health state, their sense  of initiative, volunteering and involvement in society and their connection with people and nature. We believe that this time has come!

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