I was first introduced to positive psychology at a conference featuring Helene Moore, PsyD, MAPP from Northwestern University. She explained that in the past, psychologists have approached negative conditions like anxiety, depression, and neurosis from a disease model with a concentration on what is going wrong and needs to be fixed. Positive psychology studies happy people and their behaviors so we can uncover what to do to achieve that state of contentment.
Positive psychology arose from an intentional, scientific study of people from all over the world, including different cultures and socioeconomic levels. They found happy people everywhere, in tribal communities, slum conditions and unfortunate circumstances. By studying this “happiness” and measuring it quantitatively, positive psychologists have identified many important ways we humans can increase our happiness, such as:
· Daily Exercise, which releases the chemical in our brain called dopamine that makes us feel happy. It is stimulated through aerobic exercise, especially when combined with a new experience or a “playful” twist, such as doing a “zombie run”.
· Express Gratitude. People who intentionally “count their blessings” daily are generally more happy.
· Achieving Flow. FLOW is a concept coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D. to describe the happiness we feel when we are so mentally satisfied and focused on our activity that we lose track of time. We can achieve this during exercise, hobbies or even work.
Positive psychologists say that 40 percent of our happiness is determined by our intentional actions.