The beauty of positive psychology is that it is primarily focused on personal growth and how to cultivate strengths so we are leading a life that is fulfilling.

[[ Beautiful collage header photo by the talented: Sarah Lukes at BeautifulUrself ]]

Basically it’s the science of happiness: what makes you happy, what makes friends, family and our communities happy, how we can all be happy together, etc. My absolute favorite thing is that for so many year, this entire field [psychology] was focused on studying mental illness and recently, within the past twenty years, a new sector to focus solely on mental wellbeing.

So what it is exactly? 

Wellbeing theory is the second and most current theory within the study.

It encompasses five different elements: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and purpose, and Accomplishments (PERMA). All being pretty self explanatory but let’s go through each one.

Positive emotions — our range of … you guessed it… positive emotions. So it really ranges from sheer happiness to excitement to pride.

Engagement — this is really how passionate and focused we are on certain tasks. The more passionate, the more it becomes an interest. We measure engagement with how much one loses themselves in the task and throws themselves into it.

Relationships — well shit, we all get this. But this element includes all types of relationships: familial, platonic, romantic, working, etc. Back to the bare bones of necessity with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: social needs comes in as number three. Our connection to people greatly impacts our wellbeing. Still being studied are which aspects of positive psychology can strengthen our relationships.

Meaning — again back to Maslow’ Hierarchy: this comes in as number 5 under “self-actualization”. We need purpose with everything we do and finding that meaning is part of what makes us us and contributes to greatly to our positive psyche.

Accomplishments — this is pretty self explanatory in that it involves all of our pursuits: personal, professional, social, etc.

This theory is one of many within the study but here’s why I’m choosing to write about it… it so easy to get wrapped up in thinking about the negative aspects of things, like we’re all mostly glass half empty, like one little thing goes wrong among a whole day of great things and we can only hold onto the one bad thing.

So I propose a challenge, and not necessarily as a New Years resolution, but just a challenge. We will begin paying attention and implementing the 5 elements above. Our goal? Let’s just follow what the study of Positive Psych intends to do and improve [our] overall wellbeing.

Here’s what we can do with….

Element #1: Positive Emotions. Let’s pay attention to every time we laugh, every time we are excited, surprised, in awe… let’s try and be more aware and more present in those special moments. Let’s try and take in those moments of joy and thrill.

Element #2: Engagement. We know fairly quickly if we are interested in something or not. If we are not, why force ourselves to engage? Let’s try and dissociate ourselves from tasks that seem daunting and unbearable. This is all within reason of course. For example, I find laundry to be daunting, but it’s a necessity sooooo….I won’t dissociate (sadly) myself from that task.

Element #3: Relationships. So many studies have shown that positive reactions strengthen relationships. Let’s try to be more pleasant with the co-worker we don’t like so much. Let’s try and laugh with family members that normally wouldn’t laugh with us. Our goal should be to have more pleasant exchanges with as many people as possible and even more with those with whom we have built relationships with. I guarantee you, the less negative interactions you have (gossip, bitching, etc.), the more joy you will feel from that relationship.

Element #4: Meaning. Truly what we are all searching for…meaning. Our whole lives are centered around figuring out the “why” about different aspects of our lives and where we all fit. While the thought is scary, it’s also exciting. We are working towards a common goal in a larger, grand scheme. What our purpose is, what your purpose is, what my purpose is… with the big things and the little things… let’s all help each other in trying to uncover that.

Element #5: Accomplishments. This is my favorite. Our accomplishments give us so much purpose. It allows us to look back on our day, our weeks, our jobs, our relationships and realize that we did something good! We give ourselves pats on the back for conquering something. It’s so so important to have little short term accomplishments as well as larger long term accomplishments. Every little step contributes to the other 4 elements:

We accomplish something, we feel positive emotions of pride and success.

We accomplish something and realize it’s maybe something we are passionate about and good at and we develop a new interest.

We accomplish something with those around us and it creates a bond among us.

We accomplish something and it gives us purpose.

I will be taking this on as a personal challenge and encourage you to join me. It’ll be a true test to changing our mental wellbeing, to testing the root of our emotions and to see how it can influence various aspect of our lives.

If you want to read more about Positive Psychology, its theories and studies, check our the UPenn Positive Psychology Center where Seligman (the father of Positive Psych) spearheads research.

Collage art by BeautifulUrself