Almost everyday for the past two years I’ve spent time reading about positive psychology research and trends. And, I have to say it again – Positive Psychology Rocks!
For me, the best part of scientific research is finding ways to apply it to our everyday lives. I love when science leads to cures for previously incurable diseases, or how environmental research has deepened our understanding of our impact on the planet’s resources, or that studying happiness revealed just how much gratitude really matters.
So you can imagine my excitement when I read this article (another geek alert, I know, I know.) in the online version of “The Capital”, an Annapolis, Maryland newspaper, especially when the article came on the heels of my post last week about how much I love being a life coach.
Here’s what psychologist, Tom Muha had to say about Positive Psychology. I reprinted his article in its entirety because I like what he had to say and reading that practicing psychologists are open to new directions makes my heart sing. Sure, Muha is just one psychologist, but positive inroads are being made throughout the profession, which will lead us all down happier paths in the future.
In the meantime, as a very happy life coach, I will keep reading, sharing the good news with you, and helping my clients create their own positive psychology based successes.
Without further ado, here’s Muha’s article . . .
Achieving Happiness: Being positive is more than just eliminating the negative
By TOM MUHA, For The Capital
Capital Gazette Communications
Most people believe that the way to become more successful and satisfied is to focus on fixing their weaknesses and learning from their mistakes. The profession of psychology spent nearly 100 years studying what’s wrong with people and delving into the depths of their psyches in order to help patients become aware of the dysfunctional patterns that cause them great suffering.
The problem is this approach hasn’t helped people to have a higher level of well-being. The rate of depression is 10 times higher today than it was in 1960, according to the renowned psychology researcher Martin Seligman. The percent of workers who were happy with their jobs (45 percent) is at the lowest point in the past 22 years, according to a 2010 Conference Board survey, in spite of employees receiving repeated feedback regarding improving their performance.
As a psychologist for almost 40 years, it has become clear to me that while therapists can help alleviate someone’s depression, that doesn’t make the person happy. Anxiety symptoms can be reduced, but people don’t become optimistic. Job performance issues can be addressed to increase competency without actually getting the employee to fully engage in their job. If all psychologists try to do is diminish the negative aspects of life, the most they can do is to help people get to neutral.
Unfortunately neutral is not a stable state. As soon as the next stressor comes along, the individual who is languishing in neutral has a very high probability of lapsing back into unhappiness. Think about it like having money in the bank. If the account balance is at zero and you have to write a check, you’re quickly into the hole once again. But if you are able to learn how to make money and accumulate a significant balance in your account, then having to write a big check is far less likely to leave you overdrawn.
About a decade ago, a handful of psychologists began to realize that looking only at people who were suffering was akin to studying gravity and expecting to figure out how to fly. These thought leaders took a radically different approach and began to study the top percentage of people who were able to attain high levels of success and satisfaction in order to learn the principles by which they operate. What they discovered is that our brains are hardwired to help us perform at our best when they are filled with positives rather than negatives or even neutrality.
For example, physicians who are in a positive mood before diagnosing a patient demonstrate almost three times more intellect and creative thinking, and are 19 percent faster in arriving at an accurate diagnosis than their colleagues who were in a neutral state. Sales people who have an optimistic mind-set have been found to sell 56 percent more than their pessimistic counterparts. Positive psychology studies show that students who are happy before taking a math test achieve significantly higher scores than their neutral peers.
An interesting thing has happened to me as I have become a practitioner of positive psychology. I discovered that I became much happier as a result of my learning how to teach people the principles that they could use to become happier in their relationships, careers and within themselves. Reading, writing, researching and coaching the principles of positive psychology has transformed my life. Rather than being resigned to tolerating as best I could the ups and downs of life as I encountered them, I realized that it’s possible to proactively generate many more ups than downs.
Knowing how to create happiness for myself and others has been immensely satisfying. I discovered that happiness is the fuel for success, and that increasing positivity is immensely rewarding. It’s been amazing to see people who were simply surviving life to blossom into full-blown happiness. It’s fantastic to see people get past their fear of not being good enough and go on to creating love in their life, satisfaction in their career and happiness in their heart.
When people learn to capitalize on their feelings of happiness, the positive changes they make in their life ripples out into wider and wider circles. Because happiness is contagious, it infects a person’s entire social network. A positive attitude sparks an upward spiral of success and satisfaction that profoundly changes people’s relationships at home and at work. As people resonate with the positive emotions being transmitted back and forth, they experience increased collaboration, heartfelt connection and immense joy cascading into every corner of their life.
Dr. Tom Muha is a psychologist practicing in Annapolis. Previous articles can be found at www.achievinghappiness.com. To contact him call 443-454-7274 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great day!