Positive Psychology is “the scientific study of human flourishing”. In today's society, there is a heavy emphasis on “what is wrong” rather than “what is right”, because our brains are wired to put more weight on what is negative in our lives as a defense mechanism for survival. Positive Psychology creates this new shift in perspective which challenges us to incorporate more of our strengths and “energy givers” into our lives, instead of only focusing on eliminating the negative. In turn, this can help us feel better equipped to navigate our stressors without feeling depleted and live a more fulfilling life.
To start off, let's begin with the facts.
Who Came Up With Positive Psychology?
While Abraham Maslow came up with the term “Positive Psychology”, Martin Seligman’s contributions has given him the credit of being the father of Positive Psychology. In the 1960’s, Martin Seligman facilitated a study (That is now deemed “unethical” due to the pain inflicted on the subjects) that involved 3 groups of dogs, problem-solving abilities, and electric shocks. The first 2 groups of dogs learned how to freely escape from the shocks by pressing a button, while the 3rd group of dogs had no choice but to sit with the shocks (no button present).
After this part of the study, Seligman then had each dog put in a box with a small wall that divided the box into 2 sections: The current side they were on that delivered shocks and the other side being shock-free. The first 2 groups of dogs immediately learned that if they jumped over the wall, then they wouldn’t be shocked, however, the dogs from the 3rd group did not attempt to escape the shocks. After this notable observation, Seligman coined the term “Learned helplessness”.
What is the Relationship Between Learned Helplessness and Positive Psychology?
Seligman realized that people who constantly struggle with negative emotions and experience stressful situations are at a higher risk of feeling helpless. While negative emotions and challenging situations are unavoidable, there are actions we can take to build up our own resilience to overcome the possibility of learned helplessness and increase “learned hopefulness”.
The PERMA model, also known as the Theory of Wellbeing, constitutes of five elements:
How Can We Apply this Model to Our Lives?
You’re probably wondering, “This is a lot of information” or “How and what do I do with this information?”. The acronym “PERMA” is intended to provide us with a broad overview of what we can do for ourselves, because as it states above, a good life varies from person to person! Here is something that might be helpful. Think about our friends, the happy chemicals (Serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin). Attached below is a diagram of simple acts that we can do to hack our happiness chemicals.
Do you see a connection? I can promise you that each one of these tasks fits at least one construct of the PERMA model!
If you would like to learn more about Positive Psychology there will be a 10 week group with different subtopics every week. Please email email@example.com for any questions and if you would like to join! 😀