Positive Psychology is the science of being your best and feeling your best. The field is founded upon belief in human goodness, and human desire to improve ourselves and enjoy our lives. The goal of positive psychology is to increase human flourishing. I define human flourishing as: becoming the most successful and satisfied version of ourselves. The ground-breaking discovery made by positive psychologists is that building our best life requires more than just fixing our problems; in order to flourish we must create more of the good stuff.
The WHO? of positive psychology is everyone. The WHAT? of positive psychology is human flourishing. WHEN? a.s.a.p.. WHY? Because we deserve to enjoy life – and because the world benefits when people feel better and achieve more.
But the most important question that positive psychology answers is HOW? HOW do we achieve flourishing? HOW do we get more of the good stuff? The most basic answer is: by improving in the five essential components of flourishing (as identified by Martin Seligman and colleagues): Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment (PERMA).
So the short answer to HOW? is get more PERMA! More positive emotion, more engagement, better relationships, more meaning, and greater accomplishment.
But HOW do we do we get more of these things?
We can start by honing in on the most accessible component of flourishing: positive emotion. When we successfully incorporate more positive emotion into our lives we immediately experience growth. Positive emotion directly impacts every aspect of PERMA, plus the momentum generated by positive emotions can inspire us to address and improve the other four realms of flourishing. It is easy to imagine how the amount of positive emotion we experience on a daily basis can change our relationships, our level of engagement, how meaningful we feel, and how much we accomplish.
So, HOW do we get more positive emotion?
Barb Fredrickson, the world’s leading researcher on positive emotion, suggests a variety of ways to sneak more positive emotion into our lives. One of the best ways is to savor goodness. We savor by giving ourselves permission to drink-in, enjoy, and reflect upon good things that happen in our day. This includes everything from getting a bonus at work, finding out that our friend has been cured of a rare disease, to savoring your ham and cheese sandwich. When something good happens – allow yourself to bask in its glow a little longer than seems acceptable. Another simple way to invite more positive emotion into our life is simply to go outside and connect with nature. Fredrickson’s research shows that going outside and enjoying fresh-air for just minutes each day leads to a slight boost in positive emotion. These positive emotions, in turn, lead to expansive thinking that enhances the rest of our day. (Fredrickson, 2009)
HOW MUCH positive emotion do we need?
Fredrickson discovered that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with negative ones is the tipping point beyond which people naturally become more resilient to adversity and more able to achieve. However, regardless of our current ratio, almost all of us could use more positive emotion. Positive emotions allow us to see new possibilities, bounce back from setbacks, connect with others, and become the best version of ourselves. (Fredrickson, 2009)
In other words: flourish. Positive psychology provides the formula for increasing positive emotion, decreasing negative emotion, and optimizing our ratio for a balance that leads to our best life.