An introduction to positive psychology
Positive psychology is more than just adopting a cheerful outlook - it’s the scientific study of human flourishing and what makes life worth living. Founded on the recognition that humans want to live fulfilling and meaningful lives, it takes a strengths-based approach aimed at helping people build resilience and achieve their best possible potential.
How can we, both as individuals and employers, bring the values of this approach into our daily lives, and those of our workforce? This is perhaps best answered by one of the pioneers of the positive psychology movement, Dr Martin Seligman. After conducting a wealth of research on what makes us “authentically happy” he created a framework of five pillars, designed to help us truly thrive:
This refers to positivity in the here and now, and includes states such as joy, love, peace, gratitude and hope. We all differ in what brings us that sense of positivity in the moment, and so it’s important to work out what brings about positive emotion for you individually. To foster positivity around you, adopting a mindset of gratitude and sharing your appreciation with others tends to spread it.
When we’re truly engaged in something, we experience a state of flow, where we become immersed in what we’re doing and lose track of time. The more of this we experience, the more likely we are to experience a sense of wellbeing. To build this, try to find activities or hobbies that allow you to enter into this flow state, where you get lost in the moment: it could be creativity, gardening, sport, or any task that absorbs your attention. In the workplace, focus on fostering activities that allow people to get into this flow state too. It can’t be achieved all the time, but most of us have a sense of the jobs or tasks that trigger it for us.
Humans are social beings: we’re hard-wired to connect with others and this is something that’s present from birth. It often surprises people that it’s not the number of relationships that counts but the quality of them: people with meaningful connections to others tend to have higher wellbeing. Try to look for areas in your life where you can strengthen your connections with others - think about who you have in your network and whose company you enjoy, and work to nurture those bonds. The workplace is often an area that’s overlooked, but cultivating quality relationships at work can be hugely beneficial: fostering genuine connection between colleagues will benefit people on an individual level but will also cultivate an atmosphere where people can thrive.
Meaning and purpose
We all need a sense of meaning and purpose, a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves. Dr Seligman describes this as “using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” This doesn’t mean religion (although it can encompass that) but engaging in something that feels meaningful to us personally. Within the workplace, making sure that employees understand and are connected to the values and mission of your organisation will help nurture this sense of meaning at work, and allow people to feel part of something bigger.
A sense of accomplishment
This final pillar refers to our ability to continue to grow and achieve throughout our lives. This doesn’t mean putting pressure on oneself to overachieve, but remembering that mastering new skills and achieving small goals will lead to greater fulfilment. Any workplace that allows its workforce to continue to learn and grow will be creating an atmosphere where people can thrive.
Positive psychology is one of the key approaches that underpins the Unmind platform - along with CBT, neuroscience and mindfulness. We know that the positive psychology approach helps our users embed resilience and optimism in their everyday lives, and we adopt positive psychology practices within our team, to help make Unmind a place where people can thrive and grow.
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