How Positive Psychology can benefit us all

I had my regular triad of coaching supervisors, when positive psychology was mentioned. We discussed how, as coaches, we focus on strengths and how to build on these, whereas managers, for their employees who need remedial support, often focus on the employees’ weaknesses and try and remedy them. When I was a sales manager many years ago, this is what we did. Was it the right way to go?

“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” (Peterson, 2008)

To push this brief description a bit further, positive psychology is a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior with a focus on strengths instead of weakness, building the good in life instead of repairing the bad, and taking the lives of average people up to “great” instead of focusing solely on moving those who are struggling up to “normal” (Peterson, 2008).

What Positive Psychology Focuses on, in a Nutshell

Positive psychology focuses on the positive events and influences in life, including:

  1. Positive experiences (like happiness, joy, inspiration, and love)
  2. Positive states and traits (like gratitude, resilience, and compassion)
  3. Positive institutions (applying positive principles within entire organisations and institutions)

As a field, positive psychology spends much of its time thinking about topics like character strengths, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, well-being, gratitude, compassion (as well as self-compassion), self-esteem and self-confidence, hope, and elevation.

These topics are studied in order to learn how to help people flourish and live their best lives

The 10 Benefits of Positive Psychology

In general, the greatest potential benefit of positive psychology is that…

1. It teaches us the power of shifting one’s perspective.

This is the focus of many techniques, exercises, and even entire programmes based on positive psychology, because a relatively small change in one’s perspective can lead to astounding shifts in well-being and quality of life. Injecting a bit more optimism and gratitude into your life is a simple action that can give you a radically more positive outlook on life.

2. People overestimate the impact of money on their happiness by quite a lot. It does have some influence, but not nearly as much as we might think, so focusing less on attaining wealth will likely make you happier (Aknin, Norton, & Dunn, 2009).

3. Spending money on experiences provides a bigger boost to happiness than spending money on material possessions (Howell & Hill, 2009).

4. Gratitude is a big contributor to happiness in life, suggesting that the more we cultivate gratitude, the happier we will be (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).

5. Oxytocin may provoke greater trust, empathy, and morality in humans, meaning that giving hugs or other shows of physical affection may give you a big boost to your overall well-being (and the well-being of others; Barraza & Zak, 2009).

6. Those who intentionally cultivate a positive mood to match the outward emotion they need to display (i.e., in emotional labour) benefit by more genuinely experiencing the positive mood. In other words, “putting on a happy face” won’t necessarily make you feel happier but putting in a little bit of effort likely will (Scott & Barnes, 2011).

7. Happiness is contagious; those with happy friends and significant others are more likely to be happy in the future (Fowler & Christakis, 2008).

8. People who perform acts of kindness towards others not only get a boost in well-being, they are also more accepted by their peers (Layous, Nelson, Oberle, Schonert-Reichl, & Lyubomirsky, 2012).

9. Volunteering time to a cause you believe in improves your well-being and life satisfaction and may even reduce symptoms of depression (Jenkinson et al., 2013).

10. Spending money on other people results in greater happiness for the giver (Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008).

If you want to learn more about positive psychology, particularly to do with business, please look at the following link or Google Martin Seligman who was the original architect of much of these theories.

I have found over my many years in business, socially and volunteering that positive thinking has made a dramatic difference in the way people have lived their lives and how successful they have been. If you want to explore how more successful you can be in business, at home, or in your retirement, please get in touch with me at

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