A psychology of satisfaction

Proponents of positive psychology want to find out what makes us happy.

If your thoughts, feelings, or actions made you miserable or caused problems at work or at home, you might well contact a psychiatrist or psychologist — and you would probably feel confident that the approaches she suggests, whether medication or talk therapy, are grounded in experience and research. But what if you were feeling okay, but suspected you could enjoy life more, or feel more fulfilled than you do now? Although not as well recognized, increasing people's pleasure, satisfaction, and joy in life is also an important and appropriate focus of psychotherapy, and it is increasingly considered a worthy subject for serious scientific research.

Although there have long been strands of psychological research and practice aimed at aspects of happiness, the field received a boost when Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, became president of the American Psychological Association in 1998 and introduced the term "positive psychology," calling on colleagues to undertake a systematic and evidence-based approach to the pursuit of happiness.

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