There is power in positive thinking. Positive emotions are linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being. On the other hand, chronic anger, worry, and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease.
For some people, being happy comes naturally and easily. Others need to work at it. How does one go about becoming happier? That's where positive psychology comes in. This relatively new field of research has been exploring how people and institutions can support the quest for increased satisfaction and meaning. It has uncovered several routes to happiness:
- Feeling good: seeking pleasurable emotions and sensations
- Engaging fully: pursuing goals and activities that engage you fully
- Doing good: searching for meaning outside yourself
- Gratitude: expressing appreciation for what you have in your life
- Savoring pleasure: placing your attention on pleasure as it occurs and consciously enjoying the experience as it unfolds
- Being mindful: focusing your attention on what is happening at the moment and accepting it without judgment
- Self-compassion: consoling yourself as needed, taking the time to nurture yourself, and building the motivation to try again.
Positive Psychology Articles
Engaging in meaningful activities like volunteering, caring for others, or pursuing a hobby promotes helps preserve and promote memory and brain health in old age.
Of the five main personality types—agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness—conscientiousness is the one that correlates most consistently with good health. Conscientious people are less likely than others to engage in harmful behaviors and more likely to adhere to healthful ones. In addition, conscientiousness may shape career choices, friendship, the stability of marriage, and many other aspects of life that affect health and, ultimately, longevity.
Face-to-face social interactions can be beneficial, but research suggests that they have a ripple effect that extends far beyond household and family units. Some of these effects can promote health; others are detrimental. Doctors must learn to harness this networking tool to improve public health by spreading healthful habits, positive attitudes, and wise lifestyle choices.
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
A positive emotional outlook may lead to a lower risk of heart disease.
Several studies have shown that mindful eating strategies might help with weight loss. Mindfulness helps people recognize the difference between emotional and physical hunger and satiety and introduces a "moment of choice" between the urge and eating.
Numerous studies have shown an association between a positive, optimistic life outlook and lower risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease, as well as better overall health and improved longevity.
Positive psychology techniques attempt to shift away from traditional psychotherapy's focus on negative emotions, and encourage patients to emphasize their personal strengths and positive emotions.