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Positive Psychology and Stress Management

Updated on May 20, 2015

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is a relatively new discipline. It is a scientific study of the happiness. Traditionally psychology, psychiatry and other mental health disciplines are mostly focused on psychological distresses. They have looked in society, they have looked in depression, they have looked in other forms of mental illness and have certain ways to resolve them. Positive psychology itself brought another, different kind of question.

→ Do we know anything about what actually makes people happy?

Traditionally, mental health disciples have tried to move people from negative point to positive. Even famous Fraud himself said that the goal of psychoanalysis was to turn hysterical misery of a patient into ordinary human unhappiness. Positive psychology is a discipline that asks simple question, if anything more is possible and if so, how we might attain it?

It is very interesting, when we are looking into positive psychology, as there are many of us find happiness to be illusive. The fact is that we are free to pursue our own happiness. But who can tell us how to do it? A happiness for many of us seems to be elusive like some kind of myth. We run after it but it seems we have a great deal of difficulty to catch it. This is probably because we may not have been involved to be happy. "Evolutionary forces" when selecting organisms over time, they select those that are able successfully reproduce themselves. These "forces" don’t really care whatever the organisms, they have chosen, are having fun on the way, are they happy or not. There may not be any ingrain propensity towards happiness. There are many mechanisms, that help us to survive, such as

  • ability to think about future
  • remember the bad things that have happened
  • anticipate the things that may went wrong

All of those skills are actually often contribute to our unhappiness.


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A Path to Happiness

The fact about human beings is that we are terrible at predicting what actually will make us happy. Many of us have myths that achieving certain something (a goal we placed into our mind), whether its some kind of accomplishment, money or something concerning our family is going to bring us happiness. But it turns out that such things really do not work. For example many people think that becoming rich will do it. Turns out that people who have a lot of money are not happier then any other with less money. Many of us assume, if I could only be young again then I would definitely be happy. It turns out that actually mature people, when you sample their experience day by day, have many more moments of happiness than young people do. Its also very common to believe that if I could have family and children that would make me happy and while people certainly love their children when you go and investigate and ask people during the day, what their mood looks like during different moments of the day, most people are not happy when taking care of their kids. So having children isn’t by itself a path to happiness. But the fact remains, it is really hard to be happy or be able to sustain the feeling. It actually turns out that propensity for happiness is somewhere placed in our minds. Each of us has some kind of genetic set point some kind of level of happiness that we tend to go back whether good or bad things happen in your lives.

Sustaining Happiness

In positive psychology there is something called the hedonic adaptation which means that even when good things happen to us and we think that we really are going to be happy, after a while we become a custom to it. We do whatever it take to habituate to the new reality and as we get used to it, it no longer can sustains our happiness. So for example, lottery winners if you ask them a year after the winning lottery if they are happy, you will find out that they are no happier than lottery losers. Much of the study of positive psychology is about being able to see that the paths to a happiness after all are not dependent on fickle fortunes.

Paths to Happiness.

Recent searches have identified five paths to happiness.

  1. The first one involves the use of our strains. Particular strains that are useful often called “virtues”. Things, such as our sense of wisdom,sense of justice, our curiosity, our compassion for others. Those sorts of qualities that the world’s philosophers and religions always have recognized as important. When we engage these virtues in our life we actually become happier.
  2. The second path involves a gratitude. It’s a basically an appreciation of what we have and it is important to express that appreciation both to ourselves and to other people, people that have been generous to us and kind to us during our lives.
  3. The 3rd is about tasting the moment, slowing down. ( There is a famous poem about it.) Which practically means, noticing what is happening in each moment of our lives, not rushing forward trying to see what is next.
  4. There is a related idea of engagement or what’s often is called a flow. Which means being within our activity, (no self consciously , not trying to achieve some kind of external goal), but for the process of it , for the experience of it . Athletes often talk about it as "being in the zone".
  5. The final area involves a living life in a way, which is meaningful. Do things always for others than for ourselves. That means helping in something, for example do something for the environment , help other people in more close personal way
  • Serving others seem more important for sustaining our happiness.


→ Mindfulness is a powerful practice against stress management.

Mindfulness practice is very interesting because it helps to enhance the happiness by allowing all those factors that we have described above, to come to fruition. It’s kind of knowledge in a sense, that we can learn to change our relationship to a moment experience, which makes it easier to express our virtues , to have gratitude, to save the moment to lead to meaningful life and to be engaged.Simply, mindfulness is awareness of present experience among with acceptance. Most people think, "of course I’m aware of my present acceptance what is special about that?" But when you begin to watch the mind carefully while practicing mindfulness, which is usually meditation technique, we begin to notice that much of the time, our mind is thinking about the past, about living in the fantasies, what would happen or about future, what is coming next. It relatively unusual to just be present, to just be here now, but its still can be learned . Once we begin to learn it , it opens up many possibilities to sustain personal happiness.


Mindfulness Practicing Tips

How to practice Mindfulness?

There are many ways to cultivate mindfulness. Its probably easier to understand if we compare it to way we cultivate physical fitness. If you want to become physically fit you can do it in several ways. One simple way is to alter your routine a bit , just so you use your body more for example you take a stairs instead of elevator. You might bicycle to work instead of driving to work or just park the car further away. Similarly principles work for mindfulness practice. You can adopt it in your everyday normal routine, for example when getting up in the morning and brushing your teeth actually pay attention what it feels like to brush your teeth, or when taking shower feel, how hot water caresses your body skin and carry that way all through the day, either you are driving to the work or walking the dog. Just appreciate the moment.

For more deep mindfulness cultivation you can also take more time from your usual routine to focus more on the practice. You can do meditation practices, where you can pick one object of the moment which can be a focusing on your breath, or it might be a sensation of walking . And when your mind begins to think about past or future, gently bring your thoughts back to the previous moment.

  • Doing that will help to cultivate mindfulness that will extend through all of your life.


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