The Positive Psychology Perspective
At age 21 when I was in the Clinical Psychology graduate program, I wasn’t like the other students. I was interested in learning how high achievers learn to lead exceptional lives. Human potential theories such as Abraham Maslow’s Self-actualization fascinated me more than curing diseases and disorders. I’m still that way. The way I see it, we’re all evolving – all the time. It’s our natural inclination.
Don’t get me wrong. It is extremely helpful to heal the wounds that bind us, but we can’t stop there if we want to live truly fulfilling lives.
I want to help all my clients flourish. That’s why I named my psychotherapy website: flourishing-lives.com.
During the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I like to review the past year and contemplate how I can make the next year even richer for my clients and for myself.
*** When you’re thinking about gift-giving during the Holidays, keep in mind that it may NOT be the material things that generate the most joy.
In his book, Flourishing, Martin Seligman’s positive psychology research reveals some surprising insights.
Dr. Seligman’s early work focused on what makes us happy. He called it Authentic Happiness. In Flourishing he says, “I’m trying to broaden the scope of positive psychology well beyond the smiley face. Happiness is just one-fifth of what human beings choose to do.”
Seligman continues, “I used to think that the topic of positive psychology was happiness, that the gold standard for measuring happiness was life satisfaction, and that the goal of positive psychology was to increase life satisfaction. I now think that the topic of positive psychology is well-being, that the gold standard for measuring well-being is flourishing, and that the goal of positive psychology is to increase flourishing. This theory, which I call well-being theory, is very different from authentic happiness theory, and the difference requires explanation.”
Now, happiness is often known by another name in positive psychology research: subjective well-being, or SWB.
“A pattern of mistakes is a call to change your life. The rest of the tapestry is not determined by what has been woven before. The weaver herself, blessed with knowledge and with freedom, can change—if not the material she must work with—the design of what comes next.”
“Curing the negatives does not produce the positives.”
― Martin E.P. Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
During this holiday season, as you contemplate gift-giving and what you want to accomplish in the new year, consider what creates enduring fulfillment.
Seligman found five elements (PERMA) that create well-being.
- Positive emotion. For me, it’s the pleasurable feeling I get when I walk through a forest to a waterfall. Or a warm hug, or dancing to the beat of “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. Or, when I buy a new plant for my garden. It’s more temporary than long-lasting.
- Engagement. Sometimes called “flow”, it’s when we enter the state of consciousness where we are totally absorbed in a project we love. Two hours pass in the blink of an eye.
- Relationships. Healthy loving relationships are the number one thing that helps us feel healthy and whole. This also includes the relationship we have with ourselves (self-compassion) and our spiritual connection. Even when relationships are rocky, we can cultivate secure attachment within ourselves and our spiritual connection. That can become the solid ground from which we push off to create healthy external relationships. A good round of therapy helps people develop this internal relationship, as well as strengthen external relationships.
- Meaning. What are your core values, your guiding light, your North Star? Mine are health, beauty, excellence, and spirituality. No matter how difficult my life is, when I choose activities that reflect my core values, I am leading a meaningful life. For example, when I was in several dysfunctional relationships, I used them as opportunities to learn how to become a wiser person. That’s an expression of health, excellence, and spirituality.
- Accomplishment. Seligman suggests that when we’re motivated to win for winning’s sake, we feel fulfilled. We all have a core need to grow and become better, whether that’s winning a tennis match, cooking a delicious seafood dinner, or climbing a mountain. A big accomplishment for me was pushing past my fears to write and publish a book.
― Martin E. P. Seligman. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
I also like the term, “self-happiness.” It refers to a sense of happiness or satisfaction with one’s self. It is often associated with self-confidence, self-esteem, and other concepts that marry “the self” with feeling content and happy. In general, it means that you are pleased with yourself and your choices, and with the person that you are.
If you are eager to learn how to create a truly fulfilling life, expert coaching will accelerate your progress better than working by yourself.
Don’t just focus on getting rid of what hurts. That’s only half the issue.
Learn how to be the conscious creative force in your life while partnering with your spiritual connection.
Join us for the Conscious Creating Class.
When: New Year’s Day 2024. 12noon-3 pm Eastern
Early Bird Discount: Register by December 20.
Click here for all the details on the Conscious Creating Class.
Reflections: Now It’s Your Turn.
Take a few minutes to get peaceful and quiet. Journal your ideas about the following:
- What would make your life richer in the five PERMA areas?
- What have you done in the last year to make progress in each area? Acknowledge your progress. Pat yourself on the back. Research shows that our mood lifts and our sense of empowerment grows when we focus on what we are grateful for.
- As you contemplate the five elements, what is your next step to move toward the expression of your Authentic Self? Where is your spirit directing your attention? Spend a few minutes writing from the voice of your Wise Self and your spiritual connection.
“Authentic happiness derives from raising the bar for yourself, not rating yourself against others.” – Martin Seligman
Author: Benita A. Esposito, MA, LPC, LCMHC.
Benita A. Esposito is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Georgia and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina.
My profile has been certified by PsychologyToday.com.
I have practiced psychotherapy for four decades, helping adult individuals and couples in private sessions, groups and intensive retreats. I love the retreats best because so much transformation occurs in such a short time. I like results!
Education: I earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology (1976) and a bachelor’s degree in psychology (1973) from Illinois State University.
I am certified in Brainspotting.
- Counseling with adult individuals over the age of 21 who want to reduce anxiety, stress, depression, grief and trauma. I also help people heal the emotional roots of dis/ease with my holistic practices.
- Couples Counseling to create a secure attachment bond and heal the wounds that have caused attachment breaches. I use Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy and Gottman Couple Therapy.
- Counseling Highly Sensitive Introverts is one of my greatest joys. Read my bestselling book: The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self available on Amazon. Take the quiz to see if you are a highly sensitive introvert: www.SensitiveIntrovert.com.