According to Abraham Maslow,“The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side; it has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illnesses, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his psychological height. It is as if psychology had voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that the darker, meaner half.”
Current statistics speak to the need for a different approach by mental health service providers. Depression is 10 times greater today than in 1960, and the average age for depression today is 14.5 as compared to 29.5 in 1960. The use of positive psychology techniques halved the rate of depression in three studies of children and young adults that included nearly 10 years of follow-up, stated Martin Seligman, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, at a seminar sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
Positive psychology has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Positive psychologists share a desire to determine how to help people live happier, healthier lives. Contrary to earlier schools of thought, positive psychologists believe happiness can be studied and that happiness comes from having and meeting challenges, choosing one’s own goals, and creating meaning in life. Positive psychology is a shift from the traditional study of disturbing experiences suffered in life to the study of all that makes life worth living.
*NEW! Rose Pavlov explains the relevant significance of this area of study in her weekly column.