The Science Behind Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology

Like most of the wonderful YZL community, I am an avid believer and supporter of engaging in a healthy, well balanced lifestyle. I have felt the physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual benefits of eating well, exercising, meditating, practising gratitude, and dedicating time to pursuing the art of self-growth. The world of wellbeing has allowed me to live in a near constant state of appreciation, a gift I will always remain grateful for. 

During my final year of a psychology honours degree, I was given the chance to research the ins and outs of wellbeing, through a positive psychology thesis topic. I spent the year researching resilience trainings, which are a form of mental health intervention, and how through these trainings, we can best measure wellbeing. Essentially, the experience was filled with 12-hour study days, endless mugs of peppermint tea, and a now deep fondness for rainforest music, which I would listen to whenever my knot prone shoulders would tense up. Despite the endurance the year required, I walked away with a new insight – happiness is not just a personal pursuit for almost all individuals world-wide, it is a science. A science I had been researching for a year, and a science I now needed to share with anyone who would listen. So that my dear friends is why I was inspired to write this article, and how I now know of these scientifically supported tools that can improve our lives.

Dr. Martin Seligman, labelled the founder of positive psychology (and also one of my many intellectual crushes), is the man responsible for bringing the world of wellbeing into the limelight, and enabling individuals to flourish. He has written more than 250 scholarly articles and published 20 books. He has worked with vast and varied demographics, such as teachers and students, the U.S. Army, athletes, as well as the lay public. As his website proclaims, his goal is to make the world happier.

Through his passion and research, Seligman was able to create the PERMA+ framework. This positive psychology tool assists in teaching concepts, which individuals can turn into actions, to increase their wellbeing.

The PERMA+ framework is as follows: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment, as well as the ‘plus’ elements, which are Optimism, Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Sleep.

Bountiful research suggests that if an individual is able to feel frequent Positive Emotion, such as joy, have a sense of Engagement, thus passion in their day to day life, whether through their work or a hobby, have close and connected Relationships, perhaps with a partner, family, or friends, feel a sense of Meaning, a purpose to their life, that they are contributing to something greater than themselves, and Accomplishment, knowing that they are capable of performing well, that this individual would be able to live well, and increase their wellbeing. Positive psychologists also purport the success of the additional ‘plus’ items: striving towards a glass-half-full perspective (Optimism), and being physically healthy through frequent Physical Activity, fuelling your body with whole-foods and focusing on a Nutritious diet, and giving your body the necessary Sleep that it requires to function.

Seligman’s framework may sound simplistic… of course we need to have good relationships, and obviously we want to feel a passion for our work, but seeing it stated so frequently in contemporary scientific literature has felt like a defining moment in my life. If we can educate ourselves on how to best grasp life, increase our wellness, and live in a constant state of gratitude and happiness, not only can we benefit society, the greater community, and ourselves, but we can be the best versions of ourselves for those special people around us.

There are great depths of positive psychology literature out there, just waiting for you to delve into, and I implore you to! However, for now, I hope I have provided some background to the science of positive psychology. Our engagement with the world of wellbeing, made evident through the lovely YZL community, will be the change!

Jorja Bentley lives in Adelaide, Australia, and has recently graduated a Psychology Honours degree. She is an avid fan of travel, nature and all things film and theatre. Although an eternal optimist, she also loves a good true crime doco. Jorja believes in authenticity, empathy, gratitude, and self-love.

Instagram – @jorjabentley