What is positive psychology?
Happiness, positivity and fulfilment are things we all strive for whether it’s at work, in our love lives, at home with our families or within other relationships. Just how we seek or achieve these things however varies from person to person and if we’re to believe the theory behind the pursuit of happiness, the quest in itself is never-ending. Okay, so we’re getting a bit deep, but recently I heard about a doctor who specialises in happiness and my interest was immediately spiked. So, is science the key to happiness? I was lucky enough to speak to Dr Timothy Sharp (aka Dr Happy) from The Happiness Institute to discover what is the study of ‘positive psychology’ and the science behind happiness. Check out our Q&A below and tell me what you think!
What exactly is positive psychology?
In simple terms, positive psychology is the science of happiness; more technically, it’s the science of thriving and flourishing. Essentially it’s the study of what’s going well and of what’s good, plus the delivery or applications to help people be their very best.
What are the main factors in everyday life that affect and/or influence happiness?
It’s probably worth starting with one of the main contributors, which is genetics. But thankfully our genes don’t have a 100 per cent influence because obviously we have little control over this. So more notable, especially on a day-to-day basis, are our ‘intentional activities’; these are the things we choose to do each and every day. They include our attitudes and beliefs, as well as our actions and interactions with others. More specifically, these intentional activities include mindfully creating meaning and purpose in everything we do, living healthily by eating well and exercising often, thinking optimistically (which is positive but also realistic thinking), connecting well with others and being kind and caring and compassionate to others, using our positive attributes and strengths to be the best we can be and finally, practising gratitude and appreciation on a regular, daily basis.
How do experiences of happiness and fulfilment change at different stages of our lives (e.g. childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood)?
In many ways happiness is the same throughout life; but in certain ways it does change. The most commonly cited change is the way that when younger, we tend to focus on excitement and happiness whereas when we age we tend to focus more on contentment and meaning and relationships.
What strategies do you recommend implementing to enhance happiness and fulfilment in the following areas:
For all of them I’d recommend checking out the CHOOSE chart.
But more specifically…
Find and focus on ‘the why?’ of your work. That is, what’s the meaning and purpose behind what you’re doing?
Remember always that other people matter; so take care of those who’re important in your life and they’ll take care of you and your happiness (in giving we receive).
Be kind and forgiving. Every couple argues from time to time; but the happiest couples forgive quickly and create more positivity in between the arguments.
Are there factors that affect happiness that are specific to women and if so, what are they?
Not really. Gender differences have not really been found to be significant. Although that being said, we do know that women tend to connect and build relationships more and better than men. Accordingly, the various factors that contribute to positive relationships tend to be somewhat more important to women.
What makes you happy?