Positive psychology (PP) emphasizes on what is good in life rather than paying attention to fixing wrongs in an individual's life or in society. PP is meant to cultivate a favorable mental environment for happiness to thrive (Kogan, 2001). For instance, positive psychology enables people to look on the brighter side of life and acquire the necessary motivation to achieve their aspirations. However, recent scholarship suggests that the effect of positive psychology on the ability to achieve personal goals or make one happier is overestimated (Lilienfeld & Arkowitz, 2011).This paper argues that positive psychology can make one happier; but it is not a gateway to happiness for everybody.
Contrary to the widespread view about positive psychology, overemphasis on positive thinking can make individuals make judgments that fall outside the realities of life. According to Lilienfeld and Arkowitz (2011), positive psychology, if taken to the extreme, can make people view life in a manner that ignores the current threats to their ability to achieve personal goals and objectives. This is to say, positive psychology can prevent individuals from acknowledging the difference between realistic optimism and unrealistic optimism. Such mental state might to impact negatively on personal judgment regarding personal decisions geared at achieving success and happiness in life.
Positive psychology's emphasis on sanguine attitudes may not work for every individual in realizing their aspirations or acquiring more happiness. Kagan (2001) notes that personal traits ,such as the capacity to love and be loved, altruism, spirituality, and courage ,affect people's ability to benefit from positive psychology. This means that some people may gain more from positive psychology than others since some may have more favorable personal traits than others. In a study conducted by Oishi, Diener, and Lucas (2007), the researchers found that moderately happy people were the most successful in areas of education, income, and political participation. Similarly, less optimistic persons have been found to be less prone to depression after experiencing harmful events in life due to their tendency to brace themselves mentally against the possibility of unpleasant events occurring (Lilienfeld & Arkowitz, 2011).These findings suggest that maintaining a sanguine view of life does not necessarily bring happiness for some individuals nor motivate them to realize their aspirations. Indeed, it is the reverse that works for this category of people. However, evidence abounds about the influence of positive psychology in bringing happiness and personal success.
PP, which advocates for positive thinking, can motivate people to take risks necessary for the attainment of specific life goals. Since it embraces happiness, PP makes people friendlier and healthier. Individuals who are healthy and friendly tend to be more adventurous in pursuing their personal goals. Often, positive-thinking individuals exhibit considerable energy and confidence which are directed at creating a meaningful life for themselves. Additionally, positive thinking people are less likely to fear the impact of the unknown than less optimistic people. Hence, they are more willing to venture into riskier activities with the hope that their decisions would yield positive outcomes .Their riskier approach to life often pays (Lilienfeld & Arkowitz, 2011; Kogan, 2001).Since they encounter several hurdles in their quest for happiness and attainment of personal goals, positive thinking persons often become more creative in devising solutions to the problems they are facing in life than less positive persons.
PP plays a vital role in building interpersonal skills. Communication is one of the most fundamental activities in human functioning as it fosters healthy interpersonal relationships among social groups. Communication between two or more people sharpens problem-solving skills which can be relied upon to cultivate happiness during hard times such as going through hard economic situations (Mukherjee, 2017; Kogan, 2001).In other words, effective communicators share their life challenges with others. Sharing builds hope and confidence with the anticipation that a solution would be found. At the group level, PP is about civic virtues and the institutions that motivate individuals towards a better work ethic, tolerance, and civility (Rana, 2018). An individual with the enlisted qualities increases their ability to interact both verbally and orally in the workplace. In effect, occupation success is likely to be achieved which would in turn translate into happier moments.
PP has a positive impact on health. Some individuals may fail to acquire a significant 'emotional capital' to cope with anxiety or depression associated with uncertainties in life. Optimistic people reduce the anxiety associated with fretting about the possibility of facing unpleasant circumstances in the future. Due to its emphasis on positivity, PP instills confidence about the possibility of getting out of present unpleasant situations and creates hope for a better future (Kogan, 2001). Scientific evidence suggests that training of patients to embrace positive thinking has a positive implication on their health statuses. One study investigating the role of PP on infertile women indicated that positive psychotherapy stabilizes emotions of these women and helps them to cope with extreme stressors resulting from social stigma. Over time, the affected women learn to appreciate themselves, resulting in the reduction of hopelessness and feelings of self-hate (Bakhtiari, Anamagh, Khayatan, Nouri, & Seyedi Asl, 2014). As a result, satisfaction in life and the overall quality of life are significantly improved.
In conclusion, PP has the potential to make people feel more fulfilled and happier in life. PP fosters interpersonal skills which enable sharing of triumphs and tribulations in life. Additionally, PP enables people to take risks thereby increasing chances of achieving personal aspirations. Furthermore, PP creates hope and promotes healing of patients which in turn nurtures happiness. However, some individuals become happier when they reduce the expectations created by PP. For instance, less optimistic people may be less depressed or anxious about the future because they view life situations from a more a realistic standpoint as opposed to the idealistic propositions of PP. Overall, PP makes people some happier. Others become happier because happiness and fulfillment are influenced by individual traits which cannot be easily modified trough PP programs.
Bakhtiari, M., Anamagh, A. N., Khayatan, T., Nouri, P., & Seyedi Asl, S. T. (2014). Depression, anxiety, happiness and satisfaction with life among fertile and infertile women. International Journal of Life Sciences, 8(4), 105-112. doi:10.3126/ijls.v8i4.10892
Kogan, M. (2001). Where happiness lies. American Psychological Association, 32(1), 74-74. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan01/positivepsych.aspx
Lilienfeld,, S. O., & Arkowitz, H. (2011, May 1). Can positive thinking be negative? Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-positive-thinking-be-negative/
Mukherjee, I. (2017). Enhancing positive emotions via positive interpersonal communication: An unexplored avenue towards well-being of mankind. Journal of Psychology & Clinical Psychiatry, 7(4), 1-8. doi:10.15406/jpcpy.2017.07.00448
Oishi, S., Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (2007). The optimum level of well-being: Can people be too happy? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(4), 346-360. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6916.2007.00048.x
Rana, M. (2018). Role of music in the development of psychological well-being. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, 9(01). doi:10.15614/ijpp.v9i01.11763
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