Over the last few years we have seen Positive Psychology becoming a rapidly growing field that has become increasingly popular in the workplace, especially in the United States, where the father of Positive Psychology Martin Seligman, coined the term back in 1998.
In fact, according to LinkedIn more than 4,000 companies have now listed the roles of ´Chief Happiness Officer´ on their payroll with this number steadily growing, as companies look for more ways not only to ensure employee wellbeing and happiness, but also how to retain staff and increase productivity.
So, what is Positive Psychology all about and how can we move past the premise that it is nothing more than thinking ´happy thoughts´.
Today I thought I would share a couple of the top myths I have heard about Positive Psychology since speaking on this subject:
1. Positive Psychology is about being happy all the time.
Since these principles hit mainstream media, we have seen many familiar faces promoting positive psychology as a concept that involves being happy either some or all of the time, no matter what is happening in your life. It seems that every day there is another person sprouting the “just think happy thoughts” as if they were a magic plaster that would soothe any upset, disagreement or disappointment.
However, we all know that not only is this totally unrealistic, hiding behind a mask of false emotions does more damage to our mental and emotional wellbeing than good. This is referred to as toxic positivity and totally negates the full spectrum of emotions that we get to experience, which brings me to point number two.
2. Positive Psychology is not about ignoring negative emotions.
Our emotions are one of our greatest assets, they allow us to experience our lives in contrast, and connect to the essential part of what it means to be human. Each emotion provides us with an essential feedback loop that gives us a greater understanding of ourselves, our environment and our thought process.
I often share an analogy of a house with a security system on it. We all know that when the alarm goes off, it is alerting us to the fact that the security may have been breached and we need to investigate. Our emotions are like the alarm, they give us feedback that our status quo has been changed in some way, and like the security system allows us the awareness to explore and determine what that means to us.
3. Positive Psychology is woo-woo with no real grounding.
I love this quote from Christopher Peterson “positive psychology is not to be confused with untested self-help, footless affirmation, or secular religion—no matter how good these may make us feel. Positive psychology is neither a recycled version of the power of positive thinking nor a sequel to The Secret.” (2008). Positive Psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living and explores what makes people, communities and organisations flourish and thrive.
In fact if we were to push this description a bit further, “positive psychology is the scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behaviour, with a focus on strengths instead of weaknesses, building the good in life instead of repairing the bad, and taking the lives of average people up to “great” instead of focusing solely on moving those who are struggling up to “normal” (Peterson, 2008).
So how can Positive Psychology make a difference to your workplace?
1. Positive Psychology can offer a different perspective
In the workplace, positive psychology can be a game-changer. By offering a different perspective, positive psychologists can help employees and employers to shift their focus from what isn´t working, to what is. This shift in perspective can lead to a more productive, engaged and motivated workforce. Help individuals build on their strengths, cultivate a positive mindset and develop skills such as resilience, empathy and mindfulness to improve job satisfaction, reduce stress and increase overall well-being in the workplace.
2. It can help leaders to shift how they view failure and adversity
Positive psychologists can help leaders to develop a growth mindset; embracing challenges, learning from failures and bouncing back from adversity. By cultivating a more empowering internal narrative, leaders can reframe failure and adversity as opportunities for growth and learning and take those lessons forward to make improvements in the future.
3. Positive Psychology can improve employees overall happiness and well-being
“If a person is happy at work, chances are that his or her overall satisfaction with life will be higher”. (Snyder & Lopez). Positive Psychology has proven through a range of interventions, tools and strategies to improve wellbeing, optimism and cultivate a sense of meaning in the workplace, helping employees feel that their contribution is not only making a positive difference but is recognised and honoured. When we couple this with identifying and utilising individual character strengths, employees can feel more engaged and fulfilled in their work, aligning their work to their personal values and goals.
To learn more about Positive Psychology and how it could benefit your business please reach out.