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Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Article by: Atri Das | Edited by: Dr. Ria Das

Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology rightfully said “ Psychology is much larger than curing mental illness or curing diseases. I think it’s about bringing out the best in people; it’s about positive institutions; it’s about strength of character.”

Positive psychology is the scientific study of the “good life”, or the positive aspects of the human experience that make life worth living. Seligman viewed traditional psychology in a contradicting way, which mostly focused on a man’s shortcomings. He believed that converging on a man’s strengths will bring out the ultimate motive of all therapies - well being. Since the 00’s researchers from all over the world have been extremely intrigued in this new field, and have carried out various researches to generalise the application of the principles of positive psychology.

Here are 10 positive psychology researches which were successful in blooming and changing perspectives -

1. From wealth to well-being? Money matters, but less than people think


Though it is a well known fact that money, is responsible for filling our needs and wants, but associating the dependence of money with happiness is highly disagreed. There is a small percentage of tie up between the two but, are not interdependent.

Two studies were conducted, In study 1 a nationally representative sample of Americans were asked to report their own happiness and predict the others of different socio-economic groups. It was found out that Americans perceived a rather dramatic relationship between money and happiness and directly associated higher socio-economic groups with happiness while they largely underestimated the happiness of those in low socio-economic groups.

While in study 2 the respondents were asked to report their level of happiness in different socio- economic groups, thereby aiming at evaluating their own beliefs about money and happiness. The results displayed that they directly perceived the relationship between money and happiness. Further, from the interpretation of data it was found that they perceived themselves to be more content in higher socio economic groups and vice versa.

2. Buying Experiences, Not Possessions, Leads To Greater Happiness


Money produces happiness ? A fact or a myth ? This advanced debate has been going on since quite a few years now. The given research has clarified the fact that purchasing live experiences rather that lifeless materials made a man more content.

Purchases, like a meal out or theater tickets, provided more satisfaction to a consumer as these purchases subtly saturated the higher order needs like the social needs and the esteem needs ( status, respect, recognition.)

People who took part in the study were asked to introspect and present a list of their recent purchases. It was found out that experiential purchases were tagged under ‘money better spent’ and ‘greater happiness for both themselves and others.’ It was also concluded that experiences were largely responsible for the production of happiness irrespective of the level of income. "These findings support an extension of basic need theory, where purchases that increase psychological need satisfaction will produce the greatest well-being," said Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University.

3. The Science Of Gratitude


This research aimed at testing the various interventions of positive psychology on 411 people who were given controlled assignments which included writing about their early memories.

The week in which they were asked to construct and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone whom they felt weren’t thanked enough for their kindness and virtues, the participants flourished with higher happiness scores! The impact was secure enough to last it’s benefits for months.

4. Trust Morality and Oxytocin


“Civilization is dependent on oxytocin. You can’t live around people you don’t know intimately unless you have something that says: Him I can trust, and this one I can’t trust.” said Paul Zak.

Behavioural neuroscientists have carried out studies linking neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) with trust in human beings. They examined the effects of of exogenous OT increase caused by intranasal administration on trusting behaviour, while correlating the individual difference measures of OT plasma levels with measures of trust, and finally searching for genetic polymorphisms of the OT receptor gene that might be associated with trust.

Though this research was criticised on the grounds of inability to provide robust evidences that supported the notion that human trust is reliably associated with OT (or caused by it).

5. For a better work day, smile


Brent Scott, assistant professor of management said that "Smiling for the sake of smiling can lead to emotional exhaustion and withdrawal, and that's bad for the organization."

A study was conducted on a group of city bus drivers during a two week period which was solely aimed at studying the effects of surface acting or fake smiling, and deep acting. This study was unique in the aspect of studying emotional displays over a period of time, while also informing us about the gender differences. "Women were harmed more by surface acting, meaning their mood worsened even more than the men and they withdrew more from work," Scott said. "But they were helped more by deep acting, meaning their mood improved more and they withdrew less."

6. The Dynamic Spread Of Happiness


A study was conducted to measure if happiness is contagious or if it can spread from person to person using a longitudinal social network analysis. Around 4739 individuals participated whose happiness scores were measured by a validated four item scale and a broad array of attributes of social networks.

Different clusters of happy and unhappy people were evident in the network and it was found out that the relationship between people and happiness extends up to three degree of separation for example, (to the friends of one’s friends’ friends). It was also concluded that happiness of an individual largely depended upon the happiness of his/her kins.

7. Kindness counts


One of the major motives of parents is to shape their children into a kind person. Kindness has a two way benefit, both for the parents and for the children. In this study 9 - 11 year old were asked to perform either three acts of kindness or visit three places per week over a span of four weeks.

The findings state that students from both the groups moved in the same direction of well being. Though students who practiced acts of kindness were introduced to high sociometric popularity or peer acceptance.

8. People who exercise on work days are happier


We are well acquainted with the pros of productivity. Two of the most popular activities associated with productivity are working and exercising.

Researchers from University of Bristol made a study group of around 200 people which included the university staff and employees from an IT company.

Each participant was given a questionnaire assessing their mood, workload and performance on days they took out time to exercise. About 72% of the participants reported improvements in time management on days they exercised than the rather. The findings also stated that 'On exercise days, people's mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn't, with the exception of people's sense of calm which deteriorated.’

9. Is volunteering a public health intervention?


Volunteering is a very propagated activity in the western countries, there are even mandatory requirements of volunteering in some institutions. Cohort studies showed that volunteering had favorable effects on depression, life satisfaction, well being but not on physical health. Though these findings were not confirmed by experimental studies, meta - analysis of five cohort studies found volunteers to be at low risk of mortality.

10. Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness


This approach focused on ‘how’ people spent their money rather than the effect of income on their happiness. A large body of cross-sectional survey research was conducted where 632 Americans were asked to rate their general happiness on areas like bills/expenses, gifts for themselves, gifts for others, and donations to charity. The first two categories were summed up to create a personal spending index, and the latter two categories were summed to create an index of prosocial spending.

Interpretation of the data from both the indices presented a clear picture which displayed that personal spending was related to unhappiness while prosocial spending was usually associated with joy and fulfillment.

In conclusion we may state that no matter how you view positivity as, the end result should be related to a sense of containment, satisfaction, inner peace and happiness. Find your own unique way of finding positivity in the simplest walks of life!

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