Monday, December 14, 2015


Guest post by Connie Davis

In my continuing quest to understand human behavior, I’ve become interested in positive psychology.  It started when a classmate of my daughter’s posted this video to Facebook.  It introduced me to two very interesting things.  TED and Positive Psychology, both of which are worth exploring.

Martin Seligman had the same idea as the MacArthur Foundation’s Successful Aging project: instead of studying the problems, let’s study what is working and see if you can teach that to others.  Flourish is Seligman’s update to his first book, Authentic Happiness.  His idea has grown from promoting happiness to helping people flourish.  I’ve also been reading about strengths based therapeutic approaches, a familiar concept in geriatrics, where it is thought of in a more functional way..

Here is a brief tour of the book.  The first chapter describes well-being and its growth from Seligman’s original ideas about happiness.  Readers are introduced to techniques that are used to create happiness, such as the gratitude visit, what-went-well and understanding personal strengths.  (my top three are Curiosity and Intellect, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence and Love of Learning.  Sounds spot on.  Among my lowest strengths are Caution/Prudence/Discretion (yes, I do go hiking alone and sometimes make decisions too fast), and Citizenship/Teamwork/Loyalty (hence the recent purchase of two books on teamwork and two community meetings to volunteer for local causes).

The book goes on to cover the effectiveness of medications for mood and then begins a tour of ways to apply positive psychology.  Education, the Army and physical health are covered.  Of course one of my interests is in physical health but I see the possibility of introducing positive psychology in education and hope that these approaches may be an antidote to historical trauma and adverse childhood events.    The book closes with a chapter of the politics and economics of well-being.

I’ve signed up for studies through the U Penn program and read the research with interest.  As I was reading Flourish, I completed some of the questionnaires and exercises to improve well-being.  I haven’t quite developed some of the techniques into habits, but I see potential.

I’m very curious about positive psychology in health care and hope to learn more!


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