Positive Psychology: The Cutting Edge
Professor Martin Seligman’s lecture in Dublin 17th February 2016
Professor Martin Seligman is the founder of positive psychology, a field of study that examines healthy states, such as happiness, strength of character and optimism. He gave an inspiring, thought-provoking lecture in Trinity College Dublin on 17th February 2016. One of the people who asked a question following the lecture told Professor Seligman that he had brought his own books to life. He did! He is the author of a number of key books that continue to revolutionise how people understand and support those of us who struggle to find pleasure in life.
He is now in his early 70’s and although he described himself as a pessimist, it is clear that he has benefited from his own work in terms of enjoying life. It was not surprising to hear him mention, in answer to another question, that he has a new book coming out shortly.
So why was he is so impressive and what can we, in Aware, learn from him?
Professor Seligman described how it is now possible to measure the key components of wellbeing and to teach them. He uses the acronym PERMA, which may well become the new word for wellbeing in the 21st Century.
The P refers to positive emotion and our own sense of wellbeing. One way we can each develop this is to write down three things that went well during the day before we go to sleep. While this is simple, Professor Seligman presented evidence to prove that this is effective in enhancing wellbeing!
E is engagement. Do you remember moments when you were a child that you were so fully involved in an activity that you did not notice time passing? There are exercises to help us develop our abilities to do this on the Authentic Happiness website Actually, there is a lot more on the website and I highly recommend it!
R refers to good relationships. We all know that we feel better when we are relating easier to the people around us, particularly the people we care about. That can be difficult sometimes and there are tools to help us develop this area too.
M is an interesting one. That stands for meaning. This emphasises how important it is to do things in life that have a meaning over and above our own pleasures. The people who generously volunteer with Aware come to mind for me. They give of themselves and their time in supporting others. Many of them have spoken to me of how important their volunteer role with Aware is in terms of their own wellbeing.
A is accomplishment. What struck me most was Professor Seligman’s emphasis on how accomplishment comes through effort and self-discipline. Sometimes we may expect to achieve instantly and become discouraged when things don’t work out quickly. He encourages us to persist and not give up.
A key point in the lecture is that it is now time for all of us to focus on what we can do to enhance wellbeing. Those of you who know Aware well will recognise that we are fully supportive of that by offering free CBT based Life Skills programmes, Support Groups and programmes for transition year students in Secondary Schools.
I left the lecture feeling optimistic and encouraged. While Professor Seligman’s talk was not videoed, I encourage you to watch a TED talk which he gave.
by Dr Claire Hayes, Consultant Clinical Psychologist & Clinical Director, Aware