Positive Psychology

Updated: Oct 11


Hello! Thank you for coming to read Positive Psychology 101! Positive psychology is the study of human happiness. In this post we share insights from this rapidly growing field on how to be happier, regrets of the dying, and the "Hamburger Model" which suggests we can be happy today while also setting us up for happiness in the future.


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Greatest Hits of Positive Psychology


My parents read many books on positive psychology before I was born. Their thinking was, "If we want to be happy...shouldn't we start by researching it?" Perhaps that's a little silly, but that is the way leaders in the field of Positive Psychology came to create this new discipline. In this section I will share "Greatest Hits" from Tal Ben-Shahar.


Tal Ben-Shahar wrote the book titled "Happier" based on his experiences of teaching. He started a class at Harvard about how to find happiness that quickly grew from just eight students (two of whom quickly dropped out) to hundreds in just two years. Lucky for me...he made a YouTube Video that summarizes many of the greatest hits!


You are welcome to watch, but here are some key takeaways just in case:


  • Permission to be Human - Everyone feels bad sometimes. Feeling bad is evidence that you are not dead or a psychopath. You need to give yourself unconditional acceptance to feel emotions. Negative emotions are part of reality that we must accept. We need to give ourselves permission to be human. Accepting negative emotions is required to prevent them from controlling us. The only way we can make rational decisions, and to mitigate negative emotions, is accepting those emotions.


  • Dealing with Stress - you should have time to do the things you want to do. And you should have time to spend time with people you love and people you care about. Stress is not the problem. The problem is the lack of recovery. But there are things you can do to recover, as simple as take a walk or meditate for a few minutes, but mostly, have a lot of sleep. Exercise is one of the main things too! If you don't exercise you are more likely to be depressed. Exercise is the thing you can do if you are depressed. It not only is good for stress it also makes your brain function better. And it also helps with your health by making your immune system stronger.


And now meditation. Meditation is the best thing to deal with stress, and there are many different ways to meditate. But in every way to meditate there is one thing that you have to do for all of them. You always have to focus on one thing. Either you say a word over and over again or you are focusing on your breath. Scientists have found out that if you have more activation on the right side of pre-cortex then you are more likely to be depressed. And when you have more activation on the left side of pre-cortex then you are more likely to be cheerful! If you meditate then your brain can completely transform; and not only that, it makes your immune system stronger.


You should also appreciate, there are two main ways to appreciate. You can say thank you, but there is also a second way to appreciate, and it is that you appreciate the good in your life. As simple as being grateful that there is food or the fact that you even have a life. You have to appreciate the things that you have or you will not be happy.


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The second thought leader in the field of Positive Psychology is Dan Gilbert, the Author of Stumbling on Happiness. You may enjoy his video as well.



Regrets of the dying


People do things that they regret. And sometimes they don't notice it until they get really old. They say"I feel like I finally feel alive", that is, because they are grateful for every second of their life. This link showed the top five regrets of the people that are dying, people that finally are grateful for every second they are alive. But you want to be alive your whole life.


There is a story about my great-aunt. And it is about when she got diagnosed with cancer. She didn't know if she was going to make it (she made it). And one of the biggest regrets of hers is that she wished she cared less about what other people thought of her. And to let herself just be herself.


The other regret she had was that she wished she had been more kind to other people. Because you can apologize later, but sometimes you don't get the chance to. Sometimes the person you wanted to apologize to moved to a different country or who knows what! So in the first place, you should just try not to be mean.


Hamburger Model


The last insight from the field of Positive Psychology that I want to share with you is the "Hamburger Model". This models was created by Tal Ben Shahar whom I introduced earlier. You can watch the video below or read my takeaways below.




The hamburger model is not only for hamburgers. It can be for many different things in life. People make many decisions in life. And sometimes it is not the best one.


Every once in a while people might choose to do something that is not good for you, but right then it feels good. Things like playing a video game, or watching TV. That hamburger is the hedonism burger.


And there are also things that are good for you but you do not enjoy doing them such as studying for lots of boring exams, or not having dessert. That is the rat race burger.


There are also things that you don't like doing but it also doesn't help you in the future. Things like feeling bad that that you did something mean to another person or maybe you are having a bad day. That is the detriment burger.


And last but not least, there are things that you enjoy doing and it also helps you in the future. Things like spending time with your friends or reading a book that you like to read. That is the happiness burger.




Conclusion


The field of Positive Psychology is the study of human happiness. Humans did not always think about the subject too methodically...believing that happiness was impossible to achieve or that it was something so fleeting and complicated that strategies for cultivating it may not exist. But we can increase our happiness. As we wrote about here, happiness is the "Ultimate Currency", so thinking about its nature and causes should really be step one in life...right?


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Thank you for your interest!


Aila