Positive psychology is a new field of psychology that explores ways of leading a more meaningful and fulfilling life. Why is it that some people have a more joyful life and have a greater sense of well being? Why is it that happiness for some, is achieved by setting goals while others are content drifting from day to day.
Positive psychology studies happy people and looks at the reasons why they are happy. It attempts to provide a roadmap for others to follow who seek the best of what life has to offer.
All of us experience difficulties and challenges in our lives but what separates the winners from the losers is how we respond to these difficulties and challenges. Do you know people that easily overcome obstacles? What personality traits do these people have that make them so resilient?
Positive psychology is interested in people’s strengths not just their weaknesses. It is concerned with helping people reach their full potential not just healing mental illness.
Happy people tend to have better relationships, earn more and live longer.
When we examine the reasons why some individuals have more joy in their lives there are five important areas of focus.
Flow is achieved when we are engaged in activities that give us peak experiences. It could be snowboarding, giving a successful sales presentation or travelling to a new unexplored destination.
Positive relationships are crucial in our lives. People with a strong network of positive relationships with others tend to by happier.
Positive emotions play an important role in our sense of wellbeing. Having a high proportion positive emotions in our day can improve our mental health.
Character strengths, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Positive psychology helps us identify our strengths and use them to our greatest advantage.
A meaningful life. This will vary greatly from one individual to another. For a younger person it may mean a life full of physical activity while an older person may prefer a more restful and contemplative life.
So whether your a parent, a coach or an employer, the field of positive psychology can greatly improve your enjoyment of life and give you the skills and knowledge you need to pass on to others you want to help.
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Dopamine is a neurotransmitter/hormone found in the brain, which produces a feeling of pleasure. When an individual’s levels of dopamine are high, they feel happy, content, positive, and even euphoric. When the levels of dopamine are low, they feel agitated, discontent, even stressed.
As we experience life, how we feel will normally fluctuate, depending on lifestyle and events that happen. If we feel stressed, there are various things we can do to help us cope and make us feel better. Many of us do these things without consciously thinking about it. All we know is that they cause us to feel pleasure.
For example, we may do any of the following,
• Eat delicious food
• Have sex
• Seek the company of friends and loved ones
• Go shopping
• Help or give a gift to someone
• Watch TV
• Listen to music
Of course, there are events in life, which cause us to feel the opposite of pleasure which is suffering and are often beyond our control. For example,
• Death of a loved one
• Losing your job
• Failing an exam
• Poverty and financial problems
• Being bullied at work, school or home
The list is endless and will vary depending on the individual.
The psychopathic personality is characterised by individuals that will lie, cheat, steal, even rape and murder to fulfil their desires and greed. They have callous disregard for the welfare of the general population and completely lack moral responsibility or social conscience.
It is estimated that around four percent of the population are psychopaths. Although many are detected by the justice or mental health systems, a lot run loose causing untold damage to those they come into contact with or control.
They may even gain control of a military, business or political organisation. Many of us are familiar with psychopaths like Stalin, Hitler or Pol Pot and know what happened when they were in control of an entire nation.
Psychopaths As Heroes
Psychopaths can be extremely intelligent and manipulative and because they don’t operate under the rules of normal civilised society, they can be very ruthless and efficient. It is a mistake to underestimate the capabilities of a psychopath
Although many garden variety psychopaths do not rape and murder, they will frequently lie, cheat, deceive and steal to fulfil their desires. Perhaps, a few people you’ve met or have come into contact with come to mind. I know I’ve met a few in my life.
Their main tools of trade are weapons and money. If you know any psychopaths, it is best to disappear off their radar and report them to relevant authorities. Usually they are breaking the law in some way.
One thing that amazes me about psychopaths is how they are able to get away with their behaviour for so long. I think part of the reason is that our society actually makes heroes of psychopathic personalities.
James Bond and Clint Eastwood were typical psychopathic movie heroes who were idolised by many as we were growing up. After killing at least a half a dozen bad guys with no remorse during a day, they would eventually win over the gal.
While most of us considered these movies light entertainment, many psychopaths took the messages very seriously. For this reason, I gave up watching violent movies over a decade ago. I asked myself, “Why pollute my mind?”
Today, the media still gives out messages that is ok to win at all costs. The biggest liar or killer wins. They are the heroes and heroines. Know any movie stars that portray social workers, counsellors or nurses? Society still has a morbid fascination with crime and violence. A lot of popular movies are university lectures for criminals.
Flashbacks are episodes where an individual may experience hallucinations similar to when tripping on hallucinogenics. These may take the form of geometrical shaped patterns, halos, blurring of images or TV snow.
It is estimated that 25% of people who have taken hallucinogenics, such as magic mushrooms, LSD and mescaline will suffer from flashbacks or HPPD during their lives. HPPD stands for hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.
HPPD differs from schizophrenia or psychosis as it is a visual perception disorder only and mental faculties and emotions are not affected, although the individual may experience some anxiety about what the are seeing. The length of the flashback may be hours or weeks or months. Fortunately, it can be effectively treated with a drug called keppra and an anti-psychotic called risperidone. Seek medical help if you think you may have HPPD.
Many people with HPPD suffer in silence being afraid to tell anyone what they are experiencing. While those who seek medical help can be misdiagnosed as schizophrenic or have psychosis. HPPD is a relatively rare and misunderstood disorder.
HPPD can also be caused by smoking strong cannabis or taking speed. Flashbacks may occur days or weeks after last drug use. If you are experiencing flashbacks, the obvious solution is to stop taking drugs and if the episodes are lasting a long time seek medical help.
Due to the power of the internet, many HPPD suffers need no longer feel alone. There are a couple of online forums dedicated to HPPD. Individuals can discuss HPPD and share their experiences. The length and intensity of the flashback can vary greatly. Some people have fairly mild symptoms and are not particularly worried by them while others have intense hallucinations for lengthy periods and have become anxious and distressed.