Have you heard the buzz about the power of positivity? It’s hard to avoid if you have access to YouTube videos, a bookstore or a friends that have been swept up by one of the many  positive-thinking movements in pop culture. Are you telling yourself that changing your viewpoint can’t possibly change your reality? Are you not quite buying into the idea that changing your perspective or being more grateful for positive can change your life? Well, consider that there is a whole academic discipline devoted to studying how people can be happier and more fulfilled through positive thinking.  The research conducted by Positive Psychologists over almost two decades is ridiculously compelling and may just pull all of you skeptics over to the other side of the fence – the side of optimism.

What’s amazing about positive psychology is not just the subject matter studied (i.e. strengths, well-being and optimal functioning of an individual), but the fact that “positivity” sometimes forms the basis for research itself.  In Amy R. Krentzman’s article entitled, “Review of the Application of Positive Psychology to Substance Use, Addiction, and Recovery Research,” she says:

“The Hoxmark poster and the theoretical and empirical work described in this review suggest that positive psychology has begun to be applied to theory, research, and intervention in substance use disorders. Although positive psychology and the recovery movement share similar interests and emphases, they differ in important ways that frame the current discussion. Within the field of addiction, the recovery movement is a multi-faceted grassroots effort led by individuals who are themselves in recovery from substance use disorders. The movement is built on a recovery-oriented, rather than a pathology-oriented, framework from which addiction and its resolution are understood. Working from an established set of values and goals, participants in the recovery movement work collectively to remove obstacles to treatment, support multiple paths to recovery, and make larger social systems more supportive of recovery lifestyles (White, 2007).”

Conducting research and stating conclusions is a specialty of experts, but having the wisdom to step back and demonstrate awareness of an entire scientific discipline… that’s powerful. It’s also demonstrative of the way individuals may want to look at their lives and heighten their own personal awareness.

Positive psychology challenges the way people see themselves and their tendency to want to take control of “reality” as they understand it.  But, if everything depends upon perspective and perception, then what’s real?  As this question disturbs people whose wellbeing depends on fixing their circumstances into one unchangeable idea of reality, it also opens a gateway into happiness for those who are willing align with a more positive perspective.

When new ideas change the way we think and inspire us, we can’t help but ask, is this new way of researching  the end all, and is it replacing what came before? Certainly not.

Kertmaz herself says: “Because the field is new and has been embraced by popular culture, critical thinking is essential both in assessing positive-psychological research and in building good science, not only on its foundation, but on the foundation of the decades of relevant scholarship that preceded it.”  Positive psychology principles are the basis for self-help movements which are often commercial in nature.  The authors of inspiring books and videos may or may not honor the science behind the principles to a tee when they present their own ideas.  That means you may want to avoid conflating science with what could be called “fluff” in the scientific community.  But, of course, you are free to take in ideas that you like from the popular movements, whether proven or not, in order to enhance the best and most positive parts of your life.

Watch Larry Smith, LAADC, CAS, III presenting on Positive Psychology, Happiness & Addiction Treatment.”