I’ve never received such a response to a Generation Next article like the one I received to last week’s column, 3 Common Myths About Positive Psychology.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of emails I got, the majority of which were saying, “I’ve heard of positive psychology, but where can I find out more?”
So in response to that I put together this list of resources which I encourage you to have a look at and share widely.
This week I wanted to highlight three reasons as to why I think positive psychology is of benefit, and why it could enhance what happens in schools.
1. It helps people identify and engage their strengths.
The backbone of positive psychology is built around character strengths. The basic concept is that we all have 4 or 5 strengths that are more prominent than others. If we can identify, understand and use these strengths – particularly – in the service of others it has been shown to enhance an individual’s sense of wellbeing. Why wouldn’t we want schools to help kids identify their strengths and facilitate their using of them in the service of others?
2. It empowers individuals to discover meaning in their lives.
By using our strengths in the service of others, we create meaning in our lives. As opposed to fretting about the meaning of life, individuals can get out there and make a difference, with the added bonus of their actions speaking to their authentic self. Again, why wouldn’t we want this as a core principle in schools?
3. It puts a new lens on engagement and success.
I’ve written numerous times about the dangerous ways in which we view engagement and success in education, but using positive psychology as a compass in this regard we can start to challenge what we mean by engagement and success. If we bring in the concept of self-determination theory as well as Flow, then things really start getting interesting. Engaged individuals have higher levels of wellbeing and as a consequence tend to do better. I call it the Virtuous Cycle. Unfortunately, too many people focus on success at the expense of engagement and wellbeing.
The World Health Organisation has predicted that depression will be the single biggest cause of disease by 2030. Kids in Year 7 today will be in their late twenties by then. Whilst depression is a complex issue, and I’m not offering positive psychology up as a complete cure, common sense tells me it can only help.
Author: Dan Haesler is a teacher, consultant and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars. His website is: http://danhaesler.com/ and he tweets at @danhaesler