Positive Psychology of Kindness: Knowing What Makes Life Worth-Living

By Lisa Franchi on February 19, 2013

Positive psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology that focuses on human prospering. While most areas of psychology deal with disorders and behavioural dysfunctions, positive psychology is centred on happiness, well-being, and the good life. Its main purpose is to achieve a scientific understanding and effective intervention necessary to build thriving individuals, families, and communities.

Understanding Positive Psychology

Experts describe positive psychology as the science of what makes life worth-living. In this seemingly problematic world, people are in constant chase for happiness, prosperity, and peace of mind. Because of positive psychology, people began to understand that it is not actually what they receive that brings them happiness, but what they give. This branch of science is centred on building the best in life, repairing the worst, and making life more fulfilling.

This highly positive view however, does not disregard the real problems that the society experience. Most importantly, it does not, in any way, imply that all the established facts and principles in psychology should be eliminated or replaced.

Truisms Underpinning Positive Psychology

The idea of positive psychology lies on four general principles.  First of all, it stresses that the goodness in life is as genuine as what is bad, not derivative, secondary, epiphenomenal, illusory, or otherwise suspect. Second, the goodness of life doesn’t mean the absence of what is problematic. Meaning, we may have challenges or difficulties to face in our lifetime but their presence doesn’t mean we can never be happy at all. Third, the good life requires its own explanation, not simply a theory of disorder stood sideways.

Being a field of science, positive psychology requires scientific evidences and not just theories. Experts warned that it should not be confused with untested self-help, footless affirmation, or secular religion no matter how good they make us feel.

Significant Revelations of Positive Psychology

Vast studies, experiments, and clinical trials in positive psychology have led to the following interesting revelations:

 ·   Most people are happy. Despite the reported growing number of societal maladies, many people remain to be happy, satisfied and contended.

·   Money can’t buy happiness. While money contributes to a better sense of well-being, it is not enough to make a person feel happy. Investing on friendships and personal relationships than on new cars, homes, luxury getaways, and other earthly pleasures is the best way to achieve lasting happiness.

·   Good life can be taught. Regardless of one’s condition or situation in life, he or she can learn to be happy, even those who have experienced trauma or abuse. New studies give credit to various therapies, including CBT, meditation, and psychotherapy in combating distress caused by difficult experiences and promoting well-being.

·     Success doesn’t produce happiness. It is happiness that makes you successful. Happiness is not the outcome, rather the cause of all the good things in life. People who are happy are more likely to have beautiful careers, more money, and better social relationships.

·      The human brain is in continuous development. Contrary to traditional belief, a growing body of research suggests that the brain has the ability to grow and develop even after birth.

·         One can be happy at work. Work only becomes meaningful when it engages the worker and provides a purpose.

·         What we feel matters more than what we think. Unconditional caring is as important as critical thinking.

·      Making friends is critical to well-being. One of the best ways to combat setbacks and disappointments in life is to build strong social relationships and character strengths.

·         Positive thinking leads to happiness. Through optimism, gratitude and altruism, one can learn how to be happy.


Psychology of Kindness

Among the most popular dimensions of positive psychology is the science of kindness. For decades, scientists have studied different structures in the brain and how they contribute to the formation of emotions and feelings. Thanks to the introduction of fMRI scan machines, looking at the activities in the deepest parts of the brain has become incredibly possible.

Research suggests that kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. It is not something people learn by simply knowing what it is; listening to others, reading books, and watching TV shows that explain what it is. To be able to produce kindness, one has to feel it. Perhaps, this is the reason why majority of adults who experienced childhood abuse or trauma are more likely to engage in violent behaviours whereas those who were raised in a happy environment tend to have more satisfying life in adulthood.

Through positive psychology, people began to understand what it takes to be happy. Decades of research tell us that empathy, compassion and gratefulness are among the important components of kindness. When we are thankful of what we have, know what it feels to be in the situation of others, and have deep sense of love and care to others, we exhibit kindness. In return of our kindness, we experience happiness.

Showing acts of kindness gives people the following benefits:


·         Higher sense of self-worth and well-being

·         More positive social interactions

·         A less stressful life

·         Relief from feeling distressed about others’ misfortunes

·         A better view of the world (a caring, loving and happy place)

Positive psychology never teaches us to forget the problematic things that happen around us – the illnesses, neurotic disorders, behavioural lapses, and so on. Instead, it gives us a more beautiful picture of what life is, and what it takes to live a good life and avoid the onset of these mental problems. Through positive psychology, we gain understanding of what it takes to be happy and why showing kindness is critical in living the life we want.


What does it take to live a good life? What therapies can you suggest to people who have problems uncovering the goodness and happiness in their life? Share your comment below.



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