Is happiness research esoteric?

This is the accusation, which in practice perhaps weighs even heavier, because how is a discipline to progress if it is not taken seriously from the outset?

Positive psychology vs. Positive thinking

Today ‘s happiness research goes back to the American psychologist Martin Seligman. At the end of the 1990s, he realized that although we had already learned a lot about the negative aspects of being human, we knew very little about the positive aspects.

Up to this point, academic psychology had been preoccupied with the healing of mental disorders, the treatment of deficiencies or the socio-psychological aspects of prejudice, racism and aggression.

This should change in the context of positive psychology in the next few years. A particular novelty was the effort to no longer speculate about happiness and related topics, but to actually scrutinize it on the basis of concrete studies and data collections.

To delimit from positive psychology is the doctrine of positive thinking. This is based on the conviction that things that one considers to be “true” are also realized in this way.

“Believe in your success and you will succeed, ” prophesy their followers. The teaching is not based on scientific findings and there is no information about whom this principle can be helpful or even dangerous under what conditions.

Lucky researchers vs. Fortunately guru

No sooner do you hear sentences like ” Optimists are more successful and creative ” are the warning lights for many people.

No wonder, considering how many millions of tons of guide books in the self-help departments of the bookstores send their promises of salvation to the world.

Slogans such as, ” Smile, and the world will smile with you,” “think positive,” “you can do anything,” or “the universe listens to ” promise you the blues of heaven, if you buy just the right book, training paid or invested in the special offer of benefit of the entire book series.

The job titles Coach or Trainer are not protected terms in Germany. Everyone can call themselves that and spread their positive affirmations and suggestions in the world.

And so many motivational coaches, hobby therapists and self-proclaimed experts of all kinds flood the market with often dubious offers. With the result that any activity in this area leaves a pale aftertaste.

And what do we learn from this?

Being happy is of great importance to most people, and for many, even the central purpose of life. But how happy?

Until a few decades ago, people seeking advice had to turn to the self-help departments of the bookstores, with the result that they often imposed charlatans who wanted to fool them into the most absurd theories and beliefs.

It is therefore a welcome change that in the field of happiness research since the late 1990s, many psychologists, sociologists and economists try to achieve real knowledge with the help of scientific methods.

Of course, one should not believe the scientific findings unreflectively, because often our knowledge changes over the years. But there can be reasonably certain evidence, especially when many scientists independently come to the same conclusions over and over again.

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