Learning from happiness to improve health

Learning from happiness to improve health

by Christopher Peterson for Psychology Today

The premise of positive psychology is simple but important: the absence of distress and disorder is not the same thing as happiness and fulfillment. Can a similar premise be proposed with respect to physical well-being, namely that the absence of symptoms and illness is not the same thing as health and vigor?

Of course it can, and it was proposed decades ago. In the 1946 charter of the World Health Organization can be found this definition of health:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

However, this definition is largely a slogan. Virtually all of so-called health care is really illness care, and even the occasional forays made by professionals into disease prevention and health promotion focus on the reduction of risk factors for illness and very rarely on the encouragement of good health in its own right.

A new initiative is now underway to take seriously the idea of positive health. Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and directed by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, this initiative has gathered together an interdisciplinary team from cardiology, psychiatry, psychology, epidemiology, exercise science, and public health to examine what it means to be healthy above-and-beyond the absence of symptoms and diseases. I am a member of this team, and part of our work has been to undertake research showing that attention to the positive matters for physical well-being, just as it does for psychological well-being, even when risk factors for morbidity and mortality are taken into account…
…read more of this fascinating article, relevant to all who’re interested in happiness and health – HERE