Dana Arakawa, MAPP '06, is a PhD candidate in social psychology at the University of Hawaii. Before venturing into psychology, Dana graduated with honors from Georgetown University with a B.S. in International Economics, and spent a year in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. Her research has appeared in the Gallup Management Journal and International Coaching Psychology Review, as well as in publications in Latin America. Full bio. Dana's articles are here.
Positive Psychology changed my life. When I discovered Positive Psychology, I found an articulation of something that I had always been searching for. I resonated with the concept of the three states of life—pleasant, engaged, and meaningful—and I wanted to study and support the development of positive emotions, character strengths, and institutions. When I heard about the MAPP program, I knew instantly that it was something I had to do. Positive Psychology has given me a framework to work within, and a network of fabulous, like-minded people who share my enthusiasm for investigating what is best about life.This network is definitely the best, and most unexpected, component of my journey. Meeting other people impassioned about Positive Psychology almost reminds me of high school, when people find a sense of belonging within a group, club, or sports team. Except I’ve found that Positive Psychology is more than just a hobby—when people regularly discuss issues like love, gratitude, purpose, engagement, and meaning, deeper bonds are quickly formed. Perhaps that is why I’ve been able to forge such great relationships through Positive Psychology, as our common interest denotes congruent values and motivations.
Reflecting on the quality of relationships I’ve made through Positive Psychology prompted me to remember all the people outside this network who impact my life. There are so many people I love and admire, who simply don’t share my excitement about Positive Psychology. If you’re reading this article right now, you probably care about issues like engagement and meaning, and are intrinsically motivated to think about how these states can be cultivated. I’m curious about all those people who aren’t reading this news site, or who wouldn’t do it on their own accord—all the people who just don’t really care or think about these things!
The first person that always comes to mind is my brother. It is has always been a part of my personality to search for more in life, a quality that has its benefits and it drawbacks. While I was frequently discontent—before I learned the value of practicing gratitude—my brother was always grounded, content, and blissfully devoid of the impulses to study happiness or to search for meaning…because he was already happy, and he just doesn’t feel the need to contemplate the meaning of his life. While some may attribute his disinterest in existential questions to age, I would not be surprised if he never cares! Reflecting on our differences got me interested in people who wouldn’t normally think so much about happiness—they experience and enjoy being happy, but don’t feel the need to investigate this emotional state and systematically plan how to get more of it with a life coach or a self-help book.
As I look out at the people I know, I see varying degrees of interest in Positive Psychology. Some people are naturally happy and instinctively practice many of the principles that Positive Psychologists have shown to be successful in raising subjective well-being: being grateful, forging strong relationships, giving of the self to others, etc. Others are not so happy, but don’t seem to want to think about how they can be happier. In my monthly article, I plan to interview people who I think have an interesting relationship (or non-relationship) to Positive Psychology, people who can provide different perspectives from the one common within the Positive Psychology network. These people will be united by a common theme—they probably wouldn’t go out and buy Authentic Happiness for themselves.
I’m trying to brainstorm more interview questions, so let me know if you have any thoughts or ideas. Thanks!
Social network courtesy of Luc Legay