The Science of Unbelievable You

Photography: Megan Baker

By Megan Connolly

Stop and think about it. You are AMAZING.

You are a member of the most intellectually advanced, ecologically successful species on the planet. You spend roughly 20-25% of your energy in a day keeping your big, giant brain burning bright. You experience emotion, learn rapidly, let language trip from your tongue, and pay attention to intricate social detail. You are a very, very clever animal. Your mind – and its physical shell, the brain – are worthy and then some, of a few high fives.

And that’s how the field of Psychology began, with curious researchers who were interested in understanding how our species” greatest survival asset – our minds and our behaviour – worked. Were there patterns within our thinking? Did we perceive the world in the same ways? To answer these questions, early psychologists observed humans doing what we do and took careful notes and observations. After a while, they started to learn a thing or two about the mind and its wonders.

For most of the 20th century, much of the attention of psychological research focused on helping people overcome illness. This goal of improving mental health was pursued with great success, yet also left room to grow for Psychology’s remaining goals of learning more about how humans make the most of their extraordinary talents. Enter the call to the field at the turn of the millennium made by a leading researcher in depression – Dr. Martin Seligman, the head of the American Psychological Association at the time – that ‘psychology as usual’ was altogether too negative. In its desire to alleviate suffering, the field was behaving as if suffering was all there was to the human experience. And as anyone who has heard a baby laugh for the first time knows – there is so much more to our story than that.

The field of Positive Psychology has taken flight since then. As a specialty, it focuses on learning more about what happens when things go right with people. Creativity, joy, purpose, gratitude, courage and hope. All of these subjects have received more attention. As a result, psychologists know quite a bit more about why we have these experiences and what benefits they confer upon us.

See page 2 for more on how you can benefit from the science of psychology…

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