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Scientists from around the world will meet in Melbourne this weekend to reveal how psychology can make us live longer, be happier and have better relationships.

Psychology has traditionally focused on ‘fixing problems’, but the new discipline of positive psychology seeks out methods to make healthy people happier as well as improving their performance in the workplace and on the sports field. 

The results of recent studies probing not only which techniques work, but which ones have a sustained impact will be presented at the Australian Positive Psychology and Well-Being Conference, organised by the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education.

In contrast to the vast majority of self-help theories developed over the past few decades, positive psychology relies on scientific data to establish which techniques actually work. 

Key findings have included evidence that people with naturally grateful dispositions suffer less in trying circumstances, and that those with less aptitude for gratitude are able to improve their well-being by learning to be more grateful. 

Positive psychology employs cutting edge methods of measuring well-being, including looking at keywords on social media platforms. 

A recent study by Professor Martin Seligman found that the parts of the US where people posted the most negative words on Twitter and Facebook were the same regions that had the highest rate of heart disease and other ailments.

Research into positive psychology has increased 400% in recent years and associations have sprung up all over the world. The University of Melbourne is a leader in the field and offers a masters degree in it.

“Positive psychology has gained rapid momentum because of the new science that is being applied,” said Associate Professor Lea Waters, from the University of Melbourne.

“Researchers have been able to scientifically link its attributes to health, academic success, career success, business profit and well-functioning social groups.

"Without the science, it can be seen as a ‘feel good fad’ but the data have given it credibility.”

At the Melbourne conference this weekend, new findings about the effects of positive psychology on organisations, business, education, the performing arts, and technology will be shared. 

Three international speakers will present their conclusions from studies in the US, the UK and China, alongside a host of renowned Australian researchers.

Conference organisers encourage anyone – not just academics – to attend, saying that positive psychology can be used to improve all aspects of personal, business and school life. 


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