“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (Peterson, 2008).”
To push this brief description a bit further, positive psychology is a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior, with a focus on strengths instead of weaknesses, building the good in life instead of repairing the bad, and taking the lives of average people up to “great” instead of focusing solely on moving those who are struggling up to “normal” (Peterson, 2008).
According to leading authorities in the field, Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, positive psychology will help achieve "scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities." Positive psychology spends much of its time thinking about topics like character strengths, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, well-being, gratitude, compassion (as well as self-compassion), self-esteem and self-confidence, hope, and elevation.
The founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman is a researcher with a broad range of experience in psychology. Seligman’s research in the 1960s and 70s laid the foundation for the well-known psychological theory of “learned helplessness.” This theory, which has been backed by decades of research, explains how humans and animals can learn to become helpless and feel they have lost control over what happens to them.
Positive psychology is often referred to as having three different levels:
Subjective level: Focuses on feelings of happiness, well-being, and optimism, and how these feelings transform your daily experience.
Individual level: A combination of feelings on the subjective level and virtues such as forgiveness, love, and courage.
Group level: Positive interaction with your community, including virtues like altruism and social responsibility that strengthen social bonds.
The PERMA Model
The PERMA model is a widely recognized and influential model in positive psychology. Seligman proposed this model to help explain and define wellbeing in greater depth.
“PERMA” is an acronym for the five facts of well-being according to Seligman:
P – Positive Emotions: Even though seeking positive emotions alone is not a very effective way to boost your well-being, experiencing positive emotions is still an important factor. Part of wellbeing is enjoying yourself at the moment, i.e., experiencing positive emotions;
E – Engagement: Having a sense of engagement, in which we may lose track of time and become completely absorbed in something we enjoy and excel at, is an important piece of wellbeing. It’s hard to have a developed sense of well-being if you are not truly engaged in anything you do;
R –Relationships: Humans are social creatures, and we rely on connections with others to truly flourish. Having deep, meaningful relationships with others is vital to our well-being;
M – Meaning: Even someone who is deliriously happy most of the time may not have a developed sense of well-being if they do not find meaning in their life. When we dedicate ourselves to a cause or recognize something bigger than ourselves, we experience a sense of meaning that there is simply no replacement for;
A – Accomplishment: We all thrive when we are succeeding, achieving our goals, and bettering ourselves. Without a drive to accomplish and achieve, we are missing one of the puzzle pieces of authentic wellbeing (Seligman, 2011).
Impact of Positive Psychology
Some of the major findings of positive psychology include:
Money doesn't necessarily buy well-being, but spending money on other people can make individuals happier.
People are generally happy.
Some of the best ways to combat disappointments and setbacks include strong social relationships and character strengths.
While happiness is influenced by genetics, people can learn to be happier by developing optimism, gratitude, and altruism.
Work can be important to well-being, especially when people are able to engage in work that is purposeful and meaningful.
Positive psychology is a field with a huge potential for improving the lives of people around the world, and many impactful findings have already been discovered.
The key point is that If you want to keep up in the world of coaching, teaching, counseling, therapy, and a dozen other domains, make sure to keep an eye out for what’s new in positive psychology!
Cherry, K. (2021, October 20). What is Positive Psychology? Retrieved from- https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-positive-psychology-2794902
Ackerman, C.E. (2018, April 20). What is Positive Psychology and Why is it Important? Retrieved from- https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-positive-psychology-definition/#perma-positive-psychology
This Blog on 'Positive Psychology' has been contributed by Nishita, who is currently pursuing B.A. Hons. in Psychology from the University of Lucknow. She is keen to learn about the complexities of human mind and broaden my knowledge in the field of Psychology She is looking forward to become a Clinical Psychologist.
She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is an IJNGP initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.