What is Positive Psychology?


Positive Psychology is a theory that was introduced by the Psychologist Martin Seligman in 2002 as a way of measuring, analyzing, and increasing happiness. Over a series of many studies, his team found that happiness could be broken down into three categories:

  1. Positive Emotion
  2. Engagement
  3. Meaning

At that time (when I first became very interested in this topic) the Positive Psychology movement was about analyzing and increasing life satisfaction. Today, he has continued his research and moved towards what he is now calling Well-Being Theory which has expanded on his original theories, now positing that instead of life satisfaction being the overall goal, it is merely an important factor included in the positive emotion category of well-being. Seligman stated that well-being has five elements:

  1. Positive Emotion
  2. Engagement
  3. Relationships
  4. Meaning
  5. Achievement

He says that some combination of these things (PERMA as a way to remember them) allow people to truly flourish and increase overall well-being. Typical Psychology (or Clinical Psychology, as I hold my degree in) has taught us to fix states of misery or unhappiness and bring people back to baseline (or their neutral point). What I love so much about the theory of positive psychology is that rather than fixing illness after they have occurred, it is creating resilience to illness in the first place and moving past neutral and helping people to create long term positive changes in their lives that they can strengthen over time.

I strongly encourage anyone interested in learning more about this to read his book Flourish and check out his website Authentic Happiness.





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