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Positive Psychology

Positive psychology emphasizes the meaning and deep satisfaction, not just fleeting happiness. Martin Seligman, often regarded as the father of positive psychology, has described multiple visions of what it means to live happily, including the Pleasant Life (Hollywood’s view of happiness), The Good Life (focused on personal strengths and engagement), and the Meaningful Life. Positive psychologists have explored a range of experiences and behaviours involved in different versions of positive living, including specific positive emotions, "flow" states, and a sense of meaning or purpose.

Proponents of positive psychology have also sought to catalog character strengths and virtues. The 2004 book Character Strengths and Virtues proposed the categories of Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, and Transcendence (including strengths such as gratitude, hope, and humour).

How is positive psychology different from the rest of psychology?

While there is plenty of overlap, positive psychology has been described as different from other areas of psychology due to its primary interest in identifying and building mental assets, as opposed to addressing weaknesses and problems.

How Is Positive Psychology Applied?

Identifying one’s character strengths (such as courage, humanity, or justice) is considered an important step on the road to the good and meaningful life envisioned by positive psychologists. There are also positive psychology practices one can try at home to promote well-being. For example, gratitude exercises have been studied by psychologists as a way to increase happiness over time. Just what the name sounds like, these involve such simple actions as writing down each day three things for which one is grateful.

Although the focus of positive psychology is on happiness and fulfilment, it is important to understand that this does not mean people are advised to push away their negative emotions altogether. People who are flourishing make room in their lives for such inevitable states of mind.

What are some of the benefits of positive psychology?

Practices associated with positive psychology such as gratitude interventions can boost social and emotional well-being, studies suggest. Positive psychology has also led to explorations of how developing certain character strengths, positive emotions like awe, and other qualities, such as a sense of meaning and purpose in life, might contribute to positive life outcomes.

Why are meaning and purpose significant?

Measures of meaning in life have been found to relate to other positive life outcomes. For example, research suggests that older adults who consider their lives worthwhile tend to have better physical and mental health. Other studies suggest the potential well-being benefits of having a sense of purpose in life.


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