What is Positive Psychology
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of what makes individuals and communities thrive. Founded in the late 1990’s, this branch of psychology primarily focuses on the experiences, strengths, virtues, choices, relationships, and institutions that contribute to successful functioning and enable individual and collective flourishing in difference contexts, countries, and societies.
For years, psychology focused largely on human suffering and the causes and symptoms of mental illnesses. Although important for alleviating suffering, this deficit-oriented approach often leaves out of account the factors that make life most worth living.
Enter the field of positive psychology, founded by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. during his term as president of American Psychological Association. Positive Psychology is founded on the belief that people want more than an end to suffering. Rather, they want to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experience of love, work, and play.
Positive Psychology creates the opportunity to not only heal psychological damage but build strengths and traits that can enable people to achieve the best things in life.
The field of Positive Psychology focuses primarily on three main areas:
· positive subjective experiences
· positive individual traits
· positive institutions
Understanding positive subjective experiences (or emotions) entails the study of contentment and satisfaction with the past, flow and happiness in the present, and having hope or optimism for the future.
Understanding positive individual traits involves the study of strengths, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, forgiveness, originality, wisdom, future mindedness, spirituality, self-control, and perseverance.
Understanding positive institutions (or groups) entails the study of the strengths that foster better communities and the civic virtues that move individuals toward better citizenship and belonging, such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, altruism, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance.