Positive Psychology, in a nutshell, is the science of optimal human functioning!
Up until the emergence of positive psychology (PP), the field of psychology focused its interventions and research merely on helping with the painful issues people suffer. For example, it honed in on lifting depression and bad mood. But PP argues that eradicating bad mood does not guarantee a person feelings of joy, contentment, accomplishment, or happiness.
Thus, positive psychology research focuses on theories such as flourishing, optimism, well-being, strengths, and happiness. This provides methods one can use to build a life worth living, one that is happier and more meaningful. In addition, one of the goals of PP is to find out what builds positive institutions and organizations in order to create better human experiences and thus support professional growth.
So, positive psychologists often ask an additional very important question: What is right, rather than what is wrong, with people? While this does not mean that we ignore weaknesses or problems, it does mean that we think there is at least as much utility and gain in focusing on strengths rather than on weaknesses.
This focus on the positive really took off with Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the founders of PP, though the term positive psychology was coined and addressed years ago by Dr. Abraham Maslow. Dr. Seligman’s original framework for PP can be broken down into 3 pillars:
- Positive experience – to include one’s positive emotions and subjective well-being.
- Positive traits – focusing on one’s character strengths and virtues.
- Positive institutions – the civic virtues and the institutions that move individuals toward better citizenship.
Dr. Seligman, along with many other positive psychologists, has strived to make the PP movement’s research rigorous and evidence-based in its endeavors to identify interventions that promote mental health, talents and quality of life.
By now, I hope you can see that this field is founded on the assumption that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives. They wish to optimize their best selves, and to augment their days with love, work and play. This fundamental philosophical view is a prerequisite for all positive psychology interventions.
PP is full of promise to progress the positive evolution of our humanity and shed light on the daily behaviors that will help us achieve the good life. Seems to me that’s a field that should be acknowledged, studied and utilized!
Wouldn’t you agree?!