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What is Positive Psychology?

You must be familiar with the terms “Clinical Psychology” “Child Psychology” or even “IO Psychology”. These are the more popular branches of psychology that deal with abnormal behaviour and study human behaviour in specific settings like schools or workplaces. 

For a long time, the major focus of psychology was on abnormal behaviour and how to treat the disorders. Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow were one of the first psychologists who emphasised the need to study the healthy growth and development of humans.

It wasn’t until 1989, that Prof. Martin Seligman, who at that time was the president of the American Psychological Association (APA), introduced Positive Psychology as a new branch of psychology. He is famously referred to as the Father of Positive Psychology.

What is positive psychology?

It is a new branch of psychology that focuses on developing strengths in people and cultivating well-being. It aims to study positive experiences (like joy, gratitude, happiness, and love), positive traits (like compassion and kindness), and building positive institutions (like positive workplaces and schools).

“Positive psychology studies what makes life most worth living.”

  • Christopher Peterson

After its inception in 1989, the first International Conference on Positive Psychology was held in 2002. 

It gained wide popularity when a course on Positive Psychology at Harvard University became the most popular course on the campus with 855 students being enrolled. This course was taught in 2006 by Tal Ben Shahar, a renowned professor of Positive Psychology.

Two years later, in 2009, the First World Congress on Positive Psychology was hosted by the University of Pennsylvania under the guidance of Dr. Martin Seligman.

Famous theories in Positive Psychology

Even though Positive Psychology is still a relatively newer field of study, various groundbreaking studies and research has been conducted within this domain.

Let us have a brief overview of some of the most popular theories in this domain -

PERMA theory of well-being by Martin Seligman - Martin Seligman introduced his PERMA theory of well-being to categorise and explain different components of well-being. In the acronym PERMA, P stands for Positive Emotions, E stands for Engagement, R stands for Positive Relationships, M stands for Meaning and A stands for Achievement. Together they are said to be the building blocks of well-being. 

Flow theory by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi - Czikszentmihalyi is one of the prominent researchers in the field of Positive Psychology. He conducted his research around the state of “flow”. He defines flow as that state where one loses track of time while working on something and becomes completely immersed in the task at hand. 

Character Strengths and Virtues by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman - Christopher Peterson was a Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan and he researched character strengths. Character Strengths are the strengths of individuals which are considered virtues in many cultures. Research states that developing and utilising character strengths can lead to an increase in levels of happiness and well-being. 

Subjective Well-being by Ed Diner - Ed Diner is one of the first few researchers of happiness. He is famously known as Dr. Happiness. He talked about the components of subjective well-being and how participants can rate their happiness levels. He is one of the first people to measure and determine the concept of happiness, scientifically.

Broaden and Build Theory by Barbara Fredrickson - Barbara Fredrickson studied positive emotions and the kind of effect they have on individuals. Her research has been helpful to understand how positive emotions broaden people’s mindsets and help them cultivate well-being.

These are just some of the major research conducted in the vastly growing field of Positive Psychology. It is a field that promotes the scientific study of happiness and well-being. 

Do you want to know more about such research and how it can contribute to helping you live a better, healthy life? 

Stay tuned for more informative articles.