“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (Peterson, 2008).

Positive Psychology is one of the newest branches of psychology to emerge.

You may or may not have heard of the term ‘Positive Psychology’. To put it simply, it’s the science of wellbeing and aims for flourishing. As a field, the emphasis is on what’s strong rather than what’s wrong with individuals, teams and organisations.

Following World War 2, the emphasis of Psychology was on identifying and treating mental illnesses like depression. Around the turn of the century however, there was a call to focus on the complete mental health picture, and to identify the key factors that enable thriving (like strong relationships, meaningful work, positive emotions, experiencing flow etc.), and so the field of Positive Psychology was established. Although relatively new, Positive Psychology isn’t the latest self-help movement or a passing fad, it’s backed by decades of research and has its roots in Buddhism and the ideas of Aristotle.

Positive Psychology isn’t happiology either, and about being happy all the time (this isn’t realistic for anyone). But rather the field acknowledges that challenges are an inevitable part of life, and provides strategies to overcome struggles more effectively.

Positive Psychology offers a complimentary approach to traditional Psychology, and can be applied to anyone, those with mental illness or those who are doing ok but want to do better. We have seen individuals, communities and workplaces thrive when embracing Positive Psychology including many Australian schools, organisations and sporting codes like the AFL, NRL and Cricket Australia.

For more information

One of the best resources to learn more about Positive Psychology is the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Centre. You may also be interested in reading Flourish, A New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing, The How of Happiness, Positive Psychology in a Nutshell,  or A Primer in Positive Psychology.

In addition, you can watch this TED Talk featuring Martin Seligman, who is one of the founders of Positive Psychology. Or listen to this episode of the Puka Up podcast with Lea Waters.

This article also outlines the benefits of Positive Psychology during a pandemic, and another highlights how Positive Psychology interventions are effective at work.

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