Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living, focusing on both individual and societal well-being. It is a field of study that has been growing steadily throughout the years as individuals and researchers look for common ground on better well-being. As a field, positive psychology deals with topics like character strengths, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, well-being, gratitude, compassion, self-esteem and self-confidence, hope, and elevation. Positive psychology focuses on eudaimonia, an Ancient Greek term for “the good life” and the concept for reflection on the factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life.
Positive psychology began as a new domain of psychology in 1998. It became popular when Martin Seligman, who is known as the ‘father of positive psychology’, chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association. He was of the belief that past practices of psychology weren’t helpful and the new ones should instead focus on the enhancement of positive human attributes. From this point in time, theories and research examined positive psychology interventions that help make life worth living and how to define, quantify, and create wellbeing. Positive psychology can have a range of real-world applications in areas including education, therapy, self-help, stress management, and workplace issues.
Positive psychology focuses on the positive events and influences in life, which includes:
Positive experiences (happiness, joy, inspiration, and love).
Positive states and traits (gratitude, resilience, and compassion).
Positive institutions (applying positive principles within entire organizations and institutions).
Three Levels of Positive Psychology:
Subjective level: focuses on feelings of happiness, well-being, and optimism and how these feelings transform your daily experience.
Individual-level: a combination of the feelings in the subjective level along with virtues such as forgiveness, love, and courage.
Group level: positive interaction with your community, including virtues like altruism and social responsibility that strengthen social bonds.
The PERMA Model of Well-Being:
The PERMA Model is a well-being theory developed by positive psychologist Martin Seligman. It identifies five essential elements to well-being. PERMA is an acronym for the five elements of well-being – Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments.
Positive Emotions: Positive Emotions is much more than just happiness. It includes other emotions such as hope, joy, compassion, pride, and gratitude. Positive emotions are prime indicators of flourishing and can help improve well being. Increasing positive emotions helps individuals build physical, intellectual, psychological, and social resources that lead to this resilience and overall well-being.
Engagement: Engagement is something that an individual becomes engrossed in and is in line with the ‘flow’ concept, which includes the loss of self-consciousness and full involvement in an activity. This concept of engagement occurs when there is a perfect combination of skill and challenge involved. The concept of engagement is something much more powerful than simply “being happy,” but happiness is one of the many byproducts of engagement.
Relationships: Relationships include all the various interactions individuals have with partners, friends, family members, colleagues, and their community at large. Relationships in this model refer to feeling supported, loved, and valued by others. It is based on the idea that humans are inherently social creatures.
Meaning: Having a purpose in life helps individuals focus on what is important in the face of significant challenges or adversity. Having meaning or purpose in life is different for everyone. A sense of meaning is guided by personal values, and people who have a purpose in life live longer, have greater life satisfaction and have fewer health problems.
Accomplishments: A sense of accomplishment is the result of working toward and reaching goals, mastering an endeavour, and having self-motivation to finish what you set out to do. This contributes to well-being because individuals can look at their lives with a sense of pride. Accomplishment includes having a passion to attain goals. But flourishing and well-being come when accomplishment is tied to striving toward things with an internal motivation or working toward something just for the sake of the pursuit and improvement.