Positive Psychology

Positive psychology

The Happiness School study is firmly rooted within the field of positive psychology. Positive psychology focuses on strength and well-being. In the past psychological research has been criticised for focusing on negative aspects of human beings, their weaknesses and the pathologies (Schaufeil & Salanova, 2007) as a result a new branch of psychology developed which has become known as positive psychology.

Sheldon and King (2001) define positive psychology as the scientific study of ordinary human strengths and virtues. Positive psychology according to Sheldon and King, questions the nature of effectively functioning human being. They argue that positive psychology is simply psychology encouraging psychologists to be more open and appreciative regarding human potentials motives and capacities. Seligman (2007) describes positive psychology is the study of positive emotion meaning and engagement. Positive psychology works to highlight the actions that lead to well-being and thriving individuals and communities. Initially this was done with the aim of catalysing change within psychology.

In their article Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) commented that psychological theories had moved on from considering the individual as passive and responding to their environment began to view them as active decision-makers with choices and preferences (Bandura, 1986; Seligman, 1992). All the articles in the APA 2000 special issue on positive psychology had one thing in common each of them acknowledged human beings as being self-directed and adaptive. Secondly but equally importantly the authors understand the social context to have an effect on the lived experience. Ryan and Deci’s (2000) article on self-determination is included in this special edition is another trait that is central to positive psychology. Explaining why they were so interested in the topic Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2000) publishing in the American psychologist suggested that the exclusive focus of psychology has been on the negative and they outlined a framework of positive psychology. Barnard (1994) described this focus on the negative as victimology and called it the obsessive detecting of deficit to the exclusion of strength.

By 2003 the term Positive Psychology was said to have gathered together theory and research about what makes life most worth living (Peterson and Park, 2003). By this time there were more than 100 undergraduate courses in positive psychology in the US alone (Murray, 2003). The field of positive psychology is quick to acknowledge the work of its forefathers such as James (1902/1958), Hall (1922), Watson (1928), Jung (1933/1936/1969), Terman (1939), Allport (1961), Maslow (1968/1971) and Rogers (1954). According to Rich (2001) positive psychology clearly has its roots in humanistic psychology citing Maslow and Rogers are seminal thinkers in the field.

Positive psychology is acknowledged as been seen as both state like and trait like depending on whether it investigates what accounts for a moment of happiness or describes the factors that distinguish happy from unhappy people. Positive psychology focuses on the individual’s perception of their own well-being. In his article on subjective well-being Dineer (2000) explains that well-being is a scientific sounding term for what people usually mean by happiness. Understanding the context the we find ourselves in can have an impact on how we view the psychological process. According to Lewin (1935) behaviour is determined by the interplay between the individual psychological characteristics and the social environment that they find themselves in.

The Happiness School is focused on helping our clients understand the benefits of positive psychology in practical and useful ways. We want to help you to bring attention to the benefits and simplicity of useful positive psychology methods every day.

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