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Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living, focusing on both individual and societal well-being. It studies "positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions...it aims to improve
quality of life Quality of life (QOL) is defined by the World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United N ...

quality of life
." 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. Positive psychology began as a new domain of
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

psychology
in 1998 when
Martin Seligman Martin Elias Peter Seligman (; born August 12, 1942) is an American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting wi ...

Martin Seligman
chose it as the theme for his term as president of the
American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologist A psychologist is a professional A professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns a living from a speci ...
. It is a reaction against past practices, which have tended to focus on mental illness and emphasized maladaptive behavior and negative thinking. It builds on the
humanistic Humanism is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Reality is the ...
movement by
Abraham Maslow Abraham Harold Maslow (; April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was an American psychologist who was best known for creating , a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualizat ...
,
Rollo May Rollo Reece May (April 21, 1909 – October 22, 1994) was an American existential psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavi ...
,
James Bugental Elizabeth & Jim Bugental James Frederick Thomas BugentalStefan E. Schulenberg, ''Approaching Terra Incognita with James F. T. Bugental: An Interview and an Overview of Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy''. ''Journal of Contemporary Psychothera ...
and
Carl Rogers Carl Ransom Rogers (January 8, 1902 – February 4, 1987) was an American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experiment ...

Carl Rogers
, which encourages an emphasis on
happiness The term ''happiness'' is used in the context of mental Mental may refer to: * of or relating to the mind Films * Mental (2012 film), ''Mental'' (2012 film), an Australian comedy-drama * Mental (2016 film), ''Mental'' (2016 film), a Bangla ...

happiness
,
well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a person is what is ultimately good ''for'' this person, what is in the s ...
, and positivity, thus creating the foundation for what is now known as positive psychology.Srinivasan, T. S. (2015, February 12). The 5 Founding Fathers and A History of Positive Psychology. Retrieved February 4, 2017, from https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/founding-fathers/ Positive psychology focuses on
eudaimonia Eudaimonia (Ancient Greek, Greek: :Wiktionary:εὐδαιμονία, εὐδαιμονία ; sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, ) is a Greek word literally translating to the state or condition of 'good spirit', and which is commonl ...
, 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 psychologists often use the terms
subjective well-being Subjective well-being (SWB) is a self-reported measure of well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a ...
and happiness interchangeably. Positive psychologists have suggested a number of factors may contribute to happiness and subjective well-being. For example, social ties with a spouse, family, friends, colleagues, and wider
networks Network and networking may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Network (1976 film), ''Network'' (1976 film), a 1976 American film * Network (2019 film), ''Network'' (2019 film), an Indian film * Network (album), ''Network'' (album), a 2004 ...

networks
; membership in clubs or social organizations; physical exercise, and the practice of
meditation Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing one's attention in the present moment without evaluation,Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Interventio ...

meditation
. Spirituality can also be considered a factor that leads to increased individual happiness and well-being. Spiritual practice and religious commitment is a topic researchers have been studying as another possible source for increased well-being and an added part of positive psychology. Happiness may rise with increasing financial income, though it may plateau or even fall when no further gains are made or after a certain cut-off amount.


Definition and basic assumptions


Definition

Martin Seligman Martin Elias Peter Seligman (; born August 12, 1942) is an American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting wi ...

Martin Seligman
and
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (, hu, Csíkszentmihályi Mihály, ; born 29 September 1934) is a Hungarian-American psychologist. He recognised and named the psychological concept of flow, a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity. He is ...

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
define positive psychology as "the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life."


Basic concepts

Positive psychology is concerned with
eudaimonia Eudaimonia (Ancient Greek, Greek: :Wiktionary:εὐδαιμονία, εὐδαιμονία ; sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, ) is a Greek word literally translating to the state or condition of 'good spirit', and which is commonl ...
, meaning "the good life" or
flourishing Flourishing is "when people experience positive emotions, positive psychological functioning and positive social functioning, most of the time," living "within an optimal range of human functioning." It is a descriptor and measure of positive men ...
. It is focused on living according to what holds the greatest value in life and other such factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life. While not attempting a strict definition of the good life, positive psychologists agree that one must live a
happy The term ''happiness'' is used in the context of Mental health, mental or emotional states, including positive or Pleasure, pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It is also used in the context of life satisfaction, subjecti ...

happy
, engaged, and meaningful life in order to experience "the good life.”
Martin Seligman Martin Elias Peter Seligman (; born August 12, 1942) is an American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting wi ...

Martin Seligman
referred to "the good life" as using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic
happiness The term ''happiness'' is used in the context of mental Mental may refer to: * of or relating to the mind Films * Mental (2012 film), ''Mental'' (2012 film), an Australian comedy-drama * Mental (2016 film), ''Mental'' (2016 film), a Bangla ...

happiness
and abundant
gratification Image:Kevin Durant gold medal 2010.jpg, American Basketball player Kevin Durant, after receiving the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship Gratification is the pleasurable Emotion, emotional reaction of happiness in response to a fulfill ...
. Positive psychology complements, without intending to replace or ignore, the traditional areas of
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

psychology
. By emphasizing the study of positive human development, this field helps to balance other approaches that focus on disorder, which may produce only limited understanding. Positive psychology has also placed a significant emphasis on fostering positive
self-esteem Self-esteem is an individual's subjective evaluation of their own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself (for example, "I am unloved", "I am worthy") as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame. Smith an ...
and
self-image Self-image is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to an objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, etc.), but also items that h ...
, though positive psychologists with a less humanist direction are less likely to focus as intently on such topics. The basic premise of positive psychology is that human beings are often intrigued by the future more than they are driven by the past. It also suggests that a combination of positive experiences and emotions concerning the past, the present, and the future leads to a pleasant, happy life. Another aspect of this may come from our views outside of our own lives. Author of ''Grit'', Angela Duckworth, might view this as having an other-centered purpose, of which could have a positive psychological affect on our lives. Seligman identified other possible goals: families and schools that allow children to grow, workplaces that aim for satisfaction and high productivity, and teaching others about positive psychology.Seligman, Martin E.P. "Positive Psychology Center." Positive Psychology Center. University of Pennsylvania, 2007. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert has also written extensively on the affects of time perception and happiness. Those who practice positive psychology attempt
psychological intervention In applied psychology Applied psychology is the use of psychological methods and findings of scientific psychology to solve practical problems of human and animal behavior and experience. Mental health, organizational psychology, business man ...
s that foster positive attitudes toward one's subjective experiences, individual traits, and life events. The goal is to minimize
pathological Pathology is the study of the causesCauses, or causality, is the relationship between one event and another. It may also refer to: * Causes (band), an indie band based in the Netherlands * Causes (company), an online company See also * Cau ...
thoughts that may arise in a hopeless mindset and to develop a sense of optimism toward life. Positive psychologists seek to encourage acceptance of one's past, excitement and optimism about one's future experiences, and a sense of contentment and well-being in the present. Related concepts are
happiness The term ''happiness'' is used in the context of mental Mental may refer to: * of or relating to the mind Films * Mental (2012 film), ''Mental'' (2012 film), an Australian comedy-drama * Mental (2016 film), ''Mental'' (2016 film), a Bangla ...

happiness
,
well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a person is what is ultimately good ''for'' this person, what is in the s ...
,
quality of life Quality of life (QOL) is defined by the World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United N ...

quality of life
,
contentment Contentment is an emotional state Emotions are biological Biology is the natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise tha ...

contentment
, and meaningful life. - Happiness: Has been sought after and discussed throughout time. Research has concluded that happiness can be thought of in the way we act or what we do and how we think in relative terms to it. - Well-Being: Has often been referred to what is inherently good for an individual both physically and mentally, though other aspects could be added in to define well-being. - Quality of life: Quality of life encompasses more than just physical and mental well-being, it involves socioeconomic factors. It is also perceived differently in different cultures and regions around the world, but can come down to how well you are living and functioning in life.


Research topics

According to Seligman and Peterson, positive psychology addresses three issues: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Positive emotions are concerned with being content with one's past, being happy in the present and having hope for the future. Positive individual traits focus on one's strengths and virtues. Finally, positive institutions are based on strengths to better a community of people. According to Peterson, positive psychologists are concerned with four topics: positive experiences, enduring psychological traits, positive relationships, and positive institutions. He also states that topics of interest to topics of interest to researchers in the field are states of
pleasure Pleasure refers to experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something. It contrasts with pain or suffering, which are forms of feeling bad. It is closely related to value, desire and action: humans and other conscious animals ...
or
flow Flow may refer to: Science and technology * Flow (fluid) or fluid dynamics, the motion of a gas or liquid * Flow (geomorphology), a type of mass wasting or slope movement in geomorphology * Flow (mathematics), a group action of the real numbers on ...
,
values In ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy ...
, strengths,
virtue Virtue ( la, virtus ''Virtus'' () was a specific virtue in Ancient Rome. It carries connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strengths (from Latin ''vir'', "man"). It was thus a fr ...

virtue
s, talents, as well as the ways that these can be promoted by
social system In sociology, social system is the patterned network of relationships constituting a coherent whole that exist between individuals, groups, and institutions. It is the formal Social structure, structure of role and status that can form in a small ...
s and institutions.


History


Origin

While the formal discipline of positive psychology has only existed since 2000, the concepts that form the basis of it have been present in religious and philosophical discourse for thousands of years. It has been influenced by humanistic as well as psychodynamic approaches to treatment. Predating the use of the term “positive psychology”, researchers within the field of psychology had been focusing on topics that would now be included under this new denomination. The term positive psychology dates back at least to 1954, when Maslow's first edition of '' Motivation and Personality'' was published with a final chapter titled "Toward a Positive Psychology." In the second edition published in 1970, he removed that chapter, saying in the preface that "a positive psychology is at least available today though not very widely." There have been indications that psychologists since the 1950s have been increasingly focused on the promotion of mental health rather than merely treating mental illness. From the beginning of psychology, the field has addressed the human experience using the " Disease Model," specifically studying and identifying the
dysfunction Dysfunction can refer to: * Abnormality (behavior) * Dysfunctional family * Sexual dysfunction * Dysfunction (album), ''Dysfunction'' (album), an album by the rock band Staind * Manifest and latent functions and dysfunctions (sociological theory) * ...
of an individual. Positive psychology grew as an important field of study within psychology in 1998 when
Martin Seligman Martin Elias Peter Seligman (; born August 12, 1942) is an American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting wi ...

Martin Seligman
chose it as the theme for his term as president of the
American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologist A psychologist is a professional A professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns a living from a speci ...
. In the first sentence of his book ''Authentic Happiness'', Seligman claimed: "for the last half century psychology has been consumed with a single topic only – mental illness," expanding on Maslow's comments. He urged psychologists to continue the earlier missions of psychology of nurturing talent and improving normal life.


Development

The first positive psychology summit took place in 1999. The First International Conference on Positive Psychology took place in 2002. More attention was given by the general public in 2006 when, using the same framework, a course at
Harvard University Harvard University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly t ...

Harvard University
became particularly popular.Ben-Shahar, Ben (2007) "Happier -Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment", First Edition, McGraw-Hill Co. In June 2009, the First World Congress on Positive Psychology took place at the
University of Pennsylvania The University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) is a in , Pennsylvania. The university, established as the College of Philadelphia in 1740, is one of the nine chartered prior to the . , Penn's founder and first president, advocated an edu ...

University of Pennsylvania
. Th
International Positive Psychology Association
(IPPA) is a recently established association that has expanded to thousands of members from 80 different countries. The IPPA's missions include: (1) "further the science of positive psychology across the globe and to ensure that the field continues to rest on this science" (2) "work for the effective and responsible application of positive psychology in diverse areas such as organizational psychology, counselling and clinical psychology, business, health, education, and coaching," (3) "foster education and training in the field." The field of positive psychology today is most advanced in the United States and Western Europe. Even though positive psychology offers a new approach to the study of positive emotions and behavior, the ideas, theories, research, and motivation to study the positive side of human behavior is as old as humanity.


Influences

Several humanistic psychologists, most notably
Abraham Maslow Abraham Harold Maslow (; April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was an American psychologist who was best known for creating , a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualizat ...
,
Carl Rogers Carl Ransom Rogers (January 8, 1902 – February 4, 1987) was an American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experiment ...

Carl Rogers
, and
Erich Fromm Erich Seligmann Fromm (; ; March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) was a German social psychologist Social psychology is the scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (Britis ...

Erich Fromm
, developed theories and practices pertaining to human
happiness The term ''happiness'' is used in the context of mental Mental may refer to: * of or relating to the mind Films * Mental (2012 film), ''Mental'' (2012 film), an Australian comedy-drama * Mental (2016 film), ''Mental'' (2016 film), a Bangla ...

happiness
and flourishing. More recently, positive psychologists have found
empirical Empirical evidence for a proposition In logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence (linguistics), sentence. In philosophy, "Meaning (philosophy), meaning" is understood to be a non-linguistic entity which is s ...
support for the humanistic theories of flourishing. In addition, positive psychology has moved ahead in a variety of new directions. In 1984, Diener published his
tripartite model of subjective well-being Subjective well-being (SWB) is a self-reported measure of well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a ...
, positing "three distinct but often related components of wellbeing: frequent positive affect, infrequent negative affect, and cognitive evaluations such as
life satisfaction Life satisfaction (LS) is the way in which people show their emotions, feelings (moods) and how they feel about their directions and options for the future The future is the time after the past and present. Its arrival is considered inevitabl ...
." In this model,
cognitive Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual function Intellectual functioning refers to the "general men ...
,
affective Affect, in psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of imm ...
and contextual factors contribute to subjective well-being. According to Diener and Suh, subjective well-being is "based on the idea that how each person thinks and feels about his or her life is important." Carol Ryff's
Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being The Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being is a theory developed by Carol Ryff which determines six factors which contribute to an individual's psychological well-being, contentment, and happiness.Seifert, T. A. (2005). The Ryff scales of p ...
was initially published in 1989, and additional testing of its factors was published in 1995. It postulates six factors which are key for well-being, namely
self-acceptance Self-acceptance is acceptance of self. Definition Self-acceptance can be defined as: * the awareness of one's strengths and weaknesses, * the realistic (yet subjective) appraisal of one's talents, capabilities, and general worth, and, * feelings ...
,
personal growth Personal development consists of activities that develop a person's capabilities and potential, build human capital Human capital is the stock of habits, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or som ...
,
purpose in life Intentions are mental states A mental state, or a mental property, is a state of mind of a person. Mental states comprise a diverse class including perception, pain experience, belief, desire, intention, emotion, and memory. There is controversy c ...
, environmental mastery,
autonomy In developmental psychology Developmental psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions ...

autonomy
, and positive relations with others. According to
Corey Keyes Corey Keyes is an United States, American sociologist and psychologist. He is known for his work with positive psychology. Keyes currently teaches at Emory University in Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia. Work Keyes works in the areas of complete ment ...
, who collaborated with Carol Ryff and uses the term
flourishing Flourishing is "when people experience positive emotions, positive psychological functioning and positive social functioning, most of the time," living "within an optimal range of human functioning." It is a descriptor and measure of positive men ...
as a central concept, mental well-being has three components, namely
hedonic Hedonism refers to a family of theories, all of which have in common that ''pleasure'' plays a central role in them. ''Psychological'' or ''motivational hedonism'' claims that human behavior is determined by desires to increase pleasure and to d ...
(c.q. subjective or emotional), psychological, and social well-being. Hedonic well-being concerns emotional aspects of well-being, whereas psychological and social well-being, c.q. eudaimonic well-being, concerns skills, abilities, and optimal functioning. This tripartite model of mental well-being has received extensive empirical support across cultures.


Influences in Ancient History

While the formal title "positive psychology" has only been around for the past two decades, the concepts that form the basis of this field have been present in religious and philosophical discourse for thousands of years. The field of psychology predating the use of the term positive psychology has seen researchers who focused primarily on topics that would now be included under the umbrella of positive psychology. Some view positive psychology as a meeting of Eastern thought, such as
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
, and Western
psychodynamic Psychodynamics, also known as psychodynamic psychology, in its broadest sense, is an approach to psychology that emphasizes systematic study of the psychological forces that underlie human behavior, feelings, and emotions and how they might relate ...
approaches. The historical roots of positive psychology are found in the teachings of
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
, whose
Nicomachean Ethics The ''Nicomachean Ethics'' (; grc, Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια, ) is the name normally given to 's best-known work on . The work, which plays a role in defining , consists of ten books, originally separate scrolls, and is understood to be ...
teach the cultivation of moral virtue as the means of attaining happiness and well-being, which he referred to as
eudaimonia Eudaimonia (Ancient Greek, Greek: :Wiktionary:εὐδαιμονία, εὐδαιμονία ; sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, ) is a Greek word literally translating to the state or condition of 'good spirit', and which is commonl ...
.


Core theory and methods

There is no accepted "gold standard" theory in positive psychology. However, the work of is regularly quoted. So too the work of and older models of well-being, such as Carol Ryff's Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being and Diener's
tripartite model of subjective well-being Subjective well-being (SWB) is a self-reported measure of well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a ...
.


Initial theory: three paths to happiness

In ''Authentic Happiness'' (2002) Seligman proposed three kinds of a happy life that can be investigated:David Sze (2015)
''The Father of Positive Psychology and His Two Theories of Happiness''
/ref> # ''Pleasant life'': research into the Pleasant Life, or the "life of enjoyment," examines how people optimally experience, forecast , and savor the positive feelings and emotions that are part of normal and healthy living (e.g., relationships, hobbies, interests, entertainment, etc.). Despite the attention given, Martin Seligman says this most transient element of happiness may be the least important. # ''Good Life'': investigation of the beneficial effects of immersion, absorption, and
flow Flow may refer to: Science and technology * Flow (fluid) or fluid dynamics, the motion of a gas or liquid * Flow (geomorphology), a type of mass wasting or slope movement in geomorphology * Flow (mathematics), a group action of the real numbers on ...
felt by individuals when optimally engaged with their primary activities, is the study of the Good Life, or the "life of engagement." Flow is experienced when there is a positive match between a person's strength and their current task, i.e., when one feels confident of accomplishing a chosen or assigned task. # ''Meaningful Life'': inquiry into the Meaningful Life , or "life of affiliation," questions how individuals derive a positive sense of well-being, belonging, meaning, and purpose from being part of and contributing back to something larger and more permanent than themselves (e.g., nature, social groups, organizations, movements, traditions, belief systems).


PERMA

In ''Flourish'' (2011) Seligman argued that the last category of his proposed three kinds of a happy life, " meaningful life," can be considered as 3 different categories. The resulting summary for this theory is Seligman's PERMA acronym: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and purpose, and Accomplishments. It is a
mnemonic A mnemonic () device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory Memory is the faculty of the by which or is , stored, and retrieved when needed. It is the ...

mnemonic
for the five elements of Martin Seligman's well-being theory: * ''Positive emotions'' include a wide range of feelings, not just happiness and joy. Included are emotions like excitement, satisfaction, pride and awe, amongst others. These emotions are frequently seen as connected to positive outcomes, such as longer life and healthier social relationships. * ''Engagement'' refers to involvement in activities that draws and builds upon one's interests.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (, hu, Csíkszentmihályi Mihály, ; born 29 September 1934) is a Hungarian-American psychologist. He recognised and named the psychological concept of flow, a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity. He is ...

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
explains true engagement as
flow Flow may refer to: Science and technology * Flow (fluid) or fluid dynamics, the motion of a gas or liquid * Flow (geomorphology), a type of mass wasting or slope movement in geomorphology * Flow (mathematics), a group action of the real numbers on ...
, a state of deep effortless involvement, feeling of intensity that leads to a sense of ecstasy and clarity. The task being done needs to call upon higher skill and be a bit difficult and challenging yet still possible. Engagement involves passion for and concentration on the task at hand and is assessed subjectively as to whether the person engaged was completely absorbed, losing self-consciousness. * ''Relationships'' are essential in fueling positive emotions, whether they are work-related, familial, romantic, or platonic. As Christopher Peterson puts it simply, "other people matter." Humans receive, share, and spread positivity to others through relationships. They are important not only in bad times, but good times as well. In fact, relationships can be strengthened by reacting to one another positively. It is typical that most positive things take place in the presence of other people. * ''Meaning'' is also known as
purpose Intentions are mental states in which the agent commits themselves to a course of action. Having the plan to visit the zoo tomorrow is an example of an intention. The action plan is the ''content'' of the intention while the commitment is the ''at ...
, and prompts the question of "why." Discovering and figuring out a clear "why" puts everything into context from work to relationships to other parts of life. Finding meaning is learning that there is something greater than one's self. Despite potential challenges, working with meaning drives people to continue striving for a desirable goal. * ''Accomplishments'' are the pursuit of success and mastery. Unlike the other parts of PERMA, they are sometimes pursued even when accomplishments do not result in positive emotions, meaning, or relationships. That being noted, accomplishments can activate the other elements of PERMA, such as pride, under positive emotion. Accomplishments can be individual or community-based, fun- or work-based. Each of the five PERMA elements was selected according to three criteria: # It contributes to well-being. # It is pursued for its own sake. # It is defined and measured independently of the other elements.


''Character Strengths and Virtues''

The development of the '' Character Strengths and Virtues'' (CSV) handbook (2004) represented the first attempt by Seligman and Peterson to identify and classify positive psychological traits of human beings. Much like the ''
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders The ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders'' (DSM; latest edition: DSM-5 The ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition'' (DSM-5), is the 2013 update to the ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of ...
'' (DSM) of general psychology, the CSV provided a theoretical framework to assist in understanding strengths and virtues and for developing practical applications for positive psychology. This manual identified 6 classes of
virtues Virtue ( la, virtus) is morality, moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is Value (ethics), valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. In other words, it is a behavior that sho ...
(i.e., "core virtues"), underlying 24 measurable character strengths. The CSV suggested these 6 virtues have a historical basis in the vast majority of cultures; in addition, these virtues and strengths can lead to increased happiness when built upon. Notwithstanding numerous cautions and caveats, this suggestion of universality hints threefold: 1) The study of positive human qualities broadens the scope of psychological research to include mental wellness, 2) the leaders of the positive psychology movement are challenging
moral relativism Moral relativism or ethical relativism (often reformulated as relativist ethics or relativist morality) is a term used to describe several philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those ...
, suggesting people are "evolutionarily predisposed" toward certain
virtue Virtue ( la, virtus ''Virtus'' () was a specific virtue in Ancient Rome. It carries connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strengths (from Latin ''vir'', "man"). It was thus a fr ...

virtue
s, and 3) virtue has a biological basis. The organization of the 6 virtues and 24 strengths is as follows: #
Wisdom Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to contemplate and act using knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a state ...

Wisdom
and knowledge:
creativity Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea In common usage and in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, suc ...

creativity
,
curiosity Curiosity (from Latin ''wikt:curiositas#Latin, cūriōsitās'', from ''cūriōsus'' "careful, diligent, curious", akin to ''cura'' "care") is a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by ...

curiosity
, open-mindedness,
love of learning Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest Interpersonal relationship, interpersonal affection, to the simplest pleasure. An example of this range of m ...
, ,
innovation Innovation is the practical implementation of ideas A mental representation (or cognitive representation), in philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology and nature of the mind and its relation ...

innovation
,
prudence Prudence ( la, prudentia, contracted from meaning "seeing ahead, sagacity") is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field ...
# Courage:
bravery Courage (also called bravery or valour) is the choice and willingness Volition or will is the cognitive process Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and ...
,
persistence Persistence may refer to: Math and computers * Image persistence, in LCD monitors * Persistence (computer science), the characteristic of data that outlives the execution of the program that created it * Persistence of a number, a mathematical qu ...
,
vitality Vitality (, , ) is the capacity to live, grow, or develop. More simply it is the property of having life. The perception of vitality is regarded as a basic psychological drive and, in philosophy, a component to the will to live. As such, people ...

vitality
, zest # Humanity:
love Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and ...

love
,
kindness Kindness is a type of behavior marked by acts of generosity, consideration, or concern for others, without expecting praise or reward. Kindness is a topic of interest in philosophy and religion. Kindness was one of the main topics in the Bi ...
,
social intelligence Social intelligence is the capacity to know oneself and to know others. Social Intelligence develops from experience with people and learning from success and failures in social settings. It is more commonly referred to as "tact", "common sense ...
# Justice:
citizenship Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and t ...
, fairness,
leadership Leadership, both as a research area and as a practical skill, encompasses the ability of an individual, group or organization An organization, or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; American and B ...

leadership
,
integrity Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values. In ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, def ...

integrity
,
excellence Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or ...

excellence
# Temperance:
forgiveness Forgiveness, in a psychological Psychology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally s ...

forgiveness
and
mercy Mercy (Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A l ...

mercy
,
humility Humility is the quality of being humble. Dictionary definitions accentuate humility as a low self-regard and sense of unworthiness. In a religious context humility can mean a recognition of self in relation to a deity (i.e. God) or deities, and ...
,
self control Self-control, an aspect of inhibitory control, is the ability to regulate one's emotions, thoughts, and behavior in the face of temptations and impulses. As an executive function, self-control is a cognitive process Cognition () refers to " ...

self control
# Transcendence: appreciation of beauty,
gratitude Gratitude, thankfulness or gratefulness, from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicar ...

gratitude
,
hope Hope is an optimistic Optimism is an attitude reflecting a belief or hope that the outcome of some specific endeavor, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favorable, and desirable. A common idiom An idiom is a phrase or expression tha ...

hope
,
humor Humour (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World ...

humor
,
spirituality The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other. Traditionally, spirituality referred to a Religion, religious process of re-formation which "aims to recover the origin ...

spirituality
Recent research challenged the need for 6 virtues. Instead, researchers suggested the 24 strengths are more accurately grouped into just 3 or 4 categories: Intellectual Strengths, Interpersonal Strengths, and Temperance Strengths, or alternatively, Interpersonal Strengths, Fortitude, Vitality, and Cautiousness. These strengths, and their classifications, have emerged independently elsewhere in literature on values. Paul Thagard described examples, which included Jeff Shrager's workshops to discover the habits of highly creative people. Some research indicates that well-being effects that appear to be due to spirituality are actually better described as due to virtue.


Flow

In the 1970s, Csikszentmihalyi (a Hungarian- American psychologist) began studying ''
flow Flow may refer to: Science and technology * Flow (fluid) or fluid dynamics, the motion of a gas or liquid * Flow (geomorphology), a type of mass wasting or slope movement in geomorphology * Flow (mathematics), a group action of the real numbers on ...
'', a state of absorption where one's abilities are well-matched to the demands at-hand. Flow is characterized by intense
concentration In chemistry Chemistry is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in t ...

concentration
, loss of self-awareness, a feeling of being perfectly challenged (neither bored nor overwhelmed), and a sense that "time is flying." Flow is intrinsically rewarding; it can also assist in the achievement of
goal A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, Planning, plan and commit to achieve. People endeavour to reach goals within a finite time by setting Time limit, deadlines. A goal is roughly simi ...

goal
s (e.g., winning a game) or improving skills (e.g., becoming a better chess player). Anyone can experience flow and it can be felt in different domains, such as play,
creativity Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea In common usage and in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, suc ...

creativity
, and work. Flow is achieved when the challenge of the situation meets one's personal abilities. A mismatch of challenge for someone of low skills results in a state of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed; insufficient challenge for someone highly skilled, results in
boredom In conventional usage, boredom is an emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pl ...

boredom
. Flow can be extremely beneficial when it comes to parenting children. When flow is enhanced between parents and their children, the parents are more capable of thriving in their role as a parent. A parenting style that is positively oriented will also result in children that experience lower levels of stress and overall improve the child's well-being.


Research advances and applications

Topical and
methodological Methodology is "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choices researchers r other usersmake". It comprises the theoretical analysis of the body of methods an ...
development has expanded the field of positive psychology. These advances have enabled the field of positive psychology to grow beyond its core theories and methods. Positive psychology is now a global area of study, with various national indices tracking citizens' happiness ratings.


Research findings

Research in positive psychology, well-being,
eudaimonia Eudaimonia (Ancient Greek, Greek: :Wiktionary:εὐδαιμονία, εὐδαιμονία ; sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, ) is a Greek word literally translating to the state or condition of 'good spirit', and which is commonl ...
and
happiness The term ''happiness'' is used in the context of mental Mental may refer to: * of or relating to the mind Films * Mental (2012 film), ''Mental'' (2012 film), an Australian comedy-drama * Mental (2016 film), ''Mental'' (2016 film), a Bangla ...

happiness
, and the theories of Diener, Ryff, Keyes and Seligman cover a broad range of topics including "the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life." A
meta-analysis A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science s ...
on 49 studies in 2009 showed that Positive Psychology Interventions (PPI) produced improvements in well-being and lower
depression Depression may refer to: Mental health * Depression (mood), a state of low mood and aversion to activity * Mood disorders characterized by depression are commonly referred to as simply ''depression'', including: ** Dysthymia ** Major depressive ...
levels, the PPIs studied included writing gratitude letters, learning optimistic thinking, replaying positive life experiences and socializing with others. In a later meta-analysis of 39 studies with 6,139 participants in 2012, the outcomes were positive. Three to six months after a PPI the effects for subjective well-being and psychological well-being were still significant. However the positive effect was weaker than in the 2009 meta analysis, the authors concluded that this was because they only used higher quality studies. The PPIs they considered included counting blessings,
kindness Kindness is a type of behavior marked by acts of generosity, consideration, or concern for others, without expecting praise or reward. Kindness is a topic of interest in philosophy and religion. Kindness was one of the main topics in the Bi ...
practices, making personal goals, showing gratitude and focusing on personal strengths. Another review of PPIs published in 2018 found that over 78% of intervention studies were conducted in Western countries. In the textbook ''Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness'', authors Compton and Hoffman give the "Top Down Predictors" of well-being as high
self esteem Self-esteem is an individual's subjective evaluation of their own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself (for example, "I am unloved", "I am worthy") as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame. Smith and ...
,
optimism Optimism is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscio ...

optimism
,
self efficacy Self-efficacy is, according to psychologist Albert Bandura who originally proposed the concept, a personal judgment of how well or poorly a person is able to cope with a given situation based on the skills they have and the circumstances they face. ...
, a sense of meaning in life and positive relationships with others. The personality traits most associated with well being are
extraversion The traits Trait may refer to: * Phenotypic trait in biology, which involve genes and characteristics of organisms * Trait (computer programming), a model for structuring object-oriented programs (a template class in the C++ programming langu ...
, agreeability and low levels of
neuroticism In the study of psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an o ...
. In a study published in 2020, students were enrolled in a positive psychology course that focused on improving happiness and well-being through teaching about positive psychology. The participants answer questions pertaining to the 5 categories known as PERMA. At the end of the semester those same students reported significantly higher scores in all categories (p <.001) minus engagement which was significant at p < .05. One of the aims of this study was to make it rewarding for positive psychology interventions to stay in the participants lives. The authors stated, “Not only do students learn and get credit, there is also a good chance that many will reap the benefits in what is most important to them—their health, happiness, and well-being.”


Academic methods


Quantitative

Quantitative methods in positive psychology include p-technique factor analysis, dynamic factor analysis, interindividual differences and
structural equation modeling Structural equation modeling (SEM) is a label for a diverse set of methods used by scientists in both experimental and observational research across the sciences, business, and other fields. It is used most in the social and behavioral sciences ...
, spectral analysis and item response models, dynamic systems analysis, latent growth analysis, latent-class models,
hierarchical linear modeling Multilevel models (also known as hierarchical linear models, linear mixed-effect model, mixed models, nested data models, random coefficient, random-effects models, random parameter models, or split-plot designs) are statistical modelA statistical ...
,
measurement invarianceMeasurement invariance or measurement equivalence is a statistical property of measurement that indicates that the same construct is being measured across some specified groups. For example, measurement invariance can be used to study whether a give ...
,
experimental method An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method ...
s, behavior genetics, and integration of quantitative and qualitative approaches.


Qualitative

In a 2012 '' Journal of Positive Psychology'' article published by Grant J. Rich, the usage of qualitative methodology to study positive psychology is explored and considered. Author Rich addresses the popularity of quantitative methods in studying the
empirical Empirical evidence for a proposition In logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence (linguistics), sentence. In philosophy, "Meaning (philosophy), meaning" is understood to be a non-linguistic entity which is s ...
questions that positive psychology presents. He argues that there is an "overemphasis" on quantitative methods and suggests implementing qualitative methods, such as
semi-structured interview A semi-structured interview is a method of research Research is "creativity, creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization, and analysis of information to increase unde ...
s, observations,
fieldwork Field research, field studies, or fieldwork is the collection Collection or Collections may refer to: * Cash collection, the function of an accounts receivable department * Collection agency, agency to collect cash * Collections managemen ...

fieldwork
, , and
focus group A focus group is a group interview involving a small number of demographically similar people or participants who have other common traits/experiences. Their reactions to specific researcher/evaluator-posed questions are studied. Focus groups are ...
s. Rich states that qualitative approaches are valuable approaches to studying positive psychology. He writes that usage of qualitative methods will further promote the "flourishing of positive psychology" and encourages such practice.


Behavioral interventions

Changing happiness levels through interventions is a further methodological advancement in the study of positive psychology. Enhancing happiness through behavioral interventions has been the focus of various academic and scientific psychological publications. Happiness-enhancing interventions include expressing
kindness Kindness is a type of behavior marked by acts of generosity, consideration, or concern for others, without expecting praise or reward. Kindness is a topic of interest in philosophy and religion. Kindness was one of the main topics in the Bi ...
,
gratitude Gratitude, thankfulness or gratefulness, from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicar ...

gratitude
,
optimism Optimism is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscio ...

optimism
,
humility Humility is the quality of being humble. Dictionary definitions accentuate humility as a low self-regard and sense of unworthiness. In a religious context humility can mean a recognition of self in relation to a deity (i.e. God) or deities, and ...
,
awe Awe is an emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or suffering, displeas ...

awe
, and
mindfulness Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing one's attention in the present moment without evaluation,Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review, by Ruth A. Baer, available at http://www.wisebrain.or ...

mindfulness
. In 2005, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Kennon M. Sheldon, and David Schkade co-authored an academic paper published in the journal ''
Review of General Psychology ''Review of General Psychology'' is the quarterly scientific journal of the American Psychological Association Division 1: The Society for General Psychology. The journal publishes cross-disciplinary psychology, psychological articles that are conce ...
''. In their research, they created a behavioral experiment using two 6-week interventions. One intervention studied was the performance of acts of kindness. The other was focused on gratitude and emphasized the counting of one's blessings. The study participants who went through the behavioral interventions reported higher levels of happiness and well-being than those who did not participate in either intervention. The paper provides experimental support for the effect of gratitude and kindness on enhancing subjective well-being and happiness. Further research conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Rene Dickerhoof, Julia K. Boehm, and Kennon M. Sheldon, published in 2011 in the academic journal ''
Emotion Emotions are psychological state A mental state is a state of mind that an agent is in. Most simplistically, a mental state is a mental condition. It is a relation that connects the agent with a proposition. Several of these states are a comb ...
'', found that the interventions of expressing optimism and expressing gratitude enhanced subjective well-being in participants who took part in the intervention for 8 months. The researchers concluded that interventions are "most successful when participants know about, endorse, and commit to the intervention." The article provides support that when individuals enthusiastically take part in behavioral interventions, such as expression of optimism and gratitude, they may be engaging in an approach to increase happiness and subjective well-being. In 2014, Elliott Kruse, Joseph Chancellor, Peter M. Ruberton, and Sonja Lyubomirsky published an academic article in the journal '' Social Psychology and Personality Science.'' In their research, they study the interaction effects between gratitude and humility through behavior interventions. The interventions they studied were writing a gratitude letter and writing a 14-day diary. In both interventions, Kruse et al. found that gratitude and humility are connected and are "mutually reinforcing." The article also discusses how gratitude, and its associated humility, may lead to more positive emotional states and subjective well-being. Researchers Melanie Rudd, Kathleen D. Vohs, and Jennifer Aaker conducted a series of experiments that showed a positive effect of awe on subjective well-being, publishing their results in 2012 in the academic journal ''
Psychological Science ''Psychological Science'', the flagship journal of the Association for Psychological Science The Association for Psychological Science (APS), previously the American Psychological Society, is an international non-profit organization A non ...
''. Their research found that individuals who felt awe also reported feeling higher availability of time, more preference for experiential expenditures than material expenditures, and greater life satisfaction. Experiences that heighten awe may lead to higher levels of life satisfaction and, in turn, higher levels of happiness and subjective well-being. Mindfulness interventions may also increase happiness. In a ''
Mindfulness Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing one's attention in the present moment without evaluation,Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review, by Ruth A. Baer, available at http://www.wisebrain.or ...
'' article published in 2011 by Torbjörn Josefsson, Pernilla Larsman, Anders G. Broberg, and Lars-Gunnar Lundh, it was found that meditation improves subjective well-being for individuals who mindfully meditate. The researchers note that being mindful in meditation includes awareness and observation of one's meditation practice, with non-reaction and non-judgmental sentiments during meditation.


National indices of happiness

The creation of various national indices of happiness have broadened and expanded the field of positive psychology to a global scale. In a January 2000 academic article published in ''American Psychologist'', psychologist
Ed Diener Edward Francis Diener (July 25, 1946 – April 27, 2021) was an American psychologist, professor, and author. Diener was a professor of psychology at the University of Utah and the University of Virginia, and Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Profe ...
proposed and argued for the creation of a national happiness index in the United States. Such an index would provide measurements of happiness, or subjective well-being, within the United States and across many other countries in the world. Diener argued that national indices would be helpful markers or indicators of population happiness, providing a sense of current ratings and a tracker of happiness across time. Diener proposed that the national index include various sub-measurements of subjective well-being, including "pleasant affect, unpleasant affect, life satisfaction, fulfillment, and more specific states such as stress, affection, trust, and joy." In 2012, the first
World Happiness Report The World Happiness Report is a publication of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among ...

World Happiness Report
was published. The World Happiness Report was initiated by the
UN General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations The United Nations System consists of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) ...
in June 2011, which passed the Bhutanese Resolution. The Bhutanese Resolution called for nations across the world to "give more importance to happiness and well-being in determining how to achieve and measure social and economic development." The data for the World Happiness Reports is collected in partnership with the Gallup World Poll's life evaluations and annual happiness rankings. The World Happiness Report bases its national rankings on how happy constituents self-report and believe themselves to be. The first World Happiness Report, published in 2012, is a 170-page report that details the state of world happiness, the causes of happiness and misery, policy implications from happiness reports, and three case studies of subjective well-being for 1) Bhutan and its
Gross National Happiness Gross National Happiness (GNH), sometimes called Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH), is a philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity t ...
index, 2) the U.K.
Office for National Statistics The Office for National Statistics (ONS; cy, Swyddfa Ystadegau Gwladol) is the executive office of the UK Statistics Authority cy, Y Bwrdd Ystadegau , seal = , logo = UK Statistics Authority logo.svg , formed = , jurisdiction = United Ki ...
Experience, and 3) happiness in the member countries within the
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Économiques, OCDE) is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 38 member countries, founded in 1961 to st ...

OECD
. The World Happiness Report published in 2020 is the 8th publication in the series of reports. It is the first World Happiness Report to include happiness rankings of cities across the world, in addition to rankings of 156 countries. The city of
Helsinki, Finland Helsinki ( or ; ; sv, Helsingfors, ; la, Helsingia) is the capital, primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutherian mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebra ...

Helsinki, Finland
was reported as the city with the highest subjective well-being ranking, and the country of
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and is defined by the Gulf of B ...

Finland
was reported as the country with the highest subjective well-being ranking for the third year in a row. The 2020 report provides insights on happiness based on environmental conditions, social conditions, urban-rural happiness differentials, and sustainable development. It also provides overview and possible explanations for why
Nordic countries The Nordic countries (also known as the Nordics or ''Norden''; lit. 'the North') are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impac ...

Nordic countries
have consistently ranked in the top ten happiest countries in the World Happiness Report since 2013. Possible explanations include Nordic countries' high-quality government benefits and protections to its citizens, including welfare benefits and well-operated democratic institutions, as well as social connections, bonding, and trust. Additional national well-being indices and reported statistics include the Gallup Global Emotions Report, Gallup Sharecare Well-Being Index, Global Happiness Council's Global Happiness and Well-being Policy Report,
Happy Planet Index The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an index Index may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Fictional entities * Index (''A Certain Magical Index''), a character in the light novel series ''A Certain Magical Index'' * The Index, an item on a h ...
, Indigo Wellness Index,
OECD Better Life Index The OECD Better Life Index, created in May 2011 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Économi ...
, and UN Human Development Reports.


Influences on other academic fields

Positive psychology has influenced a variety of other academic fields of study and scholarship. It has been applied to various other areas of scholarship, most notably
Organizational Behavior Organizational behavior (OB) or organisational behaviour is the: "study of human behavior Human behavior is the potential and expressed capacity (Energy (psychological), mentally, Physical activity, physically, and Social actions, sociall ...
and
Psychiatry Psychiatry is the specialty (medicine), medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental disorders. These include various maladaptations related to mood, behaviour, cognition, and perceptions. See glossary of psyc ...
.


Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS)

Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), also referred to as Positive Organizational Behavior (POB), began as a direct application of positive psychology to the field of
organizational behavior Organizational behavior (OB) or organisational behaviour is the: "study of human behavior Human behavior is the potential and expressed capacity (Energy (psychological), mentally, Physical activity, physically, and Social actions, sociall ...
. One of the first times the term was officially defined and published was in 2003, in the text ''Positive Organizational Scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline'' edited by University of Michigan Ross School of Business professors Kim S. Cameron, Jane E. Dutton, and Robert E. Quinn. In the first chapter of the text, Cameron, Dutton, and Quinn promote "the best of the human condition," such as goodness, compassion, resilience, and positive human potential, as an organizational goal as important as financial organizational success. The goal of POS is to study the factors that create positive work experiences and successful, people-oriented organizational outcomes. A large collection of POS research is contained in the 2011 volume ''The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship,'' edited by University of Michigan Ross School of Business Professors Kim S. Cameron and Gretchen M. Spreitzer. This 1076-page volume encompasses nine sections and 79 chapters spanning various topics. Major topics include positive human resource practices, positive organizational practices, and positive leadership and change. Much of the volume expands upon and applies core concepts of positive psychology to the workplace context, covering areas such as positive individual attributes, positive emotions, strengths and virtues, and positive relationships. A further definition of POS, as written by editors Cameron and Spreitzer:
Positive organizational scholarship rigorously seeks to understand what represents the best of the human condition based on scholarly research and theory. Just as positive psychology focuses on exploring optimal individual psychological states rather than pathological ones, organizational scholarship focuses attention on the generative dynamics in organizations that lead to the development of human strength, foster resiliency in employees, enable healing and restoration, and cultivate extraordinary individual and organizational performance. POS emphasizes what elevates individuals and organizations (in addition to what challenges them), what goes right in organizations (in addition to what goes wrong), what is life-giving (in addition to what is problematic or life-depleting), what is experienced as good (in addition to what is objectionable), and what is inspiring (in addition to what is difficult or arduous).
— Kim S. Cameron and Gretchen M. Spreitzer, "Chapter 1. Introduction: What is Positive about Positive Organizational Scholarship?" ''The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship'' (2011)


Psychiatry

Positive psychology has influenced psychiatry by providing additional therapeutic and cognitive behavior shifts, including well-being therapy, positive
psychotherapy Psychotherapy (also psychological therapy or talking therapy) is the use of Psychology, psychological methods, particularly when based on regular Conversation, personal interaction, to help a person change behavior, increase happiness, and ove ...
, and practicing an integration of positive psychology in therapeutic practice. In an 2015 academic article published in ''Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation'', Mills and Kreutzer argue for the principles of positive psychology to be implemented to assist those recovering from
traumatic brain injury A traumatic brain injury (TBI), also known as an intracranial injury, is an injury to the brain caused by an external force. TBI can be classified based on severity (ranging from mild traumatic brain injury TBI/concussionto severe traumatic ...
(TBI). They make the case that TBI rehabilitation practices rely on the betterment of the individual through engaging in everyday practices, a practice significantly related to tenets of positive psychology. Their proposal to connect positive psychology with TBI
vocational rehabilitation Vocational rehabilitation, also abbreviated VR or voc rehab, is a process which enables persons with functional, psychological, developmental, cognitive, and emotional disabilities, impairments or health disabilities to overcome barriers to accessi ...
(VR) also looks at happiness and its
correlation In statistics Statistics is the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In a m ...
with improvements in
mental health Mental health is "a state of well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a person is what is ultimatel ...

mental health
, including increased confidence and productivity, as well as others. While the authors point out that empirical evidence for positive psychology is limited, they clarify that positive psychology's focus on small successes, optimism and prosocial behavior is promising for improvements in the social and emotional well-being of TBI patients.


Popular culture

The study of positive psychology has been translated into various popular media outlets, including books and films, and has been an influencing factor in the wellness industry.


Books

There have been several
popular psychology Popular psychology (sometimes shortened as pop psychology or pop psych) is the concepts and theories about human mental life and behavior that are purportedly based on psychology and that find credence among and pass muster with the populace. The ...
books written by positive psychologists for a general audience. Ilona Boniwell, in her book ''Positive Psychology in a Nutshell'', provided a summary of the current research. According to Boniwell, well-being is related to optimism,
extraversion The traits Trait may refer to: * Phenotypic trait in biology, which involve genes and characteristics of organisms * Trait (computer programming), a model for structuring object-oriented programs (a template class in the C++ programming langu ...
, social connections (i.e., close friendships), being married, having engaging work, religion or spirituality, leisure, good sleep and exercise, social class (through lifestyle differences and better coping methods) and subjective health (what you think about your health). Boniwell further writes that well-being is not related to age, physical attractiveness, money (once basic needs are met), gender (women are more often depressed but also more often joyful), educational level, having children (although they add meaning to life), moving to a sunnier climate, crime prevention, housing and objective health (what doctors say).
Sonja Lyubomirsky Sonja Lyubomirsky (russian: Соня Любомирский, born December 14, 1966) is a Russian-born American professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside and author of the bestseller ''The How of Happines ...
, in her book ''The How of Happiness'', provides advice and guidance on how to improve happiness. According to ''The How of Happiness,'' individuals should create new habits, seek out new emotions, use variety and timing to prevent
hedonic adaptation The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. According to this theory, as a person ...
, and enlist others to motivate and support during the creation of those new habits. Lyubomirsky gives 12 happiness activities, including savoring life, learning to forgive, and living in the present. ''
Stumbling on Happiness ''Stumbling on Happiness'' is a non-fiction book by Daniel Gilbert. It was published in the United States and Canada in 2006 by Knopf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. () is an American publishing house that was founded by Alfred A. Knopf Sr. and Blanche ...
'' by Daniel Gilbert is another popular book that shares positive psychology research findings for a general readership audience. Gilbert presents research suggesting that individuals are often poor at predicting what will make them happy in the future and that individuals are prone to misevaluating the causes of their happiness. He also notes that the subjectivity of subjective well-being and happiness often is the most difficult challenge to overcome in predicting future happiness, noting that our future selves may have different subjective perspectives on life than our current selves.


Films

Coverage of positive psychology has entered the
film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking Filmmaking (film production) is the process by which a is . Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages, sta ...
. Similarly, films have provided the basis of new research within positive psychology. Happy (2011 film) is a full-length documentary film covering overviewing the fields of positive psychology and
neuroscience Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system In biology, the classical doctrine of the nervous system determines that it is a Complex system, highly complex part of an animal that coordinates its Behavior, actions and Sens ...

neuroscience
. It also highlights various case studies on happiness across diverse cultures and geographies. The film features interviews with notable positive psychologists and scholars, including Daniel Gilbert, Ed Diener, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The Positive Psychology News website includes a section on annual Positive Psychology Movie Awards. The Positive Psychology Movie Awards ranks a short list of feature films of 2009, 2014, and annually between 2016 and 2018 that feature powerful messages of positive psychology. The rankings are according to the website's author, Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D, who is a psychologist, coach, and education director of the VIA Institute on Character. The Positive Psychology Movie Awards presents separate awards for categories including: Best Positive Psychology Film, Award for Positive Relationships, Award for Meaning, Award for Achievement, Award for Mindfulness, Award for Happiness, Signature Strengths Use, among others. Further research done on positive psychology as represented in feature films has been done in association with the VIA Institute. Contemporary and popular films that promote or represent character strengths are the basis for various academic articles.


Wellness industry

The growing popularity and attention given to positive psychology research has influenced industry growth, development, and consumption of products and services meant to cater to wellness and well-being. According to the Global Wellness Institute, as of 2018, the global wellness economy is valued at $4.5 trillion and the wellness industry represents 5.3% of global economic output. Key sectors of the wellness industry include workplace wellness, fitness and mind-body, personal care, and wellness lifestyle. Highlighting happiness and well-being has been a strategy harnessed by various companies in their marketing strategies. Food and beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and Pocky, whose motto is "Share happiness!", emphasize happiness in their commercials, branding, and descriptions. CEOs at retail companies such as Zappos have profited by publishing books detailing their deliverance of happiness, while Amazon's logo features a dimpled smile.


Criticism

Positive psychology has been criticized in many different aspects from its conception continuing into the present day.


Reality distortion

In 1988, psychologists Shelley E. Taylor and Jonathan D. Brown co-authored a ''
Psychological Bulletin The ''Psychological Bulletin'' is a monthly peer-reviewed Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work ( peers). It functions as a form of self-regulation by qualified memb ...
'' article that coined the phrase positive illusions. Positive illusions are the
cognitive processes Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual function Intellectual functioning refers to the "general ment ...
individuals engage in when self-aggrandizing or self-enhancing. They are the unrealistically positive or self-affirming attitudes that individuals hold of themselves, their position, or their environment. In essence, positive illusions are attitudes of extreme optimism that endure even in the face of facts and real conditions. Taylor and Brown suggested that positive illusions protect individuals from negative feedback that they might receive, and this, in turn, preserves their
psychological adaptation A psychological adaptation is a functional, cognitive or behavioral trait that benefits an organism in its environment. Psychological adaptations fall under the scope of evolved psychological mechanisms (EPMs), however, EPMs refer to a less restrict ...
and subjective well-being. However, later research has found that engaging in positive illusions and related attitudes has led to psychological
maladaptive A maladaptation () is a trait Trait may refer to: * Phenotypic trait in biology, which involve genes and characteristics of organisms * Trait (computer programming), a model for structuring object-oriented programs (a template class in the C++ p ...
conditions. These conditions include poorer social relationships, expressions of
narcissism Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterized as having an excessive interest in one's physical appearance and an excessive pre-occupation with one's own needs, often at the expense of others. It is human nature to be selfish ...

narcissism
, and negative workplace outcomes, thus reducing the positive effects that positive illusions have on subjective well-being, overall happiness, and life satisfaction. Kirk Schneider, editor of the
Journal of Humanistic Psychology ''Journal of Humanistic Psychology'' is a Peer review, peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes papers in the field of Psychology. The journal's Editor-in-Chief, editor is Sarah R. Kamens. It has been in publication since 1961 Powers, Robin. C ...
, has said that positive psychology fails to explain past heinous behaviors such as those perpetrated by the Nazi party, Stalinist marches and Klan gatherings, to identify but a few. He also pointed to a body of research showing high positivity correlates with positive illusion, which effectively distorts reality. The extent of the downfall of high positivity or
flourishing Flourishing is "when people experience positive emotions, positive psychological functioning and positive social functioning, most of the time," living "within an optimal range of human functioning." It is a descriptor and measure of positive men ...
is one could become incapable of psychological growth, unable to self-reflect, and tend to hold racial biases. By contrast, negativity, sometimes evidenced in mild to moderate depression, is correlated with less distortion of reality. Therefore, Schneider argues, negativity might play an important role within the dynamics of human flourishing. To illustrate, conflict engagement and acknowledgement of appropriate negativity, including certain negative emotions like guilt, might better promote flourishing. Overall, Schneider provided perspective: "perhaps genuine happiness is not something you aim at, but is...a by-product of a life well lived – and a life well lived does not settle on the programmed or neatly calibrated."


Narrow focus

In 2003, Ian Sample, writing for ''
The Guardian ''The Guardian'' is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as ''The Manchester Guardian'', and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers ''The Observer ''The Observer'' is a British newspaper published on Sun ...

The Guardian
'', noted that, "Positive psychologists also stand accused of burying their heads in the sand and ignoring that depressed, even merely unhappy people, have real problems that need dealing with." He also quoted Steven Wolin, a clinical psychiatrist at George Washington University, as saying that the study of positive psychology is just a reiteration of older ways of thinking, and that there is not much scientific research to support the efficacy of this method. Gable responds to criticism on their Pollyanna view on the world by saying that they are just bringing a balance to a side of psychology that is glaringly understudied. To defend his point, Gable points to the imbalances favoring research into negative psychological well-being in cognitive psychology, health psychology, and social psychology. Martin Jack has also maintained that positive psychology is not unique in its optimistic approach to looking at optimal emotional well-being, stating that other forms of psychology, such as counseling and educational psychology, are also interested in positive human fulfillment. He goes on to mention that, while positive psychology has pushed for schools to be more student-centered and able to foster positive self-images in children, he worries that a lack of focus on self-control may prevent children from making full contributions to society. If positive psychology is not implemented correctly, it can cause more harm than good. This is the case, for example, when interventions in school are coercive (in the sense of being imposed on everyone without regard for the individual child's reason for negativity) and fail to take each student's context into account.


Role of negativity

Barbara S. Held, a professor at Bowdoin College, argued that while positive psychology makes contributions to the field of psychology, it has its faults. She offered insight into topics including the negative side effects of positive psychology, negativity within the positive psychology movement, and the current division in the field of psychology caused by differing opinions of psychologists on positive psychology. In addition, she noted the movement's lack of consistency regarding the role of negativity. She also raised issues with the simplistic approach taken by some psychologists in the application of positive psychology. A "one size fits all" approach is arguably not beneficial to the advancement of the field of positive psychology; she suggested a need for individual differences to be incorporated into its application. By teaching young people that being confident and optimistic leads to success, when they are unsuccessful they will begin to believe it is because they are insecure or pessimistic. This could lead them to believe that any negative internal thought or feeling they may experience is damaging to their happiness and should be steered clear of completely.


Toxic positivity

A recent critical response to the field of positive psychology is that around toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the phenomenon in which individuals do not fully acknowledge, process, or manage the entire spectrum of emotions, including anger and sadness. This genre of criticism against positive psychology argues that the field of positive psychology places too much importance on "upbeat thinking, while shunting challenging and difficult experiences to the side." Individuals who engage in a constant chase for positive experiences or states of high subjective well-being may be inadvertently stigmatizing negative emotional conditions, such as depression (mood), depression, or may be suppressing natural emotional responses, such as sadness, regret, or Psychological stress, stress. Furthermore, by not allowing negative emotional states to be experienced, or by suppressing and hiding negative emotional responses, individuals may experience harmful physical, cardiovascular, and Respiratory system, respiratory consequences. Proponents of combating toxic positivity advocate for allowing oneself to accept and fully experience negative emotional states.


Methodological and philosophical critiques

Richard Lazarus, who was well known in psychology for his Cognitive-Motivational-Relational theory of emotions, has thoroughly critiqued some methodological and philosophical components of positive psychology. He holds that giving more detail and insight into the positive is not a bad thing, but not at the expense of the negative aspect, because the two (positive and negative) are inseparable. The first methodological issue noted is positive psychology's use of correlational and cross-sectional research designs to indicate a causality between the movement's ideas and healthy lives, there could be other factors not researched and time differences that account for healthier lives that the researchers do not account for. Secondly, he considers that emotions cannot be categorized dichotomously into positive and negative; by nature, emotions are subjective and rich in social/relational meaning. Additionally, he claims that emotions are fluid, meaning that the context they appear in changes over time. He states that “all emotions have the potential of being either one or the other, or both, on different occasions, and even on the same occasion when an emotion is experienced by different persons”. The third issue is the neglect of individual differences in most social science research. Many research designs focus on statistical significance of the groups, while overlooking differences among individuals. Lazarus's final methodological complain is the tendency for social science researchers to not adequately define and measure emotions. Most assessments are quick checklists and do not provide adequate debriefing. Many researchers do not differentiate between fluid emotional states and relatively stable personality traits. Lazarus further holds that positive psychology claims to be new and innovative although the majority of research on stress and coping theory make much of the same claims as positive psychology. The movement attempts to uplift and reinforce the positive aspects of one's life, but everyone in life experiences stress and hardship. Coping through these events should not be looked at as adapting to failures, but should be regarded as successfully navigating stress, but the movement doesn't hold that perspective.


The US Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program

The Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program was established in 2008 by then-Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General (United States), General George W. Casey, Jr., in an effort to address the increasing rates of drug abuse, family violence, Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and suicide among soldiers. The Army contracted with Martin Seligman's Positive Psychology Center at the
University of Pennsylvania The University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) is a in , Pennsylvania. The university, established as the College of Philadelphia in 1740, is one of the nine chartered prior to the . , Penn's founder and first president, advocated an edu ...

University of Pennsylvania
to supply a program closely based on the center's Penn Resiliency Program, which was designed for 10- to 14-year-old children. Although Seligman proposed starting with a small-scale pilot-test, General Casey insisted on immediately rolling out the CSF to the entire Army. Interviewed for the journal ''Monitor on Psychology'' of the
American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologist A psychologist is a professional A professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns a living from a speci ...
, Seligman said that "This is the largest study—1.1 million soldiers—psychology has ever been involved in." According to journalist Jesse Singal, "It would become one of the largest mental-health interventions geared at a single population in the history of humanity, and possibly the most expensive." Some psychologists have criticized the CSF for various reasons. Nicholas J. L. Brown wrote that "The idea that techniques that have demonstrated, at best, marginal effects in reducing depressive symptoms in school-age children could also prevent the onset of a condition that is associated with some of the most extreme situations with which humans can be confronted is a remarkable one that does not seem to be backed up by empirical evidence." Stephen Soldz of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis cited Seligman's acknowledgment that the CSF is a gigantic study rather than a program based on proven techniques, and questioned the ethics of requiring soldiers to participate in research without informed consent. Soldz also criticized the CSF training for trying to build up-beat attitudes toward combat: "Might soldiers who have been trained to resiliently view combat as a growth opportunity be more likely to ignore or under-estimate real dangers, thereby placing themselves, their comrades, or civilians at heightened risk of harm?" In 2021 the Chronicle of Higher Education carried a debate between Singal and Seligman about whether, with the CSF well into its second decade, there was any solid evidence of its effectiveness. Singal cited studies that, he said, failed to find any measurable benefits in such positive psychology techniques, and he criticized the Army's own reports as methodologically unsound and lacking peer review. Seligman said that Singal had misinterpreted the studies and ignored the Army's positive feedback from soldiers, one of whom told Seligman that "if I had had this training years ago, it would have saved my marriage."


See also

;Precursors * New Thought * Maslow's hierarchy of needs * Needs and Motives (Henry Murray) * Self-determination theory ;Various * ''Anatomy of an Epidemic'' * Aversion to happiness * Louise Burfitt-Dons * Community psychology * Culture and positive psychology * Happiness economics * Meaning of life * Positive education * Positive Neuroscience * Positive psychotherapy * Positive youth development * Posttraumatic growth * Pragmatism * Psychological resilience * Rational ignorance * Second wave positive psychology * Sex-positive movement * Theory of humor


Notes


References


Footnotes


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links

;Origins * Christopher Peterson
''What Is Positive Psychology, and What Is It Not?''

''The 5 Founding Fathers and A History of Positive Psychology''


;Resources * University of Pennsylvania
Authentic Happiness
website of Martin Seligman ;Various

at TED (conference), TED conference
The Karma of Happiness: A Buddhist Monk Looks at Positive Psychology
by Thanissaro Bhikkhu {{Authority control Positive psychology, Happiness Psychological schools Positive criminology Well-being