What is Positive Psychology?


Positive psychology is a fairly new branch of psychology. It was established in 1998 by Prof Martin Seligman, and today it is taught at a degree level only in few universities.

Positive psychology is defined as “the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive”. Positive psychologists seek “to make normal life more fulfilling” and “to find and nurture genius and talent”.

“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what enables individuals and communities to thrive.”

Positive Psychology has therefore two central concerns:

Firstly, to enable individuals, groups, organisations and societies to improve their psychological states and to enable them to be happier, more successful and healthier.

The second aim is preventative: to help people develop better psychological resilience, which would enable them to address life’s challenges with less distress.

In the following video clip, Prof Martin Seligman explains what is Positive Psychology and how it differs from traditional psychology.

As Prof Martin Seligman argues in the clip, since the Second World War, much of psychology has been concerned with mental illness, or as he puts it – with making miserable people less miserable. These are indeed important goals, however, as a result of this focus on illness, suffering and weakness, psychology neglected healthy and normal people, and very little research was conducted in search of ways to improve people’s lives: how to make life more fulfilling, more successful and happier.

Positive psychology sets out to right this imbalance, and it argues that there is as much merit in the study of optimal functioning as there is in studying illness.

So, what is Positive psychology about?

It is about positive emotions: happiness, well-being, contentment, pleasure, hope, etc.

It is also about human traits, such as capacity for love, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensitivity, compassion, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, wisdom, social intelligence, courage, etc.

And at a group level, positive psychology is interested in groups, organisations and communities, and it addresses issues around work ethics, citizenship, contributions, responsibility, altruism, tolerance, etc.

For more information about Positive Psychology and some of its exciting ideas and research, please register to receive our free Ezine: Positive Psychology Daily.

Meanwhile, have a lovely day!!


Dr Rona Hart