Image Credit: Jessica Tam
Positive psychology seeks to explore human happiness and fulfillment in life and promote positivity and well-being. It is a relatively newer branch of psychology and differs from the other fields of psychology by focusing on the positive aspect of human development, growth, and resilience, instead of the negativity of mental illness. Its main proponents and theorists include Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who contributed to the theory of learned helplessness and flow, respectively.
Culture must be taken into consideration in positive psychology due to the fact that happiness and fulfillment may mean very different things to different cultures. For instance, in more individualistic cultures such as the West, positive well-being may be considered living independently and achieving individual accomplishments, while in more collectivistic cultures in the East, fulfillment may be attained through living and supporting the family and obtaining group level rewards.
Theories and concepts in positive psychology also include examining The Good Life, The Pleasant Life, The Meaningful Life, and flourishing. Many of these concepts include measurements of what it means to have the 'Good Life', etc. and involve ideas of flow, mindfulness, optimism, and strengths and virtues. Psychologists in this field have even gone so far as to create classifications and measures of strengths, such as Gallup Themes of Talent, Values in Action Classification of Strengths, and the Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets.
While positive psychology examines what positive emotional and cognitive states contribute to overall well-being, it also looks at what factors in development can promote resilience and positivity. Prevention practices to avoid negative behaviour and mental illness are also used in positive psychology. Not only are prevention techniques used, but positive psychology can also be applied to the treatment of mental illness through helping the individual focus on the positive, grow as an individual, love themselves, and use their strengths to their advantage.
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