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Positive Psychology

Positive psychology complements traditional psychological approaches to mental health. The stance of positive psychology is to study “what makes life worth living”. Practitioners of positive psychology focus on interventions which develop a sense of optimism, and which foster positive attitudes (towards onself, one’s subjective experiences, and life events). Positive psychology researchers have developed a number of theories and research strands.


Seligman’s PERMA model proposes five elements to psychological well-being:

  • Positive emotions: including the ability to be optimistic
  • Engagement: activites which promote our full absorption (creating ‘flow’ states)
  • Relationships: humans are intrinsically social animals which require connection, love, and intimacy in order to thrive
  • Meaning: having a purpose
  • Accomplishments: having goals and accomplishments


Character Strengths and Virtues is a systematic attempt to classify positive traits. The framework describes six classes of virtues which encompass 24 character strengths. The virtues are argued to be considered good in the majority of cultures and throughout history and that these traits, when practised, tend to increase happiness.

  • Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, innovation
  • Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality, zest
  • Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
  • Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
  • Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self control
  • Transcendance: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality
  • Flourish: Positive psychology and positive interventions – presentation by Martin Seligman at the University of Michigan (2010)
  • Positive psychology, or other intersting things – presentation by Dr Aaron Jarden
  • Positive psychology, a science of human strengths
  • On positive psychology – TED talk by Martin Seligman
  • Living in flow – the secret of happiness – talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2014)
  • Johnson, J., & Wood, A. M. (2017). Integrating positive and clinical psychology: Viewing human functioning as continua from positive to negative can benefit clinical assessment, interventions and understandings of resilience. Cognitive Therapy and Research41(3), 335-349.
  • Lee Duckworth, A., Steen, T. A., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Positive psychology in clinical practice. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol.1, 629-651.
  • Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2015). Strengths-based positive psychology interventions: a randomized placebo-controlled online trial on long-term effects for a signature strengths-vs. a lesser strengths-intervention. Frontiers in psychology6.
  • Seligman, M. E. (2007). Coaching and positive psychology. Australian Psychologist42(4), 266-267.
  • Seligman, M. E. P., & Czikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: an introduction. American Psychologist55(1), 5-14.

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