If you’ve been hearing the term “positive psychology” thrown around a lot, but you’re not quite sure what it is, you’ve come to the right place!
There are some common misconceptions about positive psychology, both about what it is and what it is not. To clear up some of these misunderstandings and provide a brief but comprehensive overview of the field, we’ve put together this piece focused on defining and describing the positive psychology movement.
Positive psychology has been described in many ways and with many words, but the commonly accepted definition of the field is this:
“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (Peterson, 2008).
To push this brief description a bit further, positive psychology is a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior, with a focus on strengths instead of weaknesses, building the good in life instead of repairing the bad, and taking the lives of average people up to “great” instead of focusing solely on moving those who are struggling up to “normal” (Peterson, 2008).
What Positive Psychology Focuses On
Positive psychology focuses on the positive events and influences in life, including:
Positive experiences (like happiness, joy, inspiration, and love).
Positive institutions (applying positive principles within entire organizations and institutions).
As a field, positive psychology spends much of its time thinking about topics like character strengths, optimism, life satisfaction, happiness, wellbeing, gratitude, compassion (as well as self-compassion), self-esteem and self-confidence, hope, and elevation.
These topics are studied in order to learn how to help people flourish and live their best lives.
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