Presented by K.J. Foster MHS 7402
April 13, 2015
What is Positive Psychology?
• Operates from a strengths model
• Does not operate from a pathology model
• Examines weakness but builds on and maximizes human strengths
• Emphasizes the positive side of human behavior
• Focus is on developing meaning, fulfillment, positive emotion and
• Addresses questions of happiness, vitality and meaning in life
The idea that people can become happier and healthier by bolstering
and using their inherent strength is central to positive psychology
“Positive Psychology is the scientific study of positive experiences and
positive individual traits, and the institutions that facilitate their
development.” – Martin Selgman, 2005
The belief is that individuals want more than just relief of suffering. The
fostering of positive emotion and the building of character may help – both
directly and indirectly – to alleviate suffering and to undo its root cause.
“Our message is to remind our field that psychology is not just the study of
pathology, weakness, and damage; it is also the study of strength and virtue.
Treatment is not just fixing what is broken; it is nurturing what is best.”
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 2000
MOVING FROM WHAT’S WRONG TO WHAT’S STRONG
History of Positive Psychology
• Prior to WWII
• Curing mental illness
• Making peoples lives more productive and fulfilling
• Identifying and nurturing talent
• Post WWII
• Treating abnormal behavior and mental illness
• 1950’s Humanist Thinkers
• Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow (coined term “positive psychology”)
• 1998 Martin Seligman elected President of the APA
• 2002 International Conference on Positive Psychology
• 2009 World Congress on Positive Psychology
Who are the major players?
• Martin Seligman - Father of Contemporary Positive Psychology * Learned Optimism
• Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - Pursuit of Happiness
• Christopher Peterson - Character Strengths and Virtues * Health and Optimism
• Carol Dweck - Growth Mindset
• Daniel Gilbert - Stumbling on Happiness
• Albert Bandura - Bobo Doll * Social Learning Theory * Self-Efficacy
• C. R. Snyder - Hope Theory
• Philip Zimbardo - Stanford Prison Experiment * Lucifer Effect * Heroic Imagination
“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”
Happiness Level Interpretation
31-35 Extremely Satisfied
21-25 Slightly satisfied
15-19 Slightly dissatisfied
5-9 Extremely dissatisfied
A short test such as this can give only a general idea of your level of satisfaction and happiness. Your score will depend on your
feelings about your life to date, your current circumstances, and the short-term effect of recent events.
• If your score indicates you are satisfied or extremely satisfied, you find most areas of your life to be very rewarding.
• If you score as slightly satisfied, neutral, or slightly dissatisfied, there are probably several areas of your life that you would
like to improve. If so, there are a number of positive psychology strategies you may want to utilize from this presentation.
• If you score as dissatisfied to extremely dissatisfied, you may be reacting to recent bad events. However, if you have felt this
way for a long time and are not feeling optimistic about the future, you may need to make significant changes in your life, and
you might benefit from seeking help from a mental health professional.
What does a happy life look like?
How do you measure happy?
Is there a difference between a happy life and a
THE THREE DOMAINS OF “HAPPY”
• Pleasant Life = positive emotion about the past, present, and future. The
pleasant life is a life that maximizes positive emotions and minimizes pain and
• Engaged Life = consists of using positive individual traits, including
strengths of character and talents. The wise deployment of strengths and
talents leads to more engagement, absorption, and flow.
• Meaningful Life = entails belonging to and serving positive institutions
because meaning derives from belonging and serving something larger than
Measuring Subjective Well-Being
Subjective Well-Being is defined as “a person’s cognitive and affective
evaluations of his or her life” – Ed Diener, World-Renowned Happiness Researcher
Among the most widely used well-being measures:
• Five-item Satisfaction with Life Scale
• Four-item Subjective Happiness Scale
• Two-item Fordyce Happiness Measures
Measuring Strengths of Character
The Engaged Life consists of using one’s strengths and talents to achieve flow.
This requires measurements of positive character traits, talents, interests, and
Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (CSV) – Peterson & Seligman, 2004
• The Un-DSM
• Classifies strengths and virtues that enable human thriving
• Scheme relies on six overarching virtues that almost every culture across the world endorses:
wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.
• Under each virtue, particular strengths are identified as criteria for meeting the virtue.
• Empirical findings support similarity of 24 character strengths world-wide: kindness,
fairness, authenticity, gratitude, and open-mindedness were most highly ranked of the 24
with a very high correlation of .80 and defy cultural, ethnic and religious differences.
• Inventory of Signature Strengths Survey at www.viacharacter.org
A Meaningful Life consists of attachment to, and the service of, something
larger than oneself. To what and the way in which people connect varies
Due to choice of context, many researchers study meaning-making through
interviews that allow for the exploration of a variety of topics.
Two-Hour Interview by McAdams & Colleagues
20-Item Purpose in Life Test
Orientations to Happiness Questionnaire
My Favorite Intervention
• Identify signature strengths
• Use a signature strength in a new way
• Expressing your thanks
• Cultivate gratitude
• Gratitude Journal
• Say “no” to too many choices
• Identify and engage in flow activities
• Random Acts of Kindness
• A Look Back at Life
• One Door Closes, One Door Opens
• You at your best
• Three good things in life
• Search for the sacred
• Cultivating Forgiveness
Positive Psychology Psychotherapies
• Acceptance-based therapies
• Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
• Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
• Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
• Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)
• Albert Ellis considered the “Unsung Hero of Positive Psychology”
• Criticism: Positive Psychology ignores suffering and denigrates sadness.
Positive Psychology embraces the full range of emotions, including sadness, and
attempts to help people become more resilient in the face of adversity.
• Criticism: Positive Psychology is religion in disguise.
There is no need to embrace a particular religious doctrine to appreciate and use
these real and practical insights and techniques.
• Criticism: Happy people are foolish or naïve.
There is evidence that happy people are more able to look squarely at negative
information and learn from it.
• Criticism: Happy people are unmotivated or lazy.
People who report being happy are more likely to perform better on the job and be
• Criticism: Too little evidence from scientific research
Evidence-based Positive Psychology
At least 100 positive interventions have been suggested, from the Buddha to Tony Robbins.
Which ones actually work?
Fordyce (1977, 1983) – “Happy is as happy does” Intervention
Burton & King (2004) – Positive Writing Intervention
Emmons & McCullough (2003) – Gratitude Intervention
Lyubomirsky, et al. (2005) – Acts of Kindness Intervention
Seligman, et al. (2005) – Landmark Study of Long-term PP Benefits
Sin & Lyubomirsky (2009) – Enhance Well-Being & Decrease Depressive Symptoms
Huffman, et al. (2013) – Positive Psychology with Suicidal Patients
• Bernard, M. E., Froh, J. J., DiGiuseppe, R., Joyce, M. R. and Dryden, W. (2010) ‘Albert Ellis:
Unsung hero of positive psychology’, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(4), pp. 302–
310. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2010.498622.
• Bolier, L., Haverman, M., Westerhof, G. J., Riper, H., Smit, F. and Bohlmeijer, E. (2013)
‘Positive psychology interventions: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled
studies’, BMC Public Health. BioMed Central, 13(1). doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-119.
• Duckworth, A. L., Steen, T. A. and Seligman, M. E. P. (2005) ‘Positive Psychology in Clinical
Practice’, Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1(1), pp. 629–651. doi:
• Huffman, J. C., DuBois, C. M., Healy, B. C., Boehm, J. K., Kashdan, T. B., Celano, C. M.,
Denninger, J. W. and Lyubomirsky, S. (2014) ‘Feasibility and utility of positive psychology
exercises for suicidal inpatients’,General Hospital Psychiatry, 36(1), pp. 88–94. doi:
• Leontiev, D. A. (2013) ‘Positive psychology in search for meaning: An introduction’, The
Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(6), pp. 457–458. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2013.830766.
• Mongrain, M. and AnselmoMatthews, T. (2012) ‘Do Positive Psychology Exercises Work? A
Replication of Seligman et al. ()’, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(4). doi: 10.1002/jclp.21839.
• Seligman, M. E. P. and Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014) ‘Positive Psychology: An Introduction’, Flow
and the Foundations of Positive Psychology. Springer, pp. 279–298. doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-
• Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N. and Peterson, C. (2005) ‘Positive Psychology Progress:
Empirical Validation of Interventions.’,American Psychologist, 60(5), pp. 410–421. doi:
• Sin, N. L. and Lyubomirsky, S. (2009) ‘Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive
symptoms with positive psychology interventions: a practice-friendly meta-analysis’, Journal
of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), pp. 467–487. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20593.
• Snyder, C. R., Lopez, S. J. and Pedrotti, J. T. (2010) Positive Psychology: The Scientific and
Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. 2nd edn. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
• Wong, P. T. P. (2011) ‘Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the
good life.’, Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, 52(2), pp. 69–81. doi:
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presentation on positive psychology theory and application