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What is Positive Psychology?

The silhouette of a person jumping with joy against a blue sky at sunset in a field

What is positive psychology and what does it mean for me? Positive psychology is the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organizations to thrive.”

Understanding Positive Psychology

Understanding what goes right for most is just as important as knowing what goes wrong. Nowadays, it is easy to be thrown into deep negativity – all you have to do is log into your various social media feeds. News events are These days we turn on the TV, the radio or look at our social media feeds and see the negative events unfolding around us. It is much more advantageous for us all to focus on positive than negative to help us become the best person, community member or force in the world we can be.

Life is all About How You Respond

We have horrible things happen to us all the time. As an example, illness and financial stress or just even a really bad day can feel terrible. Positive psychology redirects our thinking. The concept is, we can control our reactions & therefore what we think can either give us a boost or make us feel down in the dumps. By changing our thoughts, we can help to direct our lives. Which sounds more attractive to you? Leading a healthy life able to handle negativity or leading a life full of doubt and being stuck? Never-ending “monkey mind” never helped anyone, if anything, it just makes matters worse.

The PERMA Model

In 2011, one of the found fathers of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, wrote a book called “Flourish”. In his book, Seligman describes the “PERMA” model, which stands for: Positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments.

According to Seligman, these five elements will provide balance and increase our individual happiness. Without these 5 ingredients, individuals will witness lack of self-control, material purchases to feel better, social comparisons, pay more attention to negative emotions and finally, believe negative events happen more often to them.

PERMA in Action:

Positive Emotion

Let’s look at ways to achieve “PERMA.” The first element, Positive Emotion, is a happy, safe, comfortable feeling. When we do activities that bring us joy such as helping another person, wearing comfortable clothes or spending time with a special person we notice we become happier and feel more optimistic. This brings about positive emotions such as happiness and joy.


Engagement is somewhat more complicated. It can be explained as “being in the zone.” In order for us to achieve “Engagement”, we will need to have clear goals, have balance, and be actively involved. This recipe for engagement will contribute to our enjoyment of the task and/or activity.

Relationships and Psychology

Research has shown that our connections with others contribute to our overall mental health. Relationships are very important for our individual growth as well as central to our well being. Feeling positive when life is rough can be difficult, but it is easier than you think. First, it is all about counteracting your negative self talk with positive statements. Second, that means staying in the present moment and appreciating the small, but beautiful moments that we can take for granted. Third, be nice and do kind acts when you can. This small step can not only brighten a strangers day, but also yours.

Test Yourself

For example, how many times did you tell your child how much you appreciate and care for them compared to how many times you told them negative things such as how you were upset by something they had done? Couples that are in healthy, happy relationships experience five times more than positive vs. negative emotions.

Meaning and Purpose

Meaning and purpose are so important to us because these two provide our direction in life. Sometimes we discover our purpose through keeping at it and doing various activities or going through life events that bring us closer to what we feel is our purpose. Also, big life events can help shift our life so that we find purpose through this though time.

Finally, we learn what our purpose is through our environment and being around others that we admire or decide that is what we would like to do. It helps us be curious about our life, others and about life in general.


Accomplishment means achievement, competence, and success.

Remember the last time you set a goal and achieved it? How did you feel? How did it make you feel about yourself? Most people would say it feels great to achieve a goal! From this achievement, we allow positive emotions to flow, which only helps our well being. You can start setting small goals today! Break up your big goals into smaller chunks. This will help you to be more realistic and will allow you to continue to build off of those small achievements. If we make several small goals and work our way up to a bigger goal we feel more confident and satisfied with ourselves rather than making a huge goal that is very difficult to obtain. Cultivating goals can be a very, positive and healthy experience.

Action Step

Now that you can answer the question, “What is Positive Psychology?”, you can test a few of these suggestions on yourself. Remember that change takes time and repetition helps. However, if you are feeling stuck or want more tools around positive psychology, contact us today!