Pioneered by Dr Martin Seligman in the late 1990's, the advent of positive psychology heralded a new and exciting era of medicine. Now a field in its own right, positive psychology is providing people with the tools to live their lives with happiness, fulfillment and meaning.
The major difference between traditional psychology and positive psychology is this: traditional psychology is disease/problem focused, and positive psychology goes beyond that by focusing on the development of human strengths and virtues. Whilst the almost sole goal of traditional psychology is to fix problems, the adherents of positive psychology recognise that simply fixing or removing a problem doesn't guarantee health and wellness, more of a neutral state. Their goal then, is to move people from a neutral or negative state, to one of positive emotion and flourishing.
Positive psychology focuses on moving from neutral or negative to positive. Image courtesy of Mister GC/freedigitalphotos.net
Positive psychology interventions serve to facilitate positive emotions and include, but are not limited to, tools for mindfulness, gratitude, optimism, signature strengths, savoring and hope.
The focus on positive emotions doesn't mean that positive psychology discounts negative emotions, far from it. Negative emotions such as fear play a necessary role in survival (although not to the extent it did for our ancestors), and for each emotion, be it negative or positive, there is an appropriate time for us to experience it. Sadness and grief for example, are an appropriate emotional response to the death of a loved one; it is vital however to have the tools required to acknowledge, understand and work through negative emotions.
For a brief introduction to positive psychology check out this ten minute YouTube clip.
The beauty of positive psychology is that you can utilise many of the tools for happiness in your daily life at no cost - browse our Happiness Tips category for practical tools that will assist in cultivating positive emotion, and increase life satisfaction.