The Father of Positive Psychology & His Theory of Happiness

The Father of Positive Psychology & His Theory of Happiness

– discussion with Martin Seligman, former President of the American Psychological Association [APA]
– his focus with Positive Psychology is not upon deficits, but upon helping people thrive
– he has defined three paths to happiness
1) pleasure (maximise positive emotions & minimise negative emotions)
2) engagement (activities that encourage “flow” – deep, effortless involvement in an activity of moderate difficulty so we are no longer aware of the self or time)
3) meaning (belonging to, & serving, something bigger than oneself)

– to Seligman, a full life means taking all three paths to achieve life satisfaction & well-being (beyond personality or socio-economic status)

– Seligman has developed a new theory to supercede the above:

PERMA stands for:
P – positive emotions
E – Engagement
R – Relationships (need & tendency toward social relationships is biologically-ingrained in human beings; positive relationships in particular are important because they support the other four strands of PERMA)
M – Meaning
A – Achievement or Accomplishment (the pursuit of success, winning, achievement & mastery)

[Source: Seligman (2011) Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness & Wellbeing]

– in PERMA, Seligman notes that one dimension on its own does not define happiness, but that happiness & well-being is in fact a multi-dimensional construct

– Carol Ryff also has a psychological well-being theory



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