Positive psychology is the scientific study of positive human traits and qualities like generosity, optimism, courage, hope etc. It takes a different approach from traditional approaches to psychology which is focused on psychopathology.

In a nutshell, positive psychology is the science of happiness.

Positive psychology has its roots from humanistic psychology of the 20th century, which focused heavily on happiness and fulfilment. It’s development has been heavily influenced by  greek philosophy and western religion.

I believe positive psychology has a huge scope in unlocking human potential and making lives more happy and meaningful. Positive psychology can be used to help communities become more altruistic and generous. It can be used in organizations to inculcate the qualities of resilience and courage.

In the words of Martin Seligman,

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3 Happy Lives

According to Martin Seligman, there are three ways in which we can approach happiness. One can live the pleasurable life; full of worldly pleasures. The good life, in which we make use of our strengths and virtues to enhance life and enjoy it with life’s pleasures. And the last, the meaningful life. Those who live meaningful lives derive deep meaning and fulfillment from their work or profession. Their lives are full of eudaimonic (meaningful) pleasure as opposed to hedonistic pleasures.

Later in his 2011 book ‘flourish’, Martin introduced the theory of PREMA. This theory imbibes the concepts of 3 happy lives and adds more to it. PREMA stands for:

  • Positive Emotions
  • Relationships
  • Engagement
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishments

Martin also co created the Character Strength and Virtues Handbook with Christopher Peterson. The aim of this handbook is to provide a categorical collection of all humans virtues and strengths just like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM) categorizes mental health problems. The handbook features 24 virtues with 6 core virtues. The core virtues are:

  • Justice
  • Wisdom and Knowledge
  • Tempermance
  • Courage
  • Honesty
  • Transcendance

During a TED Talk I saw on Youtube, Martin states that negativity can also help. He explains something called ‘depressive realism’ which is when mildly depressed individuals are able to think clearly about real life consequences because of their negativity. I highly recommend anyone interested in positive psychology to watch his TED Talk.

Theory of Flow

Given by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975, this theory states that activities that fully engage the individual are the most satisfactory and pleasurable. Flow is characterized by intense concentration, loss of self awareness, a feeling of being perfectly challenged and a sense of ‘time flying’. A good example is when someone engages in their hobby or when you talk to your best friend you don’t even realize when time flies.

Set Point Theory of Happiness

Also known as hedonistic treadmill or adaptation, this theory states that all humans have a set level of happiness set by hereditary that can only be exceeded temporarily during certain life events. What this theory says, is that it claims that beyond a point people will never become happy. This particular claim of this theory stands against one of positive psychology’s major goals: making happy people happier. Though initial evidence like research on gamblers (Brickman et al, 1975) and some support from the Big 5 Personality Model. Current research has disproved this theory.

Carol Ryff and the Six Factor Model of Psychological Well Being

Carol developed a six factor model of well being consisting of positive relationships, personal mastery, autonomy, purpose and meaning, growth and fulfillment and personal development. These factors together are responsible for satisfaction, happiness and general well being in life. Carol further developed the Ryff scales; psychometric tools designed to assess psychological well being based on the above six factors.

Theory of Emotional Intelligence

Simply put, emotional intelligence is the capacity to identify the emotions of self and others and manage accordingly. People with high emotional intelligence are often quite successful in professional and personal lives. The term ’emotional intelligence’ was first given by Michael Beldoch in 1964, but popularized through the writings of journalist and psychologist Daniel Goleman in 1995.

According to Goleman, emotional intelligence is an array of skills and characteristics that drives leadership performance. Goleman’s theory focuses on five main constructs of EI:

  • Self Awareness
  • Self Regulation
  • Social Skills
  • Empathy
  • Motivation

For the assessment of the same, organizations can use Emotional Competency Inventory (ECI), created in 1999 or it’s newer version Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (2007).

Theory of Creativity

Creativity is the application of past experiences to create novel ideas. Creativity is useful in problem solving as it allows us to the same tool in different ways. It is an extremely valuable skill whether you are an artist or scientist. Being creative can open doors for you.

James C Kaufman and Beghetto introduced a four-C model of creativity.

  • mini-c which involves transformative learning or personally meaningful interpretations of experiences, actions and insights.
  • little-c which involves everyday problem solving and creative expression.
  • Pro-C which is exhibited by creative people in their personal or professional lives.
  • Big-C which is considered to be a great example of creativity in one’s field.


I hope you liked this blog post. I have tried to explain as many topics in positive psychology in as brief as possible to give a very general overview to both layman and academic.