Martin Seligman born in 1942 is credited as the father of Positive Psychology. Seligman was inauguration as the president of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1998. Here he gave his landmark speech, when he declared that psychologists need to study what makes happy people happy! He noted, “The most important thing, the most general thing I learned, was that psychology was half-baked, literally half-baked. We had baked the part about mental illness. The other side’s unbaked, the side of strength, the side of what we’re good at.” (Address, Lincoln Summit, Sep. 1999.) In many ways, this signaled the opening of a new perspective for the field of psychology.
[Positive Psychology] takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose.
According to Seligman we experience three kinds of happiness: 1) pleasure and gratification, 2) embodiment of strengths and virtues and 3) meaning and purpose. Each kind of happiness is associated with a positive emotion but from his quote, you can see that in his mind there is a progression from the first type of happiness of pleasure/gratification to strengths/virtues and finally meaning/purpose.
Social and behavioral sciences play a significant role between Grades 7-12. At this juncture the young adult can express a vision of the good life that is empirically sound. They have a basic idea of what actions lead to well-being and happiness, but they may not be able to identify how to achieve this, especially with the various pressures of transition and day to day life. Positive psychology is all about the knowledge of what makes life worth living. Some of the main characteristics of positive psychology include:
- Positive Psychology has a strong intellectual base and intellectual credibility.
- One of the main aims is not telling people how to live their lives but simply describing and showing people what the evidence suggests about the benefits of various approaches and techniques.
- Positive psychologists do not make out that, somehow it is easy to be positive. In fact they argue that it is easier to be negative, than positive, as the brain is hard-wired to think negatively.
The use of positive psychological techniques aims to increase well-being through the development of positive feelings, cognitions and behaviours in adults and young adults.
The very good news is there is quite a number of internal circumstances […] under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them (and be warned that none of these changes come without real effort), your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly. (Seligman 2002, p. xiv)