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1   What is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organisations to thrive. more

2   What key theory is Positive Psychology based on?

Martin Seligman's (2003) Authentic Happiness Theory asserts there are three roads to the good life (or positive mental health and wellbeing):

  • The Pleasurable Life (Positive Emotions)
  • The Engaged Life (Flow and Mindfulness)
  • The Meaningful Life (Meaning and Purpose)

In 2011 Seligman revised his Authentic Happiness Theory, renaming it Well-being Theory. His new model (PERMA) includes two additional components: Positive Relationships and Accomplishment. The PERMA model:

P  Positive Emotions

E  Engagement

R  Positive Relationships

M  Meaning

A  Accomplishment


3   What are Virtues?

A core characteristic that is universally valued. Positive Psychology focuses on six overarching virtues underpinned by 24 'character strengths' (i.e. four character strengths for each virtue).

The six virtues are common to almost every culture across the world and include:

  • wisdom
  • courage
  • humanity
  • justice
  • temperance
  • and transcendence.

4   What is a Strength?

It is a natural capacity for behaving, thinking or feeling in a way that allows optimal functioning and performance in the pursuit of valued outcomes. A strength is something we're not only good at, but we're energized by. A strengths perspective empowers people, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, or (dis)ability. Currently within Positive Psychology there is a differentiation between 'character strengths' (those that are morally valued e.g. kindness) and broader strengths like 'change agent' or 'empathic connection'.


5   What is the VIA?

"A scientific classification of strengths that includes 24 character strengths."

(Peterson & Seligman, 2004)

Go to www.authentichappiness.org to take the free assessment. There is also a youth version available on this website.

6   What is the Realise2?

The Realise2 is another scientifically validated strengths assessment instrument. Realise2 includes 60 strengths and identifies realized strengths (those you're currently using), unrealised strengths (those you're not using), learned behaviours (those things you've learned to do well but drain you) and weaknesses (those things that you don't do well and drain you).

7   What are Positive Psychology Interventions (PPIs)?

PPIs are intentional activities that aim to increase well-being through the cultivation of positive feelings, cognitions and behaviours. For example, a gratitude exercise.

8   What is Well-Being?

In Positive Psychology, there are currently a number of ways to define and measure well-being. The two major approaches are:

1) the hedonic (lots of positive emotion and satisfaction with life)


2) the eudaimonic (a broader conception of well-being that includes self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy and positive relations with others)

9   What is Positive Education?

Seligman (2009) defines it as…

"education for both traditional skills and for happiness".

Positive Education utilises the research base from the field of Positive Psychology to enhance the optimal functioning of students, teachers, staff, parents and the wider school community. It can play a crucial preventative role in reducing depression, anxiety and stress within the school environment.

Positive Education can be taught explicitly but also needs to be reinforced implicitly through the consistent use of strengths-based and solution-focused language in verbal and written messages in the classroom and schoolyard. more

10   What sort of things might you study in a Positive Psychology class?

  • Character Strengths (e.g. forgiveness, kindness, gratitude, creativity, curiosity)
  • Meaning and Purpose
  • Happiness, Positive Emotions and Well-Being
  • Emotional and Social Intelligence
  • Flow and Mindfulness
  • Wisdom
  • Hope and Optimism
  • Positive Relationships
  • Authenticity
  • Humour
  • Resilience and much more!


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