Positive Psychology is grounded in the idea that psychology can and should shift focus from mental illness and mental health to well-being, and the whole person. It began with work by Martin Seligman who studied learned helplessness and depression. After years of studying how to re-create depression in animals by producing conditions of helplessness, he began to focus instead on how to create conditions for wellness. The study of positive psychology has switched focus from how to understand mental illness to how we can better understand well-being and the idea of thriving in life. If we study these conditions, it is possible to use this knowledge in psychotherapy to create ideas for focusing on character strengths and virtues, wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.
What positive psychology is not:
Positive psychology is not the syrupy-sweet image that sometimes is portrayed as “positive thinking.” It does not mean ignoring what is wrong, instead a therapist practicing from positive psychology acknowledges problems and also focuses on expanding upon and growing what is right. A therapist using positive psychology has conversations with their clients about the meaning of life, their interests and passions, being loved, and being part of something. And this can make therapy a little more enjoyable as well.
Positive psychology may incorporate techniques such as mindfulness and the practice of gratitude to focus individuals on what is important to them in life and what they value and love.
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