Positive Psychology is the study of wellbeing rather than pathology/ mental illness. In other words, it is the study of positive things such as happiness, joy and resilience rather than the study of mental illness which can have serve negative consequences.

Positive Psychology was formed in response to the fact that psychologically typically focuses on mental illness and what is wrong with a person. To give you an idea about this, for every 21 research topics that focus on mental illness, there is just one that focuses on mental wellness. Wanting to address this imbalance, Dr Martin Seligman created and promoted the discipline of Positive Psychology in the 1990s.

Dr Martin Seligman is very influential in the field of Positive Psychology and created a theoretical model – PERMA (Positive, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments) to provide a framework of how we can maintain wellbeing and happiness. There are many interventions/ structured techniques to improve wellbeing which have been organised in the form of PERMA.  Below PERMA is explained in a little more detail.

Positive, being in a positive mood and in the present moment

Engagement, being engaged in things and being in the zone

Relationships, having positive relationships

Meaning, being part of something that is larger than yourself and having a purpose in your life

Accomplishment, working towards and reaching a goal 

In the podcast we discuss a range of interventions/structured techniques to improve our PERMA, some of which we hope you try at home. However, PERMA and Positive Psychology does have many critiques and some people really disagree with the discipline as a whole. Below are a list of reasons why.:

Positive Psychology is just for people that are WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic people).

Positive Psychology has been criticised for only applying to a certain type of person and so economic and social factors are simply ignored. This happens because the research supporting it often involves people who fit the WEIRD category above.

Others argue that Positive Psychology is too focused on the self, the individual. Self-help is an industry worth billions with self-help books, courses, life coaches, gurus and more seemingly everywhere. So much of a focus on the individual has been suggested as leading to higher levels of narcissism in people.

Some people may argue that Positive Psychology is reductionist and not holistic. In other words, it over simplifies how we look at emotions and doesn’t take into account the whole person and the context the person lives in.