What is Positive Psychology, and Why Do We Use It?

What is Positive Psychology

We’ve mentioned it a few times, and introduced you to a few theories already, but what exactly is Positive Psychology and why do we use it here at Reframe?

We’re so glad you asked!

In a nutshell, Positive Psychology focuses on the, well, positive side of psychology. Building up instead of “fixing,” approaching life from a strengths perspective instead of weakness, improving your life even if it isn’t in crisis yet. The most commonly agreed upon definition of Positive Psychology is this:

“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” -Christopher Peterson

This theory was created by psychologist Martin Seligmen in the 70’s. Seligmen actually also founded the theory of “learned helplessness,” where a person can learn a loss of agency and control in their lives. Seligmen applied that same concept to something new: learned optimism and resilience. Cultivating these things intentionally, so that we teach our brains that this is how we operate now.

If you already have a gratitude practice in your toolbox, then you’re already practicing part of Positive Psychology! Well done, my friend. When we’re thinking about this particular field, we’re thinking about how to cultivate things like optimism, resilience, satisfaction, and well-being. How can we build ourselves up, before we ever need to be “fixed”? Or if we’re already in a tough spot, how can we get out of it through focusing on the positive?

There is some conversation in the mental health and wellness fields about the concept of “toxic positivity,” or a relentless emphasis on “only seeing the good” in all areas of life. Some say this is a denial of reality, of struggle. Don’t worry—that’s not what we’re going for here, as we discuss Positive Psychology. Of course there will be challenges in life, and hardship, mental illness, systemic oppression are all very real things.