The branch of psychology that focuses on what makes people happy and fulfilled, as opposed to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Positive psychology deals with the strengths of individuals and communities rather than their weaknesses; it is concerned with pursuing a healthier mind and lifestyle rather than fixing personal and social problems.
Positive psychology is a rather new branch of psychology, only coming into popularity over the last few decades. It is designed to complement and enhance the pathology-focused branches, such as abnormal psychology, that have been dominating the field for so long.
American psychologist Abraham Maslow is credited with pioneering the positive psychology movement in the 1960’s. In his quest to show that humans were not just blindly reacting to life events, but trying to reach something greater, Maslow chose to study mentally healthy individuals rather than those with serious mental disorders. He focused on people whom he referred to as self-actualizing — those with optimal psychological health and functioning.
Through his research, Maslow asserted that self-actualized people had stronger insight into reality, deeply accepted themselves and others, were typically impulsive and also had faced many problems. According to Maslow’s work, self-actualized people share many of the same qualities, including honesty, righteousness, wholeness, acceptance, aliveness, effortlessness, self-sufficiency and individuality, among others.
Positive psychology is considered an important addition to the other branches of psychology, as it has been shown that focusing only on pathology can result in a limited understanding of the whole person.
Example: Many psychology students at the university are looking forward to the new Positive Psychology course being added to the curriculum this spring.