What (and Why) Is Positive Psychology?

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DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.9.2.103
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Abstract
Positive psychology is the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups, and institutions. In this brief introduction, the authors give examples of current work in positive psychology and try to explain why the positive psychology movement has grown so quickly in just 5 years. They suggest that it filled a need: It guided researchers to understudied phenomena. The authors close by addressing some criticisms and shortcomings of positive psychology, such as the relative lack of progress in studying positive institutions.
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What (and Why) Is Positive Psychology?
Shelly L. Gable
University of California, Los Angeles
Jonathan Haidt
University of Virginia
Positive psychology is the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the
flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups, and institutions. In this brief
introduction, the authors give examples of current work in positive psychology and try
to explain why the positive psychology movement has grown so quickly in just 5 years.
They suggest that it filled a need: It guided researchers to understudied phenomena. The
authors close by addressing some criticisms and shortcomings of positive psychology,
such as the relative lack of progress in studying positive institutions.
The gross national product does not allow for the
health of our children, the quality of their education, or
the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of
our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intel-
ligence of our public debate or the integrity of our
public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our
courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither
our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it
measures everything, in short, except that which makes
life worthwhile. (Kennedy, 1968)
Robert F. Kennedy’s lament about the gross
national product is analogous to positive psy-
chology’s lament about what might be called
the “gross academic product” of psychology. In
January 2000, when Seligman and Csikszentmi-
halyi edited a special issue of American Psy-
chologist devoted to positive psychology, they
claimed that psychology was not producing
enough “knowledge of what makes life worth
living” (p. 5). In the second half of the 20th
century, psychology learned much about de-
pression, racism, violence, self-esteem manage-
ment, irrationality, and growing up under ad-
versity but had much less to say about character
strengths, virtues, and the conditions that lead to
high levels of happiness or civic engagement. In
one metaphor, psychology was said to be learn-
ing how to bring people up from negative eight
to zero but not as good at understanding how
people rise from zero to positive eight.
In just 5 years since that special issue, quite a
bit has happened in what has become known as
the positive psychology movement. Many ed-
ited volumes and handbooks have been pub-
lished (e.g., Aspinwall & Staudinger, 2003;
Keyes & Haidt, 2003; Lopez & Snyder, 2003;
Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Schmuck & Shel-
don, 2001; Snyder & Lopez, 2002). Dozens of
conferences have brought researchers together
from all over the world. Numerous grants have
facilitated the research of young investigators
and created collaborations among researchers
from many countries. Courses in positive psy-
chology are springing up in scores of universi-
ties and high schools. Those of us involved in
positive psychology are often amazed at how
fast the train has been moving.
However, scholars who are not involved in
positive psychology may be skeptical about
both the cargo and the destination of the train.
In this introduction, we would like to address
those who are doubtful about positive psychol-
ogy, or just unfamiliar with it. We relate our
view of positive psychology, how we respond to
some recent criticisms of the positive psychol-
ogy movement, and where we think the field is
going. Both of us are experimental social psy-
chologists whose work happens to fall within
the purview of positive psychology. We also
co-run a yearly conference, the Positive Psy-
chology Summer Institute, in which 20 graduate
students, postdoctoral students, and assistant
professors from all over the world and from all
of the subfields of psychology are brought to-
gether for 6 days to learn from each other and
from a handful of more senior researchers. We
are excited by the quality of the work we see
each summer and by the caliber and diversity of
Shelly L. Gable, Department of Psychology, University
of California, Los Angeles; Jonathan Haidt, Department of
Psychology, University of Virginia.
Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-
dressed to Shelly L. Gable, Psychology Department, Uni-
versity of California, 4560 Franz Hall, Box 951563, Los
Angeles, CA 90095-1563. E-mail: gable@psych.ucla.edu
Review of General Psychology Copyright 2005 by the Educational Publishing Foundation
2005, Vol. 9, No. 2, 103–110 1089-2680/05/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.9.2.103
103
the scholars who attend the summer institute
and participate in other positive psychology ac-
tivities. We would like to invite you to consider
getting involved too, because if all goes well,
positive psychology may not be around for
much longer. If the positive psychology move-
ment is successful in rebalancing psychology
and expanding its gross academic product, it
will become obsolete.
What Is (and Was, and Is Not) Positive
Psychology?
Positive psychology is the study of the con-
ditions and processes that contribute to the
flourishing or optimal functioning of people,
groups, and institutions. Defined in this way,
positive psychology has a long history, dating
back to William James’s writings on what he
termed “healthy mindedness” in 1902, to All-
port’s interest in positive human characteristics
in 1958, to Maslow’s advocacy for the study of
healthy people in lieu of sick people in 1968,
and to Cowan’s research on resilience in chil-
dren and adolescents (e.g., Cowan, 2000). How-
ever, for reasons discussed later, the past half
century has seen the study of the psychological
aspects of what makes life worth living recede
to the background, whereas studies on disorder
and damage have taken center stage. The recent
positive psychology movement grew out of rec-
ognition of this imbalance and a desire to en-
courage research in neglected areas.
What are some neglected areas? A sampling
of the research topics covered by the 60 scholars
who have taken part in the Positive Psychology
Summer Institute in the past 3 years
1
provides a
nice illustration of some of them. Many of the
scholars are studying areas that were not truly
neglected, such as attachment, optimism, love,
emotional intelligence, and intrinsic motivation.
But others are studying areas of human experi-
ence about which there was very little published
research before the year 2000, such as gratitude,
forgiveness, awe, inspiration, hope, curiosity,
and laughter (there are commonalities between
tickle-induced vocalization in rat pups and
youthful laughter in humans, highlighting the
likely possibility of common underlying neuro-
biological systems; Burgdorf, 2001). Some are
studying well-being or flourishing in unusual or
understudied populations, including Latinos in
the United States, South Asians in arranged
marriages, elderly people with cognitive impair-
ments, cancer patients, and people with schizo-
phrenia (whose daily lives turn out to include
about the same balance of positive and negative
moments as those of nonschizophrenics; Gard,
2001). Others are studying the psychobiological
underpinnings of happiness and morality. Some
are studying techniques to improve well-being,
such as mindfulness meditation, journal writing,
well-being therapy, savoring, and exposure to
green spaces. If these research programs seem
worthwhile and interesting and you agree that
our field is better off with an understanding of
flourishing to complement our understanding of
despair, then you too may be a positive
psychologist.
However, positive psychology does not im-
ply that the rest of psychology is negative, al-
though it is understandable that the name may
imply that to some people. In fact, the large
majority of the gross academic product of psy-
chology is neutral, focusing on neither well-
being nor distress. Positive psychology grew
largely from the recognition of an imbalance in
clinical psychology, in which most research
does indeed focus on mental illness. Research-
ers in cognitive, developmental, social, and per-
sonality psychology may not believe that things
are so out of balance. However, even in these
fields, we believe that there are many topics that
can be said to have two sides, and although a
great flurry of research occurs on the negative
side, the positive side is left to lie fallow. For
example, in the two areas with which we are
most familiar, this imbalance is evident. In the
field of close relationships, many studies have
examined how couples respond to each other’s
misfortune (e.g., social support) or bad relation-
ship behavior (e.g., criticisms and infidelities),
but little is known about how couples respond to
each other’s triumphs (e.g., savoring positive
events) or good relationship behavior (e.g.,
compliments and displays of affection; see Reis
& Gable, 2003). And there are volumes of work
examining how couples and families resolve
conflict but very few studies examining them
having fun and laughing together. In the area of
morality, there are thousands of published stud-
ies on the negative moral emotions, the emo-
1
The first year of the summer institute was run by Dacher
Keltner and Lisa Aspinwall.
104 GABLE AND HAIDT
tions we feel when others do bad things (anger,
contempt, and disgust) or when we ourselves do
bad things (shame, embarrassment, and guilt);
however, there are only a few empirical studies
of the positive moral emotions, the emotions we
feel when others do good things (gratitude, ad-
miration, and moral elevation; see Haidt, 2003).
Despite these inequities, positive psycholo-
gy’s aim is not the denial of the distressing,
unpleasant, or negative aspects of life, nor is it
an effort to see them through rose-colored
glasses. Those who study topics in positive psy-
chology fully acknowledge the existence of hu-
man suffering, selfishness, dysfunctional family
systems, and ineffective institutions. But the
aim of positive psychology is to study the other
side of the coin—the ways that people feel joy,
show altruism, and create healthy families and
institutions—thereby addressing the full spec-
trum of human experience. Moreover, positive
psychology makes the argument that these pos-
itive topics of inquiry are important to under-
stand in their own right, not solely as buffers
against the problems, stressors, and disorders of
life (although we believe the evidence is clear
that many positive processes shield us from
negative outcomes, a point we return to later).
Sheldon and King (2001) defined positive
psychology as “nothing more than the scientific
study of ordinary human strengths and virtues,”
one that “revisits the average person” (p. 216;
italics added). In this definition is the acknowl-
edgment that our field as a whole is relatively
silent regarding what is typical, because what is
typical is positive. Indeed, 9 of 10 Americans
report being “very happy” or “pretty happy”
(Myers, 2000). And, contrary to the notion that
this is unique to American soil, studies have
consistently revealed that most people across
the globe score well above the neutral point on
measures of life satisfaction (Diener & Diener,
1996), and even people who many might as-
sume would be very unsatisfied with their lives,
such as slum dwellers in Calcutta, are actually
quite satisfied with their lives (Biswas-Diener &
Diener, 2001). Thus, despite the very real im-
pact of the negative aspects of life documented
in the past few decades of psychological re-
search, most people are doing well, and we, as
psychologists, tend to overlook the greater part
of human experience and the majority of peo-
ple, families, groups, and institutions.
Why a Positive Psychology Movement,
and Why Now?
Why do we need a movement in positive
psychology? The answer is straightforward. The
science of psychology has made great strides in
understanding what goes wrong in individuals,
families, groups, and institutions, but these ad-
vances have come at the cost of understanding
what is right with people. For example, clinical
psychology has made excellent progress in di-
agnosing and treating mental illnesses and per-
sonality disorders (e.g., American Psychiatric
Association, 1994). Researchers in social psy-
chology have conducted groundbreaking stud-
ies on the existence of implicit prejudice and
negative outcomes associated with low self-
esteem (e.g., Josephs, Bosson, & Jacobs, 2003;
Wittenbrink, Judd, & Park, 1997). Health psy-
chology has shown us the detrimental effects
that environmental stressors have on our phys-
iological systems (e.g., Dickerson & Kemeny,
2004). And cognitive psychology has illumi-
nated the many biases and errors involved in our
judgments (e.g., Gilovich, Vallone, & Tversky,
1985). These are all important findings in our
field, but it is harder to locate corresponding
work on human strengths and virtues.
2
So why has our field been so much more
interested in foibles than in strengths? We see
three reasons. The first is compassion. Those
who are suffering should be helped before those
who are already doing well. We certainly agree
with this notion; however, we also think that an
understanding of human strengths can actually
help prevent or lessen the damage of disease,
stress, and disorder. For example, research on
coping has demonstrated that appraisals of neg-
ative life events that put them into perspective
with one’s own capabilities for meeting the
challenge mediate the actual experience of dis-
tress (e.g., Folkman & Lazarus, 1988). And
Taylor and colleagues (Taylor, Kemeny, Reed,
Bower, & Gruenwald, 2000) have provided per-
suasive evidence that beliefs such as optimism
and a sense of personal control are protective
factors for psychological and physical health.
2
One can point to inspiring work such as the jigsaw
classroom of Aronson, Blaney, Stephan, Sikes, and Snapp
(1978), which brought out the best in students, but such
cases are few and far between.
105SPECIAL ISSUE: WHAT IS POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY?
This evidence, as well as a plethora of findings
from other research programs, leads us to be-
lieve that a better understanding of the environ-
mental conditions and personal strengths that
buffer against illness will actually equip us to
better help those who are suffering.
Furthermore, there is the question of ratio.
Even if everyone agrees that we should spend
more money and research time on problems and
suffering than on health and strength, the ques-
tion is, how much more? Five, 10, or 50 times
more? If our research “investment portfolio”
gets too far out of balance, we are passing up
opportunities to make rapid scientific progress
with minimal investment. Many of the partici-
pants in the Positive Psychology Summer Insti-
tute are now leaders in their fields of study
despite their young ages, because they have
chosen fascinating and important topics that
nobody had bothered to invest in before.
A second reason for psychology’s focus on
distress and disease in the past 50 years is
pragmatic and historical. After World War II,
psychologists found that funding agencies were
prioritizing research into mental illness and
other problems, and much work could be found
helping returning veterans (Seligman, 2002).
Moreover, by this time, clinical psychology had
come to focus on diagnosis and treatment of
disorders, in the fashion of a medical disease
model (Maddux, 2002). And, as Keyes and
Lopez (2002) have argued, akin to the medical
disease model, we have invested greatly in iden-
tifying proximal causes of mental illnesses and
creating effective therapies for those who are
already suffering from disorders, but we have
fallen short in identifying distal buffers to men-
tal illness, such as personal strengths and social
connections and prevention aimed at the larger
population. Ironically, then, one cost of focus-
ing resources solely on the treatment of those
who are already ill may be the prevention of
these very same illnesses in those who are not ill
through research on the strengths and circum-
stances that contribute to resilience and well-
ness. And this analysis applies equally well to
branches of psychology other than clinical. For
example, a focus on prejudice overlooks the
process of acceptance, a focus on conflict ig-
nores how compromises are forged, and a focus
on bias misses the many instances of accuracy
and the circumstances that surround it.
The third reason for our field’s focus on the
negative may very well reside in our own nature
and our theories about psychological processes.
As Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, and
Vohs (2001) have documented, “Bad is stronger
than good.” In a review of the literature, they
argued that negative events have more impact
than positive events and that information about
bad things is processed more thoroughly than
information about good. For example, there is
evidence that automatic vigilance tends to be
greater to negative stimuli than to positive stim-
uli (e.g., Pratto & John, 1991). There is also
evidence that we see negative acts as more
diagnostic about someone’s inner qualities than
positive acts by making internal attributions for
the former and external attributions for the latter
(e.g., Vonk, 1994).
It may be evolutionarily adaptive to recog-
nize potential threats more readily than poten-
tial rewards. The former may have had imme-
diate and irreversible consequences for survival
and reproduction, whereas the latter’s impact on
survival and reproduction may have been more
indirect and reversible. For example, Cosmides
and Tooby (1992) have demonstrated that peo-
ple have a mechanism for the detection of indi-
viduals who violate social contracts by benefit-
ing themselves without reciprocally contribut-
ing to the group (i.e., cheaters), but thus far
there is no evidence that we possess a mecha-
nism for the detection of the reverse (i.e.,
altruists).
Moreover, a key reason for the primacy of
negative information may be that it violates our
expectations (Olson, Roese, & Zanna, 1996).
Positive events, information, processes, and in-
teractions simply occur more frequently than
negative ones. For example, one study showed
that when asked how often a list of eight pos-
itive (e.g., “A friend, romantic partner, or fam-
ily member complimented me”) and eight neg-
ative (e.g., “A friend, family member, or roman-
tic partner insulted me”) social events had
occurred in the past week, participants reported
that the negative interactions occurred an aver-
age of 5.9 times and the positive interactions
occurred an average of 19.0 times. This yielded
a ratio of 3.2 positive events for each negative
event (Gable, 2000), and the pattern of experi-
encing more positive than negative events has
been replicated in daily experience studies in-
106 GABLE AND HAIDT
cluding both social and nonsocial events (e.g.,
school or work; Gable, Reis, & Elliot, 2000).
Thus, negative information, events, and interac-
tions become the figure to the positive ground
because they are the exception and not the
norm.
Our bias as humans to more readily perceive
and process negative information should not,
however, be reflected in the subject matter of
our science. Indeed, because positive processes
occur more often, their impact on long-term
outcomes may be even greater, despite the more
subtle impact of any single positive process. As
evidence for this claim, we draw your attention
to two recent studies on positive emotions,
which until recently (e.g., Fredrickson, 1998)
have been undertheorized and understudied by
emotion researchers. In the first, Harker and
Keltner (2001) coded the emotional expressions
of women in their college yearbook photos and
correlated them with outcomes such as marital
satisfaction and psychological well-being 30
years later. Women who expressed more posi-
tive emotion in their photos at 22 years of age
had significantly more favorable outcomes in
their 50s. Similarly, Danner, Snowdon, and
Friesen (2001) found that autobiographies of
Catholic nuns written in their early 20s pre-
dicted survival in old age. Specifically, nuns
whose essays contained positive emotional
content lived longer than nuns whose essays
lacked such content. Astoundingly, there was
a 2.5 risk-ratio difference between the lowest
and highest quartiles of positive emotional
expression!
In summary, despite the philosophical, his-
torical, and theoretical underpinnings that led to
the current imbalance in psychology, we believe
that there is little empirical justification for our
predominantly negative view of human nature
and the human condition. Therefore, it is not
surprising to us that what has become known as
the positive psychology movement grew so rap-
idly from its beginnings (Seligman & Csik-
szentmihalyi, 2000). Research on positive psy-
chology topics is not new, but the time was right
for a correction and an organized positive psy-
chology movement. In the past 5 years, many
investigators have been getting on the train and
discovering that it is taking them to interesting
places and new frontiers.
Challenges to Positive Psychology
The positive psychology movement is not
without its challengers and critics. Many criti-
cisms seem to arise from the assumption that if
there is a positive psychology, then the rest of
psychology must be negative psychology, and if
we need a positive psychology it is because this
so-called negative psychology has taught us lit-
tle. This interpretation is unfortunate and, more
important, untrue, as we hope what we have
written here already demonstrates. In fact, it is
because psychology (which is mostly neutral,
but with more negative than positive topics) has
been so extraordinarily successful that the im-
balance, the lack of progress on positive topics,
has become so glaring.
A second criticism is that people who study
positive psychology fail to recognize the very
real negative sides of life, preferring a Polly-
anna view of the world. However, here we echo
those who have come before us in articulating
the goals of positive psychology. The aim is not
to erase or supplant work on pathology, distress,
and dysfunction. Rather, the aim is to build up
what we know about human resilience, strength,
and growth to integrate and complement the
existing knowledge base. A related concern is
that the movement has cultlike qualities in
which people get together to share their Polly-
annaism. Here we invite the reader to peruse a
list of researchers involved in positive psychol-
ogy conferences, meetings, and publications (a
comprehensive list can be found at http://www.
positivepsychology.org/). This list contains the
names of many of the top scholars in each field.
Nearly all of us involved in positive psychology
research are housed in traditional psychology
departments, and we publish in mainstream
journals. We do not think of ourselves as rebels,
and many of us rarely if ever refer to ourselves
as “positive psychologists.” We merely find that
the positive psychology movement helps us
study our topics more effectively.
Perhaps some of the most daunting chal-
lenges to positive psychology stem from defin-
ing what actually is positive and the ambiguous
line between describing something as “good”
and prescribing it as “good” (Held, 2004). An
appropriate analogy can be drawn from medical
research showing, for example, that exercise
and leafy green vegetables are “good” for us. In
the same way, we believe that findings from
107SPECIAL ISSUE: WHAT IS POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY?
positive psychology can and should encourage
people to adopt behaviors and mental practices
that are “good” for them.
However, in medicine, what is good is rather
straightforward: living longer, without illness.
In psychology, labeling something as positive
or good may not be as simple (Held, 2004).
Diener and Suh (1997) suggested three bases for
what is positive or what is valuable. First, the
choices people make are one indication of
value. That is, if something is chosen regularly,
the chooser probably believes in its value or
goodness. Second, people can judge whether or
not something is satisfying: whether an object,
event, process, or outcome is pleasant. Third,
judgments of what is positive or good can be
made with reference to some value system or set
of cultural norms. Our shared beliefs regarding
what is wrong or unacceptable and what is right
or acceptable can guide decisions about what
aims to pursue. These three criteria sometimes
agree and sometimes do not. For example, sex
outside the context of a committed relationship
may be pleasant and enjoyable but may be un-
acceptable in terms of one’s religious value
system, and one may not choose to engage in it
often. Filling up one’s gas tank may be chosen
often, but it is neither experientially enjoyable
nor valued by an environmentally conscious
belief system. Reporting for jury duty may be
good as defined by civic values, but it may not
be pleasant and is rarely chosen freely. Con-
versely, the three criteria may also converge, for
instance, in playing with one’s child.
In short, the meaning of what is positive or
good is complex and multidimensional, and the
study of positive psychological topics requires
recognition of this complexity in theories and
empirical designs. An excellent example of this
complexity unfolding in psychological research
is Norem’s (2001) work on defensive pessi-
mism. There is a great deal of evidence that
optimism is associated with good outcomes
(e.g., health and well-being) and pessimism is
associated with bad outcomes (e.g., Taylor et
al., 2000). This may lead to the prescription
“Think optimistically and you will do better.”
However, as suggested by Norem and Chang
(2002), people are much more complex, and a
“one size fits all” model does not work. Specif-
ically, Norem’s work shows that for a subgroup
of people with a defensive pessimism personal-
ity style, there are real costs associated with
positive thinking, and to insist that optimism
would be good for them would be a disservice.
There are likely to be many other circumstances
in which the three criteria of goodness may not
converge, or may not converge for everyone. To
meet the challenge of complexity, positive psy-
chology must move beyond the description of
main effects (optimism, humor, forgiveness,
and curiosity are good) and begin to look more
closely at the complex interactions that are the
hallmark of most of psychology, as well as of
medicine.
The Future of Positive Psychology: Just
Plain Psychology
The final question is, where does psychology
go from here? We echo Ryff’s (2003) call that
positive psychology needs to properly map “the
domain of human optimal functioning” (p. 158).
The future task of positive psychology is to
understand the factors that build strengths, out-
line the contexts of resilience, ascertain the role
of positive experiences, and delineate the func-
tion of positive relationships with others. Posi-
tive psychology needs to understand how all of
these factors contribute to physical health, sub-
jective well-being, functional groups, and flour-
ishing institutions. Ultimately, positive psychol-
ogy needs to develop effective interventions to
increase and sustain these processes.
In this way, we see a final criticism of, and
direction for, positive psychology. The original
“three pillars” of positive psychology (Selig-
man, 2002) were positive subjective experience,
positive individual characteristics (strengths
and virtues), and positive institutions and com-
munities. So far, positive psychology has pro-
duced a great deal of new research into the first
two areas but much less into the third. Early
hopes for linking up with a “positive sociology”
and a “positive anthropology” have gone
largely unfulfilled. If such links cannot be
forged in the future, then we hope that positive
psychologists will become more daring in their
theory and their interventions and will try, in
the coming years, to actually improve the func-
tioning of schools, workplaces, and even
governments.
We began this article with a quote from Rob-
ert F. Kennedy, who nearly 40 years ago rec-
ognized that the gross national product provides
a woefully incomplete picture of the value of a
108 GABLE AND HAIDT
country. It is our contention that the gross aca-
demic product of psychology as it exists today
provides an incomplete picture of human life.
The recent movement in positive psychology
strives toward an understanding of the complete
human condition, an understanding that recog-
nizes human strengths as clearly as it does hu-
man frailties and that specifies how the two are
linked. Only a balanced, empirically grounded,
and theoretically rich view of human experience
can fulfill the mission of our field, as outlined in
William James’s (1890/1950) description of
psychology as “the science of mental Life, both
of its phenomena and their conditions” (p. 1).
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Received September 25, 2004
Accepted September 28, 2004
110 GABLE AND HAIDT
  • ... Given this, psychology had little to say about the features of life that make it worth livingoptimism, hope, engagement, meaning, and friendship, among others. Metaphorically, it has been said that psychology entails strategies to bring people from -5 to 0 but does not study nor understand how to bring people from 0 to +5 (Gable & Haidt, 2005). For example, psychology offers strategies for how to become less disconnected but doesn't offer interventions for maintaining existing, strong relationships. ...
    ... community; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2014). Fully recognizing the existence of human suffering, public dysfunction, and ineffective organizations, positive psychology captures the entire spectrum of living (Gable & Haidt, 2005). With the knowledge that growing the positive can also prevent the negative, positive psychology charts a path for all individuals, groups, and organizations towards flourishing. ...
    ... When a friend approaches you with a lightness in their step and excitement in their eyes, how do you respond? Gable and Haidt (2005) found that daily reports of positive event occurrences outnumber negative event occurrences 5 to 1, signifying that there may be more opportunities to respond to positive events than to negative. When preparing to respond to the capitalization offered by a friend, there are four response types to consider (Gable et al., 2006). ...
    Article
    Research has long shown the benefits of social connection for individual well-being. Positive Psychology offers several theories for fostering social connection and yet, throughout our lives we aren’t formally taught how to sustain connections, particularly our cherished friendships. Once you form a friendship, how do you make it last? In this paper, we examine friendship through existing literature and qualitative research leveraging exemplar methodology. Because a pursuit of well-being often includes a pursuit of friendship, we offer research-supported, real-world strategies for maintaining and strengthening friendships in adulthood.
  • ... To deal with the mental health issues around the globe, the approach should go beyond treating disorder to promote mental well-being and flourishing (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). An alternative approach to studying the strengths of an individual is needed to capture the full spectrum of human experiences (Aspinwall & Tedeschi, 2010;Gable & Haidt, 2005;Mann, 2001;Wood & Tarrier, 2010). In the past few decades, a growing body of interdisciplinary research has shifted to a positive psychology approach to understand people's resilient factors, strengths, and psychological well-being (Aspinwall & Tedeschi, 2010;Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), as well as to design and evaluate interventions that mobilize the resources of individuals to reduce mental health problems. ...
  • ... Well-being at work is not only crucial for the overall well-being of the individual but also leads to better work performance (e.g., Judge et al., 2001;Zelenski et al., 2008;Cooper et al., 2019), higher levels of employee creativity and engagement (Bartels et al., 2019), and has been associated with lower rates of absenteeism at work (e.g., Wegge et al., 2007;Ybema et al., 2010). To effectively enhance work-related well-being and the ability to cope with work-related demands, approaches that help researchers to understand the mechanisms that add meaning to life and facilitate optimal functioning seem promising (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000;Gable and Haidt, 2005). Accordingly, recent years have seen a growing interest in studying positive psychology in association with organizational behavior (see, for example, Luthans and Youssef, 2007). ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    The authentic happiness theory covers three basic orientations to happiness; namely, the life of pleasure (via hedonism); engagement (via flow-related experiences); and meaning (via eudaimonia). There is broad evidence for a positive relationship between these three orientations and indicators of positive psychological functioning in a variety of life domains. However, their contribution to well-being at work is understudied. The main aim of this study was testing the relationship between self-and peer-rated orientations to happiness, work related well-being (work satisfaction, work stress), and coping strategies. Further possible mediating effects of the coping strategies on the relationship between orientations to happiness and well-being at work were also examined. The sample consisted of 372 German-speaking Swiss adults (60.3% female), aged between 18 and 65 years (M = 38.9, SD = 10.8) with a minimum of 40% full-time employment. For 100 persons, peer-ratings of the orientations to happiness were available. Our results showed that the life of engagement and, to a lesser extent, the life of meaning are related to work satisfaction. The life of pleasure was associated with lower levels of reported work stress. Further, positive associations between self-and peer-rated orientations to happiness (particularly pleasure) and adaptive coping strategies with stress were also found. Mediation analyses showed that the effects of engagement in general and content-related work satisfaction were mediated mainly by control and negative coping, while the association between meaning and resigned work satisfaction was mediated by positive coping. Negative coping fully mediated the association between the pleasurable life and work stress. Overall, our results indicate that employees' orientations to happiness are of importance for experiencing well-being at work.
  • ... Well-being at work is not only crucial for the overall well-being of the individual but also leads to better work performance (e.g., Judge et al., 2001;Zelenski et al., 2008;Cooper et al., 2019), higher levels of employee creativity and engagement (Bartels et al., 2019), and has been associated with lower rates of absenteeism at work (e.g., Wegge et al., 2007;Ybema et al., 2010). To effectively enhance work-related well-being and the ability to cope with work-related demands, approaches that help researchers to understand the mechanisms that add meaning to life and facilitate optimal functioning seem promising (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000;Gable and Haidt, 2005). Accordingly, recent years have seen a growing interest in studying positive psychology in association with organizational behavior (see, for example, Luthans and Youssef, 2007). ...
    Article
    The authentic happiness theory covers three basic orientations to happiness; namely, the life of pleasure (via hedonism); engagement (via flow-related experiences); and meaning (via eudaimonia). There is broad evidence for a positive relationship between these three orientations and indicators of positive psychological functioning in a variety of life domains. However, their contribution to well-being at work is understudied. The main aim of this study was testing the relationship between self-and peer-rated orientations to happiness, work related well-being (work satisfaction, work stress), and coping strategies. Further possible mediating effects of the coping strategies on the relationship between orientations to happiness and well-being at work were also examined. The sample consisted of 372 German-speaking Swiss adults (60.3% female), aged between 18 and 65 years (M = 38.9, SD = 10.8) with a minimum of 40% full-time employment. For 100 persons, peer-ratings of the orientations to happiness were available. Our results showed that the life of engagement and, to a lesser extent, the life of meaning are related to work satisfaction. The life of pleasure was associated with lower levels of reported work stress. Further, positive associations between self-and peer-rated orientations to happiness (particularly pleasure) and adaptive coping strategies with stress were also found. Mediation analyses showed that the effects of engagement in general and content-related work satisfaction were mediated mainly by control and negative coping, while the association between meaning and resigned work satisfaction was mediated by positive coping. Negative coping fully mediated the association between the pleasurable life and work stress. Overall, our results indicate that employees' orientations to happiness are of importance for experiencing well-being at work.
  • ... Equally possibly, they may continue to gather strength and swell, where the notion of these as a wave becomes harder to dispute. Or, paradoxically, Gable and Haidt (2005) speculated that one consequence of the field's burgeoning influence and reach is that it may actually cease to exist as a discrete field. That is, PP's original mission was to bring attention and credibility to research on positive aspects of human functioning. ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    The development of academic fields is often described through the metaphor of ‘waves.’ Following the instantiation of positive psychology (the first wave), scholarship emerged looking critically at the notions of positive and negative, becoming known as its second wave. More recently, we discern an equally significant shift, namely scholarship that in various ways goes beyond the individual and embraces greater complexity. This includes going beyond the individual person as the primary focus of enquiry to look more deeply at the groups and systems in which people are embedded. It also involves becoming more interdisciplinary and multicultural, and embracing a wider range of methodologies. We submit that these interrelated ripples constitute a form of epistemological ‘broadening’ that merit the label of an incoming ‘third wave.’ This paper identifies the key dynamics of this wave, allowing appreciation not only of the field’s leading edge, but also its developmental potential into the future.
  • ... According to positive psychology, happiness is identified as a positive internal resource; a major life aim; and one of the most important factors for the optimal functioning of children, groups, and institutions (Carr 2004;Fredrickson et al. 2003;Gable and Haidt 2005). Studies have defined happiness as a frame for constructing good environmental relations (Keyes and Ryff 2000;Ryff 1989). ...
    Hope, as the measurable factor of how a young person perceives the future and their ability to be successful within their cultural context over time, is associated with a variety of positive outcomes including increased perceptions of happiness, positive academic achievement, and even lower risk of death. However, for children embedded in long-lasting geo-political conflicts that affect negatively individuals, families, and communities, and over which they have no ability to affect resolution or progress, hope is an illusive concept. The purpose of the current study was to test self-reported measures of happiness, sadness, and hope for the future in narratives of internally displaced Palestinian refugee youth across the West Bank. The sample consisted of 30 youth aged 14–16 years; they were selected from 5 Palestinian internally displaced (IDP) refugee camps (Balata, Askar, Ein Beit al-ma’, Nur Shams, and Jenin) in the West Bank of Palestine. Results demonstrated that factors related to youth-perceived happiness were the belief in freedom and peace for the future, interactions and activities with other youth, summer and winter camps, and material and emotional rewards they receive from caretakers (parents and teachers). Results also showed that factors contributing to self-reported sadness were occupation of their homeland, negative school conditions such as overcrowding and lack of resources, living conditions such as, and specific incidents of loss and traumatic experiences. Results also indicated that the hope for the future for Palestinian refugee children was based on their stated desires to continue their education, live in freedom and peace, return to their homeland, and get married and have a family. This work supports the ongoing inability of Palestinian youth to gather positive affect from the strengthening factors in their families and communities and maintain a belief in a better future via pro-social behaviors such as education, the establishment of families, and the return of their homes and lands.
  • ... These results provide support for studies advocating for a separate analysis of self-compassion and self-coldness (Brenner et al. 2017;Muris and Petrocchi 2017). Moreover, in this context, it is useful to recall a metaphor used by Gable and Haidt (2005) that compares traditional psychology and positive psychology: "[P]sychology was said to be learning how to bring people up from negative eight to zero but not as good at understanding how people rise from zero to positive eight" (p. 103). ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    Objectives Diabetes is a chronic disease that markedly affects the daily life of individuals and lowers subjective well-being. Self-compassion, or treating oneself with kindness and acceptance during challenging circumstances, may improve subjective well-being among people with diabetes. In the current study, we explored the relationships between duration of diabetes, positive and negative components of self-compassion (i.e., self-compassion and self-coldness), and life satisfaction. Methods The sample consisted of 112 persons with type 1 diabetes. A Self-Compassion Scale and Satisfaction with Life Scale were used. Results A parallel multiple mediation model revealed that diabetes duration was related to lower self-coldness but not to self-compassion. Both self-coldness and self-compassion strongly correlated with life satisfaction. Diabetes duration demonstrated a significant indirect effect on life satisfaction through self-coldness (b = 0.08, 95% CI [0.01, 0.16]), but not through self-compassion (b = 0.00, 95% CI [− 0.06, 0.06]). Conclusions The study suggests the need to examine the positive and negative components of the Self-Compassion Scale separately when studying well-being of persons with type 1 diabetes, as well as to prepare tailored self-compassion and self-coldness interventions that can be adjusted for people with varying diabetes durations.
  • Article
    As humans, our tendency is to reduce uncertainty, leading us to want to hold things still rather than accept the inevitable change that comes (Langer, 2009). However, psychological and behavioral attempts to do so can result in clinging to outdated and erroneous information, limiting our perspectives and narrowing opportunities for meaningful choice. In this paper, we merge Western psychology and Eastern wisdom traditions and build upon conceptions of mindfulness from both perspectives, to present our theory of the micromoments mindset as a tool for well-being. We define a micromoment as both the instant opening into conscious awareness of the present moment, as well as the brief stretch of experience that follows, until awareness recedes. A micromoments mindset is the cognitive prioritization toward these openings. It serves as both an entryway into mindfulness and the experience of being more mindful within the micromoment. We argue that tapping into micromoments throughout our days can facilitate factors of well-being, particularly agency and connection, so that we have more tools for living with intention in the world of uncertainty and flux in which we find ourselves. We also present the PEACE framework for optimizing well-being within micromoments.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Positive psychology, as a distinctive paradigm, focuses on the remedy of pathologies and, by contrast, the promotion of positive experiences and conditions in life (e.g., encouraging a state of flourishing). Positive psychology, in its simplistic form, may provide evidence and insightful understanding into the proactivity of human agency (Seligman, 1999; Seligman and Csíkszentmihályi, 2000). Drawing from this emphasis, we have developed the theory of optimization, which attempts to explain the achievement of optimal functioning in life (e.g., optimal cognitive functioning: academic performance). By the same token, in the course of our research development into the theory of optimization, we have also delved into a comparable theoretical orientation, namely: the multifaceted nature of mindfulness, consisting of three interrelated components – the psychological component of mindfulness, the philosophical component of mindfulness, and the spiritual component of mindfulness. This conceptualization of mindfulness is rather unique for its incorporation of both Western and Eastern knowledge, philosophical viewpoints, and epistemologies into one holistic framework. The main premise of this conceptual analysis article is to advance the study of positive psychology by specifically introducing our recently developed model of mindfulness, in this case, the multifaceted structure of mindfulness with its three distinct components. Importantly, we make attempts to highlight the significance of this multifaceted model by situating it within the theory of optimization for academic learning. Using philosophical psychology and personal-based teaching and research reasoning, we provide a valid rationale as to how aspects of our proposed model of mindfulness (e.g., reaching a state of enlightenment) could act to facilitate and optimize a person’s state of functioning (e.g., cognitive functioning). Moreover, we posit that our rationale regarding mindfulness as a potential “optimizing agent” for the purpose of optimal functioning could, indeed, emphasize and reflect the salient nature of positive psychology. In other words, we contend that an explanatory account of mindfulness from the perspectives of Confucianism and Buddhism could, in this analysis, coincide with and support the meaningful understanding and appreciation for the study of positive psychology in educational and non-educational contexts. We conclude the article by exploring the complex issue of methodology – that is, for example, how would a researcher measure, assess, and/or empirically validate the multifaceted nature of mindfulness?