Positive Psychology 101
Here is a short (5 minute) introductory video for readers who aren’t familiar with Positive Psychology.
From the time, in the second half of the nineteenth century, when Sigmund Freud looked at his cigar and wondered what it meant, Psychology focused on problems: mental illness, depression, and the like. Then, just about 20 years ago, a group of people in the American Psychological Association (APA) asked, “What about mental health?” Obviously, we are not going to learn what is going on with happy, mentally healthy people by only studying those who are not experiencing it. The Positive Psychology movement was born.
Two things to point out from the beginning: “Positive Psychology” is not “The Power of Positive Thinking.” As Seligman (2003, p. 186) wrote, “Positive Thinking is an armchair activity. Positive Psychology, in contrast, is a science, based on empirical evidence and replicable studies.” Nor is it “happiology,” which denies negative emotions and experience. Positive Psychology covers the range of human experience.
 “101” courses in American universities are the introductory classes for a subject area.
Featured video DEEP: Martin Seligman • PERMA
The Positive Psychology movement started around 2000, when Martin Seligman was president of the APA. He, and others, including Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, Christopher Peterson, started to explore the area in an organized way.
About 10 years later, Seligman reorganized his work into a model he called PERMA.
PERMA stands for:
Meaning (or meaningfulness)
Accomplishment (or Agency)
In our featured video, Seligman explains PERMA. As you watch, you may want to think about how the ideas relate to both your teaching and your life.
Seligman’s PERMA ideas are more completely explained in his book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. (2011). New York, NY: Free Press.
Featured video LITE: Scott Galloway on The Algebra of Happiness.
Our LITE video comes from a surprising source. Not from a psychologist but from a business professor. Scott Galloway teaches at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He’s the best-selling author of The FOUR: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. When that book was a hit and his publisher wanted another one, he wrote, The Algebra of Happiness. You can tell by his presentation style that he enjoys the role of the smart-a…, um, smart-alecky “bad boy.” However, the ideas he is presenting that relate to happiness are all based on scientific studies. Most of the research references aren’t cited in the video. They are, however, listed in his book The Algebra of Happiness.
Seligman, M.E.P. (2003). Authentic happiness: Using the new Positive Psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York, NY: Free Press.
Marc Helgesen, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Sendai, is author of over 180 ELT books, textbooks and articles, including Pearson’s English Firsthand series. He’s been an invited speaker at conferences on five continents. He teaches “Positive Psychology in ELT” in Nagoya University of Foreign Studies MA TESOL Program. Check out Marc’s book on Positive Psychology tasks for ELT and the activities on his websites: www.ELTandHappiness.com & http://www.helgesenhandouts.weebly.com