Positive Psychology is :


“ the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.”

Positive Psychology Centre

If you ask anybody what they want in life, HAPPINESS will be somewhere at the top, but what makes us happy? how can happiness be measured and where does it come from?  It is from these questions that the area of Positive Psychology was born.

Dr Martin Seligman is one of the founders of Positive Psychology where he explores what it take to live a flourishing life as opposed to life absent of mental illness. The research continues to grow and this is certainly not a fad, but a movement towards understanding wellness and wellbeing as a whole.

Positive Psychology is understanding the strategies we can employ to move ourselves from feeling good to one of joy, happiness and flourishing. Mainstream psychology has had a tendency to look at how we can avoid anxiety, illness or depression, although the scientific research of Martin Seligman and many others, we are learning a whole new way of being.
The implication for education are great…… Imagine teaching our children how to flourish instead of just avoiding depression. Imagine they know their character strengths, have support networks, experience positive emotions and are engaged in what they are doing?  In order for our children to flourish, the research supports the importance of teachers flourishing. Through positive psychology we as teachers have a lot to learn and a lot to gain.


To get a very quick overview of Positive Psychology and the PERMA Model of Wellbeing, check out this great animation.

Positive Psychology explained


Seligman and his team also developed a set of Character Strengths to identify positive psychological traits of human beings. That is, the traits that form part of our innate character. By identifying these character strengths we can then plan for ways to achieve goals that bring greater life satisfaction. You can take the test for free to find our your top 5 character strengths.

The values and character strengths that were identified are listed below;

  1. Wisdom and Knowledge – open mind, curiosity
  2. Courage – persistence, vitality, integrity
  3. Humanity – love, kindness, social intelligence
  4. Justice – citizenship, fairness, leadership
  5. Temperance – forgiveness, compassion, self regulation
  6. Transcendence – gratitude, appreciation, hope, humour


To find out more about the research of how Positive Psychology is impacting schools, you can purchase the “Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools” published 2014

If you want to just stick to the basics, here is the PERMA Model of wellbeing developed by Seligman as a foundation for how we can best support wellbeing. Have a look at each element and ask yourself how you support yourself each day.