Season 2 Ep 30: Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is one of the most important areas of Psychology today. In this episode, I explore the basics of the field and what practical strategies we can learn from it!

Some of the main researchers in this area include:

Seligman, Peterson, Baumeister and Csikszentmihalyi

“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (Peterson, 2008).

Positive psychology focuses on the positive events and influences in life, including:

  1. Positive experiences
  2. Positive states and traits
  3. Positive institutions

Character strengths, optimism, happiness, gratitude, compassion (as well as self-compassion) and elevation.

Seligman’s research: Learned helplessness. Depression. Resilience.

  1. Experiences trump material possessions
  2. Gratitude matters
  3. Oxytocin matters
  4. Happiness is contagious
  5. Kindness are more accepted
  6. Positive emotions boost our job performance;

Roy F. Baumeister and colleagues found:

  1. The satisfaction of one’s wants and needs boost happiness, but have virtually no impact on meaningfulness
  2. Happiness is present-oriented, rooted in the moment, while meaningfulness is more focused on the past and future and how they link to the present.
  3. “Givers” experience more meaning, while “takers” experience more happiness
  4. Worry, stress, and anxiety are more likely to be felt by those whose lives are high in meaningfulness and low in happiness
  5. An intention to express your authentic self and a sense of strong personal identity are linked to meaning, but not to happiness; if you are searching for meaning, try working on your practice of authenticity.

Findings such as these have given rise to, and are driven by, a number of interesting theories that pepper the positive psychology literature.

Some other insights from Peterson

  • Other people matter (in terms of what makes life worth living);
  • Religion matters (and/or spirituality);
  • Work also matters in terms of making life worth living, as long as we are engaged and draw meaning and purpose from it;
  • Money has diminishing returns on our happiness after a certain point, but we can buy some happiness by spending money on other people;
  • Eudaimonia (well-being, deeper form of satisfaction than happiness) is more important than hedonism (sole focus on pleasure and positive emotions) for living the good life;

The PERMA Model

  • P – Positive Emotions
  • E – Engagement
  • R – (Positive) Relationships
  • M – Meaning
  • A – Accomplishment / Achievement


We flourish when we cultivate our talents and strengths, develop deep and meaningful relationships, feel pleasure and enjoyment, and make a meaningful contribution to the world.


Another well-known topic in positive psychology is that of flow.

Flow was first scientifically explored by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Intense and focused concentration on the present moment;

  1. The merging of action and awareness, or being fully present in your actions;
  2. A loss of reflective self-consciousness (lack of attention to the self);
  3. A sense of personal control or agency in the situation;
  4. A distorted sense of time passing;
  5. Experiencing the activity or situation as intrinsically rewarding

Those who enter into a state of flow are totally immersed in what they’re doing. This immersion arises when the challenges of the activity in front of us are significant and roughly equal to our skill at this activity. When we have high skill and low challenge, we are bored. When we have a high challenge and low skill, we are overwhelmed. When we have “low skill and low challenge,” we are apathetic. It is only when both our skill and our challenges are high that we enter into a flow state.


The organization of the 6 virtues and 24 strengths is as follows:

  1. Wisdom and knowledge  
  2. Courage 
  3. Humanity 
  4. Justice
  5. Temperance 
  6. Transcendence