What if, instead of focusing on our mental weaknesses,
psychologists helped build our capacity for happiness? That’s the
goal of positive psychology, according to Shambhala
Sun (Nov. 2005).
It’s more than a turn-that-frown-upside-down approach —
psychologist Martin Seligman and colleagues craft scientific
measures of human fulfillment. By understanding exactly how and why
we achieve happiness, these researchers hope to help us get there
In 2004 Seligman co-published Character Strengths and
Virtues (Oxford University Press), a research-based book that
gives gold stars to 24 human strengths like authenticity,
persistence, kindness, gratitude, hope, and humor. The book defines
each virtue and suggests ways to build it.
Seligman’s early partner in positive psychology, Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi, studies ‘flow,’ the feeling of satisfaction you
get when you’re totally engrossed in work or play. Other
researchers are studying the contentment that comes from an ability
to forgive or to feel gratitude.
Last fall, the University of Pennsylvania launched the
first-ever master’s degree program in applied positive psychology.
And in what may be the definitive work in the field, Seligman is
working on a bright-side counterpart to the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the mental health
profession’s tome of illnesses. You can measure your signature