Thursday, June 22, 2017

Positive Psychology

I'm currently enrolled in a Positive Psychology course from the University of Pennsylvania. It's actually a five course program which earns you a certificate when you are finished. As soon as you finish one course, you enroll in the next one. The psychologist, Dr. Marty Seligman, who was president of the American Psychology Association, founded Positive Psychology. Now it's being used all over the world, and even is being used in our armed forces to teach them resilience.

I've learned so much from these courses, and the focus is not on the negative, but on the positive aspects of life. Our human instinct is to protect ourselves and to survive. In the past, it was useful to focus on the negative, in case there was a dinosaur or wild animal lurking afoot. Now, this negative bias has permeated our society. One sees it in the news, that focuses on violent acts and crimes. Also, in the old days, psychologists focused on what was wrong with us. They studied mental illnesses and how to correct them, but over 70% of the population was normal. Because they didn't have mental illness didn't mean they were happy or had well-being. Positive psychology goes beyond just living. It teaches you about yourself and about how to see life differently.

Being a writer, I found these courses fascinating, particularly the character strengths that came out of the six virtues: wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, transparency, and transcendence.

A website formed by Dr. Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, called Authentic Happiness, has much information about this topic. There are free questionnaires and tests on the site. Also, to find out your character strengths, you can take the VIA survey. The top five character strengths are your strongest. These character traits can be used to help define characters in your novels. They can also help you understand yourself and the people around you better.

Click on this website to take the free survey:

Here is a list of the virtues and their character strengths:

  1. Wisdom and Knowledge: creativitycuriosityopen-mindednesslove of learningperspectiveinnovation
  2. Courage: braverypersistenceintegrityvitalityzest
  3. Humanity: lovekindnesssocial intelligence
  4. Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
  5. Temperance: forgiveness and mercyhumilityprudenceself control
  6. Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellencegratitudehopehumorspirituality

Source: Wikipedia ( -

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