Positive psychology is a science of positive aspects of human life, such as happiness, well-being and flourishing. It can be summarised in the words of its founder, Martin Seligman, as the ‘scientific study of optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive’.
Psychology has more often than not emphasised the shortcomings of individuals as compared with their potentials. This particular approach focuses on the potentials. It is not targeted at fixing problems, but is focused on researching things that make life worth living instead. In short, positive psychology is concerned not with how to transform, for example, -8 to -2 but with how to bring +2 to +8.
This orientation in psychology was established about ten years ago and it is a rapidly developing field. Its aspiration is to bring solid empirical research into areas such as well-being, flow, personal strengths, wisdom, creativity, psychological health and characteristics of positive groups and institutions. The map on the next page shows the topics of interest for positive psychologists. This map is not, by any means, exhaustive, but it provides a good overview of the field and the book you are about to read.