psych pos approach


A1 – Acknowledgement Of Free Will 

  • The positive acknowledges that we have free will, rather than being determined by internal/external factors

  • We have the ability to choose, grow, and respond actively to events around us

  • Since we have control over our own behaviour, happiness is accessible to us all

  • As humans, we are self-directing and adaptive. So, a good life can be experienced if we use our strengths and virtues to enhance our lives

A2 – Authenticity of goodness and excellence 

  • According to Seligman, the belief that traits like virtue and happiness are less authentic than negative traits like anxiety and depression has been an obstacle in psychological research in psychological research

  • Human strength and goodness deserve equal attention to disorders

  • Our behaviour can be explained by the fact that we are good, capable of goodness, and motivated to feel good

  • This assumption influences therapists to help facilitate positive well-being and achieve fulfilment

A3 – 

  • There are three desirable lives:

  • The pleasant life, happiness comes from pursuing positive emotions in relation to the past, present, and future

  • The good life, happiness comes from pursuing activities that positively engage/absorb us

  • The meaningful life, happiness comes from a deep sense of fulfilment by living for a purpose greater than oneself

  • To achieve a good life, we have to develop our strengths and virtues.

Relationship Formation – friendship

Friendship is sought by humans because it encourages the expression of many authentic emotions, like kindness, generosity, and altruism. There are many rewards friendship offers, including company and connection and companionship – these rewards act as a buffer during difficult challenges in life

  • Authenticity of goodness and excellence: maintaining a friendship allows us to develop and express signature strengths, resulting in strives towards a happier and more content life

  • Focus on the good life: research shows that people in healthy friendships are happier than those who are not. Having a positive connection to others encompasses our ability to love, trust, and forgive

Therapy – mindfulness

Application of assumptions

Mindfulness cultivates human characteristics, like core strengths and virtues. Through the assumption of authenticity and goodness and excellence, mindfulness aims to enhance a person’s positive characteristics through acceptance-based methods. We also have the free will to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can make us aware of present thoughts and feelings. This helps develop a productive attitude and we can take control over negative thinking


  1. Gaining control  of thoughts

  • Being mindful trains us to focus on present thoughts, emotions and feelings, not the past or future

  • It teaches us to be more aware of negative thoughts and spend less time on them

  • Mindfulness can help us to notice when negative automatic thinking occurs (anxiety) and how to alter that thinking

  1. Meditation and mindful breathing

  • This involves the client sitting comfortably and then directing their attention to their breathing. This encourages them to pay more thoughts and to acknowledge their current emotions

  • If the mind wanders then the client will learn how to bring their attention back to the point of focus

  1. Informal practices of mindfulness

  • Mindfulness techniques can be practised throughout daily activities, like when cleaning

  • It is the opposite of multitasking by making the conscious decision to focus on a single task

  • Successful mindfulness practice can be done constantly



  • A study showed that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) reduces the relapse of depression over 12 months by almost 50%. MBCT is as effective at reducing relapse as antidepressants

  • Mindfulness in schools project. This helped students deal with exam stress, bullying, and it improved behaviour

  • Also found to be effective at reducing anti-social behaviour in prisons, including a decrease in violence, which improve quality of life

  • Applied to pregnancy, reduces fear of labour, there is a lower risk of postnatal depression

  • Found that when applied to workplaces, there is less stress and increased productivity


  • Mindfulness is adaptive and can be done in many ways to suit the client. Due to individual differences, they can choose to do it in groups or even alone

  • Not time consuming and can be free

  • Mindfulness can be done with a phone app or with trained therapists. It is very flexible

  • Can be done throughout client’s day


  • Very few side effects and can be practised in ways that suit the individual’s needs

  • Origins in Buddhism so this was not originally designed to treat mental illnesses. Not suitable for many illnesses like schizophrenia or severe depression

  • It does not address the cause of negative thoughts, which could keep occurring if not examined and eventually worsen

  • Often delivered by not fully trained practitioners, when given to vulnerable people. They wouldn’t know when someone needs to be referred for specialist help

Classical research – Myers and Diener: Who is happy?


  • A literature review, included secondary sources like meta-analyses, interviews, observations

  • Questionnaires were included with a subjective well-being measure 

  • Qualitative and quantitative data

  • Correlations to show how factors co-vary


  • A survey of 170,000 found no differences in happiness in regards to different ages. However, there are situations at certain ages (education, health) that are more important factors than age

  • Study showed 80% of men and 80% of women were ‘fairly satisfied’

  • African-Americans are twice as happy than European-Americans

  • Correlation between income and happiness is of +0.12

  • The traits of happy people includes having high self-esteem, extraversion, optimism

  • People with high spiritual commitment are more happy

  • Those out of work were found to be less happy because they have a reduced sense of purpose and no personal identity

  • Married people are happier than those that are not


  • There is an importance of adaptation. The effects of positive and negative events fade over time

  • Cultural worldview. Attitudes predispose people to interpret life events differently

  • Values and goals in relation to class and country background. Achieving our goals makes us happier

  • A person’s happiness is not predictable from age, gender, or affluence. It depends on culture, religion, racce, and traits and relationships

  • This is important for psychologists and individuals to build a world enhancing human wellbeing



  • Subjective well-being data is unfalsifiable, we cannot prove it. Also one interpretation of happiness varies so how can we measure or compare

  • Social desirability means less validity

  • Correlations do not reveal the cause but can show some important intervening factors

  • Samples were from the USA so cannot generalise to collectivist cultures

  • Meta-analysis, multiple studies and very in depth


  • not all psychologists agree with the idea of happiness having a ‘set-point’. One argues that it is down to 50% genetics, 10% circumstance, 40% self-control

  • Not applicable. Things that make people happy according to study cannot be changed


  • Very little risk of psychological harm as there was no manipulation of behaviour

  • Could be a sensitive topic for those depressed and researchers might not know how to appropriately deal with such situations. Would need more training

  • Classed as socially sensitive. Could lead people to view certain groups more/less happy differently

Evaluate the approach

  • shifts the focus of psychology beyond explaining and treating disorders. Instead, it celebrates authentic human strengths

  • A wider understanding of the human condition

  • Most approaches are deterministic. This states that individuals are not predetermined or restricted. They have the personal freedom to grow and develop. Pessimism obstructs proper development -> Seligman

  • Applications to education, therapy, work spaces, etc

  • This is not a new idea. Seligman ignores the work of Maslow, the first to criticise existing approaches

  • Not scientific. No empirical evidence. All research is subjective