Vivid Image re Positive Psychology and the Science of Happiness


   What is Positive Psychology?
   What is the Science of Happiness?
   What’s the  Difference?
The Science of Happiness
7 Habits of Happy People

What is Positive Psychology?

  • The term “Positive Psychology”  was originally coined by the psychologist Abraham Maslow in the 1950’s. 
  • Maslow used the term somewhat loosely to call for a more balanced view of human nature, that is, to draw attention to human potentialities as well as mental illness. The upbeat work of “humanistic” psychologists such as Carl Rogers as well as Maslow have served as a wellspring of ideas for the new field of Positive Psychology. 
  • In 2002, Martin Seligman, previously President of the American Psychological Association, popularized the expression Positive Psychology through his influential work “Authentic Happiness.” He defined it as the study of positive emotions and the “strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.”
  • In his second best-seller, “Flourish,” Seligman expanded his vision of human well-being based on five components, known by the acronym PERMA, including Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.

What is the Science of Happiness?

  • The Science of Happiness, the scientific study of “what makes happy people happy,” was arguably launched by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi in the late 1980’s.
  • Czikszentmihalyi pioneered the “Experience Sampling Method” to discover what he called the “psychology of optimal experience,” and specifically, the experience of Flow. 
  • The Science of Happiness is now picking up speed, with scientists from around the globe exploring the neuroscience of happiness as well as the psychology of well-being. 
  • The measurement of happiness has consequently become a major focus of the new science, with many scales presently being used depending on how “happiness” is defined.

How is Positive Psychology related to the Science of Happiness?

the neuroscience of happiness
  • Positive Psychology could be regarded as a subset within the broader field we call the Science of Happiness, which extends to the natural as well as the social sciences.
  • Positive Psychology is traditionally focused on the study of positive emotions and “signature strengths,” and more recently on related areas such as intimate relationships and the discovery of meaning.   
  • The Science of Happiness extends beyond the psychological sciences, for example, to such areas as the impact of exercise and nutrition on psychological well-being, or the effect of social media on happiness.

The Science of Happiness

happiness scientistOn the internet and in bookstores, a thousand gurus tout different remedies for human misery. How can we find out which remedies work? We need to consult one of our greatest gurus, the scientific method. Recently we have seen a dramatic upsurge in scientific studies on Positive Psychology and the science of happiness or to put it simply, discovering what makes happy people happy. Fortunately, many of these studies point to specific ways of thinking and acting that can strongly impact our sense of happiness and peace of mind.

If you would prefer to explore the Science of Happiness through videos and fun quizzes, try our free Introductory Mini Course. If not, keep reading!

The Science
Of Happiness ~
7 Habits of
Happy People


Express your heart. People who have one or more close friendships are happier. It doesn’t seem to matter if we have a large network of close relationships or not. What seems to make a difference is if and how often we cooperate in activities and share our personal feelings with a friend or relative. “Active-constructive responding,” which is the ability to express genuine interest in what people say, and respond in encouraging ways, is a powerful way to enrich relationships and cultivate positive emotions…

Acts of Kindness

Cultivate kindness. People who volunteer or simply care for others on a consistent basis seem to be happier and less depressed. Although “caring” can involve volunteering as part of an organized group or club, it can involve random acts of kindness, such as reaching out to a colleague or classmate who looks lonely or is struggling with an issue…

Physical Wellbeing

Keep moving and eat well. Regular exercise has been associated with improved mental well-being and a lower incidence of depression. The Cochrane Review (the most influential medical review of its kind in the world) has produced a landmark analysis of 39 studies on exercise and depression. One of the major conclusions was that exercise had a “large clinical impact” on depression. Many studies are proving the ancient adage, “sound body, sound mind,” including the recent discovery of a “gut-brain axis,” psychobiotics, and links between excessive consumption of processed foods, low consumption of high fibre vegetables, and depression…


Find your flow. If we are deeply involved in trying to reach a goal, or an activity that is challenging but well suited to our skills, we experience a joyful state called “flow.” Many kinds of activities, such as sports, playing an instrument, or teaching, can produce the experience of flow.  According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer of the scientific study of happiness,  flow is a type of intrinsic motivation. In his words, “you do what you’re doing primarily because you like what you’re doing. If you learn only for external, extrinsic reasons, you will probably forget it as soon as you are no longer forced to remember what you want to do…

Spiritual Engagement
and Meaning

Discovering Meaning. Studies demonstrate a close link between spiritual and religious practice and happiness. Spirituality is closely related to the discovery of greater meaning in our lives. As the psychologist Martin Seligman emphasizes, through the meaningful life we discover a deeper kind of happiness…

Discover and use your strengths. Studies by experts such as Martin Seligman in the new field of Positive Psychology show that the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths (such as persistence and critical thinking) and use those strengths for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goals (Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment). According to Ryan Niemiec, your top strengths, or “Signature Strengths” are likely to be “the strengths that matter most to you, that are most central to your personal identity.” These character strengths are an essential component of human flourishing.

Treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope. Of all the positive emotions studied in the relatively young field of positive psychology, gratitude has perhaps received the most attention. Grateful people have been shown to have greater positive emotion, a greater sense of belonging, and lower incidence of depression and stress. 

Learn More about Positive Psychology

Learn more about Positive Psychology through three pioneers, Abraham Maslow, who origiinally coined the expression, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who conducted some of the original experiments on the concept of Flow, and especially Martin Seligman, of the University of Pennsylvania, who launched Positive Psychology as a new field of inquiry though two landmark publications, Authentic Happiness and, more recently Flourish

The Scientific Evidence

Each of the habits / life skills introduced above and in our online courses is based on numerous scientific studies which are listed in extensive bibilographies. You can find this information via the Science of Happiness drop down menu and hovering over each habit.