Positive Psychology (Free Access)


  • Affect is a person’s immediate, physiological response to a stimulus, and it is typically based on an underlying sense of arousal.
    • Involves the appraisal of an event as painful or pleasurable,
      • Also known as valence
    • Affect provides an experience of autonomic arousal


  • Judgement about stimuli and its effect on the individual
  • Usually related to external objects which are pertinent to an individual’s well-being
  • Evaluation of situation
    • Reduction in reactivity will take place if an individual acknowledges their own neediness and incompleteness towards certain aspects of the world. Especially things they don’t control
  • Emotions are sharper than affect
    • Always related to an object
    • Associated with goal pursuit
      • Positive when goal is achieved
      • Negative if goal is obstructed

Positive Emotions

  • Two basic forms:
    • Positive affect:
      • Joviality
      • Self-assurance
      • Attentiveness
      • Experiencing positive emotions could lead to
        • Related to personality and well-being
        • Physiological aspects.
        • Helping other people
        • Flexibility in thinking
        • Problem solving
        • Altruistic behaviour
    • Negative affect
      • General distress and would lead to
        • Hostility
        • Irritability
        • Shame
  • Positive and negative affect are NOT polar opposites.
    • Independent of one another and inversely correlated.

The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions by Fredrickson (2004)

  • Theoretically linked with building physical, psychological and social resources.
    • Positive emotions broadens an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire.
      • Example of thought action repertoire – joy sparks the urge to play
    • Consequences of broadened mind sets are that they promote discovery of novel and creative actions, ideas and social bonds which develop an individual personal resources
      • E.g. physical, intellectual, psychological and social resources
      • Produce optimal functioning over the long term
  • B&B theory postulate that emotions are confused with related states such as sensory pleasure & positive mood
    • Emotions require cognitive appraisal and are related to personally meaningful circumstances
  • Specific action tendencies: certain events make individuals behave in particular ways
    • E.g. in a life threatening situation leads to fight or flight response
    • Works well to describe negative emotions, however, positive emotions seldom occur in life threatening situations, instead they have a complementary beneficial/protective effect
  •  Broadened mindsets carry indirect and long-term adaptive benefits because broadening builds enduring personal resources
    • Juvenile play – builds enduring social and physical resources, social bonds, attachments & intellectual resources by increasing creativity
  • Personal resources accrued during states of positive emotions are durable they outlast the transient emotional states that led to their acquisition
  • Experiencing positive emotions then allows people to transform themselves by becoming more creative, knowledgeable, resilient, socially integrated & healthy

Difference between mood and emotion

            – Mood is generic term and refers to how an individual feels in an overall manner for long period of time.

            –  Emotions are temporary states that tied to personally meaningful events and end with their suppression or enactment.

  •  Positive emotions should not be confused with simple sensory pleasures
    • eg. Eating, sexual gratification (automatic pleasures to physiological needs).

Current Research Findings

  • Broaden thought-action repertoires
    • Positive emotions widen the array of thoughts & actions
  • Undo lingering negative emotions
    • Joy/contentment undo effects of negative emotions
  • Fuel psychological resiliency

-resilient individuals “bounce back” from situations.

  • Build personal resources

-positive emotions augment enduring coping responses,

  • Fuel psychological and physical well-being

-positive meaning and emotions are reciprocal building emotional well-being.

  • Traditional perspectives suggest positive emotions mark health.
  • The broaden- and build theory suggests positive emotions also produce health and well-being.
  • In short positive emotions fuel human flourishing.
  • Positive emotions are an essential topic within the science of well-being, they
    • Produce health, well-being and fuel human flourishing
    • Broaden people’s attention and thinking
    • Undo lingering resilience
    • Build consequential personal resources
    • Trigger upward spirals towards greater well-being in the future
  • The broaden-and-build theory conveys how positive emotions move people forward and lift them to the higher ground of optimal well-being.
  • Positive Emotions and Health resources
    • Helps develop the immune system
    • Beneficial to the Brain, nervous system, endocrine system.
  • Positive Emotions and social resources
    • Our relations with others
    • Buffering hypothesis- social support from others reduce the potential effects of stress (Cohen & Wills, 1985).
    • Direct effects hypothesis- social support contributes to individuals health independent of his/her level of stress.
  • Positive Emotions and Psychological resources
    • Coping with stress

Positive coping strategies

  • Used to reduce the perceived discrepancy between stressful demands and available resources for meeting these demands.
  • Rudolph Moos framework for systems and their relationships
    • Environmental system such as life stressors and social resources
    • Personal System such as Demographic factors and Personal factors
    • Life crisis and transitions such as event related factors
    • Cognitive appraisal and coping process
    • Health and well-being.
  • Emotion focused coping- Coping is done by focusing on the accompanying emotion because the situation may not necessarily change
  • Managing affective states associated with uncontrollable stress.
  • Problem focused coping- Coping with stress is done by targeting the problem head on.
  • Directly modify the source of stress.

Avoidant Coping

  • Time out from active coping is required to restore the personal resources.

All three coping styles can be distinguished between functional and dysfunctional.

Problem solving skills

  • To enhance psychological adjustment (D’Zurilla & Nezu, 1999).
  • Better physical psychological and social adjustment (Heppner, 2002).

Social Support

  • Living cooperatively in groups.
  • Perceived social support, supportive relationship and social networks.
  • Assessments and interventions.


  • Required while holding emotional traumas and related anxieties.
  • Crying – immediate emotional relief

Faith – religion as a way of coping.

  • Religious experience involves a transcendent factor, a mystical factor and a social factor
  • Meditation, relaxation and exercises

Reframing- step out from the old frame and try to look at the problem from an alternative frame.

  • Benefit finding and benefit reminding
  • Enhanced personal development, a new life perspectives, and strengthened relationships.
  • Humour – see the funny side of the situation.
  • Distraction – rather than monitoring.

Proactive coping: here individuals pre-empt potential stressors and create methods to deal with them in advance

PERMA Model:

 Founder: Martin Seligman

  • Stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement/Accomplishment
    • Positive Emotions (P)
      • Feeling good
      • Feel Appreciated
      • Having Hope
      • Satisfaction
      • Peace
    • Engagement (E)
      • Being completely absorbed in activities
    • Relationships (R)
      • Positive Relationships
      • As humans, we are “social beings
    • Meaning (M)
      • Purposeful Existence
    • Achievement
  • Sense of accomplishment and success.
  • achieving a goal you have set for yourself or succeeding in a task that has value for you.
    • The awareness of PERMA can help you increase your well-being by focusing on combinations of feeling good, living meaningfully, establishing supportive and friendly relationships, accomplishing goals, and being fully engaged with life. 

Happiness and Subjective Well-Being

  • Different definitions for each person
  • Rarely used in research studies because of its subjective nature

Subjective Well-being

  • Combination of positive affect and general life satisfaction
    • General life satisfaction is the subjective appreciation of life’s rewards
    • Used synonymous with happiness in psychology literature.


  • Humans have a hedonic way of behaving
    • Pleasure driven & Pain avoidance will lead to happiness
  • Eudaimonia
    • Human flourishing associated with living a life of virtue, or happiness based on a lifelong pursuit of meaningful, developmental goals.
  • Theories of happiness:
    • Need/goal satisfaction theories
    • Process/activity theories
    • Genetic/personality theories
  • Need/goal satisfaction theories
    • Objective was reduction of tension and satisfaction of needs
    • Understanding was that reaching our goals will make us happy
    • Happiness was a target
  • Process/Activity theories
    • Engagement in particular life activities would provide happiness
    • FLOW
      • Engagement in interesting activities that match or challenge task-related skills
    • Work can produce happiness
    • Process of pursuing goals generates energy and happiness
  • Genetic/personality theories
    • These theories view happiness as being stable
      • Non dependent on life events
    • Research showed happiness remained relatively stable over a period of time
    • Extroversion and neuroticism was closely related to happiness
  • Subjective Well-being
    • Well-being was a subjective evaluation of one’s current status in the world.
      • Our experiences of pleasure and our appreciation of life’s rewards
  • Determinants of Happiness
    • Money was a stronger correlate for students from poorer countries
    • People from wealthier nations were happier than those from impoverished nations
    • Strong relationship with money for low SES but insignificant for the affluent
    • Married people are happier
      • All ages, income, educational levels or racial-ethnic backgrounds
    • Good social relationship is also important
    • Emotional, Social and Psychological Well-Being
    • Optimal function is a combination of these factors and have the absence of recent mental illness
  • Emotional well-being: subjective well-being.
    • Presence of positive affect, satisfaction with life and absence of negative affect
  • Social well-being: incorporating acceptance, contribution, coherence, and integration into our environments and society
  • Psychological well-being: combining self acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy, positive relations with other.
  • Complete state model states that combining mental health and mental illness symptoms which are ever changing can result in fluctuations in states of overall well-being.
  • Strategies for life enhancement
    • Realize the enduring happiness doesn’t come from success
    • Take control of your time
    • Act happy
    • Seek work and leisure that engages your skills
    • Join the movement movement
    • Sleep
    • Priority to close relationships
    • Focus beyond the self
    • Gratitude journal
    • Spiritual self nurturance

FLOW- The Psychology of optimal experiences

  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Harper and Row, 1990
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
  •  Describes how this pleasurable state can be controlled, and not just left to chance, by setting ourselves challenges–tasks that are neither too difficult nor too simple for our abilities.
    • With such goals, we learn to order the information that enters our consciousness and thereby improve the quality of our lives.
  • It is not dependent on outside events, but rather on how we interpret them.
  • The FLOW state is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person.
  • Finally, happiness depends on inner harmony.
  • Optimal experience is when an individual feels a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished, does not come through passive, receptive, relaxing times.
  • Regardless of culture, stage of modernization, social class, age, or gender, the FLOW state as described as enjoyment in similar ways.
  • Tasks characteristics:
    • A chance of completion
    • Concentration on the activity
    • Clear goals;
    • The task provides immediate feedback
  • In the FLOW state
    • One acts with deep and effortless involvement,
    • Reduction of worries and frustrations of everyday life from immediate awareness
    • a sense of control over their actions;
    • Concern for the self disappears, yet, paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over; and
    • The sense of duration of time is altered.

FLOW state features:

  • A Challenging Activity that Requires Skills
  • The Merging of Action and Awareness
  • Clear Goals and Feedback
  • Concentration on the Task at Hand
  • The Paradox of Control
  • The Loss of Self-Consciousness
  • The Transformation of Time
    • The key element of an optimal experience is that it is an end in itself.
    • It is an autotelic experience.
    • “auto” meaning self, and “telos” meaning goal.
    • It refers to a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward.

Me/We Balance

  • Individualism of Me
  • The person with a good idea, through hard work, can succeed in the pursuit of personal goals.
  • Concerns of individual is greater than the concern for the group.

Core and Secondary Emphases

  • 3 core elements
    • Independence – About the individual
    • Uniqueness – what is different about the individual
    • Self as unit of analysis – the entire self is used a part of analysis
  • Six secondary characteristics-
    • Personal attitude towards self.
    • Pursuit of one’s potential.
    • Focus drives that are integrated into personality.
    •  Identity and values contribute to sense of autonomy.
    • Perception are accurate.
    •  Mastery of environment and enjoyment of love, work and play.
  • Attention to positive than the negative.
  • Attainment of positive mental health is passive and remediation of mental illness is active and demand more resources.
  • Maintenance of mental health does not warrant same careful attention.

Issues in positive psychology

  • Abnormal behaviour gains more attention.
  • Emphasis more on internal characteristics of a person.
  • Weaknesses and negative emotions often plays a role.
  • Cultural context are not considered.

Balanced Conceptualization of Mental Health

  • Eric Fromm (1955) – Sane society – mental health as the ability to love and to create.
  • Marie Jahoda (1958) – mental health as positive condition driven by psychological resources and desires for personal growth.


  • A pattern of positive adaptation in the context of past or present adversity (Wright & Masten, 2005).
  • A set of inner resources, social competencies, and cultural strategies that permit individuals to not only survive, but recover, or even thrive after stressful events, but also to draw from the experience to enhance subsequent functioning (Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000).
  • Resilience in childhood is defined as typical development in the face of adverse circumstances that propel others to deleterious outcomes (Deater-Deckard, Ivy, & Smith,  2005).
  • Resilience itself could be seen as the process of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation in the face of challenging or threatening circumstances (Veselksa, Geckova, Orosova, Gajdosova, van Dijk, & Reijneveld, 2008).

Why Study Resiliency?

  • Children face adversity and are at risk
  • Wide variety of outcomes
  • Poverty is linked with poorer resiliency


  • ‘bouncing back.’
  • Phenomena characterized by patterns of positive adaptation in the context of  significant adversity or risk (Masten and Reed, 2002).
  • External  adaptation –  linked with adapation to social,  educational,  and  occupational expectations of society
  • Internal adaptation – linked with adaptation to positive psychological well being


Building Resilience – 7 C’s Kenneth Ginsburg

  • Competence
  • Confidence
  • Connection
  • Character
  • Contribution
  • Coping
  • Control

The Strength Model of Self-Control

  • Baumeister et al., 2007
  • Self-control refers to the capacity for altering one’s own responses, especially to bring them into line with standards such as ideals, values, morals, and social expectations, and to support the pursuit of long-term goals.
  • At the theoretical level, self-control holds important keys to understanding the nature and functions of the self.
  • the practical applications of self-control- behavioural and impulse-control problems, including overeating, alcohol and drug abuse, crime and violence, overspending, sexually impulsive behaviour, unwanted pregnancy, and smoking; emotional problems, school underachievement, lack of persistence.

Limited resources

  • Self control appears to be vulnerable to deterioration over time from repeated exertions. An analogy to Muscles getting tired.
  • Self-regulation depends on a limited resource that becomes depleted by acts of self-control.
  • Subsequent performance even on other self-control tasks become worse.
  • Ego depletion- a state of diminished resources.

Elaborating Strength Model

  • First: regular exertions of self-control can improve will power strength.
    • Resistance to depletion
  • Second: Conserve the remaining strength. Eg. When muscle tire, using of some self-regulatory resources.
  • Third: exert self-control despite ego depletion if the stakes are high enough. Eg. Offering cash incentives or other motives for good performance.
  • Multiple lines of work have identified procedures that can moderate or counteract the effects of ego depletion.
  • state of positive emotion
  • implementation intentions

Practical Applications

  • Positively: self-control is associated with good adjustment, secure attachment, and other favourable psychological states.
  • Negatively: poor self-control is associated with elevated rates of psychopathological complaints and symptoms, as well as increased vulnerability to various substance-abuse and eating disorders.
  • Self is more important than a network of cognitive schemas.

Free will

  • The functional purposes of the self almost certainly include managing behaviour toward fostering enlightened self-interest and facilitating group membership by garnering social acceptance.
  • Explanation for Self control failure

Present Bias:

  • Individuals change behaviour and do not follow existing plans.

Yielding to temptation:

  • Impulsive purchasing and consumer behaviour
  • Strength of the desire.
  • Standards, a monitoring process, and the operational capacity to alter one’s behaviour (willpower or strength; knowledge about the self and contingencies; skill).

Approach/Avoidance goals

  • Easier to control approach goals than avoidance; avoidance by its nature evoke anxiety and stress; associated with decreased feeling of self.
  • Goal conflict
  • Inter goal facilitation


  • Prescriptive clarity- rules, goals and procedures
  • Personal obligation- extent to which person is required or expected
  • Personal control- amount of control a person has over the outcome.

Beliefs about self control

  • Individual differences
  • Wait for larger reward that smaller one.
  • Impulsive versus reflective control systems
  • hot or go system
  • Cool or know system
  • Resisting temptations

Psychological Distance- psychological separation between the self and the situation.

  • Procrastination
  • Do not fulfil their obligations, deliver on their promises or fulfil personal goals.
  • Evidence of laziness and self indulgence.
  • Some people do their work under pressure.
  • Time pressure add emotional energy, perhaps lead to better performance.
  • Research on cost and benefits of Procrastination.

Gainful Employment

  • A healthy life is the one in which a person has the ability to love and to work (O’Brien, 2003).
  • Importance of positive interpersonal relationship and employment.
  • Gainful employment refers to an employment situation where the employee receives steady work and payment from the employer.
  • In psychology, gainful employment is a positive psychology concept that explores the benefits of work and employment.

Gainful employment is work that is characterized by nine benefits.

  • The importance of work in determining how a person feels about himself or herself.
  • Need for engagement of the worker’s talents.
  • Stretch their talent and capabilities in working with people.
  • Sense of attachment, loyalty, and companionship to her customers, co-workers and boss.
  • Productivity and satisfaction
  • Happiness and Satisfaction
  • If a person is happy at work, his or her overall satisfaction with life will be higher (Hart, 1999).
  • Performing well and meeting goals
  • Career self efficacy- personal confidence in ones capacity to handle career development and work related activities.
  • Happy people are often considered as high performers.

Deriving purpose by Service

  • Sense of providing needed service to the customers.

Engagement and Involvement

  • Satisfaction
  • Employees know what is expected of them
  • Engaged involvement has resemblance to flow
  • Commitment

Varieties in duties

  • Variability in work
  • Presenteeism- physical presence at work

Income for family and self

  • Rational approach to monetary rewards

Companionship and loyalty

  • Friendship network
  • Vital friends

Safe work environments

  • Welfare of the workers
  • Perceived safety

Respect and Appreciation for Diversity

  • Diversity management (proactive)
  • Leaders should have a heterogeneous culture.
  • Capital at work
  • Fred Luthans
  • Traditional economic capital- What you have?- Financial, Tangible assets etc…
  • Human Capital –  experience, education, skills, knowledge, and ideas of the individual
  • Social Capital- relationship, network of contacts, and friends.
  • Positive psychological capital –confidence, hope, optimism, Resiliency.
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