An introduction to Positive Psychology and Well-Being

Yellow Book by Alex Lemon called Happy

‘if positive psychology teaches us anything, it is that all of us are mixture of strengths and weaknesses. No one has it all, and no one lacks it all’   Christopher Peterson

Positive psychology is a new, and particularly increasingly popular branch of psychology. After the Second World War, the focus of psychology was on treating illness, abnormal behaviours and mental illness.

Psychology has been heavily criticized for over focusing on what is wrong with individuals, their weaknesses rather than their strengths, pathologies and illnesses. In the early 2000s, Dr Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology and former American Psychological Association President, begun the positive psychology movement focusing on investigating the pleasant and meaningful life.

At the University of Pennsylvania, a team of researchers pushed psychology to tap into this expanding new side of psychology, to investigate towards a deeper sense of meaning in life and the factors that make life worth living. 

The Focus of Positive Psychology 

Positive Psychology is the ‘scientific study of what makes life worth living’. To expand on this definition, it a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, behaviours and feelings with a focus on building the good life instead of repairing the bad. It is a descriptive rather than prescriptive scientific practice, it undercovers factors that contribute to human happiness and well-being. With the movement away from pathology and weaknesses, positive psychology asks’ questions like

‘What makes life worth living?’
‘What factors contribute to makes us happy?’
‘How do I cultivate the best within myself?’
‘How can I become more resilient?’
‘How do I manage stress more effectively?’ 

Positive psychology interventions focus on character strength-based activities, practising gratitude, building self-esteem and self-confidence, identifying one’s passions and values, and promoting the factors that aid individuals to purse living with a sense of fulfilment and worth. These topics are studied in order to learn how to help people to promote positive well-being and live their best life. 

The Health Dispensary and Cardiff Metropolitan University 

In January 2018, we teamed up with Cardiff Metropolitan University and KESS2 (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships) funded by the European Social Funds (ESF) to link with academic expertise in Higher Education to undertake a collaborative research project

‘To Design, Test and Evaluate a Positive Psychology Intervention in a Community-Pharmacy Setting’.

This is where we met our newest team member, Jen Ward, who is our PhD Researcher. Jen has a background in Sport and Exercise Science, a Masters’ from Edinburgh University in ‘Psychology of Mental Health’ and has a keen passion to make a difference with ‘Authenticity, Passion and Humility’. Jen is working with the project academic supervisory team at Cardiff Metropolitan University – Dr Delyth James has expertise in the application of behavioral theories (and health psychology) to a pharmacy context. Dr Paul Hewlett will provide expertise in positive psychology, methodological skills and statistical advice. Dr Amie Prior has expertise in health psychology and qualitative methodologies.

This is an exciting development for the Pharmacy world, the staff at The Health Dispensary and the community of Neath to promote positive well-being. For updates and more information, Jen will be writing on our health blog, integrating positive psychology to promote positive living in the pharmacy and in the community of Neath.

Written By: Jen Ward

Categories: Mental Well-Being, Positive Psychology, PhD Researcher 


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Happiness, flow and economic quality. American Psychologist, 55(10), 1163-1164

Seligman, M. (1998). Building human strength: Psychology’s forgotten mission. APA Monitor 1998, p.2

Seligman, Martin E.P. (1991). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Seligman, Martin E.P. (1996). The Optimistic Child: Proven Program to Safeguard Children from Depression & Build Lifelong Resilience. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Seligman, Martin E.P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York, NY: Free Press.

Seligman, Martin E.P. (2004). “Can Happiness be Taught?” Daedalus, Spring 2004.

Seligman, Martin E.P. Doing the Right Thing: Measuring Well Being for Public Policy. International Journal of Wellbeing Vol. 1, No. 1. (2011).









Categories: Mental Health