Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.
It is a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology.
Throughout history people have always searched for happiness, yet, it wasn't until the late 19th Century that millions of dollars were invested in research to find out the science behind what makes people happy. It was then, the term Positive Psychology was born. Even though we know more about this topic than ever before, people are not happier than before. Only 17 % of the world are said to be flourishing, meaning they are living engaged, meaningful and happy lives. Depression is occurring at a much younger age than than before and ironically, in a world of hyperconnectedness, we are facing an epidemic of loneliness and unhappiness. 1 in 10 young people in the UK are said to have a mental health condition and this increases to 1 in 4 in adult life.
WHY IN SCHOOLS?
A recent UN Happiness report (April 2015) reveals the aspects of child development that are most important in determining whether a child becomes a happy, well-functioning adult. The study followed children from birth into adulthood and shows that of the three key features of child development (academic, behavioural, or emotional), emotional development is the best of the three predictors, and academic achievement the worst. Half of mentally ill adults already showed the symptoms by the age of 15, yet even in the richest countries in the world only a quarter of the young mentally ill are in treatment. With one third of the current global population under 18 years of age, a focus on wellbeing amongst young people is therefore one of the most obvious and cost-effective ways to invest in future world happiness.
Strath Haven High, US:
Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology designed a comprehensive positive psychology curriculum with Strath Haven High school, based on the PERMA-model, with a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to carry out a large randomised controlled evaluation. The programme did not only improve the strengths of curiosity, love of learning, creativity and engagement in school, but also increased students’ language arts grades and writing skills.
Geelong Grammar School, Australia
In its most basic essence, the Geelong Positive Education Model can be thought of as a road map of what people want for themselves, their students, and their children: good health, frequent positive emotions, supportive relationships, a sense of purpose and meaning, the accomplishment of worthwhile goals, and moments of complete immersion and absorption—a life where a person uses their character strengths in ways that support the self and others, and that has flourishing at the heart.
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