Martin Seligman is one of the founding fathers of positive psychology. Seligman created that idea of “learned helplessness.” This idea is related to and overlaps Julian Rotters “external local of control.” Learned helplessness explains the factors in one’s life that they cannot escape. For example, if you are a young girl growing up in a house with your mother who is depressed, sad, abusive, etc then you are more likely to become depressed, sad, and feel helpless. These traits become your surroundings which then become your life, you didn’t do it to yourself, but it is almost as if you were taught to be miserable. Seligman also found the three pillars to positive psychology, pleasure, gratification and meaning.
These are believed to be the three factors that make happiness possible. Pleasure can come about during good conversations, sensual experiences, hobbies and so on. This route to happiness suffers from being somewhat superficial and not long-lasting. This is why repetition is important. Repetition often has the opposite impact and can be self-destructive. Gratification is all about being engaged with ones individual strengths or positive traits. Gratification requires effort but provides a deeper level of satisfaction. Finally, meaning, this comes from using one’s strengths to benefit something larger than itself.
Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, another psychologist important to positive psychology believes that almost everything you experience has flow. Flow is a state of complete engagement in an activity. Flow is that feeling of “time flies when your’re having fun,” your whole being is involve and every action, movement and thought follows the previous one.
Csíkszentmihály believes that flow is experienced by everyone in different ways. Some might experience flow while playing a sport, while others might experience it in activities such as drawing or painting. He says, "Flow also happens when a person's skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges. If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills." (Flow-The Psychology, Csíkszentmihályi)
Positive psychology is a way of life that teaches you not how to ignore negative situations and experiences but how to cope and overcome those experiences. Positive psychology can have a range of real-world applications in areas including education, therapy, self-help, stress management and workplace issues. Using strategies from positive psychology, teachers, coaches, therapists and employers can motivate others and help individuals understand and develop their personal strengths.