The Power of Positivity

Posted on: 26 February 2016

A packed Edmund Burke Theatre was the venue recently for a talk by University of Pennsylvania’s Professor Martin Seligman.

Entitled 'Positive Psychology: Past, Present and Future', Professor Seligman is perhaps the world’s leading clinical and experimental psychologist. He discovered the phenomenon of learned helplessness and went on to co-found the field of positive psychology.

Positive psychology focuses on what makes people fulfilled, happy and resilient, as opposed to the more traditional focus of clinical psychology, which was about the factors causing negative states like anxiety and depression.

His methods have now been adopted widely across the world in education, healthcare and public policy. He was asked by UK Prime Minister David Cameron to sit on a key advisory council in the UK and his methods are being widely adopted in countries across the world.

Most recently, the US military have embraced his programme in the training of 40,000 Army drill sergeants!

Professor Seligman established the framework for what makes people flourish and has identified five main variables – positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. He has developed simple methods for enhancing all of these without the need for expensive, time-consuming psychotherapy.

Hosted by the School of Psychology, in conjunction with the Psychological Society of Ireland and the HSE, Professor Ian Robertson, head of the School of Psychology, commented: “In 2013 there were 53 million prescriptions for antidepressants in England, a trebling in 15 years. Such mass medication is not sustainable and we need to help more people learn to use their own mental resources to combat stress. Professor Seligman is a world leader in showing the way towards achieving this goal.”


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