Psychologist Martin Seligman said there have been a number of improvements in the world of psychology over the last half century. People were able to easily treat issues like depression and alcoholism easier and perfect drug treatments for those that were facing mental convictions. These are all key steps in bettering the world of psychology, but Seligman said there are still some downfalls along the way. Seligman said during his 2004 TED Talk: “The New Era of Positive Psychology”, many psychologists, including himself, ran into three consequences from all the good will that was happening:
- The first was the moral conundrum; psychologists and psychiatrists were playing victimologists and not giving people the opportunity to make their own choice.
- The second was that they forgot about improving normal people’s lives and making them happier.
- And the third was in the rush to help people feel better; they didn't create interventions to make people happier.
These are issues that Seligman and others in his field have tried to fix and one of those methods is implementing positive psychology in their work.
“So in the last 10 years and the hope for the future, we've seen the beginnings of a science of positive psychology, a science of what makes life worth living,” Seligman said. “It turns out that we can measure different forms of happiness.”
He went on to say that in order to discover the root of happiness in this new wave of psychology, Seligman and his colleagues had to take a different route. Psychologists usually work with people on the sadder spectrum and tried to figure out how, in his words, “extremely miserable people differ from the rest of you?” This way they will be able to tap into understanding why people aren’t happy and find a means to fix it.
He then decided to flip the script and ask how extremely happy people are different from others and that shaped the basis of positive psychology. The criteria to be categorized as an extremely happy person Seligman said, is to be a sociable person, don’t spend time alone and have a merry band of friends. Those are just some of the criteria he laid out, but enforced the point that there are different incarnations to achieving happiness and everyone is different in their quest to getting a smile.