ABSTRACT

In 1998 the field of positive psychology was launched by Martin Seligman with the aim focusing on positive emotions such as happiness, pleasure, and wellbeing. It aimed to offer an alternative to clinical psychology with its emphasis on negative emotions such as depression, anger, and resentment. This chapter examines the mission of positive psychology to explore three types of happy lives: the pleasant life, the good life, and the meaningful life. The core concepts covered are subjective wellbeing, flow (engagement), and models of human flourishing. It offers comparisons with the Japanese concept of ikigai. The chapter also discusses the limitations of positive psychology, why it does not address inequalities and power hierarchies, and why it often seems too similar to positive thinking in pop psychology. As a way forward, the chapter argues that positive psychology should re-embrace its origins in humanistic psychology and its quest for meaningfulness in life.