Positive Psychology

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Dahlsgaard, Peterson and Seligman (2005) undertook a historical survey through a literature search to identify shared virtues crucial to thriving and survival. They investigated Confucian, Taoist , Buddhist, Hindu, Athenian, Christian, Jewish and Islamic Virtues as they wanted to avoid favouring any particular religion or society. They found that there was an agreement across time, place and traditions about certain core virtues which in fact lined up with contemporary lists of human qualities that predisposed people positive mental health, authentic happiness, psychosocial maturity, self-actualization (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

Of the six core virtues:

Wisdom & Knowledge
Love (Humanity)

Justice and Humanity made every tradition's list, Temperance and Wisdom came second while Transcendence was either implied or named by all. A list was composed of the routes or strengthsthat led to these core virtues which would be used to counteract difficulties in human nature re-channelling temptations and motivations into good and worthwhile actions or attitudes. Seligman and emphasize their attempt to make their classification free from 'political, racial, ethnic, gender and socio-economic bias' in order to create a positive reference for strengths that can buffer against depression, substance abuse and schizophrenia as well as offering a way to well-being and happiness cross-culturally.

A further development of character strengths is the measurement of personal SignatureStrengths which would be a high score obtained on certain of the 24 personal traits associated with the 6 core virtues.

If you would like to assess which character strengths and signature strengths you might have you can answer the questionnaire offered on the Authentic Happiness Website created by Seligman. Using one's signature strengths in the pursuit of goals has been shown to make one's goals more attainable as a person would put more effort into achieving goals that line up with their personal interests and values.

What I find of particular interest is the sixth Virtue:
Transcendence and its strengths that connect us to the larger universe:

  • Awe and appreciation of beauty and excellence
  • Gratitude
  • Hope, optimism and future-mindedness
  • Spirituality, sense of purpose, faith and religiosity
  • Forgiveness and Mercy
  • Playfulness and humour
  • Zest, passion, enthusiasm and energy

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