The emerging concept of Positive Health spawned from Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is now a highly regarded field of psychology that once began as an innovative and pioneering but foreign concept to the psychology community.

The story of Positive Psychology goes back to 1998. That year, Martin E.P. Seligman made a shocking statement in his Presidential address to the American Psychological Association: He said that psychology was working backward. Psychology, he said, should not work only to fix people’s mental disorders, but should encourage people to thrive – to flourish – to live above and beyond the neutral threshold of just getting by. Seligman told the room that there is a difference between waking up in the morning and not feeling depressed or anxious, and waking up feeling not only free from pain but strong, thriving, and vigorous.

Seligman argued that psychology had too long focused on what is wrong—it was time to focus on what is right.

Positive Health uses this same concept of building on strengths and applies it to health and medicine. The goal is not to find out what disease risk factors cause harm, but what health assets help people function better than average, before he or she becomes a patient.

Since Seligman’s introduction of Positive Psychology to the American Psychological Association, the field has deepened. The concept has burgeoned into a full-fledged field of study and is well-accepted worldwide. If Positive Health were to do the same, it could change the way we think about health and health care.

Learn more about Seligman's work on Authentic Happiness.

Learn more about the grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.