The Recipe for Positive Psychology

Put this recipe to good use this week.

Posted Nov 18, 2012

Like a delicious family recipe at Thanksgiving dinner, positive psychology cultivates happiness by making the good – better. As Martin Seligman explains, “Positive psychology is the scientific study of optimal functioning associated with physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being, and the “strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.”

 When teachers integrate positive psychology into the academic curriculum it dramatically improves academic achievement by helping children and youth to stay optimistic, delay gratification, strengthen determination, increase resiliency, build meaningful social relationships, and find greater meaning and satisfaction. Children who develop these qualities are more likely to succeed in their life-long endeavors, large and small, because they are equipped to overcome the adversity, failure, and difficulties that are inevitable in life.

 The teacher can mix up the positive psychology recipe in the classroom in a variety of ways with the same good result. As pioneered by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, the positive psychology recipe has five key ingredients that are promoted, prompted, and practiced - PERMA!

  1. Positive Emotions

The teacher explicitly instructs students how to supplant negative emotions with positive ones, to react to negative events with a positive reappraisal, and to balance negative outcomes with positive expectations.

     2.  Strength through Engagement

The teacher explicitly instructs students how to identify and engage their unique strengths to manage stressful episodes, meet challenging demands, and persist when tired, discouraged, or disappointed

     3. Relationships

The teacher explicitly instructs students how to regulate negative emotions using positive strengths so they are able to optimally engage with friends and able to initiate and sustain positive, productive, and mutually beneficial relationships.


The teacher explicitly instructs students how to find or extract meaning from learning experiences, large or small.

    5. Accomplishment

The teacher explicitly instructs students how to self-actualize by learning to moderating emotions, use strengths that invite positive relationships and cultivate meaning in learning and life. All toward the goald of optimal interpersonal and intrapersonal well being and accomplishment.

Share this recipe for happiness and success.


Read: Martin Seligman’s Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Simon & Schuster

Visit: Black and Married with Kids

Visit: Authentic Happiness

Explore: Flourishing Schools

Watch: Take 1.58 minutes to watch the You-Tube Video, Words Matter. This short video proves the best recipe for happiness always includes gratitude.


I would love to hear from you. Do you have a “recipe” for happiness? Does it involve reevaluating a negative experience and giving it a more positive spin? Does it involve recognizing and applauding your signature strength just like you congratulate yourself when you share your favorite recipe? What is your signature recipe? Cornbread Stuffing? Cranberry Sauce? What is your signature strength? Gratitude? Honesty? Does your recipe for happiness involve those true friends and family who share your table? Does it involve infusing all you like to do – or must do - with meaning no matter how ordinary? Does it involve making the good better – not for the sake of others – but for yourself? Does it involve your greatest accomplishment that emerged from your positive emotion that engaged your strength that found you a friend who helped you find meaning and purpose?

My upcoming book, Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom, is the first in a series intended to help teachers build positive psychology classrooms.

About the Author

Patty O’Grady, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Tampa committed to transformational education. She is the author of Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom.

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