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Positive psychology - Special issue

Guest editors P. Alex Linley, Stephen Joseph and Ilona Boniwell welcome you to the special issue on positive psychology.

18 March 2003

Positive psychology was launched with Martin Seligman's APA Presidential Address in 1998. The first American Psychologist of the new millennium (January 2000, Vol. 55) was dedicated to positive psychology. The momentum of that auspicious start has grown ever since. In this special issue of The Psychologist, we have sought to give a truly international flavour of what positive psychology is about and, more importantly, why we believe it can make a real difference to our practice as psychologists. As Martin Seligman notes, positive psychology is about 'happiness'. Ruut Veenhoven comprehensively answers some critiques that have been made of this concept, and its desirability as a social good. Ilona Boniwell and Philip Zimbardo explore how a balanced time perspective may be one of the keys to achieving a good life, while Paul Baltes and Ute Kunzmann consider another peak of human excellence in wisdom. Antonella Delle Fave and Fausto Massimini look at optimal experience in people with disabilities, a theme of triumph over adversity that is expanded by Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph in their article about post-traumatic growth. Maintaining this practitioner focus, Roger Bretherton and Roderick Ørner consider existential psychotherapy as a 'positive psychotherapy in disguise', with its emphasis on strengths and meaning, framed within a context of irreversible human limitations. From an occupational psychology perspective Jonathan Hill examines how the resources of work psychologists may be deployed more positively, while Jane Henry looks at what makes positive organisations different. Moving to a social level of analysis, Andrew Oswald gives an economist's perspective on how the effects of external factors on psychological well-being can be measured. Ed Cairns and Christopher Alan Lewis link their work in peace psychology with the focus of positive psychology, suggesting that a combination of the two provides a powerful force for constructive change following war and conflict. Far be it from us to claim that this collection of short articles represents the whole of positive psychology. However, we hope that by the time you reach our concluding statement, we will have done enough to whet your appetite and to encourage you, as fellow psychologists, to think carefully about the advantages of applying positive psychology in your practice.

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