As editors P. Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph note in their preface, positive psychology—the scientific study of what makes people feel happy and fulfilled—is a burgeoning discipline. At this crucial point in the field’s development, they want their book to be a definitive resource—not just for colleagues in academia, but for practitioners as well.
Over 42 chapters, Positive Psychology in Practice offers plenty of provocative research findings. Psychologist Tim Kasser, for example, makes an important contribution to economics by showing that when people pursue materialistic values—such as wanting to be wealthy and attractive— they report less happiness and lower life-satisfaction. Kennon Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky report that simple practices, such as counting your blessings, may increase your happiness for a sustained time. This finding is significant because previous researchers have long believed a person’s potential for happiness is more or less determined by genetics at birth.
This book distinguishes itself by not only reporting on breakthroughs in positive psychology, but by emphasizing how these findings can be applied. A section dedicated to work includes a provocative chapter on how “transformative leadership”—characterized in part by leaders who do what is ethical, rather than what is expedient or cost-effective—may promote employees’ physical and mental health. Another essay discusses potential applications of positive psychology to youth organizations.
The book is especially relevant to psychotherapists. For example, Chiara Ruini and Giovanni Fava introduce a technique called well-being therapy, which draws on research suggesting that therapists can help patients not only by addressing psychological problems but by teaching them to develop positive characteristics as well, such as self-acceptance and a sense of purpose.
Linely and Joseph have certainly succeeded in creating a comprehensive overview of positive psychology. Though their book is more practically minded than most academic compilations, the volume’s breadth, and sometimes its prose, might put off non-academics. Even so, it is a terrific resource for anyone interested in the important science of positive psychology.