Jewish Positive Psychology is the study of Judaism and Positive Psychology and their correlation to wellbeing. Not claiming to be a new field, positive psychology dates back to ancient times when the pursuit of happiness was first introduced. Hedonic wellbeing or pleasurable experience and eudaimonic wellbeing or meaningful experience has long been discussed by philosophers.
Today, positive psychology encompasses gratitude, forgiveness, strengths and virtues, hope, faith, positive emotions, mindfulness and self-actualization. Many of these concepts are based in Judaism as we will explore in this informational website.
Positive Psychology was founded by psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman as he began to explore the uncharted and rarely researched study of wellbeing in 1998. Whereas traditional psychology focuses largely on mental illness and pathology, Positive Psychology focuses on mental wellness. As the president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Seligman proceeded to explore the possibility of developing a taxonomy of strengths as opposed to weaknesses (Seligman 1998). This quickly lead to his research on what constitues the good life and/or how families and children can flourish (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi 2000).
Using the current work of psychologists and scientists, Jewish Positive Psychology will compare ideas cited by science as they relate toTorah. The teachings of the Torah and Positive Psychology overlap, as they both focus on clarifying the path towards physical and spiritual well-being.
Commenting on the connection between Positive Psychology and Judaism, Positive Psychology author Tal Ben-Shahar says, “What I found time and again was that the material that I looked at, even though it was the latest research, a lot of it seemed familiar to me because I’d heard or read a lot of these ideas earlier on in my life, in my Jewish education. Many of the ideas that were quote-unquote ‘discovered’ by modern psychologists had actually been there for thousands of years, present in traditional Jewish sources.”
Maimonides, who was well-known throughout his lifetime as a respected doctor and Torah scholar, is recognized as a pioneer in the feild of positive psychology textbooks. His emphasis on the effects of both positive and negative emotions and their effects as well as his warnings against anger and sadness are emphasized in current research. Maimonidies also noted the importance of mindfulness and living in the present moment.
Many ideas which are communicated in the teachings of Positive Psychology were influenced by ancient Jewish philosophical and religious writings, which we will explore further in this website.
M. E. P. (1998, January). Building human strengths: Psychology's forgotten mission, APA Monitor, 29(1).
Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000, January). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5–14.