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  • Writer's pictureJustin Tilghman, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology vs. Positive Thinking

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

Positive psychology and positive thinking are two concepts that are often used interchangeably, but they are actually distinct and different from each other. While both approaches offer insights into cultivating a more positive and fulfilling life, it's important to understand the key differences between them.



Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on studying positive emotions, strengths, and virtues, and how they contribute to a person's well-being and happiness. It seeks to understand what makes life worth living and how to cultivate a sense of meaning and purpose.


On the other hand, positive thinking is a mindset that involves focusing on the positive aspects of life, and choosing to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. Positive thinking involves choosing to focus on the good things in life, and adopting a more optimistic and hopeful outlook.


Here are some of the key differences between positive psychology and positive thinking:


Focus: Positive psychology focuses on the study of positive emotions, strengths, and virtues, and how they contribute to a person's well-being and happiness. Positive thinking, on the other hand, focuses on adopting a more positive and optimistic outlook on life.


Scientific basis: Positive psychology is a scientific discipline based on empirical research and rigorous methodologies. Positive thinking, on the other hand, is not based on scientific research, but rather on personal experience and anecdotal evidence.


Emphasis on strengths and virtues: Positive psychology emphasizes identifying and cultivating one's strengths and virtues, and how they can be used to enhance well-being and happiness. Positive thinking, on the other hand, is more focused on the power of positive thinking and optimism, and less focused on specific strengths and virtues.


Approach to challenges: Positive psychology recognizes that challenges and difficulties are a natural part of life, and teaches that the key to overcoming them is to develop resilience and to cultivate a growth mindset. Positive thinking, on the other hand, teaches that challenges can be overcome through positive thinking and optimism, and places a strong emphasis on the power of positive thoughts.


Positive psychology and positive thinking are two distinct approaches to life that offer different benefits. Positive psychology provides a scientific and evidence-based understanding of what makes life worth living and how to cultivate a sense of meaning and purpose.


On the other hand, positive thinking provides a more personal and experiential understanding of the power of positive thoughts and optimism. Whether you choose to focus on positive psychology or positive thinking, the key is to find an approach that resonates with your values and beliefs, and that supports your personal growth and well-being.


The benefits of life coaching have a lot to do with positive psychology. Consider working with me today and see how you might benefit.

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Justin is a Board Certified Advanced Life Coach with the Board of Christian Life Coaching, a division of the International Board of Christian Care and the American Association of Christian Counselors. He has demonstrated knowledge and application of biblical integration in coaching, the ICCA and ICF Core Competencies, the Code of Ethics, and the ICF definition of coaching.

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Justin is a Board Certified Master Mental Health Coach with the Board of Mental Health Coaching, a division of the International Board of Christian Care and the American Association of Christian Counselors. He has demonstrated knowledge and application of biblical integration in providing ethical and competent mental health coaching.

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