How to Promote Positive Mental Health?

Seligman1 proposed three pillars of positive psychology as a framework for promoting mental health and happiness. Suggestions in the table below can be used by school personnel and families in order to help all children and youth be mentally healthy.

First PillarSecond PillarThird Pillar
Importance of Postive Emotion & Enjoyable Experiences Personal Strengths and Core Virtues Positive Institutions
• Joy, contentment, pleasure, optimism, happiness

• Positive emotions experienced during an activity promotes further participation, exploration, and mastery

Reflection: What activities bring about positive emotions in children and youth you interact with?

Suggestion: Help children explore a range of activities and identify those that add meaning and joy to their lives
• Humor, love spirituality, kindness, artistic talent, curiosity, persistence

• Building and using one’s personal strengths fosters deep emotional satisfaction

Reflection: What personal strengths are unique to each child you work with?

Suggestion: Help all children identify their unique signature strengths and engage in activities that support and cultivate their expression (e.g. artistic talent, volunteer work)
• Environmental factors such as families, caring adults, and programs that foster character strengths and positive emotions

Reflection: Do the settings where children learn, socialize and play foster positive emotion and personal strengths?

Suggestion: Consult with teachers, administrators, and youth workers to create and/or adapt activities and the environment to promote positive experiences

1 Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press.
2 Bazyk, S. (Ed.). (2011). Mental health promotion, prevention, and intervention with children and youth: A guiding framework for occupational therapy. Bethesda, MD: The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.