Healthy Mind

What Does It Mean To ‘Flourish’? 38,000 People Are Taking This Free Ivy League Course About Scientifically Living Your Best Life

Saanya Ali

Photo: Getty Images/Letizia McCall
The concept of flourishing is a hard one to wrap one’s head around after the past year, and that makes it all the more important to try. It’s easy to picture plants flourishing or applaud a flourishing business, but what about people? What does it mean and look like for a person to truly “flourish?” In “Foundations of Positive Psychology”, an online course taught by “Father of Positive Psychology” Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, offers a chance to answer this seemingly nebulous question. Nearly 38,000 people have already enrolled in the course for free with Coursera.

According to Dr. Seligman, flourishing is the result of paying careful attention to building and maintaining the five aspects of the PERMA model—positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments. The program uses five courses and a special hands-on project to learn about these aspects and how they are best applied, teach lessons about science behind the positive psychology, and provide tools help both individuals and organizations thrive. Unlike Yale’s perennially popular “Science of Well-Being” course, positive psychology—and the concept of flourishing, in particular—promises a more holistic perspective and approach to what it means to feel happy, fulfilled, and doing and being one’s best.

There are no prerequisites for “Foundations of Positive Psychology,” and it’s offered with subtitles in 9 languages. Deadlines are flexible so that you can fit it into your personal schedule. The first course in the series, Positive Psychology: Martin E. P. Seligman’s Visionary Science, “explores the past, present and future of positive psychology as a journey through the key scientific leaps led by Dr. Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center and Master of Applied Positive Psychology program.” It delves into the mind body connection when it comes to flourishing and how “well-being,” an often lofty goal or vague concept, can actually be learned and taught. After completing the set of five courses, learnings show that 44 percent of students started a new career and 37 percent say that they got “tangible career benefit from this course.”

Dr. Seligman—”a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism,” according to his bio—is a highly respected professor at UPenn, having earned himself a whopping 4.9 out of 5 stars from student reviews. He has written more than 250 scholarly publications and 20 books. In other words, when you take “Foundations of Positive Psychology,” you’re learning how to flourish from the best of the best.

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