Positive psychology in a pandemic: buffering, bolstering, and building mental health

Lea Waters*, Sara B. Algoe, Jane Dutton, Robert Emmons, Barbara L. Fredrickson, Emily Heaphy, Judith T. Moskowitz, Kristin Neff, Ryan Niemiec, Cynthia Pury, Michael Steger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


As the COVID-19 global health disaster continues to unfold across the world, calls have been made to address the associated mental illness public crisis. The current paper seeks to broaden these calls by considering the role that positive psychology factors can play in buffering against mental illness, bolstering mental health during COVID-19 and building positive processes and capacities that may help to strengthen future mental health. The paper explores evidence and applications from nine topics in positive psychology that support people through a pandemic: meaning, coping, self-compassion, courage, gratitude, character strengths, positive emotions, positive interpersonal processes and high-quality connections. In times of intense crisis, such as COVID-19, it is understandable that research is heavily directed towards addressing the ways in which people are wounded and weakened. However, this need not come at the expense of also investigating the ways in which people are sustained and strengthened.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-323
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Positive psychology
  • coping
  • growth
  • mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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