The Science of Happiness: Positive Psychology and You


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Overview of the field of Positive Psychology as well as practical application and exercises for life.

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  • Reduce anxiety, stress, and depression and increase well-being, joy, contentment, happiness with . . .

    The Pleasant Life (chocolate, orgasm)
    The Good Life (Absorption, Flow, Eudamonia)
    The Meaningful Life (?)

    Happiness is a personal, subjective experience, which we’ll discuss. I’ll also provide a working definition of happiness from the emergent, if not burgeoning field of Positive Psychology, which we’ll define as well.

  • Psychology = “the study of the soul” or “the study of the psyche”

    Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

    Norwegian painter
    Lost his mother at age 5
    Unable to commit to a relationship with a female
    Feared abandonment, separation, but also feared become engulfed and losing his creativity

    Question for audience:

    What feelings / emotions does this painting evoke?


    Psychiatrist James Masterson, author of The Search for the Real Self, wrote the following about Munch:

  • First wave of psychology = diagnosis and labelling; asking and answering the question “What’s wrong with people?”.

    Better question: what is wrong with psychology?

    Mission of psychology = cure / treat mental illness, alleviate suffering . . . a noble cause.

    M. Scott Peck, the now deceased yet popular psychiatrist and author of the best-selling The Road Less Travelled , opened his book with the famous line, “Life is difficult.”.

    Some would argue that the absence of disease is not (equal to) health.

  • Pierre August Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”

    Pierre Auguste Renoir, (1841-1919) French Painter, Impressionist

    What feelings / emotions does this painting evoke?


    Friends are sharing fruit and wine.

  • How can people thrive?

    How can people flourish?

    Post-Traumatic Stress vs. Post-Traumatic Growth
  • “. . . The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. “ –

    “Positive psychology proposes to correct this imbalance by focusing on strengths as well as weaknesses, on building the best things in life as well as repairing the worst. It asserts that human goodness and excellence is just as authentic as distress and disorder, that life entails more than the undoing of problems.” – (FAQ)

    Psychologist Martin Seligman (from the University of Pennsylvania) is the “Father of Positive Psychology” and the movement, which began in 1998 when he was elected to serve as President of the American Psychology Association. His theme for his 1-year term was . . ..

    What’s interesting (if not ironic) about Seligman’s career trajectory is that he spent a signifcant chunk of his career becoming an expert on depression, trauma, and actually coined a psychological phenomena called “learned helplessness”.

    Interestingly (if not ironically), Seligman is noted for his theory of “learned helplessness” and his work on depression, trauma, and other negative emotions.

    Decided to ask, “What’s wrong with psychology?”.

    [Note: need better definition of learned helplessness.] “When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may also begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change.”
  • Positive Psychology is both philosophical and practical (pragmatic).

    Other questions that Positive Psychology asks:

    What is The Good Life?

    Question posed by philosophers (e.g., Aristotle) and theologians (Thomas Aquinus).

    What makes life meaningful? (or what is the engaged life?)

    Question posed in every college-level Philosophy 101 or Religious Studies 101 classes.

    We are meaning-seeking creatures; use “signature strengths” for a higher purpose.

    An Austrian and Jewish psychiatrist by the name of Viktor Frankl claimed that the pursuit of meaning is humanity’s fundamental drive or motivation.
    As an aside, he developed a school of psychotherapy called Logotherapy, which literally means “healing through meaning”.

    What are people’s strengths?

    In other words, what is right about people? How can people flourish and maximize their potential.
  • Positive emotions: peace, contentment, pleasure, joy, inspiration, ebullience, flow, engagement, transcendence

    Positive traits: 6 virtues (wisdom, courage, temperance, transcendence, justice, and) and 24 strengths

    Positive institutions: schools, workplaces (for-profit, non-profit), governments (ideally, democracies, not dictatorships)


    Positive Emotion

    Engagement: the experience of “flow”

    (Positive) Relationships: family, friends, colleagues

    Meaning: Connection to a higher purpose or The Transcendent (Jewish psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl stated that the pursuit of meaning is humanity’s fundamental drive . . . in contrast to the pursuit of sex, power, etc. He developed Logotherapy from his experiences and philosophy.

    Accomplishment / Achievement:

    Focusing on PERMA results in “flourishing” and thriving.
  • Happiness is subjective, personal, “fuzzy”.

    How do you define happiness?

    Or what does happiness mean to you?

    Is happiness momentary and fleeting, or is it enduring and abiding?

    Is happiness wealth?
    Is happiness love?
    Is happiness climate?
    Is happiness physical health?
    Is happiness a winning lottery ticket?

  • $0.99 in App Store

    Note: Not yet available for Android / Google Play?

    Developed by a company called Signal Patterns with Positive Psychology professor and researcher Dr. Sonya Lybumirsky, author of The How of Happiness.

    The Way Way Back
    Dan in Real Life

  • The Science of Happiness: Positive Psychology and You

    1. 1. THE SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS: Positive Psychology and You Brian Smith McCallum, M.S., LPC Helen Kobrin, LPC, CADC North Shore Counseling
    2. 2. PSYCHOLOGY 1.0
    3. 3. Psychology 1.0 = Mental Illness
    4. 4. PSYCHOLOGY 2.0
    5. 5. Psychology 2.0 = Mental Wellness
    6. 6. “Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” -Martin Seligman What is Positive Psychology?
    7. 7. 1. What is the “The Good Life”? 2. What makes life meaningful? 3. What are people’s strengths? Positive Psychology: 3 Questions
    8. 8. 1. Positive emotions 2. Positive traits 3. Positive institutions Positive Psychology: 3 Foci
    9. 9. H = ? What Is Happiness?
    10. 10. H = S + C + V H: Enduring Happiness S: Set Point C: Circumstances V: Factors Under Your Control Seligman’s Happiness Equation
    11. 11. 10% 50% 40% Happiness Circumstances Genetics Activities The Happiness Pie
    12. 12. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success. Advantages of Happiness
    13. 13. Create and Cultivate Happiness  Three Good Things  Mindfulness  Savoring  Gratitude Letter  Strengths in Action
    14. 14. 1. Think of 3 good things that happened. 2. Write them down. 3. Reflect on how and why they happened. 3 Good Things
    15. 15. 1. Write a letter to someone, expressing gratitude. 2. Hand deliver letter to recipient. 3. Read aloud letter to recipient. Gratitude Letter / Visit
    16. 16. 1. Become aware. 2. Stay in present moment. 3. Notice thoughts and feelings . . . nonjudgmentally. Mindfulness: A Process
    17. 17.  Sharing with others  Memory Building  Self Congratulation  Absorption Savoring
    18. 18. 1. What are three objects that I see? 2. What are three sounds that I hear? 3. What are three objects that I can feel? Mindfulness: Three Senses
    19. 19. “Everything can be taken from a [hu]man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” - Viktor Frankl Inspiration
    20. 20. “… flow – the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” -Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi Find . . . And Go With The “Flow”
    21. 21. When Challenge Meets Skill
    22. 22. Discover Your “Signature Strengths”  Wisdom and Knowledge  Courage  Humanity  Justice  Temperance  Transcendence
    23. 23. Key Resource: Authentic Happiness
    24. 24. Key Resource: Values in Action Survey
    25. 25. Martin Seligman: TED Talk
    26. 26. Live Happy App (Apple / iOS)
    27. 27. “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” -John Stockdale, Vietnam POW Stockdale Paradox