Positive Psychology Movement

Positive psychology is new, but rapidly growing. The International Positive Psychology Association’s student division (SIPPA) and positive psychology masters programs are emerging (at least 15 around the world), and positive psychology publications and books have increased in number.

It is applied to:

– Education: teaching positive psychology and well-being in kindergarten through 12th grade, both directly in the curriculum, and indirectly throughout all curriculum;

– Positive humanities: : infusing the arts with PERMA (Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment);

-Positive journalism: journalism that uncovers what is hidden as well as praises what is worthy.

The Positive Turn: Why Positive Psychology and the Humanities Need Each Other

James Pawelski, Donald J. Moores, Lindsay Doran, Martin E.P. Seligman from University of Pennsylvania, Positive Psychology Center, Philadelphia, PA, United States

At the First World Congress on Positive Psychology in 2009, Martin Seligman issued a challenge to positive psychology. The challenge is to ensure that 51% of the world‘s population is flourishing by the year 2051. If we take this challenge seriously, there is lots of work for everyone in positive psychology to do.

There is the theoretical work of developing definitions and models of human flourishing, the empirical work of determining the best ways to help people achieve human flourishing, and the applied work of delivering positive interventions to individuals and communities. But positive psychology will not be able to meet this challenge alone. All of the social sciences will have to collaborate in the development of a mature science of well-being. Equally important will be the development of a culture of well-being.

Key here is the engagement of the humanities, the branch of learning that studies human culture. The humanities, which includes such disciplines as history, literature, law, philosophy, religious studies, art, and music, influences every aspect of our lives and comprises a large part of what is taught to children in K-12 schools and to adults in universities.

Movie Called Happy

The Greater Good – The Science of a Meaningful Life posted an interview with the director of movie Happy:

“When Roko Belic was 18 years old, he traveled to Africa, prepared to see unspeakable suffering.

He was delivering money and supplies to refugees of Mozambique’s civil war, a group that he knew had been “completely brutalized”; some had had their arms, lips, or noses cut off in the conflict.

Roko Belic, director of Happy, a documentary beginning its theatrical run today.

But when he arrived, he was astonished by what he found.

“I saw people who were happy,” he says. “They were happy to be alive, but they were also singing and dancing. They had a zest for life that I saw missing in some of my friends back home.”

The experience challenged some of Belic’s most basic assumptions about the world. How is it possible that people who’ve suffered so much can seem happier than people who’ve grown up enjoying the comforts of the West?

He has pondered that question since returning from his trip. Now, more than 20 years later, he has made a film that answer it.

JM: So, five years later, based on all the interviews you’ve conducted and research you’ve read and stories you’ve heard, what do you think is the answer to that question you’ve been asking for your adult life: What are the keys to happiness that would explain why some people can seem so much happier than others who are better off financially?

RB: Well, it seems to me that some of the strongest aspects of a person’s life that can help them be happy are their relationships. Strong personal relationships are what Ed Diener, one of the leading happiness researchers, told us is really the key to happiness. He said you don’t have to like everyone or have a million friends. But to have at least a few people you really care about and love, and who care about and love you and will be there for you when you need them—that is one of the key factors in a happy life.

Another one is gratitude or appreciation. Being able to appreciate what you have—it makes a lot of sense that that would lead to happiness. Because if you are poor but you have a piece of bread to eat, and you can appreciate that, that appreciation makes you feel good and fulfilled and happy.

At the same time, if you don’t appreciate things—even if you have a private jet or a few mansions around the world or you’re extremely good looking—that explains why those things may not lead you to a happier life.

Then there’s a lot of research about values. This to me was one of the most interesting findings: that people who have what scientists call “intrinsic values,” meaning they value compassion and cooperation and wanting to make the world a better place, are more likely to be happy than people who prioritize what they call “extrinsic values,” which value things like social status, good looks, power, fame.

The reason why that’s exciting is that what you care about is within your control. In fact, a very significant part of our happiness, according to research, is within our control. And that’s exciting to me, because it means that none of us are cut off from the prospects of the possibility of a genuinely happy life.”

Read complete interview http://bit.ly/pOWGUH

We are Made for Love

As I mentioned in the previous post, the 2nd World Congress on Positive Psychology happened last weekend. I wasnt’ there, but that is what I found out: this year’s conference boasts 1,200 attendees from 62 countries, 50 symposiums and workshops, 400 posters, and 22 speakers from around the world. I’m very impressed with Kelly Erickson’s post on Greater Good about the presentation by Barbara Fredrickson on the opening day “Love: A New Lens on the Science of Thriving”:

” Fredrickson completely transformed how I think about love and connection. She first got my attention by: defining what love IS and is NOT. According to Fredrickson:

Love is NOT: sexual desire (there is love in sexual desire), special bonds (products of love), commitment (which is a decision), exclusive (love is not felt for just one person), and lasting (as with all other emotions, love is a reaction to changing circumstances). And, finally, love is not unconditional, in that it requires two preconditions: 1) safety felt when with another, and 2) connection in the form of co-presence, eye contact, touch, voice, etc.
Love IS: an investment in the well-being of others for others’ sake, and perceived responsibility for them and them for you (i.e., the feeling that others ‘get’ me/care about me, etc). Love, like other emotions, has a biological component.

Her resulting definition for love: an interpersonal, social situation with positive emotion marked by momentary increases in invested well-being in others, bio-behavioral synchrony, and mutual responsive action tendencies.

Taking a step back, Fredrickson gave an overview of the numerous positive aspects of positive emotions, especially the ways they make us feel connected to others emotionally and the way they make us better at taking others’ perspectives, which not only makes us more likely to help them but enables us to see past differences that may divide us, such as racial differences.

She then drew on several studies to highlight the behavioral and neurological effects when two people share positive emotions. The more connected two people feel—such as through sharing joy, gratitude, pride, laughter, inspiration, awe, etc.(!)—the more they will move their bodies in similar ways and the more their neurological activity will look the same.

So this sounds a lot like what she defines as “love,” doesn’t it?

In fact, Fredrickson proposed that when any positive emotion is shared between two people, the act of sharing that emotion changes it into one of love; in other words, love is any shared positive emotion.

Taking this a step further, she said that love is a single act performed by two bodies and brains. She concluded with a slide picturing two hikers on their journey to the top of a snow covered mountain: Love is the pinnacle of emotions, she argued. We are not “made to love,” she said, but “made for love.”

Read complete post http://bit.ly/oEVs47 .

10×10 Wellness Week Launch

Today I attended SAMHSA Town Hall Meeting via teleconference. SAMHSA works to improve the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, alcohol and drug addiction treatment, and mental health services. I wasn’t sure if it will be related to happiness, but I dialed in and oh, boy, I wasn’t disappointed. I felt that hundreds of organizations are working together and willing to share their resources to help individuals and groups to be well and stay well, no matter where they are coming from. Even if you are happy and healthy now, you need to know how to stay this way and help others to learn it.

As part of National Recovery Month, National Wellness Week is launched (September 19–25, 2011).

•Inspire individuals to incorporate dimensions of wellness into their lives

•Get involved by taking the Pledge for Wellness

•Join us at 10:10 a.m. and p.m. on Friday, September 23rd for the 10:10 Line Dance for Wellness

•Host a 10:10 Line Dance for Wellness Party and invite others to be part of this life-saving cause

Vision: A future in which people with mental and substance use disorders pursue optimal health, happiness, recovery, and a full and satisfying life in the community via access to a range of effective services, supports, and resources.

Pledge: To promote wellness for people with mental and substance use disorders by taking action to reduce early mortality by 10 years in 10 years

Wellness is not the absence of disease, illness, and stress but the presence of:

•Purpose in life;

•Active involvement in satisfying work and play;

•Joyful relationships;

•A healthy body and living environment; and


BHTalk is SAMHSA’s free social forum where you can:

–Tell your National Wellness Week activity;

–Interact with others doing Wellness programs; and

–Provide input about the 10×10 Wellness Campaign;

–Register at http://www.bhtalk.org and click on the 10×10 Wellness Campaign Group;

–Sign the pledge at http://www.10×10.samhsa.gov;

-Put yourself on the map by emailing 10×10@samhsa.hhs.gov.

Download full presentation in PDF WellnessTown Hall.

Conference on Kindness in Australia

Last weekend two great events were held on two different continents in two different hemispheres: Time for Renewal Conference in Sydney, Australia and the Second World Congress on Positive Psychology in Philadelphia, US. It is amazing that people so far from each other care about similar things. Year of Kindness blog has a post about the Australian event:

“This weekend I was lucky enough to attend a conference called Time for Renewal: The World Can Only Change From Within. It was held by Wake Up Sydney!, whose mission is to inspire a kindness revolution for ourselves, each other and the natural world. It was two days of music, inspirational speakers, meditation, and workshops focusing on how to be kinder to ourselves. It was a truly amazing experience for me to discover a whole “kindness community” I never even knew existed and to realise I really seriously need to start doing more kindnesses for myself. Here are the biggest lessons I took away from it all …

Don’t wait for a Big D.
Big Ds are the life challenges that everyone is faced with at some point – death, diagnosis, disaster, divorce, depression, disease, downturn, destruction… They are things that rock us to the very core, make us question who we are and why we are here. If we survive these Big Ds, we are forever changed. The suffering they cause breaks us open to answer the greater questions of our existence. If we had not experienced them, we would not have been forced to get to face truths about ourselves and our lives. They require us to develop new ways of being in the world. Hopefully they make us live a more grateful, more purposeful, more kindful life. But why wait for a Big D to live this way? Why not be consciously aware each day of the preciousness of life? Why not start thinking right now about what we want to achieve in our lifetime and how we want to be remembered?

Live all the seasons.
Everyone wants to be happy. But even the happiest of people experience anger, sadness, frustration, regret … Just like summertime comes and goes, so too does happiness. No one can live a summer life all the time. We must accept negative emotions for what they are and think about what we can learn from them.” Read more

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

I was lucky to get tickets to The hedgehog movie during French movie festival in Boston’s MFA this summer. The movie is very new and was not shown in the States before. I wanted to see it because the movie is based on the book The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I read the book and I loved it. It is so special to me that I even participated in defending the book against harsh critics back in Oct 2010. I simply felt I had to do something after I read complete book’s review here http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/popfr/barbery.htm#ours. So I wrote:


I just read your review of the Elegance of the Hedgehog book by Muriel Barbery. I’m stunned – whoever wrote the review overlooked two important things that happened at the end of the book and kind of gave it the whole meaning. They are:

1. Paloma realized why she wanted to commit suicide: she didn’t want to be like her parents in their social class who are miserable and the most important that she couldn’t help them to be happy (her feeling of not being useful),

2. At the same time the death of Renee taught her and us, readers, that we do not have to die to find true value and beauty of our lives and the world around us, because Rene was doing it every day: appreciating little things and whatever we never thought was enough. We don’t have to die to learn to love life and people around us, even better – we can improve it by being kind to others.

I just want to mention that your review and rating (B. Had some appeal but annoyingly simplistic and reductive) seems simplistic to me.

Sincerely, Marina.”

“Dear Marina:

Thank you for your interest in the Complete Review, and for your comments.

I don’t know that Barbery conveyed those lessons very well: killing off Rene seems like far too easy a solution, and the character of Paloma was weakly written (of course her suicide-ambitions were all teenage melodrama — surely no one ever expected her to really kill herself). And Barbery’s obnoxious class-consciousness confuses the issue too: good and bad are painted far too black and white throughout the book, without any surprises (and finding ‘purity’ and nobleness in the exotic (the Japanese) also seems a terrible over-simplification).

Sincerely yours,

Michael Orthofer

Managing Editor, at the Complete Review and its Literary Saloon”

To find out if you agree with Michael or not, read the book and watch the movie, but the lessons I learned from both of them are:

  1. Try to appreciate life’s beauty in simple things
  2. Make sure you are useful and help others feel useful too
  3. We all are hiding, but want to be discovered and appreciated for what we are, start your discovery! 🙂

Quantified Self on Happiness

Recently I discovered Quantified Self Community. They have a list of tools for quantifying oneself, a directory of people and a brand new forum, where you can ask questions and engage in a discussion on your favorite quant related topic. Out of curiosity I typed “happiness” and found 6 existing websites/apps related to happiness. Here they are:

1. Mappiness is a free iPhone app that’s part of a research project at the London School of Economics. The app prompts you a few times a day to ask how you are feeling, who you are with, where you are, and what you are doing. The data is anonymously collected by the LSE, who are analyzing it in particular for the effect of local environment (including noise) on people’s mood. Users can view their own happiness history directly in the app. http://www.mappiness.org.uk

2. Track Your Happiness is a scientific project that investigates what makes life worth living. Using this site, you’ll be able to track your happiness and find out what factors – for you personally – are associated with greater happiness. You’ll also contribute to our scientific understanding of happiness. It works by: 1) answering a few initial questions; 2) you will be emailed or text messaged everyday to report how you are feeling and what you are doing; and 3) you get a happiness report that shows how your happiness varies depending on various factors. http://www.trackyourhappiness.org/

3. Gratitude and happiness: “Track basic happiness items and graph those.” http://www.clickpodproductions.com/site/Gratitude_%26_Happiness.html

4. Happiness is an iPhone app for logging your mood. It reminds you to record your happiness in a simple up/down format, and allows you to record influences and events that may have affected your mood. The app can then display colorful visualizations of your happiness over time as well as what was on your mind most often. http://happiness.grimaceworks.com/

5. The happiness project toolbox is a support for the book “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin and provides eight web based tools for making posts associated with personal happiness. The tools are “Resolutions”, “Group Resolutions”, “Personal Commandments”, “Inspiration Board”, “Lists”, “One Sentence Journal”, “Secrets of Adulthood”, and “Happiness Hacks”. The postings can be shared in public with friends who join the site, or kept private. http://www,happinessprojecttoolbox.com

6. Happy factor is a web based application that asks you about your happiness by sending you text messages. You record data by responding with a 1-10 rating and a note. The application can then display history, average happiness on different days, hours, and months, and a frequency chart of words used in the notes from happiest to unhappiest. Login is via Facebook. http://howhappy.dreamhosters.com/

PS There are also three new ones Illuum, Mood Panda and Live Happy. May 25, 2012

Feedback on the Happiness Formula (Part Three)

11. What do you like the most about the tool?

  • A. I like having all the categories laid out so succinctly, helping me to focus on what is really important, and whether I am doing those things, and what I need to change. I think you’ve done a great job of summarizing the factors that contribute to happiness.
  • B. The ability to analyze so many different components of happiness at once.
  • C. It helps you to think about what you might need to change or improve in your life to possibly become happier.
  • D. Comprehensive and easy to use
  • E. Seeing the change from one day to the next.
  • F. How concise it is. It didn’t overwhelm me with the amount of work I needed to do and amount of data I needed to provide. I liked the graphs though I would like to see them more usable

12. What do you like the least about the tool?

  • A. Nothing specific. You have already said that things will be automated online, which will make it more user-friendly. In a general sense, I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of a “formula for happiness”. However, having used the tool, even if I don’t pay too much attention to the final happiness ratio value, I did find it useful.
  • B. The limited ability to see graphically what components of happiness are most important at a given time
  • C. It is simply an assessment tool – it is hard to tell what to really do with the information.
  • D. 20 questions is a lot
  • E. That the outcomes on the graphs overlapped too much. Also, I’m not sure why there are 5 graphs. Are they categorized in some way? It makes me think they are and so wonder why they’re only named Graph 1, Graph 2, etc.
  • F. Graphs, not having ability to add may be one or two custom categories, not having ability to prioritize categories

13. What do you think is missing but would be a good addition to this tool?

  • A. I’d like to see the online version. I think it needs to seem more “fun” to make people want to use it. The average person does not like spreadsheets, formulae, and graphs, so it will be better if some of that is behind the scenes. At the end, once the results are tallied, I’d like to see percentages for each category, and a summary (in words, not just in numbers/graphs) of what categories scored high and suggestions for what categories need to be worked on.
  • B. More graphing options as I mentioned. Another idea might be to show a pie chart with the relative contributions of different categories to one’s overall happiness, and a table ranking the different categories.
  • C. Recommended reading?
  • D. Nothing
  • E. Sorry, I don’t have any feedback for you on this one
  • F. Ability to add one or two custom categories, ability to prioritize categories and then using that as a weightage in calculations

14. How many times did you use this tool during the week?

  • A. Two. I don’t think it should be used daily. I would get bored, and my answers wouldn’t likely change that much over that period of time, then I would likely stop using it. I think weekly at the most, or preferably bi-weekly, would work well for me.
  • B. 3
  • C. 4 times
  • D. 2X
  • E. Twice, b/c I had to! 😉 In seeing the graphs from one day to the next I would probably use it once a week.
  • F. Twice during the evaluation period but I plan to use it on a weekly basis for next few weeks

15. Do you have any other comments or suggestions?

  • A. Great job! If you want anyone to look over the online version (for user-friendliness, copy-editing, etc.), I’d be happy to do so.
  • B. Looking forward to seeing how this turns out on the website!
  • C. It’s an interesting project!
  • D. I would try to reduce the number of questions if possible, maybe after collecting some initial data to see which ones are most important to most people
  • E. I’m wondering if a depressed person might not want to use this tool b/c they already know they’re not happy and therefore might feel more depressed seeing the low score they already expect.
  • F. Great idea. I would like to see it evolve and I would love to be included in further testing on it.

Feedback on the Happiness Formula (Part Two)

6. Did the exercise make you appreciate what you have in life and not focus on what you don’t?

  • A. Yes, to some extent. It helped me to appreciate what I have, and it helped me to not focus on little things that don’t matter. However, it did focus my attention on things I don’t have that do matter. That doesn’t necessarily make me feel good in the short term (i.e. doesn’t make me happy now), but it is useful and gives me some goals. I like having targeted goals (e.g. I need to spend more time on my hobbies) rather than a general sense of wanting things to be different, but not being sure what I need to do.
  • B. It did make me appreciate what I have in life, but instead of making me not focus on problem areas it actually motivated me to work harder to improve them.
  • C. No
  • D. Yes, it helped a bit
  • E. No
  • F. Yes it did – I am going do this exercise consistently going forward – may be once a week – I think this provides so much clarity and focus on positives in my life and improvement areas for me personally

7. How long did it take you on average to answer the questions in sections Satisfaction and Importance?

  • A. I’m not sure; probably around 10 minutes total the first time, with about 70% of that on the Satisfaction, and the rest on the Importance. Not more than 5 minutes total the next time, once I was familiar with the descriptions.
  • B. About 5-10 minutes
  • C. It took longer (a few minutes) to answer the questions in the “Satisfaction” section because I had to be honest with myself. The “Importance” section was quicker to answer.
  • D. A few seconds
  • E. 5 minutes or so
  • F. 5 minutes each

8. Did you want to see more graphs (ex. for importance)?

  • A. No, I didn’t find the graphs useful, although they would be more valuable for tracking changes in time once I had more data. They are potentially overcrowded though (too much data on one plot). One thing that might be useful is to have percentages for each category on the formula page, rather than numbers 4.5 etc.
  • B. It would be good to see a graph of the importance weighted to each category over time. Also, it would be good to see a graph showing the average rating and importance over time for all the categories.
  • C. Not necessarily. But a graph plotting importance against satisfaction for a particular day or time period might be useful.
  • D. No, no need
  • E. No, but I might’ve liked to see the graphs separately since they overlapped too much for me.
  • F. Yes but it would be ideal to have capability that will allow me to chose what category I want to graph – the multiple categories on each graph are confusing and I wasn’t sure if they were grouped together for some specific reason – ability to mix and match categories on a graph (customize) will be useful as well

9. Do you think that rating scale for satisfaction (1-10) is adequate?

  • A. Yes
  • B. Yes, most people are familiar with rating things on a scale of 1-10 so this was intuitive
  • C. Yes
  • D. Yes
  • E. Yes
  • F. Yes

10. Do you think that rating scale for importance (0-5) is adequate?

  • A. No. As noted above, I didn’t use the low end of the scale at all, and would have liked more options at the higher end of the scale.
  • B. I actually think it could be good to have a wider scale, like 1-10 or even 1-20. With a scale of 0-5, you have less ability to express large differences in how important you think different components of happiness are.
  • C. Yes
  • D. Yes
  • E. Yes, having only 5 rankings made it easy to choose.
  • F. Yes

Feedback on the Happiness Formula (Part One)

Last month I asked for feedback on the first version of the happiness formula. About twenty people received the file for testing, and ten people provided their feedback. Below you can find the most comprehensive feedback from six people (three females, three males). Each letter corresponds to a certain person in the order his/her feedback was documented, so you can see how each person responded to every question. Here are first 5 question out of 15 (see future posts for the rest):

1. Did you feel that categories are all inclusive? (all sources of happiness)

  • A. Yes – great job!
  • B. I believe so – there is some overlap between categories
  • C. Yes
  • D. Yes
  • E. This seemed comprehensive to me
  • F. One thing I didn’t see is things I do for fun other than hobbies – watching sports, being on FB, occasional recreational activities such as parties etc. They all bring me joy and happiness – maybe you should add a category called ‘recreation’

2. Did you find categories easy to understand?

  • A. Yes
  • B. Yes
  • C. Yes
  • D. Yes, but I would tweak the language on some categories
  • E. Yes
  • F. Yes

3. Do you think that category descriptions match category titles?

  • A. Yes
  • B. In general yes
  • C. Yes
  • D. See above
  • E. Yes
  • F. All except one – high confidence level does not necessarily mean high self-esteem – that needs a little more exploration

4. Did you think that your happiness ratio is about right?

  • A. I’m not sure; it is hard to be objective because the value itself affected how I was feeling. Because my “happiness ratio” wasn’t higher, it made me feel as though I had “failed” in being happy, and my automatic response to that was to think that it was wrong. I felt like it should have been higher because I wanted it to be higher as an affirmation of “success”. Insofar as I can be objective about it, I think it is about right, or perhaps a little low. I think it would be more accurate if there was an extra category in the Importance section, something like “6 = extremely high”. I rated the importance of all factors as 4 or 5, so the tool wasn’t able to differentiate well between the categories in terms of which I thought were the most important
  • B. Yes, the numbers that I obtained fluctuated a bit but seemed fairly accurate to how I feel these days
  • C. Yes
  • D. Yes
  • E. Yes
  • F. Yes – and I was surprised to see how consistent it remained even though the rating changed between categories each time I did them – very revealing

5. Did the exercise make you re-evaluate your understanding of happiness?

  • A. I don’t think I re-evaluated my understanding, but it did bring my focus back to where it should be, which is equally valuable. Even just reading the questions, before I got the results, made me refocus away from all the things I think are missing in my life and focus back on what I already have, what I really need, and what is really most important. I like that the first two questions asked about basics and health; that was very “grounding”
  • B. It made me consider all the varying factors that contribute to happiness, and also be curious as to how other people rate those factors in relative importance to them
  • C. No
  • D. Yes, it makes you broaden your thinking about it
  • E. No, as it was a quick exercise and I didn’t think too much as I was doing it
  • F. I don’t know if it made me re-evaluate it but it certainly put it in perspective for me – just looking at different categories, it provided a lot of clarity for me as to what is important for me and if that’s where I am focusing on for improvements

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