Sunday, October 04, 2009

Positive Psychology - science to find happiness

When I see a news headline about "what is the most popular course in the Harvard University?", my curiosity drives me to find out what the course is. This leads me to the concept of "Positive Psychology". The most popular class is the Psychology 1504 (ie, positive psychology) taught by Dr. Ben-Shahar.

As mentioned in NPR news, "almost every semester for the past ten years, the most popular class at Harvard has been Intro to Economics, or as Tal Ben-Shahar likes to call it, how to get rich, but today there's an even bigger class on campus. It's Ben-Shahar's course on what he calls, how to get happy."

According to Wikipedia, Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology that "studies the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive". Positive psychologists seek "to find and nurture genius and talent", and "to make normal life more fulfilling", not simply to treat mental illness. In other words, the positive psychology deals with love, happiness, job satisfaction, ...

In contrary to the Positive psychology, there should be a concept of negative psychology. However, even though the current psychology is so focused on the negative side (depression, fear, anxiety, mental illness,...), there is no formal definition of negative psychology.

Further readings about the negative psychology:

Unlike the negative psychology which belongs to the medical science, the positive psychology has its applications in corporate business. It could be used to promote the positive culture, attitudes, employee's job satisfaction,...

However, there is also negative side about the positive psychology. See Dr. BARBARA S.HELD's argument.

In practice, Positive psychology encompass a variety of techniques that encourage people to identify and further develop their own positive emotions, experiences, and character traits. In many ways, positive psychology builds on key tenets of humanistic psychology. Whether or not the positive psychology techniques work will eventually rely on the evidence from the clinical trials. Since the psychology measures are typically intangible, how to design a trial or intervention, what to measure, how long to measure, what instrument to use,... could be challenging even more than the typically psychology measures (with the focus on disease or negative psychology). The following paper discussed this issue.


1 comment:

Judy Jacob said...

I have been following your blog for sometime... though this is my first comment here.

Thought would drop by and send you some flashcards which I have found interesting.