Positive Psychology - Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar

Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar taught Harvard University’s most popular course in the Spring of 2006: a course on Positive Psychology.

The course focuses on the psychological aspects of a fulfilling and flourishing life. Topics include happiness, self-esteem, empathy, friendship, love, achievement, creativity, music, spirituality, and humor.

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. 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.

  • Ask yourself questions to foster awareness about what actions and attitudes will make you happier. Dr. Ben-Shahar offers several examples in his book “Happier”–which also functions as a workbook.
  • Happiness must combine both pleasure and meaning, providing both present and future gain. To further illustrate this point, Ben-Shahar uses a hamburger analogy. He explains how certain things, like an unhealthy but tasty hamburger, will bring immediate short-term pleasure but have the opposite effect on our long-term feelings.

    Similarly, an unappealing but healthy veggie burger might bring us negative emotions while we’re eating it but bring us long-term benefits. Too often people bounce back and forth between these two without finding out what things in their lives can bring both immediate and long-term happiness; that is, a meal that is both tasty and healthy.

  • Happiness is not an end state, but rather something you work towards your whole life. Thus, you can be happier each day. Even happiness is a journey, not a destination.

The Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania

Harvard’s Most Popular Course: Tal Ben-Shahar On How to Be Happier