Positive Psychology

HON 498 - Professor Maggie Sachse-Skidd

Modes of Inquiry: Textual Analysis, Scientific and Mathematical Analysis, Artistic Creation and Analysis, Historical, Social and Cultural Analysis

Course Description:

The field of psychology has historically placed a lot of attention on what’s wrong with people and what we can do to treat disorders of the mind. More recently, the field broadened its scope to give more attention to the positive side of human nature and effective ways to pursue a good life. Positive Psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology that focuses on building positive qualities that lead to more fulfilling lives (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. This field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, cultivate what is best within themselves, and enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. This course will provide an introduction to the study of topics related to happiness and the positive aspects of experiences, character strengths, relationships, and the institutions and practices that facilitate their development. Positive experiences include the mental states of flow and mindfulness as well as emotions about the present, past, and future. Positive character traits include wisdom, courage, compassion, love, humanity, justice, resilience, grit, imagination, and creativity. Positive relationships include bonds between couples, family, friends, co-workers, and the community. Positive institutions may include education models, work environments, and families. We will also discuss positive leadership and the development of civic virtues. 

Some of the central themes include the nature of happiness, well-being (including the nature and measurement of happiness), the biological basis of positive emotions, savoring, positive experiences, gratitude, the authentic self, and the idea of an upward spiral. Topics include measurements of happiness, an overview of positive trait theories, self-esteem, mindset, the mind-body connection, physical activity, emotional intelligence, prosocial behavior, decision making, mindfulness meditation, and the characteristics of positive relationships.