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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:

Historically, the field of psychology has 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 has broadened its scope to give more attention to the positive side of human nature and the most effective ways to pursue the 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, to cultivate what is best within themselves and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.  This course provides an introduction to the study of topics related to happiness and the positive aspects of human experience including positive experiences, positive character strengths, positive relationships, and the institutions and practices that facilitate their development.  Positive experiences include the mental states of flow and mindfulness and emotions about the present, past, and future. The positive character traits include wisdom, courage, compassion, love, humanity, justice, temperance, self-efficacy, resilience, grit, imagination, creativity, and transcendence.  Positive relationships include the factors that enhance meaning and well-being among couples, family, co-workers and the community.  Positive institutions include positive education models, positive work environments, healthy families, 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, flow, the authentic self and 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.