Week 1

“Unreliable memories”: Gilbert, Daniel: Stumbling on Happiness

Positive reminiscence has been proven to boost happiness in the present, whether achieved through visualisation, talking or reviewing with another person.  The dominant researcher is Fred Bryant. Bryant, F.B., Smart, C.M., & King, S.P. (2005). Using the past to enhance the present: Boosting happiness through positive reminiscence. Bryant is also the author (together with Joseph Veroff) of ‘Savouring’, but more of that another week!

Week 2

The Time Paradox: Phillip Zimbardo & John Boyd

Martin Seligman has writtten extensively about the three pathways to happiness, which he calls ‘The Good Life; The Engaged Life and the Meaningful Life‘ in his book, Authentic Happiness. If you want to test out your happiness orientation in life, you can go to the following website, register and do lots of different assessments for free. The one we are talking about is called ‘Approaches to Happiness Questionnaire’ in the Life Satisfaction section:

I have added a fourth route, ‘people’, due to the extensive research correlating positive relationships with happiness. One of my favourite books summarising PP (with a chapter on love) is Daniel Nettle’s book, ‘Happiness‘. Paul Martin also explores the significance of relationships for children in his book ‘Making Happy People‘ – truly good book if you have children.

p.s. Interestingly, Seligman is in Europe promoting his latest book, ‘Flourish’ in the Spring, where he adds two further routes to happiness – Positive Relationships and Achievement.

Week 3:

Pleasure vs Altruism/Gratitude Journal:

Seligman, M. E P, Steen, T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421.

Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2005). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life, Journal of Happiness Studies, 6(1), 25 – 41.

The positive benefits of exercise:  – There’s a lot of sound research available here, but it’s well summarised in the 2008 book, ‘Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain’ by John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman.

Negativity Bias: ‘Bad is Stronger than Good’: Baumeister et al. 2001. Review of Gen Psychology, Vol. 5.

Week 4:

The Reflected Best Self exercise can be downloaded here:

Week 7:

The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams: A Nonlinear Dynamics Model. Marcial Losada & Emily Heaphy (2004).

A Summary: Who were the teams? The study was run with 60 management teams who were designing their business missions and strategic plans. How exactly was the study set up? Losada and team tracked every single utterance of speech on three dimensions:

(a)  Whether the language was positive or negative. Language was considered Positive if the speaker showed support, encouragement or appreciation. It was considered negative if the speaker demonstrated disapproval, sarcasm or cynicism.

(b)  They were coded as Inquiry if they asked questions or explored a position; they were coded as Advocacy if they offered arguments in favour of the speakers viewpoint or defended their own viewpoint.

(c)  They were coded as self if the speaker referred to themselves; the group present or to the company itself. It was coded as other if the speaker referenced people or groups not present, not part of the company.

High, medium or low performance was rated against three criteria: profitability, customer satisfaction ratings and evaluation by superiors, peers and subordinates. Only 25% of the teams met this criteria. Approx 30% scored uniformly low on all criteria. The maths enabled cause and effect to be separated – that is, the teams were not just positive because of business results. What were the results? High performance teams stood out with their unusually high positivity ratios, at about 6 to 1. By contrast, low performance teams had ratios well below 1 to 1 with mixed performance teams sat just above this, at 2 to 1. Higher performance teams also had higher connectivity; asked questions as much as they defended their own views and cast their attention outward as much as inward. Low performance teams had far lower connectivity, asked almost no questions and showed almost no outward focus.

Daniel Goleman: Social Intelligence (2004).

Week 8: Understanding Positive Change

There is a great chapter on Positive Change in Alan Carr’s book: ‘Positive Psychology: the science of Happiness and Human Strengths‘ (2004).

Prochaska, J. (1999). How do people change and how can we change to help many more people? Chapter in The Heart and Soul of Change.

The questionnaire is adapted from Prochaska’s Decisional Balance Questionnaire (1994).

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