The Pillars of Happiness
Talks on Positive Psychology

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Psychologists have often been accused of focusing exclusively on the negative - on disordered behaviour rather than on optimal functioning. Positive psychology is a rapidly-expanding field examining strategies to enhance life satisfaction and mood.

In this talk and workshop we briefly review the “platform requirements” for positive mood: various lifestyle factors that seem to make the creation of happiness possible. We then proceed to a series of exercises and discussions on what appear to be four primary elements of the happy and satisfied life:

Enjoyment. We examine the role of enjoyable activity in our lives, discuss the limitations of simply “doing what feels good,” and consider the negative beliefs that people often hold about making “fun” one of their priorities.

Acknowledgement. Cognitive therapy suggests that we react emotionally mainly to what we pay attention to -- but many of us attend only to what is wrong or deficient in ourselves or our lives. Redirecting our attention to the positive elements of our lives can enable us to experience these at an emotional level. This involves acknowledging our strengths, our good fortune, and the positive contributions that others have made to our existence. Specific exercises are provided.

Immersion. The psychology of “flow” experiences is discussed. Essentially, flow involves a deep involvement in an activity, coupled with a reduction in self-reflective or evaluative thought. It is the experience of “losing oneself” or “dissolving the ego” in an activity. The activities that promote flow differ from person to person but have some core similarities, and this section of the presentation invites participants to survey their experience for flow-inducing options.

Involvement. Taking care of ourselves or pursuing only our own goals can, paradoxically, lead to a sense of personal poverty, neediness, and inadequacy. People with high life satisfaction are typically involved in larger-scale projects that involve the broader world; they are committed to causes bigger than any one person. Participants are led in exercise designed to help identify causes or projects that might have such a role in their own lives.

The conclusion involves a review of specific recommendations in all four of the elemental areas. As we go through these areas, participants in longer versions of the program complete their own “happiness prescription” in which the ideas presented are integrated with their own situation and personality.

Formats: Available in 60-, 90-, and 120-minute versions, as well as half-day and full-day workshops. Shorter versions can give a thought provoking overview, whereas longer versions can give deeper understanding of this topic. These presentations work best with visuals, so there is normally a screen with presenter’s laptop and host’s (or presenter’s) projector. Longer talks are best offered in a large space with breakout areas.