Dr Tal Ben-Shahar – Harvard Open Courses 1504 – Positive Psychology 3

Positive psychology focuses on questing what is the source of health psychical, psychological and emotional, how do we get people to flourish intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, inter-personally, intra-personally.

Positive psychology emphases that (1) let’s study what works (2) let’s study what works best.

The third session emphases the importance of studying positive psychology by three reasons again. First, only focusing on problems (e.g., weaknesses) is not enough as the questions blinds us to key information that works. Second, getting ride of the negation does not guarantee us the positive. Third, it does not just take us from zero to positive but also help us to deal with the negative.

This session also presents the five basic premises of the course.

  • Bridge the disciplines, bridge academia and main street.
  • Change is possible.
  • Internal factors primarily determine happiness.
  • Human nature must be obeyed – important foundation of mental health and well-being.
  • Happiness is also a moral claim.

Interesting research findings:

  • Gallup organisation’s global poll result – most people think to focus on their weaknesses if they are to succeed. Big mistake!
  • The disease model is we are ill because of illness. If we get rid of the illness we are healthy. The health model is we are ill because we did not cultivate we are about enough. We do not become self-actualize, we diminish ourselves. If we do what we suppose to do we will not become unwell.
  • What the world needs more than anything else is practical idealists.
  • Research done at Dartmouth – Americans spend the most time out of any other people in the world volunteering: an average of 4 hours a week.
  • The Pygmalion Effect – teacher’s expectations are self-filling prophecies.
  • Practicing yoga in jail reduces the likely-hood of second-time offenders.
  • Doing meditation transforms our brain.
  • Three times a week of physical exercise, 30 minutes each time has the same effect as our most powerful psychiatric drugs.
  • To be a practical idealist, the foundation of it has to be the belief that change is possible.
  • The average relationship in human history is one in which the woman is subjugated.
  • The Cambridge Somerville Youth Study started in 1930s between Harvard and MIT, 250 kids in the intervention group and 250 kids in the control group, 40 years follow-up. The results were socking: Juvenile offences was no difference; physical health and mental health were no difference. It proves that idealism, good intention and a lot of money were not practical.

People and their work:

  • Marva Collins – help students shift from a passive victim to an activated agent. She asked the question “How can we cultivate the seed of greatness in our students?”
  • David Henry Thoreau in 1940s wrote “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
  • Pink Floyd – “People are comfortably numb.
  • Abraham Maslow – neurosis – the failure of personal growth; the ‘growing-tip’ statistics
  • Martin Seligman – prevention – human strengths – “…the effective prevention is not remedial, rather it consists of identifying and amplifying the strengths that these teens already have.”
  • Nathaniel Branden – psychological immune system
  • Alfred North Whitehead – a second psychology
  • Sheldon White – the importance of second psychology
  • Carol Dweck – self-esteem, idealists
  • Albert Bandura – self-efficacy, and people can change just by a sentence they heard
  • Muzafer Sherif’s research in 1954 – social psychology – conflict solution – the contact hypothesis doesn’t work
  • Elliot Aronson – social psychology – conflict solution – a super ordinate goal that you have to carry out together
  • David T. Lykken and Auke Tellegen – The Minnesota Twins Study – their paper “Happiness is a Stochastic Phenomenon” in 1980s.
  • Jon Kabat Zinn, Richard Davidson and Herbert Benson – studies on meditation
  • John Stuart Mill’s book The Subjection of Women
  • Karen Reivich, Martin Seligman – Resiliency Project
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