ES.S60 | Spring 2013 | Undergraduate

The Art and Science of Happiness


[Csikszentmihalyi] = Csikszentmihalyi, Mihali. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008. ISBN: 9780061339202.

[DL] = His Holiness the Lama, Dalai and Howard C. Cutler. The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. 10th Anniversary ed. Riverhead Books, 2009. ISBN: 9781594488894.

[Frankl] = Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780807014295. [Preview with Google Books]

[Lyubomirsky] = Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Penguin Books, 2008. ISBN: 9780143114956.

[Peterson] = Peterson, Christopher. A Primer in Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780195188332. [Preview with Google Books]

[Ricard] =  Ricard, Matthieu. Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. Translated by Jesse Browner. Little, Brown, and Company, 2007. ISBN: 9780316167253.

[Schwartz] = Schwartz, Barry. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. Harper Perennial, 2005. ISBN: 9780060005696.

[Seligman] = Seligman, Martin E. P. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Atria Books, 2004. ISBN: 9780743222983.

[Weiner] = Weiner, Eric. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. Twelve, 2009. ISBN: 9780446698894.


Introduction: defining happiness

  • Do pre-class questionnaire
  • Do Who Am I exercise—discuss why you are taking this class
  • Look at different definitions of happiness

No readings

Overview of positive psychology

  • What is it and how does it differ from traditional psychology?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of this approach?
  • How does it work in therapy?

[Peterson] Chapter 1. “What Is Positive Psychology?”

Happiness vs. pleasure

  • What is happiness?
  • How is it measured?
  • How does it differ from pleasure?

[DL] Chapter 3. “Training the Mind for Happiness.”

[Ricard] Chapter 1. “Talking About Happiness.”


Cognitive styles

  • Optimism & pessimism—what is the difference?
  • How do they work in practice?
  • Is there such a thing as realistic optimism? Realistic pessimism?

[Seligman] Chapter 6. “Optimism about the Future.”

[Peterson] Chapter 5. “Positive Thinking.”



  • What are our strengths?
  • How can we use them and in what capacities?
  • What are their limitations?

Guest speaker: Tamara Menghi, Associate Director, Employer Relations and Career Programs, MIT Global Education & Career Development

Handouts from StrengthsQuest website

Unhappiness, sadness and depression

  • What is depression and how does it differ from sadness or unhappiness—how does it relate to suffering?
  • Is there value in suffering?
  • How can we recognize and treat depression?

[DL] Chapter 8. “Facing Suffering.”

[Ricard] Chapter 6. “The Alchemy of Suffering.”

American Psychiatric Association. Read the description of depression in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision, DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. American Psychiatric Association, 2000. ISBN: 9780890420256.

[Frankl] Selected pages.


Happiness in relationships

  • Do friendship maps exercise
  • Discuss what makes for a good romantic relationship
  • Discuss healthy relationships with parents

[DL] Chapter 5. “A New Model for Intimacy.”

[Peterson] Chapter 10. “Positive Interpersonal Relationships.”


Wellness and flow

[Csikszentmihalyi] Chapter 1. “Happiness Revisited.”

[Peterson] Chapter 9. “Wellness.”


Happiness and diversity (cultural and religious)

  • Investigates how different cultures and generations define happiness

[Weiner] Chapter 1. “The Netherlands: Happiness is a Number.”

Happiness and decision making

Guest speaker: Dorise Gruber, Assistant Director for Freshman Affairs, Boston University School of Management

[Schwartz] Selected pages.
11 Finding meaning in our lives [Lyubomirsky] Chapter 8. “Happiness Activity No. 10: Committing to Your Goals.”
12 Open topic (to be decided by students), evaluations and wrap up No readings

Additional Readings

In addition to the readings listed in the table, the following books are also suggested reading for this seminar.

Ben-Shahar, Tal. Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. McGraw-Hill, 2007. ISBN: 9780071492393. [Preview with Google Books]

Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness. Vintage Books, 2007. ISBN: 9781400077427.

Ramsay, Graham Gordon, and Holly Barlow Sweet. A Creative Guide to Exploring Your Life: Self-Reflection Using Photography, Art and Writing. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008. ISBN: 9781843108924. [Preview with Google Books]

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2013
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Activity Assignments