‘Science of Happiness’ to Help Students Focus on the Positive

‘Science of Happiness’ to Help Students Focus on the Positive

‘Science of Happiness’ to Help Students Focus on the Positive

By Tiffany Wilson – 26 Sep 2007

The science of happiness, called positive psychology, is now a group at BYU.

One facet of positive psychology is the study of happiness and what is likely to increase it. Vaughn Worthen and Dr. Richard Isakson, clinical professors of counseling psychology, started this group.

“This [positive psychology] puts it [happiness] more in the realm where you can control it for yourself,” Isakson said. “You can be happy by deciding ‘I am going to perform some act of kindness.'”

Those who are more positive are more likely to be generous and thoughtful, which will make them better citizens, neighbors, roommates, and they will contribute to a better community, Worthen said.

“One of the purposes is to help people be better problem solvers,” Worthen said,. “[and] to be able to feel better about themselves.”

The group will focus on helping students see the positive influences in their lives. The principles of positive psychology resonate with gospel principles, Worthen said, and help explain how to live teachings such as forgiveness and gratitude.

Studies have shown that cultivating and practicing gratitude reduce symptoms in cases of mild to moderate depression and anxiety, lead to increases of optimism, happiness, sense of well-being and satisfaction with life, Worthen said. It leads to better sleep duration, less physical complaints and more time spent exercising.

“You can feel satisfaction and happiness that you did something to make someone else’s life better in a given day,” Isakson said.

Much research has been done on positive psychology, so this group will be based on principles that have been researched, Isakson said.

Dr. Martin Seligman officially started positive psychology when he was president of the American Psychological Association in 1998, although the principles have been used throughout history, Worthen said.

“Anybody would benefit,” Worthen said. “It is designed for the range of normal human problems as well as mental health concerns.”

The program helps people see that there are good things in their life even if it isn’t going the way they want it to be, Isakson said.