Happiness 101 – (by D.T. Max., New York Times Sunday Magazine, 7 January 2007)
Can happiness be taught systematically as an academic discipline? Do happier students make better humans? It seems to be self-evident, but with the emphasis on teaching only the “fundamentals” (the 3R’s) in school, and jettisonning all of the rest, it appears that our education system is crippling the next generation.
“All this interested Seligman’s students [Martin Seligman, one of the field’s founders, who heads the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania], but what Fredrickson [Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina] says always catches their attention most is a study Fredrickson did with a Brazilian workplace psychologist named Marcia Losada, who observed annual strategic-review meetings of employees through one-way mirrors. The data she collected showed that the most effective teams — the criteria were customer satisfaction, profitability and internal review — were the ones who had more positive meetings. There was even a number that corresponded to the minimum amount of positive to negative feedback necessary to encourage successful functioning. That number, Fredrickson told the class, was three positive comments to one negative comment. “The ratio lady,” one student called her.” [emphasis and brackets added by me]
And the last word:
“Had they saved the world or themselves? I spoke to Brandon Rasmussen [a psychology student at George Mason University, where the course in Positive Psychology is taught], an easygoing student who seemed to me like a surfer dude washed up on some New Age shore. The class had energized him, and he had been a vigorous participant — earning an A. His final paper was about learning to really be with his friends, going into flow with them, something he had long had difficulty doing. “My personal satisfaction is the personal measure for me, and my personal satisfaction is great,” he explained. “I hate to say this, but really in the scheme of things we’re not going to change the war in Iraq.” Then he paused and thought how that sounded. “We can only fix the world one person at a time.” ” [emphasis mine]