Positive Psychology Goes Fuzzy, Buzzy, and .com

Quick, think of five things that make you happy. Is one of them butter? What about bees? These were the

Quick, think of five things that make you happy.

Is one of them butter? What about bees? These were the thoughts that came to mind for John B. Pounders, a senior at the University of Alabama, and one of his happiness-seeking friends. Pounders’ joyful thought experiment, easily recognizable by graduates of Psychology 1504: “Positive Psychology,” led to his latest Internet project: a positive psychology-based, online public forum allowing users to post five happy thoughts a day.

Launched in early March, www.butterbeehappy.com was inspired by the teachings of Harvard lecturer Tal D. Ben-Shahar ’96. After reading Ben-Shahar’s book, “Happier,” Pounders sought to spread the word about his happiness-generating technique.

“I wanted to give people an outlet to write about their happy thoughts,” says Pounders, who has founded multiple Internet projects, including a national tree-selling business.

Site members record their five merry thoughts daily, which are instantly shared with the butterbeehappy community. More diligent users can ask to receive an e-mail reminder to post and a weekly summary of their happy thoughts. The sharing aspect of the site allows members to feed off of each other’s good vibes.

“Happiness is contagious,” Ben-Shahar says. “When you read happy thoughts, that very often reminds us of positive or happy things in our lives.”

But current Positive Psych students who are not used to sharing their thoughts in such a forum, aren’t all supportive of the idea. “When we list our reasons to be grateful,” says Julia R. Ericksen ’09, “it’s just a private way to appreciate all the gifts we have in life as opposed to a public thing.”

Nevertheless, Ben-Shahar endorses Pounders’ efforts to spread happiness, and describes the site as “lovely.” With around 1,000 students enrolled in his class, and many more watching his lectures online, Ben-Shahar is probably the best person to have on your side for matters of happiness and sharing. And for John B. Pounders, that’s a very happy thought.