Two months ago in these pages, Leon Neyfakh dissected the phenomenon of Harvard’s uber-popular feel-good course, Psychology 1504, “Positive Psychology.”
Two months ago in these pages, Leon Neyfakh dissected the phenomenon of Harvard’s uber-popular feel-good course, Psychology 1504, “Positive Psychology.” Now, with the semester coming to close, FM follows up with the big question: are Positive Psych kids any happier?
Students say they are flying high after spending a semester learning techniques for positive living—strategies for dealing with procrastination, for coping with stressful situations, and for stepping out of their comfort zones—with Lecturer on Psychology Tal D. Ben-Shahar ’96, affectionately know to his students as “Tal.”
“He says a lot of things that some people find cliché, or people thought that he was preaching to us a bit, but if you try them out they actually work,” says Penny Q. Fang ’08.
Students like Ecaterina R. Burton ’08 agree.
“I’ve gleaned the most benefit from keeping a gratitude journal, where every day I write down things that fill me with gratitude for being alive,” Burton writes in an e-mail.
Others, like Allen A. T. Ewal ’06-’07 have found a little more inner peace through in-section meditation.
“Before the section, hearing the word ‘meditation’ would make me roll my eyes. After trying it out, though, I was surprised to find that it actually left me relaxed for hours afterwards,” Ewal writes in an e-mail.
Plus, a number of students said Positive Psychology lived up to its reputation as an easy class, a fact that also made Tal’s disciples smile.
“There are response papers. And if you hand them in, you pass. So because of that you are very focused on getting out of it what you can, and so you can enjoy it,” Ross A. Lipstein ’08 says.
Sounds like a lame class. Psych!