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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Six Tips for Happiness

Currently Harvard University offers a course that focuses on how to be happy called Positive Psychology . The course is described NPR’s by Toiva Smith as a practical mix of self-help and science. Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar bases some his conclusions on studies that show how “counting your blessing daily make you happy” in a way that adding up stock market successes never will. In one class, he plays quotes from an Ellen Degeneres episode where Ellen expresses her frustration with life’s business: “we are so busy that we miss out on life.” Tal Ben-Shahar asserts that it is “not natural to be in the rat race” and that Americans need to slow down and enjoy life. He focuses on the power of positive thinking and the need to “simplify.”

One student thinks it is a silly topic for a semester long class. Another says that it challenging because of the “personal transformation” not the reading schedule.

To me it sounds like James’ suggestion to “consider it all joy” to endure trials, or Paul’s secret to contentment: be content in all circumstances. As for the need to simplify, Paul suggests that whether we eat or drink we should glorify God.

In the end, the course exemplifies that even the elites at Harvard are looking for happiness over and above earthly successes. Dismissing faith as unreasonable and perusing the self-help aisles at Borders for answers, students in Tal Ben-Shahar’s course have received validation—in the name of Science—an answer that ultimately will never satisfy the soul.

What do you think of positive thinking? Does it work? Is it biblical?

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