The raunchy comedy game show “@Midnight” recently had an all-happy episode in which there would be no bad news, no election coverage and instead, cat videos, and puppies and babies doing cute things. The psychology of happiness, also known as positive psychology, is big business (and a pharmaceutical profit bonanza) as people just want to feel good.
Even the Declaration of Independence assures that we have the right to pursue happiness. Here are some research paper topics on how the field of psychology studies happiness and the work of Martin Seligman.
The scope of the psychology of happiness
A research paper topic could be to discuss the science of the psychology of happiness. This is a branch of psychological study that investigates what exactly is happiness, can it be measured, what makes people happy, how can we attain happiness, how long should happiness last and is there a benefit to being happy.
According to a writer in “Psychology of Happiness,” posted in PsychologistWorld.com, “Psychologists often refer to happiness as positive affect – a mood or emotional state which is brought about by generally positive thoughts and feelings. Positive affect contrasts with low moods and negativity, a state of mind described as negative affect in which people take a pessimistic view of their achievements, life situation and future prospects.”
Should we be happy?
Is there value in being happy? The science of psychology primarily studies human failings and pathology. Freud was obsessed with the dark side of human nature that we must all learn to control. The atrocities of World War II made psychologists wonder how man can turn on his fellow man. Then, in 1998, Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, made a presentation for the American Psychological Association in which he urged the field of psychology to also study human strengths and virtues, thus starting the positive psychology movement. In 1999, the Gallup Positive Psychology Institute began.
Happiness is good for the brain and nervous system. Writing in “The Science of Happiness,” in Harvard Magazine January-February 2007, Craig Lambert reports: “Happiness activates the sympathetic nervous system (which stimulates the flight or fight response), whereas joy stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (controlling rest and digest functions). We can laugh from either joy or happiness, [psychiatrist George] Vaillant said. We weep only from grief or joy. …Without the pain of captivity, we don’t experience the joy of freedom.”
Ways we can become happy
Happiness is highly subjective; everyone will have his own definition. But in general terms, there are actions and activities that can make people happy.
- Take a walk. “Pennsylvania State University researchers reported that the more physically active people are, the greater their feelings of excitement and enthusiasm. It doesn’t take much: Half an hour of brisk walking three times a week improves happiness,” wrote Neil Pasricha in “Cheerful Vibes” in Success, October 2016.
- Write about a happy experience in your journal. Reliving the experience by writing about it seals in the experience in your mind and you remember it longer.
- Do random acts of kindness. Do nice things for other people. Happiness is contagious.
- Maintain (or repair) a close relationship with family and friends.
- Get more control over various aspects of your life. Self-determination and self-fulfillment breed happiness.
Who’s the happiest?
The United Nations publishes the World Happiness Report, which ranks countries by happiness of its citizens. In 2016, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland ranked the top 3 for happiness (must be the cold!). The report ranks how people view their satisfaction of their own lives and life situations. The top 3 happiest countries are well developed first world countries.
For more information, check out Questia’s library on Psychology.
What do you think about the psychology of happiness? Share your thoughts and what makes you happy in the comments.