What brings a sense of purpose to our lives? Why is gratitude such an important factor in well-being? How can I be happier and bring a sense of authentic joy to those around me?
Positive psychology is a fascinating field, but most of us aren’t able to set aside the time and money necessary to study for a master’s or Ph.D. in the subject. Luckily technology has made it easier than ever to learn about the science of happiness since the days when Tal Ben-Shahar taught one of the first courses on the subject—and one of the most popular ever—at Harvard University, along with Shawn Achor. Information about positive psychology and well-being has now become much more widely available.
Below are some of the best courses and certificate programs on positive psychology that you can access without having to leave the comfort of your own desk.
1. UPenn Positive Psychology Center
Martin Seligman and the University of Pennsylvania’s acclaimed Positive Psychology Center have coordinated with Coursera to create a five-course online certificate program called Foundations of Positive Psychology. The five courses offer an overview of the field, with insights into such topics as grit and character. They will be taught by regular UPenn MAPP (Masters in Applied Positive Psychology) professors including Angela Duckworth, Ph.D., and James Pawelski, Ph.D. For more information, click here.
2. Barbara Fredrickson
3. Greater Good Science Center
The Greater Good Science Center is a nonprofit research institute that provides excellent information and cutting-edge research on the psychology of well-being through its website, newsletter and books. They also offer a free online course called “The Science of Happiness” taught by University of California, Berkeley’s psychology professor Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., the center’s science director. These two experts lead students through the fundamentals of positive psychology, such as why social ties are so important to well-being, the benefits of daily happiness practices and the new science of awe. You must register for the course, and it begins on a specific date (September 6, 2016), but you can take it at your leisure—as long as you finish within six months. The course (also a MOOC), taught on the EdX platform, is open to everyone, but for undergraduates, there is a midterm, final exam and class credits. Everyone else gets quizzes, polls and “emotional check-ins.” For more information, click here.
4. The Flourishing Center
The Flourishing Center, founded by Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, offers a certificate in applied positive psychology (CAPP) program in locations all over the United States and Canada with a focus on flourishing, resilience, coaching and mentoring. Faculty include UPenn MAPP graduates, published authors and Live Happy writers such as Louisa Jewell, Louis Alloro and Carin Rockind. The Center has recently added an online option that covers the same curriculum as the in-person course and that has students connecting live online twice a week for 36 weeks. The online course is geared toward international students who don’t have access to the in-person courses; however, exceptions are made. An application and interview are required for acceptance. For more information, click here.
5. The Big Know
The Big Know, which partners with Life Reimagined—an AARP company, is a fantastic resource for free and low-cost online courses taught by some of the most respected experts in the mindfulness and happiness realms (many of whom have been featured in Live Happy). You can study “Brain Power: How to Improve Brain Health” with Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D., “Mindfulness and Meditation” with Richard Davidson, Ph.D., “How to Bring More Joy to Your Life” with Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., and the list goes on. Other instructors include Blue Zones’ founder Dan Buettner and stress expert Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. It is truly a gold mine of quick and easy access to expert teachings on happiness—done through video—available at your fingertips. For more information, click here.
6. Profit from the Positive
7. Pursuit of Happiness
Pursuit of Happiness is a nonprofit organization led by prominent psychologists and educators such as Paul Desan, Ph.D., director of psychiatric services at Yale New Haven Hospital, and Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., professor at George Mason University and co-author of The Upside of Your Dark Side. They promote positive psychology by disseminating information and offering an online certificate course called “The Psychology of Happiness,” which is taught by Desan and other experts, including Dan Tomasulo, Ph.D., who created the positive psychology curriculum at Columbia University Teacher’s College. The course, which comprises two live webinars, emphasizes practical implementation of the latest scientific findings in the happiness realm. For more information, click here.
8. Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan
9. Harvard University Extension
10. Via Institute on Character
The nonprofit Via Institute on Character was created 15 years ago under the guidance of clinical psychologist Neal Mayerson, Ph.D., and positive psychology founding father Martin Seligman, Ph.D., in order to bring the benefits of “strengths theory” to as wide an audience as possible. Known primarily for its incredibly useful strengths survey, the institute also offers online courses, webinars and personalized coaching on such topics as “Character Strengths at Work,” “Positive Relationships and Character Strengths” and “Creating a Strengths-Based Life.” Courses are taught by Ryan Niemiec, Ph.D., education director at VIA and a licensed psychologist, and Donna Mayerson, Ph.D., lead consultant for applied practice at VIA and a licensed psychologist. For more information, click here.
11. Wholebeing Institute
12. University of Missouri
Emily Wise Miller is the web editor at Livehappy.com.