Short Course Review: Psychology of Happiness

UCD Adult Education Programme

27th September, 2011 – 15th November, 2011

Reviewed by Dympna Bergin

For the past few years, constantly wringing in my ears from the radio, TV etc. was the doom and gloom as a result of the decline in our economy. It seemed there was no escape. I consider myself an optimist, however, over the last while my inner core was screaming for more positivity and when I came across this course I knew it was for me. As a therapist, I constantly strive for a balance in life, so at the end of the day, when  I have finished my therapeutic work, it is crucial for me to nurture myself, so I seek out new ways of keeping my life stimulated by exploring new ways  to replenish the positive energy within.   So this course called to me.

It was presented by Dr. Nicky O’Leary, psychologist and psychotherapist and over the eight weeks she focussed on the important ingredients for a happy life. In a relaxed, open environment we looked at, among other things,  the importance of knowing our  Personal Strength and using it in our everyday life, the importance of Gratitude ie. being grateful for what we have, the importance of Caring for our Body and Soul and the importance of Emotional Well-Being. Dr. O’ Leary focussed on the work of Dr. Martin Seligman. He is the Director of the Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of Positive Psychology. According to Dr. Leary, Maslow, Rollo May and Carl Rogers are seen as the Grandparents of Positive Psychology.

Each morning I attended the course I found myself totally absorbed in the discussion, questions, conflicting opinions and words of wisdom. No one had all the answers. That’s what I loved. Dr. Leary spoke of a core component of Happiness being Strength. She discussed this and said that if we are using our strengths and passion on a daily that we are onto a winner! This would contribute to our happiness. We were encouraged to take this thought home and put it into practice. When I shared this with my daughter, she suggested, with tongue in cheek,  that I make a chocolate cake, as my strength was baking and that would make her happy and that consequently would make me happy. She had no problem understanding this concept!

As a therapist the areas on the course which I was most interested in were Caring for our Body and Soul and Emotional Well-being. While focussing on caring for our body and soul we discussed the importance of religion and spirituality in people lives, the importance of physical exercise and good diet.  Not all of this was new to me , however, it was refreshing to listen to other people’s views on the issues and to help me refocus on how I as a therapist, care for my own body and soul.

With regard to the section on Emotional well-being I found myself totally absorbed in this.  Dr. Leary highlighted the fact that history showed an emphasis on negative emotions however, since the end of the last century, there has been a shift to positive emotions. She spoke of positive emotions signalling well-being but more importantly they also produce well-being.

At this point I feel it is important to point out that I while I am profoundly interested in positive psychology and positive emotions, I do not , for a minute, believe that we as humans can just turn on a switch and be happy. We are far more complex beings. However, with effort and determination, I believe, we each have the power within us to change our attitudes, change how we look at things. As Aristotle  once said ‘Happiness depends on yourself’. So regardless of what I hear on TV or radio, it is on myself that I depend to bring happiness to my life.

Thank you Dr. O’Leary for a truly enlightening course.