Looking for movies to use in your classes?

Happy the Movie

Movie Discussion Guide

Does money make you HAPPY? Kids and family? Your work? Do you live in a world that values and promotes happiness and well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution?

Roko Belic, director of the Academy Award® nominated “Genghis Blues” now brings us HAPPY, a film that sets out to answer these questions and more. Taking us from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.

I am

I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? 

Fully Charged

Project Happiness

Film Disucssion Guide

Movie to promote character strengths through discussion: From the book Positive Psychology at the Movies.

Philosophy Guide to happiness playlist

Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness – Epicurus on Happiness

Philosophy – A Guide to Happiness: Seneca on Anger


From Upenn’s website



Christopher Peterson

What makes life worth living (Part 1), 2011 

What makes life worth living (Part 2), 2011 

Martin E.P. Seligman

TED talk: The new era of Positive Psychology, 2004 

Interview on Positive Psychology, 2009 

Google talk: Positive Psychology, well being, and interventions, 2010 

Aspen Ideas Festival: Flourishing and Public Policy, 2011

On BBC: Positive Psychology and PERMA, 2011

Flourishing: a new understanding of well being, 2012

Flourish, 2011

Science of well being conference, 2012

On ABC (Australia): Toward a science of human flourishing, with Dalai Lama, 2012

On well being and happiness, 2013

Positive Psychology and Psychotherapy with Martin Seligman Ph.D. and Randall C Wyatt Ph.D.

Angela Duckworth

TED talk: The key to success? Grit, 2013

Profile of Angela Duckworth, 2013 MacArthur Fellow

AP Annual Conference: True grit, 2013

The psychology of achievement, 2014

Interview: Grit and perserverance in development psychology, 2013

TED talk: True grit: Can perseverance be taught? 2009

Grit, self-control, and achievement, 2012

Karen Reivich

On Positive education and well being, 2012

Tal Ben-Shahar

Happiness 101, 2012

On Positive Psychology, 2012

Barry Schwartz

TED talk: Our loss of wisdom, 2009

TED talk: Using our practical wisdom, 2010

TED talk: The paradox of choice, 2005

TED talk: Why justice isn’t enough, 2012

Google talk: Practical wisdom, 2011

Google talk: Why more is less, 2012

Wharton talk: Practical wisdom, 2012

Doing the right thing for the right reason: Why incentives are no substitute for character, 2012

Love, empathy, wisdom, and justice, 2014

Ed Diener

A recipe for happiness (short version), 2014

A recipe for happiness (long version), 2014

The new science of happiness, 2013

On being an effective teacher, 2012

On happiness and character strengths, 2011

What you need to be happy, 2010

Happiest place on earth, 2010

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Living in flow, the secret of happiness, 2014

TED talk: What makes a good life, 2011

TED talk: Flow, the secret of happiness, 2004

Flow, creativity, and the evolving self, 2010

Flow, 2010

Jonathan Haidt

The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion, 2013

Three stories about capitalism, 2014

Compassion and altruism, 2014

TED talk: How common threats can make common political ground, 2013

TED talk: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives, 2008

TED talk: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence, 2012

Barbara Fredrickson

TED Talk: Remaking love, 2014

Positivity resonates, 2013

Love: a new lens on the science of thriving, 2012

The science of compassion, 2012

The positivity ratio, 2011

Be positive, not productive, 2011

Positive emotions open our mind, 2011

Positive emotions transform us, 2011

A blueprint for character development, 2010

Using positivity to bounce back from inevitable setbacks, 2010

Positive emotions, 2009

Roy Baumeister

Self-control as the greatest human strength, 2014

The science of willpower, 2012

Willpower and self-control in everyday life, 2012

How rejection affects people, 2012

Understanding self-control and the limits of willpower, 2012

Shane Lopez

Hope is a strategy, 2013

Making hope happen, 2013

Making hope happen: Create the future you want for yourself and others, 2013

Robert Emmons

How gratitude heals, energizes, and changes lives, 2014

The science of gratitude, 2013

Graced gratitude and disgraced ingratitude, 2014

Gratitude as the lynchpin between adversity and delight, 2013

Sonja Lyubomirsky

The science of happiness, 2014

The science and practice of happiness across the lifespan, 2014

The myths of happiness (Part 1), 2013

The myths of happiness (Part 2), 2013

The how of happiness on Good Morning America, 2008

How to be happy, 2013

Happiness for a lifetime, 2010

Google talk: The how of happiness, 2008

Carol Dweck

The power of believing that you can improve, 2014

Dacher Keltner

TED talk: Compassion, 2010

What indicates a moral decline in the U.S., 2012

Touch and the spread of goodness, 2010

The evolutionary roots of compassion, 2012

Survival of the kindest, 2013

Laura King

Your life is probably pretty meaningful, 2014

Laurence Steinberg

Adolescence as an age of opportunity, 2014

Lessons from the new science of adolecence, 2014

Are millenials lazy, self-absorbed and needy?, 2014

The new science of adolescence: Understanding risky behavior, 2013

What is bad parenting?, 2012

George Vaillant

TED talk: From emotionally crippled to loving personality, 2014

The importance of relationships to health. resilience, and aging, 2014

Amy Wrzesniewski

Job crafting to create meaning, 2014

Prospective Psychology

Peter Railton on desire, 2014

Chandra Sriipada on the future brain, 2014

Roy Baumeister on free will and the future, 2014

Martin Seligman on creativity and aging, 2014

Other Speakers

Examplars and paragons of positive psychology leaders, 2011

PPC Speaker Series 2011:

Karen Armstrong

Joshua Greene

Julia Annas

Cultivating Positive Emotions in students #1: Gratitude

What is gratitude:

Gratitude opens your heart and carries the urge to give back— to do something good in return, either for the person who helped you or for someone else.

From Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity

Some ideas for Cultivating Gratitude in students:

1) Keep a gratitude journal:

Key here is not to just go throught the motions, as the Greater Good’s Jason Marsh points out:


  • Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
  • Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
  • Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  • Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
  • Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
  • Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”


There is even an iphone app

Or a free one

Building Gratitude, especially sincere gratitdue takes a mindful effort. 

A variation we use a lot in small groups is the three good things/three blessings activity as Described by Martin Seligman:


You can try a guided meditation on Gratitude like this one or this one from UCLA or hit two postive emotions in one Expression of Gratitude & Love Meditation 

Other activites you might try include

Other activities you might try in the classrom include


  • Gratitude Surprise Sticky Notes. Give each student one or more sticky notes to write something they’re grateful for about another person in the school community. Then have the students “deliver” the sticky notes by placing them where the person will see it, e.g., a locker, a phone, a cleaning cart. Source: Greater good
  • Gratitude Quotes. Give students their own gratitude quote (here’s a great list of quotes) and have them reflect upon and write about what their quote means to them. Source: Greater good
  • Try Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono’s gratitude curriculum to deepen students’ understanding of gratitude.
  • Thanksgiving Time Capsule from PBS Parents
  • DIY Thankful Board from U Create
  • Make a collage using pictures of things you are grateful for. Let your child have the camera and take photos of all things they are grateful for.  You may like to print out the pictures and then make a collage, or create a collage online (like inPicMonkey) and then print it for them.  Most kids love the opportunity to use a camera! Source: Momentsaday
  • Play the “What Would You Feel Without It” Game. This game can be done any time during the day, the more silly mood you are in probably the better.  Simply ask the kids what would they feel like without various items.  They will be surprised how different life would be without some of the things they consider “normal” to have.  You may like to begin a discussion about how other people live without such items, if it is age appropriate, to help them remember to appreciate what is sometimes taken for granted in their life. Source: Momentsaday









Cultivating positive emotions in students

Barbara Fredrickson has shown that experiencing positive emotions has profound impact on one’s happiness

Positive emotions are triggered by our interpretations of our current circumstances, whereas pleasure is what we get when we give the body what it needs right now. If you’re thirsty, water tastes really good; if you’re cold, it feels good to wrap your coat around you. Pleasures tell us what the body needs. Positive emotions tell us not just what the body needs but what we need mentally and emotionally and what our future selves might need. They help us broaden our minds and our outlook and build our resources down the road. I call it the “broaden-and-build” effect.

As She explains in her book, Positivity,

“[Positive emotions] broaden people’s ideas about possible actions, opening our awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions than is typical. Joy, for instance, sparks the urge to play and be creative. Interest sparks the urge to explore and learn, whereas serenity sparks the urge to savor our current circumstances and integrate them into a new view of ourselves and the world around us. . . By opening our hearts and minds, positive emotions allow us to discover and build new skills, new ties, new knowledge, and new ways of being.”

She specifically identifies 10 postive emotions we should be cultivating:

She uses various techniques to grow positive emotions from Loving-Kindness Meditiation to watching funny clips to keeping a positivity portfolio

Imagine that you have a folder or a box you can open, peek inside and see all the good things that happened to you recently; be it a picture your child drew for you or a complimentary email your client sent you or a little note you discovered your beloved left in the sugar bowl for you or goofy pictures of your loved ones. Sitting down and enjoying the memories will inevitably make you feel great in no time.

Each day focus on one emotion and find physical manifestations that remind you of that emotion–think pictures, video clips, mementos, cards, poems, your own writings etc. 

Another technique is to track your ratio of positive emotions to negative ones. She provides a tool on her website to help you track your own positivity ratio. 

In the next 10 segements I will identify some strategies for EACH specific postive emotions and how to cultivate in the classroom. In the meantime, listen to Barbara explain it here:

Further Reading:

– Cultivating Positive Emotions to Optimize Health and Well-Being (pdf) by Barbara L. Fredrickson.
– What Good Are Positive Emotions? (pdf) by Barbara L. Fredrickson.

Find the 200 most popular arctiles on positive emotions here

Tool for building hope in schools

Stumbled on this website today, Schools for Hope.

Schools for Hope is a new curriculum project developed by iFred, the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression. It is based on research that suggests hope is a teachable skill. Our aim is to equip students, educators, and parents with the tools they need to find and maintain hope even during the most trying of times. 

The offer up a 10 lesson curriculum for teaching hope in middle school. Looks great.