Training in positive psychology coming to Shanghai

Want training in positive psychology training? I will be doing some training in Shanghai in January 2016. 

Date: Jan 16-17
School: Shanghai American School

Title: Flourishing in Schools: Utilizing groundbreaking research and tools from positive psychology to improve student’s wellbeing.
Consultant: Shaun McElroy
Coordinator: Janet Claassen,
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PERMA Reading List: Positive Emotions

Barbara Fredrickson identified 10 positive emotions that Broaden and Build our capacities. 



Joy. Joy emerges when one’s current circumstances present unexpected good fortune. People feel joy, for instance, when receiving good news or a pleasant surprise. Joy creates the urge to play and get involved, or what Frijda (1986)termed free activation, defined as an “aimless, unasked-for readiness to engage in whatever interaction presents itself” (p. 89). The durable resources created through play are the skills acquired through the experiential learning it prompts.

 Choose Joy


89,000 people can’t be wrong

Just hours from now, Apple will unleash its own form of happiness in the form of a shiny new ithing. More importantly, UC Berkeley launches a Massive Online Course. join 89,000 of your new best buddies for this Mooc on the Science of Happiness. 


The course will include:

  • Short videos featuring the co-instructors and guest lectures from top experts on the science of happiness;
  • Articles and other readings that make the science accessible and understandable to non-academics;
  • Weekly “happiness practices”—real-world exercises that students can try on their own, all based on research linking these practices to greater happiness;
  • Tests, quizzes, polls, and a weekly “emotion check-in” that help students gauge their happiness and track their progress over time;
  • Discussion boards where students can share ideas with one another and submit questions to their instructors.

The Science of Happiness

Starts September 9, 2014 – Register Now!

An unprecedented free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life. Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE credit hours available.

Register now!


It is fitting this course starts the day before World Suicide Prevention Day. 

Finding and building flow

What’s your flow profile?

Don’t know the answer? Well there is a personality test to help you capture it. What is flow?

Csikszentmihalyi is credited with defining the experience as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

How often do people experience flow?

“If you ask a sample of typical Americans, “Do you ever get involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter and you lose track of time?” roughly one in five will say that this happens to them as much as several times a day, whereas about 15 percent will say that this never happens to them. These frequencies seem to he quite stable and universal. For instance, in a recent survey of 6,469 Germans, the same question was answered in the following way: Often, 23 percent; Sometimes, 40 percent; Rarely, 25 percent; Never or Don’t Know, 12 percent.” (Source: Psychology Today)

Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing an experience of flow. 

  1.     intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2.     merging of action and awareness
  3.     a loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4.     a sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5.     a distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
  6.     experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience
Csíkszentmihályi follows build’s on Maslow’s notion of Peak Experience: “Peak experiences are transient moments of self-actualization.”

Jamie Wheal has spent much of his adult likfe researching flow:

He explains his ideas in this compelling TED talk: Hacking the GENOME of Flow: 

His colleague goes deeper in the Rise of Superman

Getting strengths training

Now that you have taken the VIA and have a sense of the power using it can havve on students and clients, consider taking some training:

VIA Character Institute offers online webinar-based training. Not to be missed are their free Pioneer speaker series

Coursera offers a free four week course entitled Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms led by David Levine, founder of KIPP schools and leading proponent of Strengths based education. His course includes interviews with some big names from positive pscyhology. 

Gallup offers a variety of training options for their strengthsquest program

I teach a course for the Couneling training center (CTC) called Counseling Accross Cultures which embeds positive psychology into practice. 

The Triple A route to happiness

Happy “Happy day” everyone. 
Yes, the UN has designated today, March 20th, as the International Day of Happiness!
What makes you happy? Vote now.
Friend’s in Shanghai Morphed Pharrell’s Happy video to get you in the mood:
Want more? offers up some great suggestions including 10 keys to Happiness
ALl good, but it missing a key aspect, so I got thinking but the core of happiness: Authenticity, Accepting and Appreciating
Living true to yourself is the heart of being yourself. Many people love ee cummings take on self: “

“To be nobody but 
yourself in a world 
which is doing its best day and night to make you like 
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle 
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

But they miss where the whole passage comes from: He was responding to you young person asking for advice on becoming a poet:

A real human is somebody who feels and who expresses his or her feelings. This may sound easy. It isn’t. 

A lot of people think or believe or know what they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing: not feeling. And being real is feeling—not just knowing or believing or thinking. 

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but it’s very difficult to learn to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody – but – yourself. 

To be nobody – but -yourself– in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else–means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. 

As for communicating nobody-but-yourself to others, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t real can possibly imagine. Why? 

Because nothing is quite as easy as just being just like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time–and whenever we do it, we are not real. 

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve loved just once with a nobody-but-yourself heart, you”ll be very lucky indeed. 

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become real is: do something easy, like dreaming of freedom–unless you’re ready to commit yourself to feel and work and fight till you die. 

But where to begin? Who is this you? Start with your strengths. There are mutiple of instruments to help you idnetify them. Two are free right now:
The Buddhist have a very strong notion of accepting things as they are. Tara Brach explains this in some detail in her talk:
Our capacity to accept this life is key to our freedom, yet there are many misconceptions about acceptance: People wonder, if acceptance makes us a doormat in relationships? Isn’t acceptance akin to resignation? Doesn’t it make us passive when what is needed is action? This talk explores some of the misunderstandings about acceptance and offers teachings on the nature of genuine and liberating acceptance.

Actor Thandie Newton covers one aspect of acceptance by telling the story of finding her “otherness” — first, as a child growing up in two distinct cultures, and then as an actor playing with many different selves.

Vunerability Researcher Brené Brown, whose earlier talk on vulnerability became a viral hit, explores what can happen when people confront their shame head-on.

Writer Andrew Solomon shares what he learned from talking to dozens of parents — asking them: What’s the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance?


There has been a growing body of work focusing on mindfulness and gratitude. Like the great philospher sang: Slow down, you move too fast. 

Character Day coming March 20th

Get involved: Let it Ripple Productions invite syou to join 750 like minded groups in premiering their 8 minute science of character. In addition to free customized versions of the film, Let it Ripple and partners like Common Sense Media will offer a list of films,games, and apps to strength particular character strengths, a free curriculum, a character strengths survey, and resource guide.

This film was inspired by the work of: Martin Seligman, Christopher Peterson, Carol Dweck, Angela Duckworth, David Levin, Paul Tough, Dominic Randolph, Neal Mayerson, Adele Diamond, Clifford Nass, The Bezos Family Foundation, The Character Lab, The VIA Institute on Character, and many more. – See more at:

Calvin and Hobbes inspire Happiness

Calvin and Hobbes launched in my senior year in high school. Never acused of being too cool for school, I adored the little man’s antics and philosophical queeries to his tiger. Bill celebrated the Child’s immagination before society has beaten it out of him, Character Building dad’s, brave mothers, teachers and babysitters who will have their revenge, slimy girls and deep friendships with tigers. He tooks us back to our day dreams and reminded us to invent our own rules because with out it how can you play Calvin Ball? Bill gave the commencement speech at Kenyon College back in 1995. Poignant. Inspired. A few months latter he retired Calvin and his world: “I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes at the end of the year. This was not a recent or an easy decision, and I leave with some sadness. My interests have shifted, however, and I believe I’ve done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises.”
Now, Cartoonist Gavin Aung Than, of Zen Pencils, hasn taken the key elements of that speech and set them to a Bill Waterson stylized comic strip complete with Dinosaurs, red wagons and otherwroldly landscapes (although lacking any tiger).  This panel is a celebration that living life authentically, being true to your own values, is the path to happiness. From Gavin’s profile of Bill, we learn that Watterson is not just creative, but persistent and full of intergirty. His comic strips reveal his humor, curiosity and wisdom

Happy hacks by Professor Zaks

Ok, could not resist. Happiness research continues to higher plains of understanding as research specifically looks at exact neurochemicals that contribute to happiness. Dr. Zak has studied Oxcytocin for over a decade in his neuro-economics lab as he sought to understand morales. From his research he made some profound discoveries:

I found that individuals who release the most oxytocin — I call them “oxytocin-adepts” — were more satisfied with their lives compared to those who release less oxytocin. Why? They had better relationships of all types: Romantic, friendships, family, and they even shared more money with strangers in laboratory experiments. The moral molecule morphed in the happy molecule. Happiness largely comes from other people for social creatures like us.

Note: The ring on the right side is actually seretonin

Oxytocin looks like this: 

Now what hacks did he actually discover?

  • Hug. Touch is powerful, be it with a person or animal. 
  • Recognize and express your observations of other’s emotional states. 
  • Tell people you love them. 

These three actions stimulate release of oxytocin. Why does that matter? Oxytocin helps us connect with others, heal, increase generosity, romance, trust…among its primary function. 

Dr. Zac explains in his most excellent Ted Talke:


One of the best sets of videos on Happiness EVER!

Check out this extraordinary set of videos from Think and Be Happy. It includes a couple of hundred videos featuring top psychologists, educators and buddhists monks. 

Enjoy some past Happiness & Its Causes presentations –  a fabulous mix of leaders in psychology, science, education, business, spirituality, the arts and more! Visit our Think & Be Happy YouTube channel here for more footage.