This page creates a bridge to my WordPress blog, Positive Psychology Reflections, which explores topics such as subjective well-being, savoring, resilience, self-efficacy, character strengths, meaning in and at work, high-quality connections, and positive psychology in coaching.


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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Self-Determination Theory

I admire work by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan on motivation and its relationship to autonomy, relationship, and competence.  I've written the following two short introductions in my blog, and they both point to the Web site where relevant papers are available for anyone who wants to dig deeper:

Motivation and Self-Determination Theory 

Steps Toward Intrinsic Motivation



2:24 pm edt 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Positive Children's Canon

I've started working on an idea in my blog, that there is a positive canon of children's books.  This parallels the idea that Martin Seligman started, that there is a canon of literature -- somewhat akin to Harold Bloom's Western canon -- that embody and illustrate principles of positive psychology, such as character strengths and virtues, mindfulness, altruism, non-zero social relationships, deep engagement, resilience, optimism, high-quality connections, and so on.

I once thought about contributing to Seligman's positive canon -- helping to get it rolling.  But I'm more excited by the idea of collecting a similar list of children's books.  I've collected children's books every since I started reading, and I have a substantial collection now.  I also reread many of them -- when I need to be reminded to be brave or patient or persistent.  

Here's a link to the start of the thread on the Positive Children's Canon.  I'd love to get your nominations of books that had a big positive impact on you when you were growing up. 

1:43 pm edt 

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book Review: The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky
In the spirit of the Oscars, I nominate Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want for best single book about positive psychology to have on the shelf. There are many great books around these days, including books that go into specific topics in more detail. But if you are going to read just one, pick this one. 

Part 1 addresses the questions, “Is it possible to become happier?” and “Why does it matter?” When I was growing up, my mother frequently commented that happiness was lagniappe — that’s a Cajun word that roughly means the 13th in a baker’s dozen. The baker may choose to throw it in, but doesn't have to. So I grew up thinking that the pursuit of happiness was a silly goal.

(I'm going to call the author 'Sonja' here because she was one of my MAPP instructors and because Lyubomirsky is hard for most people to pronounce.)

Sonja explains why taking action to be happier is not a silly goal, though she thinks construction of happiness is a better description than pursuit of happiness.  Happiness is determined by three things:

  1. Genetics account for about 50% the differences in happiness among people.  This is sometimes called the happiness set point.
  2. Life circumstances account for only about 10%.  These include the things we normally pursue in the name of happiness, including wealth, possessions, occupation, living conditions, family relationships, belonging to groups, and status.
  3. Our own behavior and thought patterns account for the remaining 40%.  We can directly address these with intentional action.

Sonja includes a very reasonable argument that it is much more fruitful to address the 40% associated with our own behavior than it is to pursue the 10% associated with life circumstances.

Happiness is not a silly goal for another reason. Sonja explains that happy people tend to be healthier, more effective at work, more energetic, and of greater benefit to the people around them.

Part 2 contains 12 specific activities for raising happiness through intentional behavior:

  • Practicing gratitude and positive thinking - (1) Expressing gratitude, (2) Cultivating optimism, and (3) Avoiding overthinking
  • Investing in Social Connections - (4) Practicing acts of kindness and (5) Nurturing social relationships
  • Managing Stress, Hardship, and Trauma: (6) Developing Strategies for Coping and (7) Learning to forgive
  • Living in the Present: (8) Increasing Flow experiences and (9) Savoring life’s joys
  • (10) Committing to goals
  • Taking care of body and soul: (11) Practicing religion and spirituality, (12) Taking care of body through meditation, physical activity, and acting like a happy person

Some of the 12 activities have multiple variations that make them adaptable to individual circumstances.  You may say “Ho hum” when you see a strategy such as “Celebrate good news,” or “Hug frequently,” but she includes research information that can make you look at these strategies with new eyes.

Not every activity works for every person.  Sonja devotes a chapter to selecting activities that fit your interests, values, and needs, including a Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic to help you select the four activities that you are most likely to do and that will have the most benefit for you.

Part 3 addresses the secrets to abiding happiness. Any one of the 12 activities is good while it lasts, but how do we make it last? She discusses timing and variation, social support, and motivation, as well as the science behind turning happiness-inducing behaviors into habits.

One caution, in her words:   “I should stress, however, that although a program to become happier can positively be attempted by those who are depressed, relief from depression is not what this book promises.”

To conclude, this book contains a very practical program for putting many aspects of positive psychology into daily practice.


Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. New York: Penguin Press.

Associated Web site:

11:25 am est 

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Effective Feedback

In my blog, I have been musing about feedback that we give others, both positive and negative, including the following topics:


3:12 pm est 

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

It's New Year's Day, a time for reflecting on the year just completed and planning for the one just begun.  

My family has a custom that the way you live New Year's Day sets the pattern for the year.  So we started with good fellowship and stories at breakfast -- with a guest who stayed over in order to be off the roads after a party finished long after midnight.  Then the day went by in a flash with making things clean, working puzzles, writing, and an interesting telephone call about writing.  I experienced flow multiple times during the day -- being totally absorbed in what I was doing. I looked out the window and admired leafless trees and birds - finches, woodpeckers, doves, chickadees, junkos and more. 

One of my resolutions is to create a meditation habit.  One of the tricks of building a habit is to practice consistently.  In a minute, I will practice.

On Keeping a New Year's Resolution has more ideas for keeping resolutions.

Happy New Year! 

5:32 pm est 

© Kathryn Britton, Theano Coaching LLC, 2008