An article in the August issue of Discover Magazine discusses whether we can train ourselves to be happy. Classes are now taught on obtaining happiness, and utilize such exercises as writing and reciting a "gratitude" letter to a friend and jotting down three happy events of each day every night for a week. Instead of trying to figure out why you are sad, the emphasis is on training the mind to focus on the past as being very positive.
credit: Discover Magazine
The article focuses on an interview with Martin Seligman, who coined the term positive psychology in 1998 when he was president of the American Psychological Association. The association's official journal devoted its entire January 2000 issue to the subject. Some 350 psychologists from 23 countries attended the seventh annual Positive Psychology International Summit last October; as evidence of the movement's mainstream credentials, the next one, this fall, is cosponsored by Toyota. You can now subscribe to the Journal of Happiness Studies and buy one of Seligman's best-selling books, like Authentic Happiness or Learned Optimism.
...Happiness is a surprisingly contentious subject, and at least some psychologists argue that "think positive" exhortations should be left to pop purveyors like Norman Vincent Peale and Tony Robbins. "We live in a culture that already expects you to be happy all the time. I call it the tyranny of the positive attitude," grouses Barbara Held, professor of psychology at Bowdoin College and the author of Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching. In Held's view, having the positive psychology movement throw its weight behind that cultural bias serves up a double whammy: People who feel bad must now shoulder the added weight of feeling defective for feeling bad. "People say we are trying to tell people what kind of lives to lead," Seligman responds. "But I'm old-fashioned about science. I think science needs to be descriptive. I am just trying to describe." He wants to leave the choice of whether to follow to others.
You might enjoy having a look at the the Positive Psychology Center and Authentic Happiness wesites.