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Happiness–The Most Popular Course at Harvard By R.D. Coope

When asked, “What do you want from life?” the answer given most often is, “To be happy”. In our eternal quest for that sometimes elusive state of being, we might try any number of things to boost our present happiness quotient. Perhaps playing ball, racing motorcycles, buying new clothes, or eating chocolate cake “makes you happy”.  When “the quest” remains eternal, because the desired result hasn’t been achieved, we need to redefine what we’re searching for and how to acquire it. In recent years a Harvard professor, Tal Ben-Shahar showed students that there is a science to acquiring happiness.

Positive Psychology became the most popular undergrad course at Harvard, with the interest expressing increased student desire to gain more meaning and fulfillment from their lives. Ben-Shahar says the quest for happiness is an age-old innate yearning addressed by Confucius and Aristotle, but for the first time, it’s presented now as a science. His course combined popular psychology with rigorous academic study that could prompt comparison to AA’s 12-Step recovery program. Lesson topics included Self-Esteem, Relationships, Setting Goals, and Can We Change. Even though students found the course-load requirements to be much heavier than anticipated, popularity continued to soar.

If you or someone you know is trapped in what seems to be a never-ending spiral of spiking happiness highs, deflated by emotional lows, please consider this content. If it offers a logical path that seems appropriate, this could be an impetus that initiates an action plan assisted by professionals to “minimize the lows”. Because we’re talking about “highs AND lows” it seems appropriate to me, to work on both. See if you agree with the logic, (regarding emotion) as a balanced approach to arrive at a harmonic wellness level.

Back to school: The Harvard course had its doubters, but that’s to be expected. That’s why I say why not please both sides? James Coyne, psychologist and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine thinks Harvard’s class offers little more to improve happiness than listening to a motivational speaker. He believes the euphoria is short-lived, and that the subjects will return to their “normal”. That view would be consistent with what traditional psychology has concerned itself . Working with a patient’s delusions, obsessions, neurosis, anxiety, depression and such, has been the psychotherapists role in curing what ails the mind. Tradition has worked on the “negative” problem side of the equation, not the “positive”. Often drugs are prescribed which help the patient deal with their symptoms, while the therapist continues to hopefully find a cure for the problem. Use the references to those two outstanding schools only to bring home the idea of addressing both “problems” and “passions” in treatment.

Hypnotherapy is successfully being used to find a fast drug-free method of uncovering the root cause of problems that sabotage individual happiness. I know psychotherapists who have moved to primarily a hypnotherapy mode in helping guide their subjects to behavioral change. Applauding the efforts that address “what are the enabling conditions that promote meaningful happiness?”, I suggest you find a therapist who can delve into the subconscious to help patients uncover repressed high-impact negative moments that unconsciously still adversely affect current behavior. If that therapist can also help the subject identify and deploy their strengths with a plan and actions, then enduring happiness has a much greater opportunity to prevail.

Learn more about hypnosis, hypnotherapy, and happiness at

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