Can You Learn to Be Happy?

11 10 2007

Press Release
Updated: 8/22/2007

In HAPPIER: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment (June, 2007), Tal Ben-Shahar teaches that as elusive as it may appear, as varied as the definition may be from one person to the next, happiness can be learned and earned.

Tal Ben-Shahar teaches the most highly attend course at Harvard University – Positive Psychology. More students have signed up to hear him than any other teacher in Harvard’s history. His lectures have begun a groundswell of “happiness classes” taught in academic centers (as recently covered in The New York Times Magazine). To date, over 100 classes have cropped up around the country, with similar courses cropping up in Europe and Asia.

Unlike Stumbling on Happiness, which claims that humans are not adequately evolved enough to reach and maintain a contented state, or Authentic Happiness, which concerns itself with changing behaviors, Ben-Shahar distills scientific studies and scholarly research to illustrate that happiness can be reached. He challenges his students to meditate and reflect on who they are, their immediate and long-term goals, and how best to construct their lives toward those goals.

Ben-Shahar explores the Six Meditations:

· The relationship between happiness, self-interest, and benevolence;
· Happiness Boosters – brief activities that are meaningful and pleasurable
· A challenge to the idea that happiness is predetermined and cannot be changed
· Overcoming the psychological barriers that we impose on ourselves
· A thought experiment that answers your most important question
· How simplifying your life may free you up to find happiness

In Happier, Ben-Shahar will ask the reader:

· To think on those instances which brought you extreme gratification
· The moments that brought you the greatest sense of sadness, disappointment, or doubt
· To plan – and follow through – on jettisoning unneeded pressures
· To think of themselves as 110 years old – what would they go back and say to younger versions of themselves about how to live?

For Ben-Shahar, happiness derives from setting and working toward goals that feed into your big picture – your immediate activities should benefit you now AND in the future. These can be as small going on a daily walk, or as large as starting a family. The key is that even the smallest accomplishment must tie back to that big picture, like a brook that feeds into a river.

As you begin to reach these goals, you’ll start to notice the synergistic relationship between pleasure and meaning, between present and future benefit. When we derive a sense of purpose from what we do, our pleasure is intensified — and taking pleasure makes the experience more meaningful.

The more our days are filled with these experiences, the happier we become. “This is all there is to it.”

Tal Ben-Shahar graduated from Harvard with a degree in philosophy and psychology. For the last ten years, he has been teaching personal and organizational excellence, leadership, ethics, and self-esteem. He’s been featured on CNN, NPR, Today Show, US News & World Report, New York Times, Boston Globe, and many other national media outlets.

Read more at his website,





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