Teaching the good life

Teaching the good life

Positive psychology: a quick introduction

“Most healthy, happy, functioning people probably incorporate the fundamentals of positive psychology in their lives,” according to Aviva Goldstein of the Maytiv Center for Research and Practice in Positive Psychology.

So it’s not surprising that some of the research findings – such as the quantity and quality of your relationships with others correlates with your well-being – sound like common sense. Researchers in the field, however, have found that small changes in attitudes or actions can have a large positive effect.

Cultivating a habit of gratitude is one such change.

Another such change is learning to see your own qualities as strengths that can be cultivated, rather than as talents that are innate.

“You can cultivate kindness. You can cultivate curiosity,” said Dr. Ilana Kustanowitz, school psychologist at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford.

If you’re curious about positive psychology, Kustanowiz and Goldstein have some recommendations to start your learning:


“Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment” by Martin Seligman

“Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being” by Martin Seligman

“Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment” by Tal Ben-Shahar


Martin Seligman gives a brief overview of the field in a lecture, “The New Era of Positive Psychology,” available at ted.com.

Three videos of relevant lectures by Yeshiva University educators are available on the ELItalks.org web site:

“Jewish Perspectives on Happiness” by Dr. David Pelcovitz

“Social Intelligence: Foundation for Jewish Living” by Dr. Rona Novick

“Failure to Launch: The Upside of Falling Down” by Rabbi Josh Joseph


AuthenticHappiness.org provides an introduction to the field, as well as surveys through which visitors can learn more about themselves while providing data for Seligman’s future research.

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