Using Positive Psychology to Find More Happiness Everyday

Presented by Anton Shcherbakov, Psy.D, BCBA ##

Historically, the science of clinical psychology has focused on the treatment of mental illness. However, in the 1990s, psychologists began to study more deeply what actually makes us happy. They found that happiness is not the absence of depression or anxiety, but the cultivation of experiences that make life worth living. In this webinar, you will learn about the basic principles of positive psychology, foundational research in the field, and simple strategies you can apply to your everyday life to enhance feelings of well-being.

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Doctor Anton Shcherbakov,is a licensed psychologist at the Center for Emotional Health. Greater Philadelphia, a private outpatient facility specializing in the evidence based treatment of anxiety disorders, body focused, repetitive behaviors and obsessive compulsive and related disorders. He is also a board certified behavior analyst and director of things like an agency focused on improving educational outcomes for students with autism spectrum disorder, by creating research backed products for special education.


Doctor Shcherbakov, has previously presented in local and national conferences on topics that include reducing maladaptive behaviors in autism spectrum disorder, treating body focused repetitive behaviors, and evaluating provider attitudes towards evidence based treatment. He received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University in 20 16.


Doctor Shcherbakov’s dissertation explores the role of stigma towards adults with autism spectrum disorder in the workplace.


It’s my pleasure to bring to you tonight, doctor Anton Shcherbakov, to talk about, Using Positive Psychology to Find More Happiness every day.


Alright, Well, thank you, Barbara, for the introduction, and I appreciate it. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in today, for spending some part of your evening with me.


I’m really excited to be talking about positive psychology.


How can you can apply some of the findings, excuse me, product like that. You can apply some of the findings from this research to your everyday life. I think there’s so much in this field of research that’s really applicable to all of us.


And now, there’s something that I hear a lot about in my clinical practice, in terms of folks, you know, asking me, how can I, you know, how can I be more happy? How can I help my kids to leave to live, happy, meaningful lives? And so, hopefully, I’m able to share some of that with you all today.


So, let me begin by just going through a brief outline of what I’m going to cover.


So, first, I’m going to talk about what positive psychology is, and how it’s distinguished from the field of psychology more broadly.


We’ll talk about a very brief history of how it actually came to be.


We’ll talk about what, what happiness is and why it actually might be important.


We’ll also talk about what doesn’t make us happy, and notably money, which might come as a surprise to some, but probably not all of you.


We’ll talk about the fields movement from happiness as a real focus to well-being.


That’s the main focus of hazop psychology.


Then, we will talk about some simple ways to increase well-being That actually our research base, the sites have shown us. You know, some of these really simple, easy to integrate exercises can really improve our well-being and measurable ways.


I’ll share some resources so that you can follow up on this webinar and learn more about positive psychology.


And lastly, we’ll wrap up with a gratitude practice. And what you’ll need for that practice is just a piece of paper, pen on paper, and pencil. Or you can even write on your phone. It doesn’t really matter. I save that actually towards the end, just because I know some folks, because whatever situation, they’re watching the webinar, and they might not actually be able to sit down and do that. Some of you are probably cooking dinner and watching this, or, you know, doing something with your family. So, I totally understand that.


So that’s why I can save it towards the end.


All right. So, without further ado, let’s talk about what positive psychology is. I really like this definition from one of the founders of the field.


It’s a little bit wordy, but I think it really captures the essence of positive psychology.


That is, positive psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning that aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive.


And I bolded that last part, because that’s really such an important part of positive psychology as it, as it exists today, It’s really this focus on Friday, right? Not just surviving not just living not just being, you know, free of mental illness or maladies, but really about thriving and growing and expanding.


And while this seems like a pretty obvious direction, perhaps, for psychology, to be, you know, going in first psychology, to be researching, this was actually something that was pretty novel to the field of psychology more broadly, because for much of specific bill, I’ll say, for clinical psychology, for much of clinical psychologists history, the focus has been on disease, or disorders, such as anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, Tourette’s Disorder and things like that, right? And there was this implicit idea that if we can just treat disease, if we can just treat disorder, help people to attain a higher level of functioning, and reduce their symptoms, then, you know, their well-being is going to increase.


But, really, the thinking has shifted in recent years.


That, that’s actually not enough. That well-being is not simply the absence of disorder, but it actually is something that it’s a lot more holistic and a little bit more complex than that.


And, you know, interestingly, up until the late nineties, very little attention had actually been paid in the research in terms of what made people happy, or what helped them to live, what they described as fulfilling lives.


And so, Martin Seligman, who sort of interesting, actually, is a very prominent depression researcher. He proposed the theory of learned helplessness to explain.


So, like, a behavioral model of depression that is seen, as, you know, one of the most prominent ones in the field.


And, you know, in doing that research, really focusing on depression in animal studies, he ended up becoming the President of the American Psychological Association.


And, then, starting his term, he said, You know, we really need to shift our attention for not just focusing on things like depression, And disorders are really thinking about, like, what does it mean to live? You know, quote, unquote, the good life?


What does that actually mean?


Let us study that. Let’s bring empirical attention to it.


And that’s really what he did.


And so, since that time, a lot of research has actually been done in this field, and it’s really only the past 20 years or so, So, it’s kind of amazing how some of this work is.


So, you know, I think the first question we really need to address is, first, what is happiness? As psychologists, as researchers, we have to define our terms so that, you know, we’re on the same page about what that is. And then we’ll talk a little bit about why it actually might be important.


Because I bet there’s some of you in the audience that might actually disagree with that, but maybe happiness isn’t the most important thing. And, actually, I agree with you, and I’ll explain why a little bit. But first, we define happiness as the frequent experience of positive emotions, such as joy, interests, pride, right, and rather infrequent experiences of negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, and anger.


And so, this is a really important point to kinda touch on for a moment that, you know, when we talk about happiness, when, you know, someone describe themselves as generally being happy, but not necessarily saying that they don’t experience negative emotions, and in fact, the total absence of negative emotions is oftentimes associated with psychopathology with various disorders. You know, when there is a significant suppression or repression of negative emotions, that’s usually not very healthy.


And so, I bring this up, because this has been a frequent criticism of this field.


And some of the work that’s been done here, because, I think, the misunderstanding is that, know, the researchers in this field are saying, well, look, you know, we all just needs to be happy.


Happiness is really important, You know, La La-la, everything’s fine, There’s nothing bad in the world, but that’s really not it, right? It’s about that balance, right? And some research has suggested.


although there’s been some contradictory points there that hmm, basically, there has to be a much higher frequency positive emotions to negative emotions in order for us to flourish, right for us to grow, to generally feel content with our lives. And there was some empirical research, like, pick the specific number, actual number, exactly what it was, like 3.8, or for your positive emotions, for every negative emotion. But the research has since been pretty heavily criticized the mapping on that mathematically accurate.


But the general principle is actually right, that there should be quite a bit more positive emotion compared to negative emotion.


So hopefully that, that point is clear that the goal here is not for everyone to just be, you know, walking bag of sunshine all the time, but to have a heavier emphasis on that side, as opposed to the negative emotions.


All right. And so what happens when people do experience that higher balance of positive emotions?


Well, some of the outcomes and the literature are absolutely, you know, amazing when we actually look at these correlations and also some causal causal relationships between happiness and life outcomes.


The first is folks who report greater happiness, report better mental health.


That’s probably not surprising, but also better physical health outcomes, right? And so, you know, some people, when hearing this research asked, well, isn’t the chicken or the egg, right? Like, are people happy because they have good physical health?


Or do they have good physical health, Because they are happy.


And actually, it’s a little bit of both, is what the research tells us, which was really interesting.


All right, so folks who are, you know, who have a, let’s say, 18 years old report, experiencing greater positive emotions, then at time point, B, you know, 5, 10, 15 years later, actually also report better physical health.


That happiness seems to have some sort of a protective effect, because it seems to encourage people to engage in more health promoting behaviors, like eating healthy, going to the gym, and things like that.


Of course, on the flip side, right, if your health is good, you’re also more likely to be happy, but that’s actually not a requirement for happiness, right? I think the one prominent example of Stephen Hawkins, who was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s syndrome, and I think he was 21 or something like that.


Um, interestingly, when you listen to interviews with him, he talked about being actually pretty happy and pretty grateful for being alive. Because you sold, he wasn’t going to have a very long life.


And so, you know, while physical health is an owl, oftentimes, you know, associated with an outcome and being happy, it is not a requirement for being. Well, it certainly helps.


The last point I’d like to make here, is that folks are happy, also transaction live longer. They tend to have not only less illness in their lives, but also tend to have a longer life span as well.


Secondly, and kind of related to this first point, folks who are poor, greater levels of happiness, also greater resilience to stressful events, right. If you are generally happy and something bad happens to you like a global pandemic, for example, you’re going to have greater resilience to that stressful event, as opposed to folks who are not experiencing that greater balance of happiness.


And I think that makes pretty intuitive sense.


Folks who are happy also tend to report more and better quality relationships, right?


And there’s a bidirectional relationship here as well, and that, you know, when you are happy, you tend to, you know, seek out relationships and foster those relationships.


And on the flip side, having those relationships also enhances your feelings of happens. Right? So, kinda goes both ways. And, lastly, this, too, I think, is an interesting point. There is this criticism of the field that this focus on, individual happiness can lead to folks being really selfish, right? And being really focused on themselves.


And, you know, what’s going to make me happy, right? But the research actually doesn’t bear that out.


Folks who report high levels of happiness actually seem to also experienced greater job success. Greater job satisfaction, right, So they seem to be engaged in their workplaces, Whatever those are, they also seem to be more involved in their community. They tend to donate to charity. They tend to be more involved in their religious organizations, you know, school boards, things like that.


So, know, hopefully, as a, kind of going through all these reasons as to why happiness might be important, you really start to see it in the way that I do.


Which is that, a lot of ways, happiness is like a public health issue, in that if we can improve, you know, our countries, our worlds, levels of happiness, we can have so many cascading downstream effects from that, right?


Almost in the sort of like a virtuous cycle where the happier people get, you know, the more positive things start happening around them in their communities as well.


So, that’s, you know, a lot of, a lot of really big things that are associated with, with happiness, right?


And so, an important kind of side note here, you know, I’m assuming most folks here are tuning in from the United States, and so, I think you’re all part of the, we’re all part of the same culture, right? one that really tends to value material goods and money as markers of success and there’s some sort of a pathway to happiness.


I think most of us believe intuitively that having more money will make us happier and yet in to intellectually, I think, on some level, also question that idea.


No, it doesn’t seem that money does always make folks happier because we can think of plenty of counter examples of very wealthy folks, celebrities and things like that who don’t seem all that happy despite their, you know, unbelievable fortunes.


So, researchers in the field of positive psychology had actually looked at this, through studies to see, you know, Does money make us happier? When it does that, is there a limit to how happy it makes us and stuff like that?


And so as you see on my slide here, I have a little asterisks next to, you, know, more money, not making us happy, and that is true, with a caveat.


And the caveat is that money does make us happier up to a certain point.


So what this graph is showing us, at the bottom here, what’s called the X axis, incumbents increase in grad from around 10000, 260,000. And then the percentage of people that agree with a variety of statements is reflected on this Y axis over here.


So don’t worry if you’re not to brush up on your graph interpretation. Celebrate it down.


But, basically, what this graph is showing us is that, you know, when folks are very low income range, right, their happiness is notably different than folks who are actual.


Look at this line over here, is notably different from folks who are in a higher income range, right? And that makes them to the sense that, you know, when you don’t have enough money to survive, to make ends meet, to pay your bills, to put food on the table, you’re obviously not going to be. all that have been.


You’re going to be reporting a great deal of stress, surprisingly, even people at a relatively low income range in the poverty, below the poverty line.


Still saying that, now about 70% of them are happy much of the time.


Right? That’s what the positive effect line is showing us. But that happiness does increase, up until about this point, which is around 75, $80,000, where you can see the slide really goes flat.


What that line is showing us is that as people’s income doubles from $80,000 a year to $160,000 a year, and actually, well beyond, they are not reporting significantly higher levels of happiness. And they’re not reporting significantly lower levels of stress, either. Right?


So the number of people reporting, being relatively stress, free, increases up until about 75, 80,000, and then evens out, right?


And so what is this telling us? Well, you know, having a certain level of money to feel comfortable, to feel secure, that, you know, we’re not in danger of missing our rent payments, or, you know, having a financial crisis is important in order for us to feel secure and happy.


But those effects really start to diminish as you get beyond a certain threshold.


I will just say this as, another caveat, which is that, you know, these are national results for the United States from 2010 study over here.


Obviously, what qualifies as, enough income changes somewhat. You know, where you are in the United States.


And, you know, the studies that have broken out a little bit more by geographic region, when looking at like, the north-east, the number of where, you know, more money doesn’t make you unhappy. There’s a little bit higher in the north-east somewhere between 100 to $120,000 a year. But still, you know, there is always a point of diminishing returns and that’s really the main takeaway.


The last thing that I will say on this slide is this purple line, which you may notice continues to increase with income, and that’s the way that people in our daily rate, their life and how successful they give them.


So, that does continue to increase with, with income. That kinda makes sense, Given the culture that we’re in, right? We’re so often, how successful we feel is tied to our salary, to our income, right?


So, hopefully, all of that is clear, and just kinda remembering the main takeaway, that, you know, money.


Again, I think somewhat intuitively does not increase happiness beyond a certain point.


So, we’ve been talking a lot about happiness, and I sort of had suggested earlier that no, happiness is just one part of the picture.


And that’s really where the field of positive psychology has gone, as well, that, in recognizing how poor and happiness is, you know, these researchers also realize that it’s only a part of the picture.




Feeling positive emotions is important, but it’s only one small part of what actually leads to, you know, a whole, a whole view of, well, being, of what, you know, truly is the good life.


So Martin Seligman proposed this model, which I’ll walk through. The model is called perma, and all the letters stand for different facets of well-being.


So let’s talk through those 1 by 1, a little bit of detail, and then I’ll jump into them in more detail individually. So P stands for positive Emotion, which is happiness, right?


Where do you talk a little bit about that?


Engagement, also, another word use in this field, in this field that I’ll talk about is Flow or being absorbed and something having activity. that really sucks.


You in and, you know, makes you feel like you’re, you know, kind of timeless. And we’ll talk about what that means.


Relationships, right? Having relationships, having quality, meaningful relationships, is such an important part of what it means to be, well, to have well-being.


And have a good life. Will talk about me, then, right, and you know, the purpose that people derive from their lives. That some born.


And lastly, achievement, as well, which is one of the components of this model that’s probably achieved, or received some of the most criticism, and we’ll talk about why, but let’s dive into that a little bit, one at a time here.


So positive emotions, I don’t know about you all. But I loved kittens, That’s one of the things that gives me a great deal of positive emotions. I have two cats. And you know the rollover on their backs like that. You could you know, rub their tummy. It’s just one of the most delightful things on the planet, right?


And so, you know, part of cultivating a life that is, you know, the good life, is making an active effort to seek activities that promote positive emotions.


And surprisingly, for many of us, this doesn’t come and suitably.


Mean, it’s so intuitive in some ways that, you know, there’s this whole sort of a movement around this idea of self care, but this is something that we as humans should actually prioritize right, To take the time out to actually care and nourish ourselves. I don’t know if anyone watches parks and rec. But I love the, you know, there’s two characters on the show. one other, like slogan, says, like, Treat Yourself. And that really, … is what self care and promoting positive emotions, It’s all about.


Right, and it can be any number of things.


As simple as, you know, taking a bubble bath, listening to music, dancing, playing with a pet, eating a special meal, talking to a friend, watching a funny movie, buying something that makes you happy.


People talk about retail therapy, which as a psychologist, I have, I partially endorse, you know, be careful with, that it gets expensive. So, you know, this is an important part of living. A good life is taking the time out to do things that are simply pleasurable.


But of course, I think all of us can realize what the downfall of the original just exclusive focus on happiness is.


So if you just took this list, expanded it to maybe 100 things that make you feel good, and made that your life, no, I don’t know that that would by itself, be the good life, Right? In fact, there’ll be a pretty shallow in some ways, actually kind of sad. what all you did was just things that made you feel good and you didn’t do something we’ll talk about.


And so this is just a broader idea of well-being, justice.


So let’s move on to engagement.


Which goes by another name called Flow. This term flow was coined by a psychologist, and it’s a very difficult to pronounce name. I’m going to do my best that, it. It’s the high ….


Don’t ask me how to spell that. There’s even more consonants, and there are mining.


But basically, this psychologist did a bunch of research in the, it started in the late eighties, I think, early nineties, even before the positive psychology movement started. And what he was really interested in is this human experience that’s common to all of us, where we get so involved in an activity that we enjoy like very intensely. And we almost feel like we’re losing track of time.


People often talk about these sort of activities as being their passion, as something that they can do sort of endlessly. There’s just kind of in a timeless kind of quality to them, right. And, they can be activities like playing an instrument. They could be, you know, for a computer programmer writing code.


They could be, know, dancing or ice skating. It could be a physical activity, could be a mental activity for some folks that’s like solving math problems or doing crossword puzzles and stuff like that.


And so, this, you know, research suggests that this sort of experiences are really important part of well-being.


That, we need to have at least some portion of our day, ideally much, for many portions of our day.


Where we get pulled into this sense of timelessness, where we are in, what psychologists call the flow channel, right, this area over here, and I’ll explain what this means. So on the left-hand side, over here, on the Y axis, we have challenge.


The bottom X axis, over here, we have skills, right? And so the way this shakes out is when we’re doing an activity that is not very challenging as low and challenge, but our skills are also low.


We might be in the flow channel.


So for me, for example, you know, I like to tinker with cars, I’m not very good at and my skill level is pretty low. When I’m doing a task that’s relatively easy, like, for example, changing the oil, I can get a lot of enjoyment out of it and really be kind of sucked. And so, that’s kind of a bad example, because a very quick thing. But, that’s something where I might really get into flow where I’m sort of just, you know, rocking and rolling. I call it.


Now, on the flip side, if you go into a situation that is very high in challenge, you’re still law and skills, You’re going to experience a great deal of anxiety, and that is not gonna feel good, right?


If, for some reason, I had to rebuild a transmission on a car, my anxiety doing that would be very, very high because, again, my skill level is very, very low and I would not be feeling good, feeling very stressed out to be a very unpleasant experience. That would inevitably lead to a call for a tow truck and, you know, asking my mechanic to Please fix what I’ve done.


You know, on the flip side, if your skill level is really, really high.


So let’s say you are a, I don’t know, An award winning architect, right, and is really like your craft.


And you’re so good at architecture And you’re asked to do something that is like super easy.


like Silicon architects wouldn’t do but let’s say design like a phone booth or designing, you know, a bench or something like that. For most architects, I imagine, are very skilled.


That would be a pretty boring kind of activity, right, To get into that flow channel, once your skill level gets high, you want to be doing something that’s pretty challenging, right. So if you’re a highly skilled architect, developing, you know, a new type of structure would be something that would be really challenging and really interesting, and bring them to that flow channel.


And so where am I going with all this? Well, the point is, we want to try to incorporate activities into our daily life that keep us in this flow channel, right, Where we’re sort of matching the level of skill that we have in a task with the level of challenge that we have in it. So we can feel that experience of absorption, of growth, of passion, Right.


Because not only does that feel really good, but it also connects to some of those other things, like, you know, that meaning or purpose that we’ll talk about.


Right. And so, you know, this is something that I want you all kinda like thinking about, What are those things that might give me that sense of flow or engagement in my life?


I will say a caveat here, so many people talk about, you know, being lost, and let’s say, Netflix, you know, sitting or watching TV for a really long time, or some other kind of passive activity.


Now, according to the psychologists that study, this, that actually wouldn’t really be flow. And part of that is because you are not being challenged anyway, right? It’s not really hard to watch Netflix, there’s no skill involved, very low challenge. And, well, zero skill activity that doesn’t require you doing anything. That’s a very different type of being lost time.


And the way you can distinguish the difference, is, think about how you feel after being lost at Netflix for eight hours, versus, hey, feel after being lost, and let’s say gardening. You know? Your, your, your garden for eight hours, right? So, for me, after I watched Netflix for eight hours, I get up. I’m like, what am I done with my life, though, a serious candidate for that.


Versus, you know, getting up from, doing something I really enjoy for eight hours, and thinking, like, wow, that was so productive.


I feel so good about that, right? And that’s one way that you can tell whether you’re in flow, or it’s sort of just pressing fast forward, on your time.


Hopefully, that, that distinction is clear, and I will say no. As long as there’s some sort of challenge or act, this act of quality to it behavior. It could be flow. So, I think some folks experienced that while playing video games, which is a form of entertainment, right? It doesn’t have to be something that’s necessarily productive, are constructed in the traditional sense.


You know, for folks who are kinda like career athletes for them, you know, playing football, they would be in that Flow channel for much of that time.


So, there’s no reason why it can’t be a game, but it can’t be something passive.


Moving on to relationships. So, research suggests that it may be the single most important contributing factor to well-being, Right? That when researchers take a look at what really contributes to folks reporting that long lasting, deep sense of well-being and happiness, relationships are almost always at the top of that list.


And it’s importantly, it’s not the quantity of relationships, that’s important, but their quality and frequency, meaning how often you’re engaging with those individuals, right? It doesn’t matter if you have 50 friends or two. But if those two friendships that you have are deep, and you have regular engagement with that person, they can provide you, you know, very much value. As much as, you know, having many more times, that number of relationships.


And I really like this quote from the Harvard study, that was, what’s called the longitudinal studies.


So looking over, you know, many years, I think they follow folks for something like 80 years, like shortly, before World War two or shortly after World War two, And this quote says, Close relationships more than Money or fame are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Close relationships, protect people from life discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class IQ, or even genes.


All right, so, this is so, so important.


And, yet, you know, for many of us, we tend to de emphasize the importance of this in our daily lives as we get so preoccupied with all the other things, all the other responsibilities and, you know, our achievement seeking or accomplishment seeking.


And yet, so important how to think about how relationships really impact all of these different elements of our lives, our physical and mental health, you know, our happiness, and so on.


And so, I also wanted to share the results of this time. Paul, it’s a little bit dated now that goes on in 2005 or 2006. But still kind of drive that point home, you know, when you ask folks, went to pick one thing in their life that’s brought them the greatest happiness.


Most folks report, you know, well, relationships, children, family, you know, some folks report God, faith, religion, their spouse, Right? But you can see, it’s so heavily centered on those, you know, intimate family relationships. And then when you ask them about their major sources of happiness, again, it’s those same things that come up, their relationship with children, their friendships, in contributing to the lives of others, relationship with spouse, etcetera.


And lastly, again, to drive the point home. When we asked people what they do, often, to improve their mood, talking to friends or family, is at the top of the list.


For both men and women with the two bars indicate So again, not to belabor it any more than it needs to be belabored, but, you know, just thinking about really cultivating, nurturing, and ensuring that relationships are really front and center for you, if your goals, to improve your well-being.


All right, meaning, I have have this book cover, maybe some folks in the audience Subreddit man’s search for meaning by Viktor Frankl. It’s such a really, really good book on this topic.


Viktor frankl’s Psychologist who spent time in the **** concentration camps during the Holocaust. And he really talks about trying to make sense of that experience, about finding meaning, in this time of immense unbelievable suffering and cruelty that he’s experiencing.


And, you know, the research, the modern research suggests that meaning is a really important part of what constitutes while being, right, that dedicating ourselves so, cause that’s higher than us in some way is a really important way of creating meaningful up. I’m using the word, meaning in. The same sentence for a good life, right? But, it lives so to speak.


And these can be There can be all sorts of different ways to find this, or this type of meaning, right?


Being involved with religion, with our communities. Providing service, raising a family. These are all different ways that we can find meaning or purpose in our lives.


And, you know, kind of thinking back to just the initial focus on positive emotions, right? Those who seek positive emotions, without also seeking meaning, tend to not really experienced lasting well-being.


Right? To just Chase, you know, pleasures of the flesh, so to speak, leads, so relatively hollow. And, in some ways, I think, disappointing.


And so, thinking about, for ourselves, what are purposes, what are the activities that give us a sense of meaning?


Right, it’s a really important part of cultivating that well-being.


Then, let me talk a little bit about achievement as well. So this is another area of the model that has really attracted some criticism.


Know what and Sullivan has really been criticized for kind of bringing what seems to be like more Western value of focus on achievement and ambitious ambition, accomplishing things as being a part of well-being. And, you know, there’s some Eastern traditions, both philosophical and religious, that would kinda think about this differently.


That achievement really is an important part of the good life, but what it’s worth, it’s part of the model, and I do agree that I think, you know, achieving things both big and small, is a really important component of well-being. And I think these are often really tied to that purpose, or that meaning that we have in our lives, right?


Finding those small things that we can do, that either bring us more in line, no cause towards our purpose, or meaning in life, or even just, you know, having small achievements that just give us that sense of satisfaction. Like, wow, I did something today. I know for me, even really small things can make me feel pretty good, right?


Go on through a box of files.


Know, I was overdue for sorting or you know, doing a new project with my car, or, you know, fixing something around the house, right? Setting those sort of goals, and then achieving them feels really good, and most of us, we make to-do lists that feels really good to check things off of that list.


And so, you know, Salaryman really talks about how striving for these goals, and ultimately achieving them helps us to have the sense of life satisfaction. And that’s something that we should be thinking about.


I already said this, but it can be closely connected to our sense of meaning.


All right. So, let’s review.


So, going from that initial focus on just positive emotions or happiness really expanding the model to now think about well-being and what’s kind of encompass than that and perma as our roadmap.


So I Encourage you all, I challenge you all to take an honest sort of look at your life using this perma Model, you know, and see where you stand and re look at the P element.


You know, What is my balance of positive emotions? Do I take the time to treat myself and to do things that make me feel good?


No engagement, are there things in my life, whether it’s at work, at home, in my leisure time, on the weekend, that really poem that I can get lost and for hours and hours at a time, because I derive some sense of passion or pleasure from it.


How am I dealing with my relationships? Cultivating my nourishing those, you know, whether it’s with my immediate family, my children, my friends, colleagues, et cetera, right? These, all of these relationships can be important and meaningful to us.


Taking a look at, you know, what you have set out as, or what you see as, like, your purpose, or your meaning, and life.


I see too often people kinda like avoiding this question, because it’s a hard one to answer, you, know, so ambiguous.


And it, you know, it’s different for everyone, but really thinking about this, you know, one way to kind of tune into this is, know, asking yourself, what would you want people to say that and do at your funeral and they were giving a eulogy?




Sometimes that can help us to kind of think about what’s most important to us and what we want to know, what we want to strive for, what, you know, gives us a sense of that meaning or purpose, Right?


It might be that, You know, I want to be the best dad that I can be.


I want to be there for my kids and, know, Support them, and help them to grow and so like the best adults that they can maybe that’s really like the main driving force for you. That’s totally fine. You know, maybe it is to, you know, help those less fortunate than you to do some sort of community outreach to feed, you know, the hungry or help the homeless or something like that, right? This could all be areas of meaning or purpose.


Lastly, what are your goals in life? What are the things that you want to accomplish? You know, you could sort of work backward from the purpose, or that that, meaning, right, it could be small things, yeah. Maybe this year, I want to volunteer at the soup kitchen at least three times, right? And that might, maybe, that’s, you know, stretching the idea of achieving a little bit of a call, that a goal and an achievement to do so to make time for that.




You know, if you feel like you’re lacking this element in your life of it, you know, setting our goals and achieving Rob, now that’s an important place to problem solve.


Are your goals too large and too difficult to achieve? Or you’re not saving enough goals, et cetera.


All right. So, some simple ways to increase well-being, so being mindful of time here, I’m gonna go through a little bit quickly so we can make sure that we get to the gratitude activity.


So all these are research based or evidence based strategies that help to improve mood and improve well-being. So this first one is just recalling positive life events. For those of us whose entire memories are stored on computers, you can look through a photo album, request those anymore. You know, opening that up, whether it’s centrally or in print.


And I’m like, looking back at no past vacations, your wedding photos, if you’re looking at pictures of your kids, when they were younger, or pictures of yourself, when you were young.


Taking the time to actually just think about positive things that happened in the past.


That can, you know, bring up some of those positive emotions and also help to kind of tap into that sense of meaning and purpose, because it can remind us of, you know, why we did or do certain things.


In other research backs, strategy is doing acts of kindness.


So, pretty consistently, studies show us that when we buy a gift for someone else, we give it to someone else, actually, makes us feel better than if we buy that same sort of gift for ourselves.


It might be surprising to some of you, and maybe not to others, but, know, we’re all coming off the holiday season here, and this is like the tail ends. So, maybe the Memories of Giving the gifts that are a little bit more present are acute for you. All.


Feels really good. When someone opens up your presence, Oh, this is so awesome, Yeah, thank you.


I’m so happy you got this for me. The part before that, where we’re buying for the gifts, you know, I’m just scrolling endless. Amazon’s find the right thing. That’s not as good.


Doing a volunteering, a charity, helping our friends and loved ones, these are all things that can really improve our sense of well-being.


And so that we want to be thinking about practicing mindfulness can definitely improve our well-being, as well. For those who are curious about that, I’d refer you to the webinar that I did about it. Exactly a year ago on mindfulness.


That a lot more to say about that, but basically, mindfulness is the type of meditation that it’s focused on, bringing our attention to the present moment, really, savoring that, that experience.


Um, I’m a big fan of this one, which is working towards identifying our strengths. And one way we could do that is actually, by keeping a success journal.


Write, writing down a couple of things that you did well on some regular basis, whether it’s on a daily basis or on a weekly basis. Literally tooting your own horn, right, saying like, wow, I did a really good job.


No, I don’t know, changing my well today.


I barely spelled anything, I got it done quickly, one of his job, that’s a silly simple example, but stuff like that, and I really can have a positive effect on mood, because so often, our attention, it’s actually direct. And instead, what we did wrong, where we didn’t measure up, or our weaknesses, or failings, and so can take active efforts, actually turn our attention towards our strengths and identify our successes.


Developing a gratitude habit was one of those strategies that’s really been look, that’s so much in positive psychology, because of the really, I’d say, massive effects that it can have on our well being, really making an effort to practice being grateful every single day. Interestingly, that’s something that’s built into some religions, right? Likes and Grace, for example, expressing gratitude for the things that we have on the table.


That’s, you know, formal gratitudes, doing it in a secular way. It could be just keeping a journal.


You know, one or a few things that you’re grateful for that day, right? Whether it’s an experience that you had with someone else, maybe it’s something simple like can eat some Doritos today. Literally anything, but just practicing the act of being grateful.


The other kind of related thing so that is actually writing letters, expressing gratitude, tempore and others.


The simple Act of writing the letter and saying, you know, thank you, Miss Armstrong, You were such an influence to me, I’m so grateful for everything that you did. You made me such a better writer.


You were the best teacher ever had whatever, right? That is such a powerful lift to our own mood and well-being, even if we don’t actually send the letters.


I strongly encourage you to do so, if you do that, They will be so happy to hear from you.


So I think that’s really nice things to do. The last thing I’ll say here is practicing. Forgiveness is another way to improve our well-being. And this is a hard one, you know, we talk about a psychologist is that forgiveness is not just about saying, You know, what you did was OK or I’m letting you off the hook or I want to rekindle this relationship with you.


It’s about saying, I’m gonna choose to let go of this toxic negative emotions that I have towards this garage that I’m holding. And, I’m gonna forgive you in that way. Doesn’t mean, I don’t want you back in my life. That doesn’t mean that, You. Know, I condone what you did. But, I’m not gonna sit here and ruminate on.


You know what you did to me?


and of course, this is a lot easier said than done, and I could probably give a webinar on just forget, but I didn’t want to throw out there.


All right, so, just real quick, I’ll share these resources here. You can look at them on your own time. You have access to the handouts.


You can download this a few apps to that, help you with that gratitude journaling one, that’s a meditation app, a few books by the prominent researchers in this field.


Lastly, to websites where you can learn more about positive psychology.


This corsera link here is the Yale course that supposedly is the most popular here at Yale course of all time, the history of institution that really dive more deeply into positive psychology. It’s called The Science of well-being.


So they’re free for anyone, sign-up and watched here, it’s good, actually, personnel.


Not watch the Yeah, it’s online To watch list, but I’ve heard good things and it’s I think it’s worth checking out.


All right. So that’s it for kind of the main part of the presentation. I did want to do a gratitude exercise with you all.


It will just take 1 or 2 minutes and then we’ll have like seven minutes for Q&A.


So hopefully that works for you, all folks got have something where they can write some stuff down. Basically, all I want you to do is to think about your activities over the past 24 hours.


Some tours that you did if you work outside of the home, working or inside the home, these days, we use your activities, time. They spend with your family.


And I want you to write down three things that made you feel the most satisfied made you feel good, gave you, or, or, gave you a sense of accomplishment.


So just take me, I’ll give folks a minute or two to think about that.


Again, could be big or small things, could be you know, the the belly rub that you gave your cat this morning.


Or, You know, the weird thing that your kid set up the dinner table today that made you laugh, um, could be, you know, the bag of Doritos that you a way too much of yesterday.


No, not pointing any fingers up myself, but that’s what I did.


All right. so hopefully folks could think of three things then one thing that you’re grateful for at this moment.


Perhaps you know a member of your family, perhaps your health, perhaps having employment if you’re fortunate enough to still be able to keep your job through this pandemic being healthy and coburn. Yeah, whenever we can all find something to be grateful for.


And, all right, I’ll assume most folks were able to write down some stuff.


And I just wanted to take this moment to just check in with yourself, like, pay attention to your body for a moment, and just notice how you feel as you did this.


Did you feel any different that you feel, and you want to should feel a smile on your face, as he thought about some of these positive experiences?


I’m willing to bet some of you did. And if you did enjoy something I encourage you to do. It’s really this simple, Just taken a minute or two.


All right, so, on that note, I think we can switch to the Q and A portion. Thank you all for listening, and I’m looking forward to hearing your questions.


Thank you very much, doctor …, for that really informative presentation and the exercise towards the end.


We do have just a few questions, so let’s get started.


So, regarding the, the money Happiness’ graphic that you shared, someone asked whether that was family income or individual income?


I believe that was family income, OK, great, thank you. And then someone has asked where they can get more information on getting trained in positive psychology.


So I don’t know if, no, you do that, or there are places that the people who get that training, it’s a good question. You know, so the, the resources over here would be a good place to start. I guess it depends on, if this person is a professional, or parent. I’m guessing, or professional, you know, the greater good center at Berkeley has a lot of good resources, Martin, Solid lens, and, you know, he has a positive cycle, believe. He has a positive psychology Center there as well. I can try to look up the information and, you know, added to our blog.


OK, great, I’m not sure whether the person asking as a professional or a no apparent. So in other case, that’s, that’s helpful. What can parents do to help their kids build confidence and well-being?


Yeah, so I think going back to this perma Model, right, So the question was about confidence. And well-being. So, I think, you know, a lot of confidence is really built when we’re doing those things that promote flow or engagement.


Right, well, we know, I think it is, uh, one of our tasks, one of our challenges in life, to find one of those things that really listen in that way, that make us feel engaged.


And so, you know, helping your kid to find something like that, where they feel challenged, and so interested in, like, building up their skills that are facing that challenge, I think, is a really good way to build up their confidence. And also achievement, right? I mean, I think setting goals and achieving that gives us that sense of confidence that what’s called self efficacy as well.


In terms of the, You know, the well being more broadly, I would say, thinking about all of these things for your children. No, meaning or purpose is oftentimes not something that kids are really thinking about, developmentally until they get into, like early adulthood, but thinking about their relationships, their ability to achieve things, their engagement, certainly their positive emotions as well.


Can this one times the company’s, most kids, you know, really thinking, talking with your child about what they feel like they’re lacking or what they want more of, you’re helping them to reflect on their values.


And what really gives them that sense of deeper satisfaction, besides just, you know, uh, eating candy and playing lots of video games or watching lotsa YouTube? That gives us a lot of this, but not necessarily so much of what any of that, right.


OK, great, thank you.


And it is hard to make new friends when you’re in middle or later age. Do you have any suggestions for fostering social connections in this space of love?


Absolutely, yeah, thank you so much for that.


You know, that’s something that I talked with a lot about folks who are in that middle sort of phase of life where they might have kids that are starting to get a little bit older, and it can be really hard to form new relationships. What I would recommend is.


I mean two things: one is I think middle age as we call it disappointing. Because the time when you can really look back and reconnect with some form or relationships that you’ve had folks can drift apart and they have kids that’s part of their experience And, you know, towards middle age. I think there’s some opportunities to rekindle some of those relationships and technology can be really helpful for that.


Facebook, I think, when it came onto the scene, was such a cool tool to reconnect Folks who have lost touch.


The other thing, in terms of building relationships is, you know, when you look at the things that give you a sense of meaning and give you that engagement, you will find people to form relationships with, right?


If you love playing music, for example, you know, trying to join a group of folks who are also playing music. Whether it’s, you know, taking lessons or joining a band, or whatever, right? Those are going to be really good opportunities to form those relationships. Volunteering, if that’s something that speaks to, is a good way to meet new people.


If you’re religious, you know, being a part of your church or synagogue or laws or whatever community is, another really good way to foster those relationships, right? You know, to build relationships. We really got to be around people like us who, like, some of the things that we do.


And so, to the extent that we can put ourselves in those situations, we’ll have the opportunities to build those relationships.


A lot harder during covert though, so, I I empathize with that, right now.


Yeah, That’s certainly been a challenge for everybody.


And we have someone that asked the question about techniques for short circuiting, panic attacks. So are there any ways that you can use some of these positive psychology ideas to help with panic tests?


Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm. That’s a good question.


I don’t know that there’s any particular connection between positive psychology and the panic attacks, but what I will say is that, know, one of the most important components to treatment for panic disorder, panic attacks, is really understanding what they are. You know, understanding that as part of this fight or flight process that that gets kind of trip to our brain. And the panic attacks themselves are not dangerous. It’s just sort of the body’s alarm system going haywire.


I think understanding that intellectually often provide some relief for folks, and then yeah, I would encourage you to seek some professional counseling and help kinda get the, the other parts of that, which is the experiential facing of the fears that are triggered and panic attacks, OK, thank you, so We have one last question, which asks if you would consider doing a shortened version of this webinar in a different venue, and I think I’m going to suggest that person who asked that, reach out to you directly so that you can figure out what it is that you’re looking for. And if that’s something that, that you can do.


So that is the end of our questions.


Want to thank you again, doctor …, for the really informative and helpful presentation for taking your time this evening. And I want to thank everybody for attending, and I’m going to turn it over to Kelly, who will do our final wrap up for the evening.


Ah, thank you for joining our webinar on Using Positive Psychology to Find More Happiness Every Day. For those questions that were not answered, we will I will post them on the blog and have doctor Shcherbakov answer them later. There is an exit survey, which we need everyone attending to fill out. The webinar blog is now open and available for the next seven days on the … Website, for any additional questions that were not covered in tonight’s presentation. That website is WWW dot N J C T S dot org.


Also, an archived recording of tonight’s webinar will be posted to our site. Our next presentation, Outgrowing the Child Neurologist, Transitioning Into Adulthood, will be presented by doctor Lawrence Brown, and is scheduled for February third, 2021.


This ends tonight’s session. Thank you, doctor Sharon …, for your candid answers and thank you everyone for attending. Goodnight.



  1. DK says:

    I was recently told that “everything is not unicorms and rainbows” when I told this person I was really trying to practive pos. pysch – how would you respond to this? I was taken back.

    • Dr. Anton Shcherbakov says:

      Hi DK, thank your for your question! I think this person is echoing one of the frequent criticisms and misunderstandings about this field: there is no need or expectation to pretend that everything is OK when it’s not. This person was right that “everything is not unicorns and rainbows”. So I would respond something like this: “You’re right, and I find that keeping a positive attitude helps me to cope and problem-solve more effectively.”

  2. Leo S. says:

    I can never accomplish the goals that I set for myself by the time I set for myself, and it’s really discouraging and makes me feel like I can’t achieve anything. What should I do?

    • Dr. Anton Shcherbakov says:

      Hi Leo, thank you for this excellent question! Indeed, this is a common frustration for all of us as humans. I would encourage you to consider the following three points:

      1) Are you setting goals that are actually >achievable< by you alone? For example, "I will get married by 30 years old" is a frequent goal I hear. But this is not something you can just accomplish on your own. Instead, the goals should be things like "I will sign up for online dating this week" or "I will ask five people out on a date this month". These goals are achievable and do not require external events to "go your way".

      2) Are you able to set smaller goals that can lead to big outcomes? I often hear people set goals like "I will exercise 5 days a week for 1 hour". That's a fine goal, but may be too hard if you are currently exercising 0 days. Instead, how about setting the goal to exercise today for 15 minutes? Then tomorrow for 20 minutes? Work up to 3 days a week for 30 minutes and eventually 5 days for 1 hour.

      3) Have you considered keeping tracking of your habits in some way? This is a great way to work towards goals. I highly recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear to learn more about goal-setting and how habits get you to your goals.

  3. Lisa Z says:

    How can we apply positive psychology during these very upsetting times of social and political unrest.

    • Anton Shcherbakov says:

      Hi Liza, this is a great question! I would refer you back to PERMA and thinking about which areas of your life you can improve. Relationships are more important than ever in a time of increased stress and social isolation. Also, engaging in meaningful activities such as charitable work and activism can help us to cope more effectively with social & political turmoil.

  4. Ronnie S says:

    How do you rid yourself of toxic emotions about a family member if that person repeats the negative behavior toward you.

    • Dr. Anton Shcherbakov says:

      Hi Ronnie, thank you for this question! This is a challenging issue to deal with. If you continue to experience the same negative interaction, then you will, of course, continue to experience the same negative emotions. There is nothing in psychology (positive or traditional) that can help us turn off appropriate responses to negative experiences. Difficult emotions such as sadness and anger are healthy and adaptive responses to situations that are hurting us in some way.

      You have a few options:
      1) Try to resolve the situation with the individual and ask them to change the behavior (often takes many conversations)
      2) If option 1 fails, accept that the individual may be unable or unwilling to change their behavior. You may decide to continue the relationship, but you would need to let go of the expectation that the person will be different in the future. This will cause additional suffering.
      3) If you decide to continue the relationship, setting good boundaries is important. Saying things like “I won’t talk to you when you’re shouting” and walking away is a way to enforce those boundaries.
      4) You can always decide that you are not willing to tolerate the negative behavior and increase the distance between you and this family member.

      These are tough situations, but I hope you find some peace!

  5. Debra Park says:

    Re: to a question about training in positive psychology. University of Penn https://www.lps.upenn.edu/degree-programs/mapp The Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania was the first in the world to offer a degree in this rigorous field of study. Dr. Seligman, founder of the discipline of positive psychology, along with leading researchers and practitioners educate students at the cutting edge of the field.