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Are Americans obsessed with happiness?

December 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
As we head into 2010 with an ongoing war and economic crisis, experts say a lot of Americans are in search of happiness and a more meaningful life. It's just not en vogue to be blue. Associate psychology professor Dr. Todd Kashdan says that in our society, being unhappy is not socially acceptable.

"When you ask someone, "Are you happy?" and they say, "Well actually, I'm really miserable," there are a lot of cues there that this is not someone I want to talk to on a regular basis," said Kashdan.

Proponents of positive psychology, which focuses on what makes people happy, say it's easy to achieve with the proper training.

"The science says you can improve your happiness and you can improve your resilience," said Andrew Rosenthal, co-founder of Happier.com. Rosenthal's Web site offers members positive psychology tools to help track and improve their happiness.

He says for starters, jot down all the things you're grateful for. Recognize your strengths and utilize them. If practiced regularly, positive psychologists say most people are guaranteed to be happier.

"Now for some people, maybe they can learn how to be 25 percent happier, maybe they're pretty much set. Other people can really improve a lot," said Rosenthal.

Management professor Adam Grant is skeptical. He says although it's been proven people can train themselves to be happier, he fears positive psychology is being used as a blanket fix.

"I wouldn't feel comfortable offering a one-size-fits-all solution to any set of problems that a given individual is facing, without understanding that person's circumstances," said Grant.

But it may be worth a try, if being happier is your new year's resolution.

Positive psychologists say the key to being happier is focusing on things that are of value to us, not material objects.

However, they admit that some people may not be able to get much out of positive psychology tools.


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