For those interested in positive psychology, there is a must-attend conference November 24-25 in San Francisco “Happiness and It’s Causes.” In spite of obvious jokes about a happiness conference in San Francisco, this event brings an extraordinary line-up of people taking a wide-ranging look at positive emotions and mental states. While semantically, the word ‘happiness’ has some issues in sounding sort of new age—the Declaration of Independence notwithstanding—you can see from the stellar list of neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and neuropsychologists that the hard sciences as well as soft are playing a major role in looking at positive experience. (Even economists are getting into measures of quality of life these days.)
The study of positive experience, aka positive psychology, was started on the premise that we shouldn’t always focus on the pathologies of human existence and that we should start to learn more about what drives and nurtures positive emotions, behaviors, and attitudes. It isn’t about always being happy. It’s about understanding the context necessary to create subjective well-being, such as how to encourage positive attributes, such as strength, resiliency, creativity, and empathy. And while well-being is individually subjective and therefore, somewhat illusory, it has a measurable impact on one’s physical and mental quality of life. Conferences like “Happiness and Its Causes” brings together scholars, researchers, and practitioners from across multiple disciplines to share ideas and spark new insights and approaches. I’ll write more on this soon, but in the meantime, check out their website.