Positive Psychology – More Than Just Smiles

As positive psychology captivates more minds, it’s crucial to dig deeper than the surface-level ‘feel-good’ factor. Since its “birth” around 2000, this field has evolved, offering rich insights into what truly makes life fulfilling.

Early criticisms labelled some aspects as ‘toxic positivity,’ suggesting a misleading, oversimplified take on life’s complexities.

Works like Fritz and Lyubomirsky’s “Whither Happiness” (2018) are part of newer research waves, offering a well-rounded perspective on what happiness and well-being entail. The article emphasizes the importance of studying when, how, and why happiness-increasing activities can actually make people less happy, rather than more happy.

Defining Happiness and Well-Being

What does being happy really mean? Fritz and Lyubomirsky (2018) paint a comprehensive picture, defining happiness as more than fleeting joy. In their words “happiness or well-being (can be seen as) the experience of frequent positive emotions relative to negative emotions, coupled with high life satisfaction”.

This definition encompasses not only feeling good but also having a sense of overall satisfaction with life. It’s a holistic concept that includes emotional experiences, life satisfaction, and the balance between positive and negative emotions. Happiness is desirable not just because it is pleasurable, but because it grants numerous benefits to both the individual and those around them.

The Wide Reach of Happiness

What’s more, happiness doesn’t just touch our lives; it ripples outwards. Fritz and Lyubomirsky’s article explains how happy people often have stronger relationships, perform better at work, and even enjoy better health. This isn’t just about individual well-being; it’s about creating a positive impact on our community and beyond.

The Real Impact of Positive Activities

The article refers to positive activities as “purposeful and effortful behaviours designed to increase well-being by mirroring the behaviours or habits that happy people naturally engage in”.

These activities include expressing gratitude or appreciation, performing kind acts for others, cultivating optimism, meditating on positive feelings toward the self and others, and affirming one’s most important values.

Such positive activities – like showing gratitude or helping others – can lift our spirits. But it’s not just about doing these things; it’s about how and why we do them. Mindfully engaging in these actions, with genuine intent, is key to truly enhancing our well-being.

Watch Out for the Happiness Traps

Even the best intentions can lead us astray. Sometimes, forcing ourselves to express gratitude or taking on too much in the name of kindness can backfire, leaving us feeling worse. It’s about finding a balance, ensuring our actions align with what truly feels right for us.

  • Activity Overdose: Inappropriate, incorrect, or suboptimal dosage and timing of a positive activity may inadvertently undermine well-being. For example, gratitude interventions may backfire if individuals feel obligated to come up with a list of things they are grateful for, leading to feelings of resentment, guilt, or discomfort.
  • Potential Contradictions and Iatrogenic Effects: Little is known about when, why, and how happiness-increasing strategies can produce adverse effects. For example, in what situations and for what types of individuals might gratitude lead people to feel resentful, guilty, indebted, morally inferior, conflicted, and/or uncomfortable? When might kindness lead people to feel taken advantage of, resentful, and overburdened?
  • Optimal Dosage: If counting too many blessings triggers feelings of disenchantment and alarm, researchers will be motivated to test the precise optimal dosage of counting blessings necessary to trigger feelings of elevation, connectedness, and contentment.

Navigating the Intricacies of Happiness-Boosting Activities

The journey to happiness is complex. It’s not just about adding more positive activities to our lives; it’s about understanding when and why they work, and sometimes, why they don’t. This careful exploration helps us tailor our approach to happiness, ensuring it truly enriches our lives.

How Coaching Can Support Authentic Well-Being

In my role as your emotional intelligence and leadership coach, I’m not just a guide; I’m your active partner in crafting a life of genuine satisfaction and growth.

Our collaboration is about making real, tangible changes that enrich your life. It’s about moving beyond the pursuit of momentary happiness to embracing a journey of lasting fulfilment and well-being. Let’s start this journey together, one step at a time.

  • Personalized Strategy Creation: We’ll identify positive psychology activities that align with your values and integrate them seamlessly into your daily routine. This isn’t about applying a one-size-fits-all solution; it’s about crafting a tailored approach that resonates with your unique life story.
  • Overcoming Real-Life Challenges: Together, we’ll tackle obstacles head-on, transforming them into opportunities for growth. Whether it’s managing stress, enhancing relationships, or boosting productivity, we’ll find strategies that work for you.
  • Building Emotional Resilience: We’ll focus on developing your emotional intelligence, equipping you with the tools to navigate life’s ups and downs with grace and confidence.
  • Tracking Progress and Making Adjustments: As we journey together, we’ll celebrate your successes and learn from the setbacks. Regular check-ins ensure that our approach remains aligned with your evolving goals and circumstances.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Sophie



Fritz, M. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2018). Whither Happiness? In J. P. Forgas & R. F. Baumeister (Eds.), The social psychology of living well (Chapter 7). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. Also available in final draft form at: https://sonjalyubomirsky.com/files/2012/09/Fritz-Lyubomirsky-in-press-1.pdf .