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20 June 2005

Be Happy! JSU's Positive Psychology
Course to Tell How

Erin O'Briant is positively happy about life.

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

A new course that examines several old topics will be taught this fall in JSU’s Department of Psychology. Professor Steven Bitgood and instructor Roxana Conroy will each teach one section of the course.

The course is called "Positive Psychology," which integrates ideas about examining the characteristics of people and communities that produce intellectual and emotional satisfaction. Among the topics are "improve self-control" and “the good life,” a term used to describe a life filled with happiness and satisfaction.

The field of positive psychology was reintroduced as recently as 1996 by Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman argued that psychology had sold out to the medical model which views psychological problems as illness. Instead of emphasizing the negative, positive psychology examines what is positive about the human condition.

“The course will be hands on,” said Ms. Conroy. “We’ll talk about the benefits of exercise, relaxation, yoga, and aromatherapy.”

Dr. Bitgood said the theories of positive psychology include exploring the benefits of positive activities and exploring the impact of positive thought on one’s mental health. He added to Ms. Conroy’s list the importance of meditation and a positive environment.

“Part of the course will be self analysis -- what makes you uptight and how to approach that in effective ways,” said Dr. Bitgood.

Both teachers plan to work together to coordinate their students’ activities.

Positive psychology contrasts with what has happened in the field of mental health throughout the last few decades. More emphasis has been placed on mental illness and treatments in the past, according to Dr. Bitgood, and less emphasis on the aspect of mental strengths.

Neither Dr. Bitgood nor Ms. Conroy ignores the environmental or biological disposition that some people have toward clinical depression or other mental illnesses. Modern life is full of dangers and risks, said Dr. Bitgood, but everyday life during modern times is actually more stable than in past times.

The Internet has many interesting articles and websites about the positive psychology movement. For more information visit these websites:, and

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