Nurturing Happiness and Positivity


We all want to be happy, but are we? What does ‘being happy’ mean to each of us?

From Aristotle and Confucius, to Buddhism and contemplative sciences, and more recently, Positive Psychology and modern neurosciences, happiness has been a central theme since ancient times.

Current research on how to increase positive moods and capitalize on our strengths has proliferated, thanks to the Positive Psychology movement and the findings in modern Neuro-Sciences. It’s important to remember that our brain is organized in a specific way to keep us safe and it's hardwired to be focused on survival at all costs. One aspect of this is called the “Negativity bias”, and it basically means that our mind is more inclined to notice the negative than the positive, in order to keep us safe. Or, as Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson explains, “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones”. 

But don’t give up yet! We can train ourselves to "hardwire" the good in our brains. Although not everyone is born with a sunny disposition, experts do agree that we can all learn how to bring more meaning and satisfaction into our lives, to nourish the positive, adaptive and emotionally fulfilling aspects of human behaviours.

When we are going to the field, we might be separated from family and friends, and we might not be able to count our traditional sources of happiness and well-being. This can be a good opportunity to explore and find new sources of meaning and joy during your assignment.

Please consult the links and resources included in this section. We hope you find them useful!






  • Ben-Shahar, T (2007), Happier: learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfilment. McGraw-Hill.
  • Carson, S. (2010), Your creative brain: seven steps to maximize imagination, productivity and innovation in your life. Harvard Health Publications.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008), Flow: the Psychology of optimal experience. Harper & Row.
  • Germer, C (2009), The mindful path to self-compassion: freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. Guilford Press.
  • Gilbert, D (2007), Stumbling on happiness. Vintage.
  • Hanson, R (2013), Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. Happiness.
  • Lopez, S (2013), Making Hope Happen. Hawking Books.
  • Lyubomirsky, S. (2008), The how to happiness: a new approach to getting the life you want. Penguin Press
  • Salpolsky, R (1994), Why Zebras don't get ulcers. Freeman.
  • Seligman, M. (2011), Flourish: a visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Free Press
  • Vaillant, G. (2009), Spiritual Evolution: how we are wired for faith, hope and love. Broadway Books.