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Oct 2016 by PCI College

The Madness of Happiness

Have you ever asked anyone what they ultimately want from their lives? Chances are they would say happiness. Jolanta Burke PhD asks if this is the right goal to hold for ourselves

Have you ever asked anyone what they ultimately want from their lives? Chances are they would say happiness. We pursue happiness by quitting our jobs, or entire lives to go travelling. As of 2009, twice as many adults aged 30-50 than 20 year olds took a year out to travel in search of something bigger, better, and bolder. We pursue happiness by terminating relationships and building new ones. In Ireland, the divorce rate jumped by 800% in the last 15 years with people searching for a better partner. And then we do all other sorts of things in pursuit of happiness, such as exploring new hobbies, actively engaging with online social networks, going for therapy, or, practicing happiness-boosting activities, such as mindfulness, yoga, acts of kindness, or physical exercise.

Our obsession with happiness puts it at the centre of our world, where it becomes the protagonist of our lives. We always consult it when making any decisions. If a job doesn’t make me happy, it’s time to leave it – we say.  If my partner does not make me happy, we better go separate ways. Our pursuit of happiness has become a measuring stick for how we should live our lives. We trust that if in doubt, we should always choose happiness. After all, this is what the media and self-help industry makes us believe to be true.

This is where Positive Psychology comes in. It is a science of what is good about people and their lives. It provides empirical evidence for what makes us flourish psychologically. It also attempts to take some of the happiness myths we know under the microscope and helps us find out whether they are quite true.

This is how we discovered that asking people with low self-esteem to do self-affirmations, such as I am good person, or I am strong, might not be as helpful to them as we thought.  In fact, if they believe the opposite, it could make them feel worse about themselves. This is how we discovered that asking people to count their blessings every day for longer than two weeks, could in fact have an opposite effect on their well-being and make them feel apathetic. This is also how we discovered that pursuit of happiness can easily make us feel less happy and even more lonely in our lives.

If you, like many others thought that happiness activities are harmless, then think again. Just like too many sweets can make us feel sick, mindless pursuit of happiness can make us feel worse. It comes with a doctor’s warning.


So, please come and join us at the Positive Psychology workshop to find out what alternatives we have to make us feel better in life.


Jolanta Burke PhD

Facilitator, 'Resilience with Positive Psychology' Personal Development Workshop


Jolanta Burke, PhD, is a psychologist specialising in Positive Psychology. She is a Senior Lecturer at the University of East London, and a co-leader of the Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology programme. Jolanta is passionate about Positive Psychology and her mission in life is to help people understand and use it effectively in their lives. She received a PhD from Trinity College Dublin, and appears regularly in the media. Jolanta writes extensively, and is continuously invited to speak about different aspects of Positive Psychology at various events around the world. A few years ago, she hosted a popular weekly radio programme about evidence-based well-being along with its applications, and was acknowledge by The Irish Times as one of 30 people who make Ireland happier. Her latest book Happiness after 30: The paradox of aging will be available to purchase on Amazon in mid-November 2016. www.jolantaburke.com


Jolanta will facilitate a one-day workshop on 'Resilience with Positive Psychology' in PCI College Dublin City Centre on Saturday 3rd December 2016. To book your place on this course please click HERE.



What our Students Say

I have an in depth interest in the workings of the brain. The lecture was interactive, informative and extremely interesting.
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"I found this module extremely informative. I feel that I have gained a huge wealth of insight into childhood / adolescent developmental stages. I feel ready to take on this demanding work".
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