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Study at City

Positive Psychology: building happiness and flourishing Short Course

Key information

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Course Code:
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Covid-19 update: The learning doesn't have to stop, join our online community. We will be delivering courses remotely until further notice. Live tutor support and virtual lessons will take place during advertised teaching hours. The classes are taught in small groups, so you'll get lots of support from your tutor. Book now.

Most of us would like to become happier and flourish in life. This course provides evidence-based techniques to enable you to do this. This short course takes a very practical approach. Students will learn evidence-based skills and be encouraged to apply them between sessions.

Why choose this course?

You will learn evidence-based techniques to become happier, be more engaged in life, have more meaning and purpose, enjoy better personal and professional relationships and achieve more.

Through encouragement from the course tutor, you will learn techniques that enable you to realise your full potential, as well assess their individual experiences within the context of positive psychology. Participation is important and the course asks for a lot of self-reflection.

The part-time course is suitable for anyone who wishes to develop professionally or personally. It may be of particular relevance to those who mentor or coach or manage other people but is not limited to these people.

Course overview

You will learn leading-edge ways to develop PERMA: positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, purpose and accomplishment.

You will also have the opportunity to reflect on values and learn how CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) can help you become more resilient and move in your valued direction.

Weekly classes encourage discussion of these ideas and practical exercises are given to aid self-development. You also have the option of giving a short presentation in class.

The two Positive Psychology courses can be taken in either order and no prior knowledge is required.

We recommend you consider Positive Psychology - becoming the best version of you - which complements this course and starts in the summer term, April / May.

  • “ Hugely enjoyable course…I liked the informal style, content and group participation. ”

    Sheila B.

    Former student

What will I learn?

What will I learn?

The 10 week course will cover the following and will be discussed in further detail during the first class.

Note: This is indicative of likely content and is subject to change

Week 1 Introduction: Positive Psychology, happiness and flourishing

This week will introduce the main themes of the course – What is positive psychology? What do we mean by flourishing? What is happiness?  Martin Seligman’s PERMA model  of flourishing will be introduced. students will be asked to think of a meaningful goal they will work on to achieve by the end of the course.

Reading : Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology:  Introduction

Week 2 Accomplishment & Achievement

We will look at theories relating to how to become an expert, developing a growth mindset, SMART goals. A framework will be introduced based on these ideas to help students achieve their goals.

Core Reading (to be done before this week): Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology Chapter   5 (for each week there is reading to be carried out before the class and optional supplementary reading will be suggested )

Week 3 Happiness & Positive Emotions

We will look at the psychology of happiness and positive emotions, including Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory and attempt to answer the important question “what makes people happier?”  Empirically-supported interventions which have been shown to make people happier will be described and students will be invited to try them out for themselves.

Reading: Achieve Your Potential  With Positive Psychology Chapters 1 & 2

Week 4 Meaning & Purpose

We will look at the psychology of meaning and purpose, from Viktor Frankl  to Martin Seligman as well as the psychology of kindness.

Reading: Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology Chapter 6

Week 5 Flow

We will look at the psychology of flow – being “in the zone” and fully engaged in what you are doing, based on Csikszentmihalyi ‘s seminal work. We will also look at the connection between flow and using your strengths.

Reading: Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology Chapter 7

Week 6 Positive Relationships

We will look at the psychology of positive relationships – including romantic relationships and friendships and working relationship, drawing on the theories of Sternberg & Gottman.

Reading : Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology Chapter 8

Week 7 Values and Flourishing

Having looked at the 5 elements of flourishing according to Seligman’s PERMA theory earlier in the course, we will now take a step back and look at flourishing in the round. Students will have the opportunity to engage in values clarification and learn about other theories of flourishing and well-being

Reading: Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology Chapter 3

Week 8 Third Wave CBT: Flourishing through ACT

Students will learn about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a third wave CBT therapy. ACT provides an  evidence-based framework for learning how to actualise your values and overcome emotional obstacles to so doing.

Reading: Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology Chapter 10 (part) and handout

Week 9 Resilience

Students will learn how to overcome adversities, drawing on evidence-based  techniques from CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which may include problem solving and cognitive restructuring

Reading: Achieve Your Potential With Positive Psychology Chapter 9

Week 10 Conclusions

In the final week we will draw together threads from the course and discuss next steps. Students will also have the opportunity to do a short presentation relating to achieving the meaningful goal they set themselves to achieve earlier in the course.



English requirements

Good written and spoken English.

Teaching & assessment

Teaching & assessment

  • A short presentation to the class.
  • Answers to weekly assignments.
  • Contributions to class discussions

Recommended reading

Recommended reading

Reading List

Students are required to purchase Achieve your potential with Positive Psychology , the main course reader, before the course starts. Other readings are optional.


  • LeBon, T. (2014) Achieve your potential with Positive Psychology  (Main course reader)
  • Grenville-Cleave, B. (2012)  Positive Psychology: A Practical Guide
  • Boniwell, I (2012) Positive Psychology in a Nutshell (OUP)
  • Seligman, M. (2002) Authentic Happiness –“father of positive psychology’’s self-help book
  • Haidt, J. (2006)The Happiness Hypothesis  - good on philosophy & psychology of happiness, flourishing & virtue
  • Hefferon, K & Boniwell, I (2011) Positive Psychology: Theory, Research & Applications (OUP) More academic and advanced
  • Niemiec, R.  & Wedding, D.  (2014) Positive Psychology at the Movies
  • Peterson, C (2006) A Primer in Positive Psychology (OUP) More detailed than the first 3 books.
  • Compton W,C. (2005)  Introduction to Positive Psychology Sound introduction
  • Snyder, C.R . & Lopez, S (2011) Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology. Large collection of essays
  • Linley P. & Joseph,S  (2004) Positive Psychology in Practice Another collection of essays
  • Wiseman, R. (2009) 59 Seconds Richard Wiseman is a UK psychologist who is well worth reading – see also his web site

Values and Flourishing        

  • Kirschenbaum, H (2013) Values Clarification in Counselling and Psychotherapy
  • Seligman, M. (2011) Flourish –  presenting the PERMA theory

Achievement and Accomplishment

  • Dweck, C   (2012)     Mindset: How You can Fulfil Your Potential
  • Duckworth, A (2016) Grit: The Power of Passion & Perseverance – highly recommended new book
  • Ericsson, A. el al. (2007) The Making of an Expert
  • Syed, M (2011) Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice
  • Oettingen, G. (2014)  Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
  • Norem (2001) The Positive Power of Negative Thinking
  • Duckworth, A. (2016) Grit: the power of passion & perseverance

Happiness and Positive Emotions

  • David S, Boniwell,E. et al.  (2014) Oxford Handbook of Happiness
  • Diener, E & Biswas-Diener, R (2008)  Happiness (Blackwell) – authoritative guide
  • Dolan,P. (2014) Happiness by Design
  • Eid, M. & Larsen, R. (2008) The Science of Subjective Well-Being - academic articles
  • Fredrickson, F. (2009) Positivity (Crown) – original, practical and readable - recommended
  • Fredrickson, B. L., Mancuso, R. A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and Emotion, 24, 237-258.
  • Gilbert, D. (2007) Stumbling on Happiness
  • Layard, R. (2005) Happiness
  • Lyubomirsky, S (2008) The How of Happiness (Sphere) – good, recent research-based work
  • Nettle, D. (2005) Happiness (Oxford: OUP) – good on the biology of happiness

Meaning and Purpose

  • Frankl, V.(1959) Man’s Search for Meaning - classic essay on meaning by Auschwitz survivor
  • McAskill, W.  (2015) Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism & a Radical New Way to Make a Difference
  • Smith, Emily  Esfahani (2017) The Power of Meaning
  • Wong, P and Fry, P (1998) The Human Quest for Meaning


  • Csikszentmihalyi , M. (1990)  Flow: The Psychology of optimal experience - classic work
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2004). Good Business: Leadership, flow and the making of meaning.  


Positive Relationships

  • Gottmann, J. & Silver, N. (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work Good, research-based, readable self-help book
  • Sternberg, R, (1988) The Triangle of Love (New York: Basic)

ACT and Third Wave CBT

  • Brown, F. & Gillard, D.  (2016) Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Dummies
  • Kashdan, T. & Ciarrochi, J (Ed) (2013) Mindfulness, Acceptance and Positive Psychology
  • Harris, R. (2009) Act Made Simple


  • Padesky & Mooney: Strengths-based CBT: A four step model to build resilience
  • Downloadable from:
  • Butler, G  & Hope,,A (2007) Managing Your Mind CBT-informed authoritative self-help book
  • Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ
  • Greenburger, D and Padesky, C. (2016) Mind over Mood Recently Updated classic
  • Joseph, S (2013) What Doesn’t Kill us: The New Psychology of PostTraumatic Growth
  • Robertson, D, (2012) Build Your Resilience
  • Reivich, K., & Shatte, A. (2002). The Resilience Factor.
  • Seligman, M  (1990) Learned Optimism Classic work from originator of positive psychology
  • Veale, D. & Willson, R. (2007) Manage Your Mood: How to use Behavioural Activation techniques to overcome depression

Tutor information

  • Tim LeBon

    Tim LeBon gained a first class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Trinity College, Oxford and an M.Phil in Philosophy at the University of London. He teaches philosophy, personal development and counselling courses and has a particular interest in the way that philosophy and psychology can be of practical use.

    Tim is a qualified as a life coach and a psychotherapist and is the author of Wise Therapy: Philosophy for Counsellors (Sage, 2001) and Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology  (2014)

    Tim has been teaching psychology, philosophy and personal and development courses for over 20 years. As a practising life coach and psychotherapist, Tim is known form making complicated ideas simple and for teaching how to apply these ideas in practice.