Course Syllabus

Positive Psychology

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2023 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Course Study Tours:

Gothenburg, Sweden (short tour)

Athens, Greece (long tour)

Major Disciplines:

Psychology, Human Development, Education/Educational Studies


One psychology course at university level.


A psychology course at university level.

Faculty Members:

Susanna Z. Papp (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Director:

Suman Ambwani

Academic Support: 
Time & Place:

Mondays & Thursdays 14.50-16.10

Classroom: 1E-509

Course Description

This course in positive psychology aims to provide students with an introduction to the core ideas of theories on happiness, well-being and human flourishing as well as acquainting them with the growing body of research evidence on creating, maintaining and developing positive individuals, relationships, organizations and communities. The focus of the course will be on applied positive psychology.

The structure of the course is as follows:

  • Introduction to positive psychology: history, key concepts, measurements and well-being in a Swedish context
  • Cognitive and emotional processes in positive psychology: positive illusions, explanatory style, positive emotions and compassion.
  • Attentional processes in positive psychology: flow and mindfulness and their applications
  • Interpersonal aspects of positive psychology includes themes on positive relations, forgiveness, and positive communication.
  • Applying positive psychology: Students will have a group project on designing a positive psychology intervention.
  • Coping in positive psychology focuses on resilience, post-traumatic growth, meaning and gratitude
  • Achievements and accomplishments: self-concordance and goal-setting, grit, self-regulation
  • Synthesis: the role of flexibility and complexity in intra- and interpersonal well-being
  • Closing: the future of positive psychology


Learning Objectives

  • To understand the basic assumptions, principles and concepts of positive psychology
  • To investigate positive psychology phenomena in real life
  • To critically evaluate positive psychology theory and research
  • To learn ways how positive psychology approaches can be applied in daily living



Psychology, Susanna Papp

Susanna Z. Papp, PhD.

Susanna is a psychologist, lecturer, and trainer. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology (ELTE Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest). She has a decade of experience as a lecturer and over a thousand hour experience in holding skill development training in communication, conflict-management, and cultural competences. She is trained in mediation and restorative methods. With DIS since 2017.


Textbooks (provided by DIS library)

  • Hefferon K., Boniwell, I., (2011). Positive Psychology. Theory, Research, and Applications. UK: McGraw Hill. 
  • Snyder, C. R., Lopez, S. J. (Eds.) (2009). Handbook of Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press

Books on reserve in library

Students can also find the following books in the DIS library. Required readings from these books will be available on Canvas.

  • Frankl, Victor E. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press
  • Lyubomirsky, S (2011). The How of Happiness. A Practical Guide to Getting the Life You Want. New York: The Penguin Press
  • Sheldon, M.K. Et al. (Eds.) (2011). Designing Positive Psychology. Taking Stock and Moving Forward. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Snyder, C. R., Lopez, S. J., Pedrotti, J.T. (2011) Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. CA: Sage Publications

Required Articles on Canvas:

  • Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., Norton, M. I. (2012) Happiness runs in a circular motion: Evidence for a positive feedback loop between prosocial spending and happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies 13, 347–355.
  • Anshel, M. H., Minsoo, K., Brinthaupt, T. M. (2010). A Values-Based Approach for Changing Exercise and Dietary Habits: An Action Study. International Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 8(4), 413-432
  • Bergström, M., Modin, B. Fransson, E. Rajmil, L., Berlin, M., Gustafsson, P. A., Hjern, A. (2013) Living in two homes-a Swedish national survey of wellbeing in 12 and 15 year olds with joint physical custody. BMC Public Health 13(868), 1-8
  • Bonanno, G.A. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist, 59, 20-28.
  • Brown, K.W., Ryan, R.M. & Creswell, J.D. (2007). Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 211-237.
  • Clarke, J. (2015) Solidarity and survival: A multidisciplinary exploration of volunteering during the Greek crisis. In: Clarke, J., Huliaras, A., Sotiropoulos, D. (2015) Austerity and the third sector in Greece. England: Ashgate (pp. 67-79)
  • Crocker, J., Park, L. E. (2004). The Costly Pursuit of Self-Esteem. Psychological Bulletin, 130(3), 392-414.
  • Duckworth, A.L. & Seligman, M.E.P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance in adolescents. Psychological Science, 16, 939-944.
  • Emmons, R. A., Mishra, A. (2011) Why gratitude enhances well-being: what we know, what we need to know. In: Sheldon, M.K. Et al. (Eds.) (2011). Designing Positive Psychology. Taking Stock and Moving Forward. New York: Oxford University Press (pp. 228-258)
  • Fredrickson, B.L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden and build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.
  • Frisén, A., Holmqvist, K. (2010) What characterizes early adolescents with a positive body image? A qualitative investigation of Swedish girls and boys. Body Image, 7, 205-212.
  • Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Layton, B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLOS Medicine, 7(7), 2-19,%20Social%20relationships%20-%20health,%20PlosMed,%202010.pdf
  • Howard, J., McInnes, K. (2013) The impact of children's perception of an activity as play rather than not play on emotional well‐ Child: Care, Health and Development, 39(5), 737-742
  • Kashdan, T., B. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 865-878.
  • Koskoff, S., Landau, M.J., Burke, B. (2016) Terror management and politics: Comparing and integrating the “Conservative Shift” and “Political Worldview Defense” Hypotheses In: Harvell, L., Nisbett, G. S. (Eds.) (2016) Denying Death. An interdisciplinary approach to Terror Management Theory. New York: Routlegde (pp. 28-41)
  • Kruglanski, A. W., Gelfand, M. J., Bélanger, J. J., Sheveland, A., Gunaratna, R. (2014) The Psychology of Radicalization and Deradicalization: How Significance Quest Impacts Violent Extremism. Advances in Political Psychology, 35 (1) 69-93.
  • Lewis, R. D. (2006) When cultures collide: Leading across cultures. Boston: Nicholas Brealy International. Chapter: Sweden (pp. 337-344.)
  • MacKenzie, M. J., Baumeister, R. F. (2014) Meaning in life: Nature, needs, and myths. In: Batthyany, A., Russo-Netzer, P. (Eds.) (2014) Meaning in Positive and Existential Psychology. New York: Springer. (pp. 25-35)
  • Mavrikos-Adamou, T. (2015) Informal relationships and stuctures in Greece and their effects on civil society formation. In: Clarke, J., Huliaras, A., Sotiropoulos, D. (2015) Austerity and the third sector in Greece. England: Ashgate (pp. 45-62)
  • OECD Better Life Index –Sweden:
  • Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). A new understanding of happiness and well-being – and how to achieve them. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Chapter 1. (pp. 9-29)
  • Shnabel, N., Nadler, A. (2015) The role of agency and morality in reconciliation processes: The perspective of a Needs-Based Model. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 24(6) 1-7.
  • Uchida, Y., & Ogihara, Y. (2012). Personal or interpersonal construal of happiness: A cultural psychological perspective. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(4), 354-369
  • Wachtel, T. (2012) Defining restorative. International Institute for Restorative Practices. (pp 1-9)
  • Yazdani, M., Esmaeilzadeh, M., Saeid P., Khaledi, F. (2014) The effects of laughter yoga on general health among nursing students. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research. 19(1): 36–40.

Optional readings: 

Besides required readings students are provided a collection of optional readings for each class. The purpose of optional readings is multiple:

  1. When the instructor presents research or theories in class that are not included in the required readings students can find the original sources in the optional readings section,
  2. When a topic is multifaceted and has more interesting aspects or applications there is not always time to cover all of them in class. Students who are interested in other areas can read further.
  3. Optional readings help students to find more sources for their group project presentation and final paper. 


Field Studies

Please note that field study programs and guest lectures may change.

Exit Sweden NGO 

Theme: Making positive life changes

In this field study visit students will learn about the work of Exit Sweden, an ngo that engages in helping people leave violent extremist (eg. neo-nazi) movements. We will meet Robert Örell, director of Exit Sweden and co-chair of the EU established Deradicalization Working Group of Radicalisation Awareness Network to explore the application of positive psychology principles in the process of deradicalization of violent extremists and inquire about motivations to make positive life changes.


Character Strengths in Action

Theme: Making positive life changes

Our guest speaker Evelina Fredriksson will give us a two hour interactive lecture on character strengths. Evelina founded the Swedish Institute of Positive Psychology in Stockholm and serves as an Assistant Instructor at Master of Positive Psychology Program at the University of Pennsylvania working together with Martin Seligman. 

Study Tours

Center of Gothenburg panorama

Core Course week/Short Tour in Gothenburg: Making positive changes

Purpose: The purpose of the core course week (CCW) is to explore various aspects of making positive changes. During our two days in Stockholm we will be focusing on making positive changes in one's own life including topics of changing habits and positive life-changing decisions (see the field study descriptions above).

On our 3-day study tour in Gothenburg we will be focusing on making positive changes for others by exploring motivations of altruistic and prosocial behavior in different contexts and their relation to wellbeing. We will also investigate the physical body's role in positive psychology with a special emphasis on positive body image.  The core course week provides students with possibilities of different ways of learning including workshops, exercises, lectures and field study visits that will be integrated with positive psychology research and theories.  

Orientation: Students will have an orientation before departure and the travel intinerary will be posted on canvas the Friday before departure the latest.


Long Study tour: Exploring well-being in Greece

Athens  Acropolis from Plaka night view

Purpose: The purpose of the long study tour is to explore wellbeing in the Greek (cultural, historical and political) context. We will focus on positive initiatives and structures as well as on learning about the culture and life in contemporary Athens. The study tour will include field visits, lectures, exercises as well as sightseeing and cultural activities.

Orientation: Students will have an orientation after class on the week before departure and the travel itinerary will be posted on canvas the Friday before departure the latest.

Guest Lecturers

Ola Lundström - Mindfulness teacher, coach, founder of Mindfulnesscenter

Ola has 25 years of experience as a mindfulness instructor and coach. He is trained in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBKT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). He has worked with schools, social services, psychiatric center as well as companies lecturing, training, and coaching mindfulness with the goal to prevent mental illnesses. He has lectured and supervised working groups and leaders in mindfulness within, among others, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, the Swedish Transport Administration, Apoteket AB and BioGaia AB. 


Approach to Teaching

The class will involve an interactive pedagogy with short lectures, group activities, discussions, personal reflections and guest lectures as well as workshops and field studies. Students are encouraged to apply theory in practice as well as sharing reflections in class. The instructor together with the students is responsible for creating a safe and engaging learning environment.

Expectations of the Students

In order to successfully complete the course students are required to attend all classes, field studies and study tour events. Students can benefit the most from the class if they come prepared. It includes being punctual, attentive and prepared with the assigned readings and  homework. Engaging constructively in classwork means active listening during lecture time, asking questions, sharing knowledge and academic or personal reflections during discussions or group-work and being able to shift successfully between these different work modes. Active engagement also includes being present not only physically but mentally as well. Regular multitasking, disengaging or disruptive behaviors negatively affect the grade. Students can contribute to a higher quality and a more fun learning experience by their active participation. By being respectful to one another and by being proactive they can also contribute to class well-being. 


Students have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of positive psychology through various assignments over the course of the semester. The individual written assignments (core course week paper and final paper) motivate students to deepen, integrate and synthetize their knowledge using their analytical and academic thinking skills. The group project assignment provides an opportunity for students to use their creativity and interest in the applied field of positive psychology as well as to practice teamwork and persuasive academic presentation.


Assignment Evaluation


Participation and engagement



 Study tour host group assignment (x2)


10% (5%+5%)

 Core Course Week Paper



Applying Positive Psychology Group Project Presentation



Final paper







Detailed assignment description will be available on Canvas.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 


Academic Honesty

Plagiarism and Violating the Rules of an Assignment

DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others.   Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software.  See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.

Policy on late papers 

Late papers will not be accepted. Once the schedule of the group presentations is agreed it can not be modified. 

If a file uploaded as an assignment (individual or group) is not downloadable, the student will get a notification and needs to send the file via email within two days. If the student fails to do this, the assignment automatically result in 0 points.

Use of laptops or phones in class 

In order to motivate students' engagement laptops or phones are required to be used for only note taking purposes unless instructed otherwise. 


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Course Summary:

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