Course Syllabus

 Positive Psychology Section D

Semester & Location:

Spring 2024 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Core Course Study Tours:

Northern Denmark Arctic Norway and Sweden

Major Disciplines:



A psychology course at university level.


S. Salman Ahmad, Ph.D.

(current students please contact via the Canvas Inbox)

Program Contact:

Department email address

Time & Place:

Mondays: 10.05-13.00

Location: N7-A20


Course Description:

Pre-requisite:  A psychology course at university level.

What is a ‘good life’ or a ‘happy life’? What kinds of happiness do humans experience? What does it take for humans to lead fulfilling lives?  The search for answers to these questions is probably as old as humankind itself. Discourses on human well-being can be seen in various philosophical traditions across the world - from ancient times, through the Middle Ages, and into the present. In recent times, the understanding of human well-being has been grounded in empirical investigations and documented practice and has come to be known as the discipline of ‘positive psychology’, a discipline that focuses on the positive and constructive aspects of human functioning, and which often involves deeper self-awareness and acceptance, deeper empathy and relatedness with the 'other' and the transformation of difficult experiences through processes of extracting meaning from life events.

This course in Positive Psychology aims to provide students with an introduction to the core ideas of theorists who have dealt with issues of happiness and well-being, and acquainting them with the growing body of research evidence in the area that has implications on developing individuals, relationships, organizations and communities. An important objective of the course is to use concepts learnt in the classroom to address the challenges of day-to-day living and to improve the quality of our own lives. Another important objective is to explore the applicability of positive psychology principles in dealing with difficult social problems such as crime, substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness. As such, the focus of the course will be positive psychology applied to daily life - both at the level of the individual and at the level of communities.


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 apply positive psychology approaches in personal and community development.



S. Salman Ahmad, Ph.D.

Salman Ahmad has a PhD in Psychology and has worked as a faculty member and consultant with various educational, business and social organizations across South Asia, the Middle-East, the Americas, and Europe. He teaches and consults in the areas of psychology, leadership and organizational development and is also engaged in social change initiatives with the European Union. He is the Founding Associate of the Cnergi project (, Chief Consultant at Living Institute, External Lecturer at Copenhagen Business School and the University of Copenhagen. 


Selected texts:

  • Ahmad, S.S. Mishra, S. & Kumar, S. (2013). Motivated Reasoning, Leadership and Team Performance. Ivey Publishing, Richard Ivey School of Business, London, Canada, pp. 1-7.
  • Baskerville, K. et al (2000). Reactions to Random Acts of Kindness. The Social Science Journal, Vol. 37 (2). pp. 293-298.
  • Biswas-Diener, R. (2006). From the Equator to the North Pole: A Study of Character Strengths. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(3), 293–310.
  • Biswas-Diener, R., Vittersø, J., Diener, E. (2010). The Danish Effect: Beginning to Explain High Well-Being in Denmark, Social Indicators Research, 97(2): pp. 229-246.
  • 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.
  • Carson, J., Muir, M., Clark, S., Wakely, E., & Chander, A. (2010). Piloting a gratitude intervention in a community mental health team. Groupwork: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Working with Groups, 20(3), 73-87.
  • Chiu, C., & Yeh, Y. (2017). In Your Shoes or Mine? Shifting From Other to Self Perspective Is Vital for Emotional Empathy. Emotion, doi:10.1037/emo0000346
  • Chirkov, V., Ryan, R. M., Kim, Y., & Kaplan, U. (2003). Differentiating autonomy from individualism and independence: a self-determination theory perspective on internalization of cultural orientations and well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(1), 97–110.
  • Chung, M. (2016). Relation between lack of forgiveness and depression: The moderating effect of self-compassion. Psychological Reports, 119(3), 573-585.
  • Crocker, J. & Park, L. E. (2004). The Costly Pursuit of Self-Esteem. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 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.
  • Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 1087-1101
  • Dunn, D. S., & Brody, C. (2008). Defining the Good Life Following Acquired Physical Disability. Rehabilitation Psychology, 53(4), 413-425.
  • Easterlin, R. A.; McVey, L. A.; Switek, M.; Sawangfa, O.; Zweig, J. S. (2010). "The happiness-income paradox revisited". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (52): 22463–22468.
  • Florida, R. and Rentfrow, P.J. (2011). Place and Well-Being. In Sheldon, M.K. et al. (Ed.), Designing Positive Psychology. Taking Stock and Moving Forward Oxford University Press. Pp. 385-395.
  • Fraser-Thomas, J.L., Côté, J. & Deakin, J. (2005). Youth sport programs: an avenue to foster positive youth development. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, Vol. 10 (1), pp. 19-40.
  • 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.
  • Gottman, J., Swanson, C. & Swanson, K. (2002). A General Systems Theory of Marriage: Nonlinear Difference Equation Modeling of Marital Interaction. Personality and Social Psychology Review, Vol. 6, No. 4, 326–340.
  • Gredecki, N., & Turner, P. (2009). Positive psychology and forensic clients: Applications to relapse prevention in offending behaviour interventions. The British Journal of Forensic Practice, 11(4), 50-59.
  • Howell, A. J., Dopko, R. L., Passmore, H., & Buro, K. (2011). Nature connectedness: Associations with well-being and mindfulness. Personality & Individual Differences, 51(2), 166-171.
  • Johnson, C. (2005). Narratives of identity: Denying empathy in conservative discourses on race, class, and sexuality. Theory & Society, 34(1), 37-61.
  • Kahneman, D., Krueger, A.B., Schkade, D., Schwarz, N. & Stone, A.A. (2006). Would you be happier if you were richer? A focusing illusion. Science, 312, 1908-1910.
  • Kahneman, D., Krueger, A.B., Schkade, D.A., Schwarz, N. & Stone, A.A. (2004). A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: The day reconstruction method. Science, 306, 1776-1780.
  • Kashdan, T. B., & McKnight, P. E. (2013). Commitment to a Purpose in Life: An Antidote to the Suffering by Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder. Emotion, doi:10.1037/a0033278 (pp. 1-10).
  • Keyes, C., Schmotkin, D., & Ryff, C. (2002) “Optimizing well-being: The empirical encounter of two traditions”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 1007-22.
  • Lehmann, O. V., Kardum, G., & Klempe, S. H. (2019). The search for inner silence as a source for eudemonia. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 47(2), 180–189.
  • Leineweber, M. & Arensman, E. (2003). Culture Change and Mental Health: The Epidemiology of Suicide in Greenland. Archives of Suicide Research, 7: pp. 41-50.
  • Linnet, J.P. (2011). Money Can’t Buy me Hygge: Danish Middle-Class Consumption, Egalitarianism, and the Sanctity of Inner Space. Social Analysis, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp. 21-44.
  • Maddi, S.R. (2006) Hardiness: The courage to grow from stresses. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1:3, 160-168.
  • Mauss, I. B., Tamir, M., Anderson, C. L., & Savino, N. S. (2011). Can seeking happiness make people unhappy? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. Emotion, 11(4), 807–815.
  • McCullough, M.E., Root, L.M., Tabak, B.A., & Witvliet, C. (2009). Forgiveness. In S.Lopez and C.R. Snyder (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, pp.1-12.
  • Moran, G. S., & Nemec, P. B. (2013). Walking on the Sunny Side: What Positive Psychology Can Contribute to Psychiatric Rehabilitation Concepts and Practice. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 36(3), 202-208.
  • Perlman, D., Patterson, C., Moxham, L., Taylor, E. K., Brighton, R., Sumskis, S., & Heffernan, T. (2017). Understanding the influence of resilience for people with a lived experience of mental illness: A self-determination theory perspective. Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 45, pp. 1026-1032.
  • Rainisio, N. & Inghilleri, P. (2013). Culture, Environmental Psychology, and Well-Being: An Emergent Theoretical In H.H. Knoop and A. Delle Fave (eds.), Well-Being and Cultures: Perspectives from Positive Psychology. Cross-Cultural Advancements in Positive Psychology 3, Springer, pp. 103-116.
  • Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.
  • Schlosser, M., Jones, R., Demnitz-King, H. et al. (2022). Meditation experience is associated with lower levels of repetitive negative thinking: The key role of self-compassion. Curr Psychol 41, 3144–3155.
  • Sheldon, K.M. (2014). Becoming Oneself: The Central Role of Self-Concordant Goal Selection. Personality and Social Psychology Review, Vol. 18(4), pp. 349-365.
  • Shrira, A, Palgi , Y, Ben-Ezra, M. & Shmotkin, D. (2011) How subjective well-being and meaning in life interact in the hostile world?, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6:4, 273-285.
  • Shryack, J.; Steger, M. F.; Krueger, R. F.; Kallie, C. S. (2010). "The structure of virtue: An empirical investigation of the dimensionality of the virtues in action inventory of strengths". Personality and Individual Differences 48 (6): 714–719.
  • Stella, P. (2001). The Purpose and Effects of Punishment. European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law & Criminal Justice, 9(1), 56-68.
  • Toth, E. C., Tegner, J., Lauridsen, S., & Kappel, N. (2016). A cross-sectional national survey assessing self-reported drug intake behavior, contact with the primary sector and drug treatment among service users of Danish drug consumption rooms. Harm Reduction Journal, 131-12.
  • Wood, A.M., Froh, J.J. & Geraghty, A.W.A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 890-905.
  • Woodyatt, L., & Wenzel, M. (2013). Self-Forgiveness and Restoration of an Offender Following an Interpersonal Transgression. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 32(2), 225-259.


Core Course Week/Short Tour: “Positive Psychology in Practice I” 

  • Purpose: Two days of workshops and field studies in Copenhagen and a 3-day tour of Northern Denmark to experience positive psychology principles in practice in various settings.
  • Study tour orientation: Presentation during class before the Study Tour
  • Assignments: Group project (see below)

Field Studies:

  • Visit to a meditation centre where we will have a workshop on positive thinking and meditation and will learn some simple meditative practices.
  • Visit to a drug injection clinic, Mændenes Hjem to explore novel and positive approaches towards dealing with the challenge of drug-addiction.

Long Study Tour: “Positive Psychology in Practice II”

  • Purpose: A 6-day tour of Arctic Norway and Sweden to experience positive psychology principles in practice in various settings.
  • Study tour orientation: Presentation during class before the Study Tour
  • Assignments: Study tour paper (see below)


Approach to teaching:

The class will involve an interactive pedagogy with short lectures, group presentations, analytical discussions, personal reflections, workshops, exercises, guest lectures and field studies. The class will be divided into study groups that will work together for the duration of the course.


Expectations from Students:

Students are expected to be fully prepared for each class, having done the reading and/or exercises for the session. They are expected to be prepared with questions for classroom discussion, as well as to be actively engaged in the learning process in the classroom. Students are also expected to be punctual and present in all class activities.


Class Representatives

Each semester DIS looks for class representatives to become official spokespersons for their class group, addressing any concerns that may arise (in academic or related matters), suggesting improvements and coming up with new ideas. Class Representatives will be elected in class at the beginning of the semester.

Class representatives are a great way for DIS faculty to ensure better and timelier feedback on their courses, assessments and teaching styles, and as such perform an invaluable role in connecting student needs with faculty instruction during term time.


Academic Excellence Award

Each semester we recognize one outstanding student from the Psychology Program (across all core courses) with an Award of Academic Excellence. It is reserved for a student who has distinguished themself through diligence, commitment, academic performance, and ideally a student who contributes to a good, collaborative learning environment in class.



Methods of Evaluation

Individual/Group Evaluation

Percentage of grade

Class Participation



First Essay



Core Course Week and Long Study Tour Assignments






Final Paper







Class Participation:

Class participation includes attending all classes, field studies and study tour events. It includes being punctual, attentive and prepared with the assigned readings and exercises for the above. Students are expected to come prepared with relevant questions for discussion pertaining to the topic, as well as making contributions with relevant analytical insights and critical evaluations. During the study tours, students will work in study groups and will need to lead discussions of the various visits whilst integrating these discussions to course theory. See rubric on Canvas.


First Essay

The essay serves as the student’s point of departure for the course. The paper should include question(s) related to Positive Psychology that you would like to explore/find answers to in this semester and a reflection on why these question(s) are interesting/relevant to you. The paper should also include any specific aspects of the self that you would like to work on applying Positive Psychology principles and practices and why this is relevant/important to you. You should also include thoughts on how you could work on these aspects of the self and how you could measure change in the self. The paper has a word limit of 1000 words (maximum), should integrate theory in analysis, should have a reference list (not included in the word limit), and should be reflective and critical. See rubric on Canvas.


Group Project:

The project will be largely based on the core course week including the short study tour. The purpose of the project is to develop on the topics covered during the core course week and reflect upon the experiences students have had during this time whilst integrating these with course theory. The project should draw upon and critically evaluate theory and research on happiness and well-being whilst relating this to the experiences of the week. The project involves an in-class presentation and submission by email of the same. See Canvas for more details.  Students may elect to be graded individually on this project.



The test will be on theory covered in the course up to the day the test is conducted and will consist of short answers and/or multiple choice items. The duration of the test will be 30 minutes. Readings for these will be announced in advance.


Long Study Tour Paper:

The purpose of this paper is to explore the application of positive psychology principles as experienced during the long study tour. The paper should draw upon the experiences students have had during this tour and should build up on one or more themes from the visits of the study tour. The investigation should draw upon and critically evaluate theory and research on happiness and well-being as applicable to the themes of the study tour and to the experiences that form the raw data for the paper. The paper involves a written report of a maximum of 1500 words. See rubric on Canvas.


Final Paper:

The course will conclude with a final paper (maximum word limit: 1500) that is to be written individually.  The paper should be a synthesis of learning from the course, relating the course with experiences the student has had during his/her time in Denmark. The paper should draw on theory and research from the discipline of positive psychology and apply this to real life situations whilst being critically evaluative. See rubric on Canvas.


To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.


Policy on absence from class due to illness: Any absence due to illness has to be supported by a doctor's note. If a doctor's note is not provided, the absence will impact the student's grade.


Policy on late papers: Late papers without a valid reason will not be accepted.


Policy for students who arrive late to class: Arriving late without a valid reason will affect your class participation grade.


Use of laptops or phones in class:  Computers and smart phones are not permitted during regular class sessions. Occasionally you will work in groups or conduct other activities where a computer may be permitted. You will be informed when this is the case. Cell phones are to be switched off and put away in your bags during class. If you have to receive an urgent call, then please take permission from the instructor before the class.


Disability and resource statement:  Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Academic Support ( to coordinate this.  In order to receive accommodations, students should inform the instructor of approved DIS accommodations within the first two weeks of classes.


Academic Regulations  

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

Course Summary:

Date Details Due