Positive psychology is a rapidly growing field that examines what makes people happy. As a discipline, psychology has traditionally focused on negative emotions and what can go wrong in the brain. Positive psychology looks at positive emotions and methods of fulfillment, like hope, gratitude, pleasure, spirituality and charity [source: Max].
Besides shifting the focus to these other, oft-neglected emotions, positive psychology examines concerns like the difference between feeling good about yourself for a moment or a day and creating enduring happiness. This balance between ephemeral satisfaction and prolonged happiness can be difficult to strike, and courses in positive psychology may ask students to look deeply into their own lives and examine how they work to achieve happiness.
Dozens of universities now offer classes on positive psychology, many of them very popular, such as one at George Mason University called The Science of Well-Being. Harvard's basic positive psychology class is the most popular class at the university [source: Smith]. In these classes, students look at what produces happier emotions and feelings of satisfaction. They often conduct personal experiments in which they volunteer -- a selfless act that's supposed to lead to longer-lasting happiness -- or give in to impulses that produce more short-term feelings of happiness. But positive psychology has been criticized by some educators and academics as being too lacking in hard science, too prescriptive and seemingly almost like a religion. Some also claim that professors in the field don't spend enough time considering individual differences among people and different modes of achieving happiness [source: Max].