Positive Psychology 1504: Harvard’s Groundbreaking Course

Positive Psychology 1504: Harvard's Groundbreaking Course

Harvard’s Positive Psychology 1504, taught by professor Tal Ben-Shahar Ph.D., will enter the books as the most popular course in the history of Harvard University.

In the spring of 2006, over 1400 Harvard students enrolled in both Positive Psychology 1504 and Ben-Shahar’s Psychology of Leadership course.

Positive Psychology 1504 consists of 22 lectures lasting around 75 minutes each, with a guest lecture on humor by Harvard graduate and professor Shawn Achor. The course’s focus is on the psychological aspects of life fulfillment and examines empathy, friendship, love, achievement, creativity, spirituality, happiness, and humor.

The aim of this article is to provide you with the materials you will need to follow the course. If you have a love of learning but are unable to attend classes, check out our online learning section.

Be sure to also check out our page on positive psychology courses and positive psychology degrees as they present you with all the different online and offline positive psychology courses that are out there.

Who is Tal Ben-Shahar?

Born in 1970, Ben-Shahar is a renowned teacher and writer in the areas of positive psychology and leadership. He completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in Organisational Psychology, writing his dissertation on “Restoring Self-Esteem’s Self-Esteem: The Constructs of Dependent and Independent Competence and Worth.”

In 2011, Ben-Shahar joined Angus Ridgway to cofound Potentialife. This leadership-development program uses science to help organizations develop ideal leadership behaviors, and bring positive psychology into daily life.

positive psychology 1504 harvard tal ben shahar

“Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness, therefore, is not about making it to the peak of the mountain, nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain: happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak” – Tal Ben-Shahar

Harvard’s Positive Psychology 1504 Syllabus

Click on the link below to open this course’s syllabus in PDF-format. It contains all the necessary readings for this course and links to the free online sources for these readings.

free pdf download icon


Positive Psychology 1504 syllabus PDF

However, some of the readings are not freely or easily available online.


Positive Psychology 1504 Lecture Videos

The lectures for this course have been put online so that people all over the world can learn about and develop an interest in positive psychology and its scientific branches.

Below you will find the first lecture of this lecture series. The other lectures are also available on YouTube or elsewhere online.

Also, be sure to check out these 5 awesome Positive Psychology PowerPoints (PPT).


Some of My Lecture Notes:

a matter of interpretation lecture slide
Never let a good crisis go to waste
exercise the unsung hero patrick callaghan
Exercise as an effective intervention
happiness in positive psychology vs unhappiness
Happiness isn’t the negation of unhappiness
optimism positive vs negative events
Optimistic approach vs. a pessimistic approach
studying our personal best
Our Personal Best
top 11 1504 tips
The Top 11 Tips from Harvard’s 1504 Positive Psychology course

Books by Tal Ben-Shahar

Based on his positive psychology lectures, Ben-Shahar has published two books on happiness and life fulfillment.

  1. Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. (2007). Buy the book online from Amazon

  2. The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life. (2009). Buy the book online from Amazon

Share Your Course Experiences

We would love to hear about your experience with this course via the comments. Which resources were most useful to you?

About the Author

Seph Fontane Pennock, BBA, is the co-founder of PositivePsychology.com. Seph strongly believes that we can deal with most of life’s absurdities by leveraging human connection and challenging ourselves, instead of using dogma or pharmaceutical drugs.


  1. Aaron McGlaun

    👍👍Awesome article Seth!!❤💚💙💜 hard to believe it’s from 4 years ago.. 🤯 it’s relevance however knows no time boundaries so kudos to you¡! and keep up the pioneering pursuit and passion that propels you my friend!☆☆ Thanks again to you and your organization’s love of promoting positive psychology, people and possibilities as well as all the excellent material you send out to any who wish to receive on a monthly basis including myself so any of those reading PLEASE check out what positivepsychology.com has to offer and make the most of it! Peace and prosperity too all!! 🌍🌎🌏🌟🌠🌈🦄

  2. dr. punit goyal

    post is really great thanks for sharing this post

  3. Allieloveslife

    hi ! I’m very lucky to find this link to positive psychology and have been very much inspired by Professor Tal’s lectures.
    Thanks for creating this website where we can learn more about PSy!
    Could you please tell me that is positive psychology a research direction in Harvard University ? I want to apply for its graduate degree. If you know anything about it , it would be very kind of you to share it here.
    Thanks again!!!

  4. Shalini Bhattacharya

    Hi Seph,
    I am also interested in going through a Positive Psychology Online Program. Could you please share the recommendations with me? Thank you very much :-).

  5. Cynthia Kivland

    How do you enroll in this course

  6. Shirley Granstaff

    please let me know how I can access the entire course. I heard about this course on the evening news and I am very interested in learning more about the course. I just finished the first video and want more!

  7. kelley workman

    thanks for sharing. I took a positive mental attitude class in high school in 1987 and it changed my life. I want to bring a smilier course to Houston ISD, Texas where I live and my 6 children have and are still attending. I think starting a a high school level is very important.

    thanks again for sharing!

    • Shirley Granstaff

      Kelley you have a great idea! I teach at a high school and the teachers need to take this course for sure! Would benefit students, faculty, and more…

    • Jane Xu

      Kelly, Great idea! I am in Houston and had some training in this area. Would be happy to talk…

  8. Rekha goswami

    Thanks for sharing the videos of the lectures.
    I could get only the first 13 lectures on YouTube
    Where can I get the remaining one ?
    Is there site for the other reading materials ?

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