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Personal flourishing and happiness


Admission requirements

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an elective for students of the Honours College. A few spots are available to regular students. Admission to the course is based on a short motivation letter.


Many people aspire happiness and a positive impact on the world. But what is happiness? And what can we do to experience it more often, both within ourselves as in our interaction with others? Academic research in the field of human well-being has provided a great number of insights and practical interventions which can be used to increase our well-being on an individual, organisational and social level.

In this course, you will learn how to increase your resilience, how to experience more optimism and positive emotions and how to have a positive impact on your environment. So, would you like to bring out the best in yourself and others, not only as a student but also as a human being? Would you like to get to know yourself even more? Do you want to feel healthier and happier and live a meaningful life? This course provides you with plenty scientifically based techniques that will help you to achieve these goals concretely.

The module covers three levels:

I – Personal insight: What do I really like to do? What am I good at? What is important to me? How do I want to live?
WE – Interpersonal insight: how do I relate to others? How can I strengthen my relationships?
ALL – What is my contribution to the bigger picture?

The meetings are largely devoted to mental, emotional and physical exercises, both individually and in groups, such as reflection and insight exercises, sharing experiences, visualization, meditation and movement.

Course objectives

The student is able to:

  • Reflect on his/her life and personal development

  • Apply techniques to increase his/her own happiness and resilience and that of others

  • Share and present his/her own personal story authentically

  • Formulate his/her own values and mission in life and act accordingly

  • Work constructively and respectfully with others to make a positive contribution to society.


Thursdays 13.00 to 15.30 hrs, and final lecture on 13 December 13.00 to 17.00 hrs.

11 October
18 October
25 October
1 November
8 November
15 November
22 November
29 November
6 December
13 December


Oude Sterrewacht, room A007. Except for 1 November, 15 November and 13 December. On 1 November the lecture will take place in room c006. On 15 November and 13 December the lecture will take place in room b006.


Week 1 - 11th of October - Introduction

  • Getting to know each other

  • Introduction to the programme

  • Formulate personal learning goals

  • Introduction to ‘positive emotions’

Week 2 - 18th of October – Strengths

  • What are you good at?

  • Building on strengths

  • What do you love?

Week 3 - 25th of October – Meaning

  • What is meaningful to you?

  • Life events

  • Gratitude

Week 4 - 1st of November – Relationships

  • Network of relationships

  • Shadow work

  • Gratitude

  • Form teams for group assignment

Week 5 - 8th of November – From individual to collective - The whole is more than the sum of its parts

  • Guest lecture by Spencer Heijnen

  • Working as a team

  • Applying individual insights to the collective sector

Week 6 - 15th of November - Perfectionism and fear of failure

  • Perfectionism vs. Optimalism

  • The power of vulnerability

  • Dealing with stress and adversity

Week 7 - 22nd of November - Individual presentations of authenticity circles

Week 8 - 29th of November - Individual presentations of authenticity circles

Week 9 - 6th of December - Neuroscience and happiness

  • Guest lecture by Esther van Duin

  • The basic working of our brain and neurobiology related to happiness, rewarding and flourishing

  • Open space: preparing last session

Week 10 - 13th of December - Final presentations group assignment

  • Co-creation of session

  • Applying what you learned

Course load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Working groups: 10 working groups of 2.5 hours: 25 hours

  • Reading literature and practical work: 4 hours a week: 40 hours

  • Individual assignments: 30 hours

  • Group assignment: 45 hours


  • 3 individual reflections.
    Student reflects by means of a written personal report on 3 topics: What do I really like? What am I good at? What is important to me? Reflections on the mental, emotional and physical level.
    Satisfied / not satisfied

  • Individual presentation.
    This assignment consists of presenting a personal story inspired by the three 'main questions' as discussed in the reflections. You can decide for yourself what you are telling and how you do this. Content and form are completely free.
    Satisfied / not satisfied

  • Group assignment: make the difference.
    Together with your group you will develop and write a vision on how you can increase well-being within a certain sector, such as the government, education or the business sector, and what is needed for this. You make use of the scientific literature provided or collected by yourself and supplement this with your own insights and experiences. In addition, in a concrete and practical way you make a positive difference for this sector by performing a positive intervention.

  • Presentation group assignment and impact during final meeting.
    During a festive closing with friends and family and possibly involved social partners, the groups present their vision and also carry out a positive intervention with the audience present.

The final mark is based on the group assignment.

Note: attendance is required.

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

Ben-Shahar, Tal (2007) ‘Happier’, McGraw-Hill Education Europe.
ISBN: 10 0077123247 / ISBN: 13 9780077123246

Ben-Shahar, Tal (2009) 'The Pursuit of Perfect', McGraw-Hill Education Europe
ISBN: 10 0071629033

Furthermore, during the module, reference will be made to 8 compulsory scientific articles and a number of additional articles. The supplementary articles are intended to provide some deepenening as well as to inspire the vision document. Check Blackboard for More info.


Enrolling in this course is possible from Tuesday August 21st until Thursday September 6th 23:59 through the Honours Academy, via this link.


Drs. Pieternel Boer