by Nicole Stottlemyer

“Pick a card, any card,” I said to the group.

It sounded like I was about to do a magic trick. But no.

“We’re going to play a game,” I said with a big smile to the room full of CiPP (Certificate in Positive Psychology) alumni and students in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

As I scattered the index cards on the floor, a giddy excitement bubbled up inside me.

“It’s called Tal-ism Charades! Each card has either a quote or a concept from CiPP. Pick a card and act it out while the rest of us try to guess.”

Within minutes, I knew, the room would be full of amusement, which is among the top 10 positive emotions that researcher Barbara Fredrickson says are really good for us. Amusement helps us build connections and solidify social bonds.

The first person drew a card and started signaling in charades style that we needed to guess one word.

“GRATITUDE!” Several people shouted right away, as she gestured a prayer. “RIGHT!” she cried.

The next card, “neurogenesis” (try acting that one out!!) gave us a challenge that provided even more laughter and fun.

In no time, we were experiencing more of the top-10 positive emotions, like joy, which emerges when an unexpected good thing happens, like playing this game; interest, when the circumstance offers something novel, mysterious, or challenging, but not too overwhelming—which, interestingly, makes people want to learn; and pride, when we guessed the answer or acted it out successfully (when another person guessed right, there was a sense of group pride).

And there was love. Love happens when people feel positive emotion in the context of a safe, interpersonal connection or relationship—like a CiPP meetup!

I love playing positive psychology games like this one, not only because they are a blast, but also because they help people connect and have other very useful benefits.

Tal Ben-Shahar, our game’s namesake, says, “It’s no coincidence that there is an etymological connection between the words creation and recreation. It’s when we recreate, when we take time off, when when we have fun—that’s when we come up with our best ideas. That’s when we recover mind as well as body. And what healthy, happy, successful people do is punctuate their lives with ‘recoveries.’”

Researcher Barbara Fredrickson says that positive emotions are good for us because, they bring out the best in us and transform us at a cellular level.

What’s even better than the occasional game night is increasing our positive emotions every single day. That’s something that requires continual reinforcement and effort. Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that creating intentional positive activities takes as much focused willpower as achieving other goals, like lowering your cholesterol or losing weight. But it’s way more fun! Try incorporating games or other fun activities into your time with colleagues, friends, or family on a regular basis.

There is no magic trick for increasing your happiness. No sleight of hand. No fooling the eye. Just pure old-fashioned fun, with proven positive side effects!

Find out more about upcoming CiPP Tours.

Click here to learn more about the Certificate in Positive Psychology.


Nicole Stottlemyer is a coach, facilitator, and senior teaching assistant with Wholebeing Institute, and holds Wholebeing certificates in Positive Psychology and Positive Psychology Coaching.