Centenary University hosts commencement speaker Ben-Shahar who speaks about, “Happiness”

by Jeff Garrett


HACKETTSTOWN –  A happy occasion on a beautiful Spring day, but one filled with 

apprehension and trepidation no less, was made even happier for the class of 

2023 on Saturday, May 6. 

The University’s Arts and Social Work school graduates listened to their own Dr. 

Tal David Ben-Shahar speak at Commencement. The Ph.D, who’s taught at Ivy 

League universities before coming to Centenary, discussed how to 

embrace the positives people encounter in their lives and its daily importance.  

Ben-Shahar is the Director of the Master of Arts of Happiness Studies at 


Embracing suttle positives is not the easiest of endeavors for recent graduates as 

they find jobs, purchase homes and start families in challenging times. Squeezing 

happiness in there isn’t easy, let alone, promised. But Ben-Shalar provided 

optimism with his words of wisdom even challenging graduates to go out seek 

happiness wherever it comes, but especially in the world’s beautiful surroundings.

“When you take stock of something positive in your life, you feel better and as a 

result, bring more positivity to your environment,” said Ben-Shahar, an American 

and Israeli teacher and writer in the areas of psychology and leadership. “Your 

environment, either in the way you treat others or others treat you or through 

your activities, reflects and boosts your positivity.

He added that one can define happiness as the overall feeling of pleasure and 

meaning; that a happy person can enjoy positive emotions if this person 

experiences life as something meaningful.

Citing a 2003 study by psychologists, on the issue of Gratitude, Ben-Shahar also 

mentioned that students turned graduates might really consider keeping a daily 

personal journal of sorts, and write down the things they felt were positive and 

made them happy, almost as if to “make them happier and physically healthier 

and more successful,” while providing an extra layer of calm to the inner-self 

perhaps. He added that even doing the ritual once-a-week has benefits.

Stressing urgency to experience for life’s simple pleasures, Ben-Shalar urged those 

about waiting anxiously to get their diplomas to touch, feel and smell things each 

day,“ to contact things physically, “as if their tactile sense,” would leave them, and 

they might not be able to do these things ever again.

Finally he asked, “why do so many fail to see the beauty within and without?” He 

said that we are taught that the feeling of gratitude is merely not enough, that 

Society essentially demands more from us collectively.

Ben-Shalar is co-founder of the Happiness Studies Academy. He garnered national 

recognition when, at Harvard University 20 years ago, he taught a course on 

happiness.  Ben-Shalar moved over to Columbia University for a stint and has 

appeared on several major networks.  He is often called upon by national 

publications as an expert on the topic of Happiness.

Grateful and lucky undoubtedly, Centenary was in a great position this Spring to 

have such a meaningful message delivered to graduates from one of its own.


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