The Pursuit Of Happiness

An aerial view of a freight train seen in Viareggio, Tuesday, June 30, 2009. A freight train derailed and plowed into houses in a small Italian town, setting off an explosion and fire.
AP Photo/Italian Firefighters

Think of it as following Thomas Jefferson's orders -- whatever you're doing this Fourth of July weekend, pursue happiness. It's your inalienable right, guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence.

What is not guaranteed is attaining happiness, CBS Sunday Morning contributor Martha Teichner says.

Finding happiness, according to an old Japanese proverb, is "like clutching the shadow" or "chasing the wind." But according to researchers in the brand new field of positive psychology, happiness may not be so elusive after all.

"This is an attempt to bring the naughty thumb of science to bear on what makes life worth living," professor Marty Seligman says.

Seligman spent 35 years studying depression before becoming director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Yes, major universities now offer courses, even degrees, in the study of happiness.

"The goal of positive psychology is first, the understanding, but much more importantly, increasing the tonnage of happiness in the world.

Speaking of tonnage, there is Lou Gagliotto, New York City's oldest garbageman. At 78, he is the living embodiment of what positive psychologists are learning about happiness.

In 49 years on the job, he's never taken a sick day. Not one. And forget retirement.

If you're saying, "Come on, he can't really be that happy picking up garbage," well, you're wrong.

Gagliotto, it seems, fits the profile. For starters, research shows old people are happier than young people.

And "Gags," as he's called, concentrates on what he likes and dismisses the nasty, smelly part.

What's most important is that his work allows him to provide for his family. Every summer he takes the entire Gagliotto clan on a long vacation.