Friday, March 11, 2011

Authentic Happiness

Martin Seligman is a psychologist,researcher,writer,former president of the American Psychological Association, and also a self-identified former grouch. This insight about his own tendency to see the negative, and his review of the psychological literature as being mostly illness-focused, lead Seligman to founding Positive Psychology. Instead of researching anxiety and depression, Positive Psychology studies what brings people happiness,satisfaction,and meaning.This week, I enjoyed rereading Seligman's classic book "Authentic Happiness",and rediscovered why I love Martin Seligman and all the great,unexpected surprises he has to teach us.

Would you believe that most of us have a set point for happiness?(This is similar to the natural set point for our weight that we usually return to, even after intense dieting.) Seligman's research suggests that what we can try to do is operate from the high end of our natural happiness range.

What does Seligman observe about happy people?

1. They spend time with other people and have strong,caring relationships. They aren't usually loners.

2. They are more likely to be married. In his study, Seligman noted that 40% of married individuals identified themselves as very happy, compared to 20% of singles. Most truly happy people are in a caring, commited relationship. Married people also tend to live longer.

3.They have a faith.

4.Money isn't that important, once you have a certain level of security.Very poor people are often unhappy and distressed, but even lottery winners return from the initial euphoria to their previous level of happiness within a year. Money can't buy you happiness.

5. More choices don't necessarily make people any happier. It's the commitment we make to the choices we took that make us happier. Sometimes too many choces just make us overwhelmed.(Think of Robin Williams as a Russian immigrant in Moscow on the Hudson,overwhelmed and distressed by all the cereal choices at the American supermarket.)

6.Developing our character strengths also makes us feel happy and satisfied. Cultivating traits like kindness,patience,courage,acceptance, humor,flexibility,and resilency all make us feel more content.This is the largest method of impacting our level of happiness.

I recommend all of Seligman's books on finding happiness,avoiding learned helplessness and leading a positive life.Even Seligman shares he learned to stop raining on the happiness in his family.Do your part to add some happy to the mix in your relationships. Each person is charged with the responsibility of creating our own happiness and sharing it with those we love,rather than squeezing it out of others!

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