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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

In Pursuit of the Happy Life: Three Tips

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 6th 2009

 Sixty years ago psychology was mainly interested in finding out what is wrong with us and exploring interventions to make those who were miserable, less miserable. While this had its upside with the creation of multiple treatments and medications to support millions of people, it also had its downside with the psychological field focused on what was wrong with people and overlooking what was right with people. Through that time there were leaders in the field of Humanistic Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology that shouted back... "Hey, what about focusing on what it means to lead a good life." Recently, Positive Psychology began to apply rigorous research to the question, what does it mean to live a happy life? The research now gives us evidence that there are benefits to uncovering our strengths and beginning to apply them to various areas of our lives. Research is finding that cultivating gratitude, altruism, and forgiveness can lead to a more meaningful life. 

Martin Seligman, Ph.D. and colleagues have identified three happy lives:

  1. Pleasant life - A life full of positive emotion and the skills to boost that emotion. While this can be a pleasant life, it is the least lasting of the three.

  2. Engaged life - An active life where a person feels engaged and in the flow of work, parenting, exercise, and/or leisure. This is a life where you may have intense concentration with the things you are doing; feel in a state of flow. They say in this life you can be happy without a lot of positive emotion.

  3. Meaningful life - A life where you know your strengths and apply them to various areas of your life. In this life you are using your strengths not just for yourself, but also in service of something greater than yourself. This leads to the most lasting happy life.

How can you get more of the meaningful life?

Here are 3 things to try out:

  1. Gratitude visit - Think of someone who is currently alive who has been instrumental in your life who you have never really thanked. Write them a letter and present it to them.

  2. Philanthropy - Research shows that doing things that are fun can be supportive, but the benefits are fleeting. However, doing something altruistic can have lasting effects. Trying doing something for someone else, volunteer somewhere, be of service.

  3. For couples - Take some time to identify one another's strengths and then design and evening that allows each person to engage those strengths. Apparently, this can lead to a better relationship.

As always, please write your thoughts and questions below. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.  

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Simple and happy life... - HelpLine - Mar 11th 2009

This is a really insightful article. After all “it is so simple to stay happy but so difficult to be simple”. In most cases during our life we tend to forget this cardinal rule and complicate our lives unnecessarily…

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