In Pursuit of the Happy Life: Three Tips
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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…