Sunday, May 1, 2011

Martin Seligman: The Science of Happiness

Call to action: Work for pleasure, flow and philanthropy.

Selignman relates a brief history of psychology with the positive trend toward optimism. Succinctly, "Psychology makes people less miserable."

Psychology started with the disease model, which he says was problematic. The current evolution is moving towards positive psychology where concern is on:
1. strength and weakness
2.a. buidling the best things in life
2.b. repairing the worst
3.a. making lives of normal people fulfilling
3.b. nurturing high talent
3.c. healing pathology

Happiness is now measured by There are 3 types of happiness leading to 3 lives:
1. Pleasant life (positive emotions)
2. Good life (engagement, flow)
3. Meaningful life (service)
4. Balanced life (I venture to add this type of life to include those of the eastern views epitomized by different kinds of monks where they do not have pleasant, good or meaningful lives but are happy in a state of equilibrium.)

Extremely happy people in the 1st type have similar behavior. They are social.

(At this point, I went looking for the progress report with data from experiments. As of 2005, three good things and using signature strengths seem to work on both well people and those with depressive symptoms. (M.Seligman et. al., Positive Psychology Progress Empirical Validation of Interventions, July-August 2005, American Psychologist, 410-421.)

Some suggested interventions are:
1. Mindfulness
2. Gratitude visit
3. Strengths Date
4. Fun vs. Philanthropy

5. Savoring
6. Hope
* I added the last two, taken from here.

He suggests that a full life is greater than the sum of each type of happy lives. He ends by making an appeal to make business, entertainment and design create full lives.

I think and believe that the gamification of reality will be the intervention of choice to provide the way towards a full life.

Martin Seligman has a number of books. I've been following his work for a few years now. Definitely, all the data are valuable. Still, I feel there's something lacking in his overall view of happiness. His focus is on external interventions, whereas in the best TED talks, the speakers assert that happiness is a personal choice. That happiness can be achieved now.

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