The father of positive psychology Martin Seligman, explains how anyone can be happier in an excellent interview captured below. What creates happiness, especially authentic happiness?
Is It Money?
It turns out that the extremes tend to be unhappy. Those in deep poverty are unhappy as you might expect, but so are those who have chased money their whole lives only to realize that money doesn’t equal happiness. Lottery winners are very happy for about 3 months, then end up at about the same levels as before they got the money. Having enough is enough.
Is It Physical Health?
Not really. Many healthy people struggle with depression while terminally ill people prove that happiness isn’t dependent on the condition of their health. Those who suffer catastrophic setbacks in their physical health typically struggle with loss and depression for months, but eventually find themselves back to the same level of happiness than before.
What is the answer? How do we live in authentic happiness?
Authentic happiness isn’t pursuing pleasure per se. Those who live for one high to the next eventually find little satisfaction or happiness since the high is based on external circumstances. Authentic happiness is more of what we experience when we’re a part of something noble, bigger than ourselves, and we allow ourselves to be immersed in it. We live with meaning and immersion. We’re one with the music, using our key strengths in the serve of something bigger, usually in helping others.
Align With Core Values
Seligman talks about six universal virtues we find in every culture and country. They’re universal to humans. When we connect strongly to these virtues, we move towards authentic happiness. They are:
1. Wisdom or Knowledge
2. Humanity, love, helping, kindness
3. Justice, fairness
Usually people 3 or 4 that are core to them. Which are the ones that when you are doing them, give you the most authentic happiness? While all are important, a few are the most critical for you to honor as much as possible. This is one of the key to authentic happiness.
People who are in strong relationships tend not to be realistic, but positive. Illusions are important if it moves you to happiness. Strongly critical people and those who are very realistic, tend to be much less happier. Positive illusions are important in relationships since we tend to live up to the expectations of others.
Seligman talks about two kinds of hospital orderlies. One works for money. They do their job reasonably well and can’t wait for retirement. The other kind believes that their work is a calling, a part of something noble. Their work frees up nurses and doctors to care for these people. Their attitude and extra effort brings life and sunshine where darkness would dominate. Their work is a calling or so they believe based on what they see.
The same is true of hair dressers, painters, food workers, or whatever the profession. See it as a calling by using your signature strengths and deploying them well.
Find meaning and you’ll find greater levels of authentic happiness.
Seligman believes there are 2 keys to resilience; a positive environment and internal mental skills that lead to positivism.
Evolution has built in attention to negative emotion. We must recognize what evolution has done to us and make choices that lead our attention to greater hope, positivism, creating, and action.
The voyage out of depression isn’t to get rid of the anger, depression or darkness. We don’t create happiness by dealing with the issues of unhappiness. It turns out that the key is feed positivism, to outgrow the problems we suffer from. Pursing virtue, living from our strengths, and finding meaning is the key to authentic happiness.
The Keys to Make Yourself Happy With Martin Seligman
Photo: Ben Millett
Learn more about authentic happiness at Seligman’s website on Authentic Happiness.