Martin E. P. Seligman is known as the father of the positive psychology movement. In positive psychology, the idea is to focus on helping people to be happier rather than solely focusing on treating conditions.
Helping people to be happier is a huge driver for me and because I’m not a doctor or a therapist, positive psychology is particularly appealing to me. The ideas espoused in positive psychology are ones that I have been able to learn about by reading books and by putting into practice for myself. And I’ve written about them in my book and on my blog to help other people.
I recently read Seligman’s latest book, Flourish. The book was filled with ideas that were reinforcing for me—I never tire reading about ways to have a better life.
Seligman has written several books in the “happiness” genre. In this book, he talks about an expanded view of happiness. In his past books, he has focused on life satisfaction with a goal of happiness. In Flourish, he outlines a broader group of areas of focus with a goal of well-being: positive emotion, engagement (doing things you love to do), meaning (doing things that are bigger than yourself), for example, helping others), positive relationships, and accomplishment (achieving things).
The idea of focusing on well-being immediately appealed to me. Well-being is the genre where I place my book, Six Simple Rules for a Better Life, my blog, and my speaking engagements.
In my speaking engagements, when I was first asked if my sessions were about wellness, I explained that I cover a broader area including, among other things, happiness, kindness, leadership, and being organized, and I began to explain it as overall well-being.
And I feel the same way about my blog. Most bloggers write about happiness or health or leadership or something else. I know of few who write about multiple elements of well-being.
Here are some of my favorite takeaways from Flourish:
- Optimism is correlated with a stronger immune system. I’ve heard that many times and I feel it personally. It’s always good to read about studies and proof of good things.
- Other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up. Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise Seligman has tested.
- Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. Feeling gratitude helps us to benefit from pleasant memories of past experiences. Expressing gratitude to others helps them to be happier and s strengthens our relationship with them.
- Writing down three things that went well at the end of each day, and why, is a proven happiness strategy. (See also my related blog post.)
- Negative emotions should not be squashed, they should be dealt with.
- People with high positive emotions get fewer colds.
- More optimistic people have better cancer outcomes.
- Most of the dieting industry is a scam. 80-95% of people who lost weight following diets on the best-seller lists regain all the weight or more over the next three to five years.
- Exercise is not a scam. A much higher percentage of people who take up exercise stick with it.
From the above bullets, each of us can create a list of goals. If you make that list, break those goals down into small pieces, and focus on them one at a time over the 21 days it takes to create a new habit. The result will be better well-being, flourishing, and a better life.
What do you think? Join the conversation with your comments…