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Culture & Religion

Is There More to Life than Happiness?

Since the rise of the positive psychology movement a decade ago, happiness has been all the rage. But is it something more than having a cheerful personality? And how do we get happiness? 

What’s the Latest Development?

Though University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Martin Seligman began the positive psychology movement a decade ago, he is still modifying which elements he believes constitute happiness. The latest to be added to the list is ‘accomplishment’, which occurs when people try to master a skill for their own sake. Seligman calls the first element of happiness ‘positive emotion’, which has created something of a reaction from those who have watched self-help merchants sell an unattainable, or unhealthy vision of self-aware bliss.

What’s the Big Idea?

Other essential elements to Seligman’s definition of happiness include ‘engagement’, which entails being in a state of flow, enjoying one’s activities such that a loss of self-awareness occurs. Engaged people, therefore, are aware they were happy only after the fact. ‘Meaning’ entails belonging to a project or organization that is larger than one’s self, submitting the ego to collaborative achievement. Lastly, but not least, is ‘positive relationships’. Other people are the strongest antidote to life’s downs and the most reliable up. 

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Martin Seligman on why focusing solely on the positive emotion of happiness isn’t enough. Think PERMA: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.

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