Authentic Happiness | Martin E.P. Seligman

Summary of: Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment
By: Martin E.P. Seligman

Introduction

Get ready to embark on a fulfilling journey through the book summary of ‘Authentic Happiness’ by Martin E.P. Seligman, which sheds light on an often overlooked aspect of psychology – happiness. This insightful work uncovers six crucial virtues to lead a happy life: wisdom, courage, love, justice, temperance, and spirituality. You’ll learn how happiness is not a product of health and wealth, but rather emanates from embracing these virtues. Moreover, discover how inherited personality traits contribute to our happiness and explore how external factors such as money, marriage, and sociability have varying impacts on overall happiness. Dive in to uncover thought-provoking strategies for forgiveness, optimism, and cultivating inner strengths.

Pursuing the Good Life

Psychology has focused on diagnosing mental illnesses, but in recent times, research has uncovered valuable insights regarding happiness. The pursuit of happiness is measurable, and studies have shown that personal strengths and virtues play crucial roles in achieving it. Contrary to popular belief, material wealth and physical health do not guarantee happiness. Instead, happiness is rooted in six virtues fundamental to leading a fulfilling life: wisdom, courage, love, justice, temperance, and spirituality. These virtues are present in all religious and philosophical traditions as the key to unlocking the good life. Shortcuts to happiness only lead to spiritual starvation, but exercising personal strengths and virtues can lead to true happiness and contentment.

The Science of Happiness

Your set range of happiness is inherited to some extent. Statistically, wealth, youth, education, weather, race, and gender have little correlation with happiness. Religious people tend to be happier, and those who resist helplessness tend to be happier than those who give up easily. To achieve happiness, focus on building relationships, helping others, and adopting a conservative religion.

Happiness is a state of mind that each individual experiences based on their virtues and strengths. However, your personality and set range of happiness are partly hereditary, with nearly half of any personality element determined by genetics. Most people have a set range of happiness and tend to fluctuate back to it despite extreme fortune or misfortune.

Contrary to popular belief, wealth has no direct impact on happiness. People in wealthy democracies may be more satisfied with life, but individuals whose main goal is money tend to be very unhappy. Being married correlates strongly with happiness, but it is uncertain if marriage causes happiness or if happy people are simply more likely to get married.

Being sociable appears to contribute to happiness. More sociable people tend to be happier, but it is unclear whether happy people are more sociable or if others prefer to spend time with them. Women have a more extensive range of emotions than men, but there is only a small correlation between pleasant and unpleasant emotions.

Older people tend to be more satisfied with life than younger people. Even those with severe health problems have about the same life satisfaction as healthy individuals. Education, weather, race, and gender have only minor correlations with happiness, whereas religious individuals tend to be happier than their irreligious peers.

Those who resist helplessness tend to be happier than those who give up easily. To increase their happiness, people can focus on building relationships, helping others, and adopting a religious practice, such as Orthodox Judaism, fundamentalist Christianity, or Islam. In contrast, earning more money, improving health, achieving more education, or moving to a more favorable climate statistically does not elevate happiness.

In conclusion, happiness is a complex subject influenced by various factors. Although genetics play a role in determining one’s personality and set range of happiness, people can take steps to improve their happiness through building relationships, helping others, and adopting religious practices.

Forgiveness and Optimism

Forgiveness leads to happiness, and optimism leads to a fulfilling life. The five-step REACH approach to forgiveness includes recalling, empathizing, altruism, committing, and holding. Optimistic people are happier because they view bad events as temporary and specific while viewing good events as permanent and pervasive. To build optimism, one must check the evidence, consider alternatives, look at implications, and believe what is useful.

In life, we all experience conflicts, some of which might be difficult to forgive and forget. However, people who dwell on past problems often have a hard time finding happiness. The most psychologically healthy approach to past offenses is forgiveness, which is not only noble but also healthy. One can use the five-step REACH approach to forgiveness to achieve inner peace. First, recall the offense and visualize it while taking slow breaths. Second, empathize with the offender by understanding their actions. Third, think of a time when you received undeserved forgiveness and forgive. Fourth, make a public commitment to forgiveness. Lastly, hold on to forgiveness and avoid relapsing into vengefulness.

Pessimists tend to believe that bad things are permanent and inevitable, while optimists view bad events as temporary and specific. Optimists may not always be right, but they are happier – and that’s worth being optimistic. To build optimism, one must check the evidence, consider alternatives, look at implications, and believe what is useful. By focusing on what is constructive and useful, it is possible to shift one’s mindset from pessimistic to optimistic. Forgiveness and optimism are essential factors in achieving happiness and leading a fulfilling life.

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