What makes us happy?
This is the question that has been contemplated throughout history from the Ancient Greeks to Modern Positive Psychologists. We all want to be happy but what does that actually mean? Can we make ourselves happier or is happiness something that happens when we’re busy doing other things? The science of happiness is now in its third decade of research and shows what does and doesn’t make a difference to our wellbeing.
Prof Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness established positive psychology as the science of happiness. This course explores the two branches of authentic happiness and three pathways to greater wellbeing. With lots of practical tips and tools to increase your wellbeing.
Two Dimensions to Authentic Happiness
Hedonic wellbeing is the form of happiness which is about feeling good and experiencing positive emotions like awe, bliss, calm, delight and excitement. It arises from maximising pleasure and minimising pain. The only trouble with this type of happiness is that it is short-lived – a momentary joy and we soon begin to take it for granted, a phenomenon known as the hedonic treadmill. So for it to continue making you happy, requires upping the dose of the source of pleasure or adding variety.
Eudaimonic wellbeing is an umbrella term which refers to a deeper kind of happiness which comes from having meaning and purpose in life and is often experienced as a sense of satisfaction through achievement. ‘Eudaimonia’ is a concept that originates with Aristotle and means ‘living well and doing well.’ It is now used to describe a sense of functioning well and flourishing. The advantage of this type of happiness is that it doesn’t have an in-built limitation and is therefore a more sustainable form of wellbeing.
Happiness is about getting the balance right for you between a life of enjoyment (hedonic wellbeing) and a life of achievement (eudaimonic wellbeing). This is the way to a fulfilled life. Too much of the sweet life can leave us feeling unmotivated and sluggish. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Whereas a life of achievement can be somewhat dry lacking in pleasure. This can lead to burnout and put relationships under strain. Maybe you need to book a holiday!
Three Pathways to Authentic Happiness
Prof Martin Seligman, the academic who co-founded positive psychology, has identified three main pathways to authentic happiness; pleasure, engagement and meaning. These are all intrinsically motivating.
The pleasant life is about the feel-good factor – the experience of pleasure, enjoyment and positive emotions such as bliss, ecstasy and comfort.
The engaged life is about flow – being fully absorbed and at one with whatever you’re doing. Engagement comes through using your strengths and abilities in the world.
The meaningful life is about serving a purpose that goes beyond the self. Meaning is about your values and what is important to you in life. Purpose is a way of living your sense of meaning.
A Recipe for Authentic Happiness
Put it all together and the formula for Authentic Happiness is the good feelings you get from engaging your strengths in the service of something meaningful. This uplifting workshop will introduce you to the scientifically-grounded tools that help you feel good and function well and raise the bar on your happiness.
Miriam is one of 100 worldwide experts who contributed to the World Book of Happiness. and is the author of The Little Book of Happiness. She has been delivering happiness workshops and retreats for over a decade. She co-presents the Happiness Training Plan.