Imagine Health Weekly Blog - The Happiness Trap (25/5/12)
May 25, 2012
On New Year’s Day 1998, Psychologist Martin Seligman, posed some simple questions regarding the role of Psychology in the modern world; his query related to our definition of Happiness. What is it? How do we achieve it? How do we maintain it?
Surely happiness is a relatively simple and self-explanatory concept? Surely we all know what happiness is and how to achieve it? Dr Seligman and his team set out to explore these questions by examining the popular beliefs we hold about happiness. Research conducted by Psychologist Edward Deiner, found that despite popular belief, wealth, education, youth, or sunshine do not lead to increased happiness. Whilst this may seem surprising, Seligman and Deiner (2002) did find that friendship was a key indicator of happiness. Deiner reported the following, “It is important to work on social skills, close interpersonal ties, and social support in order to be happy.” Religious faith was also found to be an indicator of happiness.
How can we make ourselves happier? Money, education, youth, and sunshine don’t seem to provide the answers, so where can we find them? Researched David Lykken (2006) proposed that we all have pre-set levels of satisfaction with life, and the way that we respond and adapt to circumstances in life is determined by our pre-programmed satisfaction levels. Seligman and his team of Positive Psychologists propose that there are three routes to increased satisfaction with life;
· Getting more pleasure out of life
· Becoming more engaged in what you do
· Finding ways of making your life feel more meaningful
One simple path to increased life satisfaction is to use an achievements journal; a diary containing three daily achievements, regardless of how simple they are. Psychologist Robert Emmons found that keeping an achievements journal improved not only mood and satisfaction with life, but also physical health, energy levels, and decreased levels of pain and fatigue. Acts of altruism and kindness also increase life satisfaction, along with taking care of your physical health, spending time with friends and family, and developing proactive coping strategies.
Positive Psychology provides evidence-based insights into simple steps that we can all take to improve our wellbeing, and sense of satisfaction and achievement in life. In essence, these concepts go a long way towards summing up what “happiness” really is!