Posts Tagged ‘Positive Psychology Movement’

The article, A New Gauge to See What’s Beyond Happiness, by John Tierney (click here to read the whole article) in today’s New York Times questions the idea that happiness is what we should all strive for.  It’s not that happiness is bad, but the author and people interviewed in the article ask whether there is a richer sense of well-being that comes from more than just positive, happy feelings.

This strikes a chord with me. Partly personally, but also because I see clients all the time looking for a deeper well-being, even when in many ways they would describe themselves as happy.   They’re looking for connection and relationships, both personal and in work.  They’re looking for contributing to the greater good and being part of something bigger.

Psychologist Martin Seligman, who founded the positive psychology movement, says he has come around to see that happiness (positive emotion)  is not enough, but just one of what he believes are five crucial elements of well-being: positive emotion, engagement (the feeling of being lost in a task), relationships, meaning and accomplishment.

“Well-being cannot exist just in your own head,” he writes. “Well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships and accomplishment.”

The economist Arthur Brooks agrees.

In his 2008 book, “Gross National Happiness,” Dr. Brooks argues that what’s crucial to well-being is not how cheerful you feel, not how much money you make, but rather the meaning you find in life and your sense of “earned success” — the belief that you have created value in your life or others’ lives.

Brooks explains one way this plays out.

“People find meaning in providing unconditional love for children,” writes Dr. Brooks, who is now president of the American Enterprise Institute. “Paradoxically, your happiness is raised by the very fact that you are willing to have your happiness lowered through years of dirty diapers, tantrums and backtalk. Willingness to accept unhappiness from children is a source of happiness.”

Why does this all resonate with me?  I guess because it makes sense that well-being is not always connected to or dependent on happiness per se.  Our culture sometimes puts happiness so high on the pedestal of life, that short of achieving happiness nothing is enough.  This view that overall well-being is more complicated and complex than just feeling happy makes me feel more normal and validated.

What do you do that doesn’t necessarily always make  you happy but that adds to your overall sense of well-being?