“Latest information about Positive Psychology”by Patricia Cavanaugh

Recently Bev and I presented a mini 3rd Act workshop at the Aging in America Conference in San Francisco.  Four Thousand people from all over the world came together to talk about the many facets of aging from health concerns to political activism to spiritual support.  As a part of my preparation for the conference I researched the latest information about Positive Psychology.

Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology on which we base much of our 3rd Act workshop is a psychologist that not only focuses on how to help people deal with suffering but also to include ways to support people in increasing their happiness by using specific tools and strategies.  His research has empirically shown that we can develop and grow happiness by using strategies to actively engage with life, to notice the everyday pleasurable aspects of living to challenge ourselves with the use of our signature strengths in new ways and explore and respond to what gives us meaning in our lives.

To research Happiness Dr Seligman divided happiness into 3 components of living:  The Pleasant life, the Engaged life and the Meaningful Life.

The pleasant life is what hedonic theories of happiness endorse. It consists in having a lot of positive emotion about the present, past, and future and learning the skills to amplify the intensity and duration of these emotions. 

The second “happy” life in Seligman’s theory is the engaged life, “a life that pursues engagement, involvement and absorption in work, intimate relations, and leisure identify people’s highest talents and strengths and then help them to find opportunities to use these strengths more. We call the highest strengths signature strengths (Peterson & Selig- man, 2004).”

The third “happy” life in Seligman’s theory involves the pursuit of meaning. “This consists in using one’s signature strengths and talents to belong to and serve something that one believes is bigger than the self” perhaps with the family, spiritual community, nature or art. When you combine and engaged life and one that uses your signature strengths in something that focuses outside the self you will transform your circumstances from unfortunate to fortunate and leads to a life well lived.

Seligman has continued with his research and recently published a new book “Flourish” in which he extends his research beyond happiness to well being and includes two more aspects of a flourishing life.  His new acronym is P.E.R.M.A., which stands for positive emotions, engagement, intimate relationships, meaning and accomplishment.

Another prominent research in the importance of well-being is Dr Dacher Keltner the author of “Born to Be Good:  Lessons From the Science of a Meaningful Life” and the head of The Greater Good Foundation . The mission of The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.”

Please take a moment and give us your thoughts on Seligman’s new thoughts on developing a flourishing life

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