Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 6
Satisfying Life Experiences
The most satisfying life experiences tend to be those involving self-respect, accomplishment and social relatedness. They notably did not include exercising power influence or acquiring material or physical gratification. Cultures that emphasize community responsibility are less likely to identify self-directed activities as producing happiness. The classic elements of the “American Dream” have a dark side: “materialism is toxic for happiness. ”
Self assessment exercise.
- In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
- The conditions of my life are excellent.
- I am satisfied with my life.
- So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
- If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.
Flow, total involvement in a challenge, is an altered state of consciousness that produces genuine satisfaction with experiences. It is very enjoyable to be fully absorbed and engaged in such an activity. It does not arise from passivity but from active engagement with life. The specific activity is not so important as the way in which it is performed.
Interpreting life events
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln
One’s interpretation of an event may differ from person to person. While some remain chronically unhappy others are capable of seeing a silver lining in the events of their lives.
Maximization and Regret
Orientation poured goals may be characterized as satisfying or maximizing. A satisfier is content to meet expectations. A maximizer tries to achieve the best result in every situation; they plan were carefully, set higher standards, but may suffer negative emotions when the results do not satisfy their expectations. They are more prone to experiencing regret, unfavorable comparison to others, and reduced life satisfaction. Maximizers also strive to keep their options open, often been less satisfied with the outcome.
Contemporary life often promotes feelings of urgency and the desire to multi task. Conversely, the ability to slow down and savor experience adds richness, vividness, and satisfaction to life. Slowing down to “smell the roses” increases happiness.
Gratitude extends appreciation for positive outcomes from oneself to a wide range of other contributors. This also increases intrinsic self-esteem and perception of social support. People expressing gratitude avoid taking life events for granted; they are less prone to negative emotions, are more empathetic, and less focused on materialistic goals. They feel happier and present themselves to others as happier.