Feb 152010

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 7

Bodily Pleasures

Pleasures are transient raw feelings that spring from sensory satisfactions along with positive emotional responses. These may be rudimentary sensations or the product of complex activities that require mental interpretations. Pleasures fade quickly when the stimulus is removed, and one may become habituated to them.

Higher Pleasures

Higher pleasures are likewise, raw, transient, and habituable. The distinction is that although sensual, they require rational cognitive processing to assign meaning.


Gratifications are engaging activities that may be reflected upon with satisfaction. These activities are the products of our human strengths and virtues.

Enhancing the Pleasures

The key to enhancing pleasure is to repeat sparingly, sample widely, and savor mindfully.

  • Habituation and worse
    The transient pleasures of sensation cannot produce lasting happiness. Increasing the intensity or frequency of the sensation only reduces the satisfaction with each event; this is a simple matter of the design of our neurological systems. Addictive responses to habituation can become not only unsatisfying, but damaging.
  • Savoring
    [Ref: Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff, Loyola University] “The awareness of pleasure and of the deliberate conscious attention to the experience of pleasure.”
    To promote savoring:
    • Share with others
    • Memory-building
    • Self-congratulation
    • Sharpening perceptions
    • Absorption
  • Mindfulness
    We usually fail to take notice of most of our experience, acting without much thought. Classically, this is due to allowing our mental activities to be flooded with unregulated stimulation and unsupervised thoughts. Mindfulness is a product of the maturity necessary to give deliberate attention to only the events at hand.
  • “Have a beautiful day”
    A student is assigned to “have a beautiful day.” This is not as easy as it sounds. Use the techniques mentioned above. Don’t let yourself become any more than momentarily distracted.
The Gratifications

Happiness can be obtained from both pleasures and gratifications. [See top of article.] Pleasures are associated with “the pleasant life.” Gratifications are associated with “the good life.” Gratifications are available abundantly to even those disadvantaged who are deprived of many potential pleasures. – “What is the good life?” Aristotle

The reader is recommended to Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Feb 152010

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 6


Permanence and is about time. Permanence reflects thinking in terms of “always” or “never.” Believing that the causes of bad events are permanent may cause one to give up too easily and give in to feelings of helplessness. Believing that the causes of good events are permanent contributes to optimism.


Pervasiveness is about space. Pervasiveness reflects the degree to which good or bad events affect unrelated aspects of life. Pervasiveness distinguishes between universal and specific explanations.


Hope is associated with permanent and universal explanations of good events as well as temporary and specific explanations for misfortunes. Hopeful people recover from troubles more rapidly and are better able to sustain successes.

Increasing optimism and hope

Most people never hesitate to accept negative self talk. To build optimism and hope one must recognize and then dispute pessimistic thoughts.

Martin Seligman uses the ABCDE model of disputing pessimistic thoughts. A – Adversity is the event that stimulates negative self talk. B – Belief is the set of established assumptions that contribute to negativity. C – Consequences… D – Disputation… E – Energization…

Learning to Argue with Yourself
  • Evidence – A negative belief may disappear if you consider it analytically and demand supporting evidence from yourself.
  • Alternatives – Consider alternative causes. These may indicate different meanings to an even that what you previously assigned. Especially seek alternatives that are changeable, specific, and nonpersonal.
  • Implications – Realistically, how bad are the implications? What would have been the worst possible outcome? It could have been worse. Decatastrophize the event.
  • Usefulness – Is this belief useful? Does it produce good? Am I expecting something that is unlikely? What factors of the event are under my control?
Disputation record

During future adverse events, keep a record of your mental steps. Pay attention to your thoughts, consider alternative beliefs and meanings, observe possible consequences of various beliefs, and observe the energy of choosing alternatives to negativity.

Feb 142010
Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 5

Gratitude Survey

(Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons)

1 = Strongly disagree – 7 = Strongly agree

  1. I have so much in life to be thankful for.
  2. If I had to list everything that I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list.
  3. When I look at the world, I don’t see much to be grateful for.
  4. I am grateful to a wide variety of people.
  5. As I get older, I find myself more able to appreciate the people, events, and situations that have been part of my life history.
  6. Long amounts of time can go by before I feel grateful to something or someone.

(Reverse scores on 3, 6)
6-35 Lower Quarter, 36-38 bottom half, 39-41 top four, 42 top eighth

Gratitude journal

Suggestion to keep a record for 14 days, noting the things for which you are grateful. Racket the exercise with the Life Satisfaction and General Happiness scales to compare scores. But

Feelings about the past depend on memory interpretation and assigned meaning. Gratitude amplifies good feelings about the past. The opposite is also true.

As a South African leader, Nelson Mandela redirected past bitterness toward reonciliation.

Some believe that righteous anger honors the victim and promotes justice.

How to forgive – REACH

  • Recall the hurt objectively
  • Empathize with others
  • Altruistically give the gift of forgiveness
  • Commit to forgive publicly
  • Hold onto forgiveness that

Weighing up your life

Find a time annually to evaluate your life satisfaction and compare it with previous years.


3 ways to feel happier about the past

  • Intellectual-determined that the past does not dictate your future
  • Become more grateful for the good things in your past
  • Learn how to forgive past wrongs
Feb 072010

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.

  1. In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
  2. The conditions of my life are excellent.
  3. I am satisfied with my life.
  4. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
  5. 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.

Jan 262010

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 3

In 2000, Barbara Fredrickson won the $100,000 Templeton Positive Psychology Prize. Her winning paper, “claims that positive emotions have a grand purpose into evolution. The bride and are abiding intellectual, physical, and social resources, building up reserves we can draw upon when a threat or opportunity presents itself.”

In one experiment, the subject is given gifts, amused, and exposed to positive words. The subject is more likely to respond creatively. In another experiment, the subject is asked to identify related words. The subject is more likely to respond quickly if they have been “jollied up.” In another experiment of four year olds, the happiness environment improved their ability to learn.

Earlier psychological experimenters such as C. S. Pierce, equated cheerfulness with a lack of trouble or lack cognitive capacity to acknowledge and address troubles. In another experiment, depressed people were “sadder but wiser” in their ability to judge their level of control.

Depressed vs. Happy Thinking Skills

There’s also experimental evidence that depressed people are more realistic and accurate judges of their abilities. Less-happy people have more accurate memories of both good and bad events; they are “evenhanded in assessing success and failure.”

All of this evidence might seem to make a case for the benefits of depression. However, Lisa Aspenwell demonstrated situations in which happy people had an edge over more-unhappy individuals in certain types of life situations. An integrated conclusion is: “a positive mood jolts us into an entirely different way of thinking from a negative mood.

Less happy people tend to be more skeptical and able to respond with critical thinking. Their benefit it is the ability to “focus on what is wrong and then eliminate it.”

It seems reasonable to conclude that happy people tend to rely on positive past experiences and maybe better act repeating their previous behavior. Less distracted by a defensive stance, they are better able to be creative, tolerant, constructed, generous, and defensive, and lateral.”

Building Physical Resources

Positive emotions promote play, which is important to creative processes such as the building of physical resources such as increased muscle and cardiovascular capacity. People with predominantly positive emotions can to enjoy better health and greater longevity.

Happiness is associated with increased productivity and worker income. (This may reflect their ability to interact better with others.)(one might ask if a less-happy affect facilitates concentration problem solving.)

In some experiments, happier people are better able to tolerate adversity such as holding their hands in ice water. Also, a happier general disposition makes it easier for people to overcome the effects of temporary fear or sadness.

Building Social Resources

Strong bonds of affection and attachment between people are facilitated by a positive disposition. They are better able to express their positive feelings and others are more likely to respond positively to them. The happiest of the happy are much more likely to have a “rich and fulfilling social life” and spend the least time alone. They are also more likely to display empathy and be altruistic.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line seems obvious: extroverts are more likely to form relationships outside of themselves, attracting friends. A happy disposition is of special benefit in win-win situations where creativity may win the day. It is about growth. The less-happy disposition is of special benefit in win-lose situations where grim determination may win the day. It is about slaying dragons.

Jan 242010

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 3

We are endowed with access to powerful and insistent emotional states. They arise from the deepest and most primitive areas of our brain. They include more than fight or flight survival instincts to take decisive action to kill or conserve; they include the capacity for happiness. Happiness must serve an important, fundamental purpose.

Negative emotions include fear, sadness, discussed, repulsion, hatred and anger. They are especially important in win-lose situations, where the loser may be oneself. Effective responses to negative emotions affect survival and would reasonably be an important part of natural selection. The likelihood that a person will present predominantly negative or positive emotions it is, in fact strongly affected by genetic inheritance.

Positive feelings encourage us to approach an object or develop a situation. But, negative and positive emotions are much more complex than the stimulus attraction and avoidance processes of bacteria. Until recently, psychologists have generally ignored positive emotions. They were interpreted as secondary effects of situations and behaviors. They are, in fact, as important to our survival behavior as fear.

Jan 112010

Source: “Pursuing Human Strengths,” Martin Bolt, Preface

The weakness of psychology, during its short history as a science, has been its primary focus on human weaknesses rather than on human strengths. That began to change dramatically when Martin Seligman was elected president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman leveraged his research on learned helplessness and hopelessness into a new focus on learned optimism and happiness.

A primary focus of positive psychology is on human strengths, a core set of virtues. The intent is to study, measure, and understand these strengths so that they can be purposefully developed, increasing both subjective and objective psychological well-being.

Responsibility – Both researchers and individuals have a responsibility to understand the factors that influence thinking and behavior, and to use this knowledge to increase the healthful development of individuals and societies. Responsibility is vital for the development of other strengths.

Love – Hereditary nature and environmental nurture both contribute to human development. Attachment styles, developed in early life, have a powerful impact on adult relationships.

Empathy – The ability to recognize and consider the feelings of others is a vital step in psychological development. Empathy is necessary for forgiveness and altruism.

Self-control – the ability to accept delayed gratification, instead of only immediate rewards, is also vital to psychological maturity. Purposeful achievement requires a persistent cycle of goal setting, reflection, and self regulation.

Wisdom – intelligence involves a great deal more than the ability to acquire rote knowledge. Wisdom is associated with reasoning ability and the productive application of knowledge in a complex social environment.

Commitment – our goals must have meaning and reflect a satisfying purpose if we are to pursue them with persistence. But there are important differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

Happiness – positive emotions such as happiness were required for salutogenesis. It is irresponsible for psychology to focus on pathology.

Self-respect – while self-esteem serves to artificially heighten a sense of entitlement, self-respect involves a realistic valuation of one’s potential within society.

Hope – learned optimism can be an effective therapy for the hopelessness of depression. Hopefulness helps us to sustain effort through difficult times. Community support is vital for individual and collective well-being.

Friendship – individual support is also effective in promoting personal and collective well-being. Shared responsibility also helps to sustain persistent effort to achieve goals.

Dec 312009
Lecture 15 – A Person in the World of People: Morality

Professor Bloom provides an introduction to psychological theories of morality.

Students will learn how research in psychology has helped answer some of the most central questions about human morality. For instance,

  • which emotions are "moral" and why did these moral feelings evolve?
  • What factors guide our moral judgments?
  • And what factors predict when good people will do bad things?

Watch it on Academic Earth

Dec 252009
Lecture 11 – Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Emotions, Part I

This class is an introduction to the evolutionary analysis of human emotions, how they work, why they exist, and what they communicate.

In particular, this lecture discusses three interesting case studies, that of happiness (e.g., smiling), fear and the emotions we feel towards our relatives.

Finally, this lecture ends with a brief discussion of babies’ emotional responses to their caregivers.

Watch it on Academic Earth


Lecture 12 – Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Emotions, Part II

Professor Bloom continues the discussion of emotions as useful evolutionary adaptations for dealing with our social environment.

In particular, this lecture describes evolutionary explanations for several important emotional responses, such as the love between parents and their offspring, the gratitude we feel towards cooperative behaviors, the spite we feel for cheaters, and the cultural differences in feelings of revenge.

Watch it on Academic Earth