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

Jan 152010

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

The field of positive psychology embraces a particular set of perceptions:

1. We create our personal and social worlds. High-functioning people take responsibility for dynamically exercising opportunities for choice, change, and control.

2. We cannot control all elements of our personal and social worlds. Recognizing these external constraints improves our choices.

3. Scientific research is especially important for accurately understanding the relationships between the subjective elements considered by positive psychology.

4. Positive psychology has been not so much newly invented as newly emphasized. Concepts of virtues, values, and character are of long and enduring interest.

5. Psychology has allowed us to develop objectives scales to quantify human strengths and their biological, environmental, and cognitive influences.

6. While psychology conducts research on value judgments, it must be recognized that value judgments affect the conduct of research. No part of human development can be studied in isolation. For instance, we require both autonomy and relatedness.