The Science of Happiness

Ask most people and they’ll say that the concept of ‘happiness’ is a perception or a warm and fuzzy idea. But if you ask Martin Seligman, a pioneer of Positive Psychology, you’ll get a more systematic theory because he uses science to explore the idea of happiness.

In viewing a number of psychological theories, Seligman concludes that happiness has three dimensions: the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life. These three dimensions can be viewed as levels along the happiness continuum. We may experience the Pleasant Life when we’ve learned to appreciate basic pleasures such as companionship, the natural environment and physical needs. Moving on to the Good Life, we might discover our unique virtues and strengths and apply them in our lives. In the final stage, or Meaningful Life, we find a deep sense of fulfilment by using our strengths for a greater purpose than ourselves.

Countless studies have been done to try and identify just what it is that leads someone to happiness. Many of these studies suggest that specific ways of thinking or behaving will impact our sense of happiness. From these studies, the following seven habits of happy people emerged:

1)      Express your heart. People who have one or more close friendships are happier

2)      Cultivate kindness. Volunteering or caring for others on a consistent basis can make you happier.

3)      Nutrition and Exercise. Studies consistently show that regular exercise has been associated with improved mental well-being and has had a ‘large clinical impact’ on depression.

4)      Find your flow. This is a joyful state that comes from doing something you enjoy such as playing music or participating in an activity you enjoy.

5)      Discover meaning. Spirituality is closely related to the discovery of greater meaning in our lives and a deeper kind of happiness.

6)      Discover and use your strengths. We can discover our strengths and virtues (the Good Life) and be happy then use those strengths for purposes greater than our own and become even happier.

7)      Treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope. Grateful people have been shown to have greater positive emotion, a greater sense of belonging and lower incidence of depression and stress.

Are you embracing any of these habits in your life? Perhaps you’d like to take this Happiness Quiz and see where the science says you are. If you are looking for a path to shift from a “Pleasant Life” to a “Meaningful Life” consider a conversation with Manon Dulude. Contact her today.