Studies have shown that as a society, we are becoming increasingly unhappy, despite improving existential security. This raises the question about what makes us happy?
Positive Psychology (founded in the US in 2000 by the psychologist Martin Seligman) is looking into this question. Seligman talks in his TED Talk of 2004 (Link) of three main factors in relation to a "happy life":
1. The pleasant life (enjoyment/fun)
2. The Flow Experience (Being in the flow / Being absorbed in a task)
3. Meaning (meaningfulness / doing good)
In our society, we often feel that having a pleasant life makes us happy. Seligman explains, that there is no shortcut to a happy and fulfilled life. Having fun and enjoyment can create positive emotions, but it is only short-lived and is not fulfilling. In order to feel a deeper and more lasting sense of happiness, we have to give our lives meaning. This is what Seligmann calls "the meaningful life". We can achieve this by using our strengths and reaching our potential. When we are doing something that we are good at, we can experience a sense of happiness based on a so-called "flow" experience. When we are in the flow we tend to forget everything around. This can happen either at work and or focus on a leisure, f.e. in sports, meditation, creativity or even playing games or programming.
"Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much bigger than you are."
- Martin Seligman -
This all sounds great, but how can we start creating a happier life?
Cheri Huber, a Zen Buddhist from the United States, writes in her book "The Key, and the Name of the Key is Willingness":
"If we try to get out of life what we want, life can be hard, and if we learn to want what life gives us, life can be very easy."
We often run through life like "Scrat" the saber-toothed squirrel from the movie Ice Age, on the constant search for the "Über-acorn". It would be so much easier to not constantly have to focus on things that are beyond our reach but to slow down and appreciate the beautiful small things we already have in our lives.
Gratitude is a super-power we all have in us. However, as with any superhero who discovers his powers for the first time, we have to develop it.
There are incredibly simple, but highly effective tools in existence, one of the most known and simple ones is the so-called "Gratitude Journal", like for example the "5-Minute Journal" by Intelligent Change. The essence of this diary is that every day you focus on the little, beautiful things in life that make you happy and that you are grateful for. In addition, you can also record your acts of kindness each day. I would suggest taking a few minutes a day in the morning, before you start the day, and in the evening before going to bed.
Studies have shown that if you do the following things every day and implement them into your daily routine, you can make a lasting positive change in your life.
- Write down three things you are grateful for
- random acts of kindness
If you want to find out more about your strengths you can visit the website of the University of Pennsylvania and fill out a variety of questionnaires and surveys: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter
"With great power comes great responsibility"
- Ben Parker, Spiderman -
Enjoy finding out about your strengths.
- Petra Dörflinger -