He talks clearly about the state of positive psychology today, including some background. Psychology (arguably, clinical psychology, though he doesn't explicitly say this) has long been known for making "miserable people less miserable" - but Seligman argues that there is a cost to this: we become "victimologists," ignore "normal people" and genius, and we don't work on developing "interventions" on helping people become happier.
He describes three kinds of "happiness:"
- The "pleasant life" includes having as many pleasures and pleasant emotions as possible. Some drawbacks: much of this is "heritable," meaning that you are born with it or you're not; and like tasty food, pleasant emotions can be "habituated," (Seligman analogizes French vanilla ice cream: the first bite is scrumptious, but by the sixth bite, you forget it's the best ice cream you've ever had).
- The "good life," which Seligman describes as being about "flow:" when time stops, you have intense concentration, and you are totally consumed by what you're doing.
- Meaning. Knowing what your strengths are and using them to good effect for yourself and others.
- Plan a beautiful day
- Gratitude visit
- Strengths date (with couples)
- Fun vs. philanthropy (note: philanthropy has longer-lasting "pleasant" results than fun)
For More Information
- Seligman, Martin. What Positive Psychology Can Help You Become. TED Talks, February 2004.
- Authentic Happiness, Seligman's home page at the University of Pennsylvania. It includes:
- Strengths test - find what your strengths are to improve meaning, and a whole bunch of other questionnaires.
- Seligman, Martin, Tracey Steen, Nansook Park, and Christopher Peterson. "Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions." American Psychologist 6.5 (2005):5-14.
- Links to more resources about positive psychology.