Monday, May 23, 2011

Is happiness overrated?

John Tierney does a nice article on Martin Seligman, the founder of the positive psychology movement, who has modified his views since the appearance of his 2002 best selling book "Authentic Happiness" - whose title he now regrets.  Seligman has subsequently noted limitations of the 'authentic happiness' concept,  suggested by observations of people proceeding joylessly and repetitively through tasks such as making lots of money, playing bridge -  repeating and accumulating in the apparent absence of any positive emotion - suggesting that accomplishment is a human desiderata in itself.
This feeling of accomplishment contributes to what the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia, which roughly translates to “well-being” or “flourishing,” a concept that Dr. Seligman has borrowed for the title of his new book, “Flourish.” He has also created his own acronym, Perma, for what he defines as the five crucial elements of well-being, each pursued for its own sake: positive emotion, engagement (the feeling of being lost in a task), relationships, meaning and accomplishment...
“Well-being cannot exist just in your own head,” he writes. “Well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships and accomplishment.”

...The best gauge so far of flourishing, Dr. Seligman says, comes from a study of 23 European countries by Felicia Huppert and Timothy So of the University of Cambridge. Besides asking respondents about their moods, the researchers asked about their relationships with others and their sense that they were accomplishing something worthwhile.

Denmark and Switzerland ranked highest in Europe, with more than a quarter of their citizens meeting the definition of flourishing. Near the bottom, with fewer than 10 percent flourishing, were France, Hungary, Portugal and Russia.

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