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Road to Long-Term Happiness

June 25, 2023 by  
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I was looking through my past posts this week and came across one that mentions a great book, Authentic Happiness, by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D. and was reminded of how important it is to have goals that give us authentic happiness.

In his book, Dr. Seligman talks about what real authentic happiness is and how we can capture it and keep it. Finding and enjoying real happiness is not done through seeking and finding pleasure and the same goes for seeking happiness through just staying busy—it just doesn’t work. Great and authentic happiness is experienced from earned gratification. So how do we become gratified?

Much of our gratification comes from producing something of great value to others and/or ourselves. This gives us a great feeling of satisfaction. Dr. Seligman lists 8 common components of gratification we want to have in the things we pursue:

  1. The task is challenging and requires skill.
  2. We have to concentrate.
  3. There are clear goals.
  4. We get immediate feedback.
  5. We have deep effortless involvement.
  6. There is a sense of control.
  7. Sense of self vanishes.
  8. Time seems to stop.

Dr. Seligman goes on to talk about depression in today’s world and how widespread it is. It has increased by a huge amount in the last 40 years and the average age of depressed people is much younger today.

Depression is also unexpectedly high in wealthy and healthy countries. The author’s theory is that “an ethos that builds unwarranted self-esteem, espouses victimology, and encourages rampant individualism has contributed to that epidemic.” Another reason is our huge reliance on shortcuts to happiness… online entertainment, drugs, shopping, spectator sports, and high sugar food and drinks. These things are enjoyable in the moment but don’t give us any long-term satisfaction.

A major symptom of depression is self-absorption, which a lot of shortcuts to happiness can feed. Depressed people think about how they feel a great deal of the time. When they detect internal sadness, they ruminate about it, projecting it into the future, this in turn increases their sadness in their life and across all their activities.

What we all need to do more of is realize that there are no shortcuts to the kind of fulfilling gratification we all crave, and realize we need to focus more and more on our goals, taking on big tasks, and increasing our long-term production as well as giving up the constant self-worry and self-absorption.

You may have noticed that really happy people, for the most part, spend the least amount of time home alone, involved in these shortcuts to happiness. They tend to have a rich and fulfilling social life along with jobs, goals, or hobbies they are passionate about. When your life is built around social and productive activities, you get more of that long-term happiness, feeling gratified for days or weeks or even years to come.  

Pleasure and Production

December 7, 2018 by  
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Last week we talked about Authentic Happiness which is both a concept and the title of the great book written by Martin Seligman. In the book, the author continuously emphasizes how much of our happiness comes from inside our heads.

Most of us humans look at rich and famous people and think that they must be very, very happy and content because of all their fame and wealth. Well, guess what… if you look closely, you will find that many of these people are not particularly happy. I think a big reason is that most people think that once they attain great wealth and/or fame then it will automatically make them happy. Only it doesn’t. Then these folks, finding that their brains are not filled with great thoughts of happiness and contentment, start to wonder why. That doubt causes an internal dialog to start up which can work against them, quickly driving them and their mindset downhill. Also, money and fame don’t hold a candle to the kind of true and deep happiness we get from things like the love we give and receive from family and friends.

Although most of us are not rich and famous, we may still find ourselves falling into similar thought patterns. It is so very easy to let our internal self-talk persuade us that things are not going well which brings us down mentally.

There are lots of methods for overcoming this negative self-talk but one very big one is also a powerful antidote for depression – productive gratification. Striving for gratification is automatic but the way to use it so that it overcomes negativity and depression is through producing something truly meaningful to us and/or to others. What we accomplish when we produce meaningful things sends a powerful, purposeful message to our brains and makes us feel so very satisfied and happy.

Martin makes the very good point that “pleasure is a very powerful source of motivation but it does not produce change.” It also does not produce lasting authentic happiness. A simple example is the difference between the pleasure that we receive from watching a very entertaining television show versus the gratification, genuine happiness, and personal satisfaction that we receive from reading a particularly inspiring or informative book. Think back on how you felt after experiencing these two different activities yourself. The difference in how your attitude and your state of mind will probably be quite apparent.

The author suggests that if we really want true, deep and authentic happiness we should all create a list of activities, goals, and deep desires that produce for us, personally, a sense of gratification. Look for goals and things that you do that seem to make time stop and even has you thinking, “I don’t want this to ever end.”

Yes, it’s true that many pleasures take little or no effort to acquire and that the best kind of gratification takes a lot of work. But so be it. It is so well worth it, and I do think and hope you would agree!

 

Secrets to Authentic Happiness

November 30, 2018 by  
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I think I came across the best reason for keeping a journal of your life or, as my good friend Rich Harvey used to call it, a reason for people to “Journal Their Journey”.

Just the other day I picked up one of my journals dated 10-26-2003 to 6-12-2004. My comments about what was going on in my life at that time quoted a great book that I had totally forgotten about entitled Authentic Happiness, by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D.

In his book, Dr. Seligman talks about what real authentic happiness is and how we can capture it and keep it. Finding and enjoying real happiness is not done through seeking and finding pleasure and the same goes for seeking happiness through just staying busy – it just doesn’t work. Great and authentic happiness is experienced from gratification. So how do we become gratified?

Much of gratification comes from “production”.  When we produce something of great value to others and/or ourselves, we end up with a great feeling of satisfaction. Here are Dr. Seligman’s 8 common ingredients and psychological components of gratification:

  1. The task is challenging and requires skill.
  2. We have to concentrate.
  3. There are clear goals.
  4. We get immediate feedback.
  5. We have deep effortless involvement.
  6. There is a sense of control.
  7. Sense of self vanishes.
  8. Time seem to stop.

Dr. Seligman goes on to talk about depression in today’s world and how widespread it is. It has increased by a huge amount in the last 40 years and the average age of depressed people is much younger today. That certainly gives more credence to the importance of setting big, tough goals. If your mind is firmly set on your goals, it’s more likely that your mind will not be spending time reflecting how you feel in the moment. Plus, there is the big extra benefit that setting big goals does energize us both physically and mentally because of the chemicals released by our brains, as I talked about in last week’s blog.

But why is depression so high in wealthy and healthy countries? The author’ s theory is “that an ethos that builds unwarranted self-esteem, espouses victimology, and encourages rampant individualism has contributed to that epidemic.” Another reason is our huge reliance on shortcuts to happiness. Every nation builds more and more shortcuts to pleasure … TV, drugs, shopping, spectator sports and high sugar food and drink. Gaining these and many other things take very little effort on our part these days.

A major symptom of depression is self-absorption. The depressed person thinks about how he feels a great deal of the time – excessively so. When a depressed person detects sadness, he ruminates about it, projecting it into the future, this in turn increases his sadness in his life and across all his activities. In contrast, gratification is the absence of feeling sorry for yourself.

What we all need to do more of is realize that there are no shortcuts to the kind of fulfilling gratification we all crave, and realize we need to focus more and more on our goals, big tasks, and our production as well as giving up the constant self-worry and self-absorption. You may have noticed that really happy people, for the most part, spend the least amount of time home alone – they tend to have a rich and fulfilling social life, which really is the opposite of being self-absorbed.

Next week I’m going to talk more about this great thing called “Authentic Happiness” that Martin’s book gives us such super insight into as well as talking about how understanding where it comes from can bump up our happiness factor and enhance our lives.