Authentic Happiness

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dr. Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Network and the leading researcher on happiness, says there are 3 routes to happiness and a combination of them defines authentic happiness.

The Pleasant Life – A life that successfully pursues positive emotions about your past, present, and future. One way we get these pleasures is through our senses: the delicious flavor of chocolate mocha ice cream; the fragrance of a rose. These pleasures are also found through feelings such as amusement, thrill, relaxation, and the like. This happiness is based on emotions and is temporary. We all enjoy the pleasantries of life. When I bite into waffle cone filled with chocolate-mocha nut gelato, I experience the pleasant life and a burst of the senses.

The Good Life – This happiness goes beyond the emotions and includes activities we like doing: reading, swimming, traveling, hunting, and playing games. To experience the Good Life we develop key strengths and virtues. Then we use them in your work, love, friendship, leisure, and parenting. The gratification we get from these activities absorb and engage us. They help us to forget our troubles, and create “flow.” When I was lost in the wonder of the Sistine Chapel, I experienced the good life.

The Meaningful Life – By attaching your signature strengths to something bigger than yourself, you add another component to the good life. For Christians, this would mean using our strengths, talents, and gifts in service – living out our faith. When I teach my Bible study class each Wednesday, I’m living a Meaningful Life.

According to Seligman, a full authentic life consists of “experiencing positive emotions about the past and future, savoring positive feelings from the pleasures, deriving abundant gratification from your signature strengths, and using these strengths in the service of something larger to obtain meaning.” (p. 263.) Authentic happiness then is a combination of the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life.

God wants us to have authentic happiness. It’s called “Shalom.” This Hebrew greeting means “peace” and was said as people met or departed from one another. Shalom is a blessing for wholeness and well-being. It is the most complete GOOD that we can imagine. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10. In John 14:27 Jesus said just before he was arrested, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” After his death, the Holy Spirit was given to us as to be our advocate, our guide, and to bring us peace. This peace, our authentic happiness, is the realization that our worldly failures are not the end. God is with us through our wonders and worries, our tragedies and triumphs, our pleasantries and problems, our successes and sorrows. He wants to abide in us and give us a peace that passes all understanding. He offers authentic happiness.
What is your happiness level? Feel free to share by clicking on the title "Authentic Happiness." Then scroll to the bottom and click on "comment."


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