The general idea of happiness has been studied for thousands of years. In fact, the idea of a “life well lived” stems as far back as Aristotle’s concept of Eudaemonia. In 400 years BC. But what is happiness really? And what is “authentic happiness?”
While thousands of years ago Aristotle already was teaching about living a virtuous life, today’s stressful life increases our needs for truly understanding and applying the concepts of Eudaemonia. At the same time, we have much less time to spend on attaining it.
Fortunately for us, over the past 20 years, psychologists have really started looking into the “science of happiness.” It especially picked up in 1998, with professor Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania. He chose Positive Psychology as the theme for his presidency of the American Psychological Association. From this point on, we’ve gotten a much clearer answer to the question “what is happiness.”
Positive Psychology: the study of what is happiness
Traditionally, Psychology was all about what was “wrong” with people. It focused on diagnosing mental illnesses and then finding a cure. Instead of focusing on solving problems, Seligman said something else. He declared “let’s focus on what makes happy people happy, and pass those learnings on to others.”
In his and his colleagues’ definition, happiness isn’t about just ‘feeling good.” It’s not about the everyday and short-lived moments of feeling happy. Instead, it’s about long-term, sustained feelings of well-being: “authentic happiness.”
The definition of Authentic happiness
Authentic happiness is probably the kind of happiness you’d want to be looking for. It’s the kind of happiness that once you find it, it sticks with you. It’s real, and as the term describes, the opposite of inauthentic or “fake happiness.”
In his now classic book “Authentic Happiness,” Seligman originally wrote that authentic happiness comes from three key elements: Positive Emotion, Strength, and Virtue. Since, he has elaborated on this and developed the idea of PERMA. Achieving PERMA means reaching authentic happiness through 5 pillars: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments.
What is happiness: Positive Emotion
Within the PERMA model, which answers the “what is happiness” question, Positive Emotion focuses on the most logical part of happiness. The part of feeling positive. But more than just putting a smile on your face, Positive Emotion is about reshaping how you look at the world.
It’s about being able to be optimistic – seeing the “glass half full.” And about learning ways to deal with our tendency to quickly get back to our “neutral state.” Instead, it teaches us to quickly deal with negative emotions, and prolonging moments of happiness.
Positivity 101: The Everyday Happiness Training Course
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