Feeling satisfied and happy with life takes more than just reducing worry, anxiety and stress - that’s the perspective of positive psychology expert Martin Seligman.
His view is that happiness can be a fleeting emotion, but the longer-term goal is to find contentment and purpose in life because that creates a more substantial sense of what he calls ‘well-being.’
Seligman’s book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, examines what gives people this sense of overall satisfaction.
He says well-being is created from engagement, good relationships, accomplishment and purpose.
4 Steps to Happiness
In a New York Times article, “Get Happy: 4 Well-Being Workouts,” Seligman offers four personal practices that can increase a long-term sense of happiness.
Identify Signature Strengths: Write a story about a time you were at your best. Identify what personal strengths you showed. Perhaps it was honesty, courage or kindness. Consider how you can use one of your signature strengths in daily life and then use it in a new way. Become engaged in using this strength for good. For example, if you showed kindness to residents of nursing home while you were visiting an elderly relative, perhaps you could set a time once a month to chat with residents of the nursing home or play music or read to them.
Find the Good: Set aside 10 minutes before bed each night to write down three things that went well that day. This helps you get into the habit of a positive perspective on life.
Make a Gratitude Visit: Think of someone who has been especially kind to you and write a thank you letter to them. If possible, go and visit them and read the letter aloud to that person. This connects you to other people in a deeper way than the often hurried way we relate to others that’s become so common in our busy lifestyles.
Respond Constructively: When someone shares good news with you, instead of saying, “That’s nice” extend the conversation, even suggest telling others or celebrating in some way.
These simple practices can be done by anyone and they don’t cost anything. It just a matter of focusing on them, choosing perhaps one at a time and incorporating it into your life so it becomes routine. As these positive routines add up, you gain a deeper sense of well-being and you’ll be getting happier with each new day.