For most people, being happy – living a ‘happy’ life – is the goal. We maybe look for it in different places, but essentially it’s what we all want. But what does a happy life even look like?
Dr. Martin Seligman, often referred to as the founder of positive psychology, breaks down a happy life into three different types as follows:
- The pleasant life: whereby we learn to savour and appreciate such basic pleasures as companionship, the natural environment and our bodily needs.
Either we can choose to stay here, or upgrade to…
- The life of engagement: in which we harness the powers of mindfulness, ‘flow’ state and the present moment. Either we’re feel emotions like pleasure in the present moment, or we’re in that land where time stops; when we’re so immersed in an activity that we feel nothing at all.
Again, we can choose to stay here, or upgrade to…
- The meaningful life: in which we discover our strengths and virtues, using them to enhance our lives and the life of our fellow humans. Seligman argues that if we can pinpoint our top 5 strengths and build them into our daily life (while working towards a purpose greater than ourselves) then we will find a deep sense of fulfilment.
So which life is best in terms of overall happiness? What should we be striving towards?
Seligman’s researched showed that whilst the pursuit of pleasure has no real impact on a persons life satisfaction, whether your life has meaning or not certainly does. Essentially, when it comes to pleasure-seeking, it gets old.
In fact, a life of meaning came out as having most impact, followed by engagement. And while pleasure for pleasures sake doesn’t seem to matter on its’ own, if combined with engagement and meaning, it’s basically ‘the cherry on the whipped cream’.
And the thing is… you don’t have to choose!
Get curious about what your strengths are and find ways to incorporate them into your life, contributing to the life of those around you. Spend more time mindfully in the present moment; and more time doing things that bring about ‘flow’ state. And then of course, throw in some pleasure along the way and be sure to enjoy yourself!
And there you have it – a happy life 🙂