WIN Wyoming and WIN the Rockies
The Science of Happiness
The principles of WIN Wyoming and WIN the Rockies are centered around the joy
of eating, the joy of physical activity, and the inner-peace experienced by
accepting yourself and others regardless of body size. With this in mind, it was
with great interest I learned of a new book called Authentic Happiness by
psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman. Seligman is considered a pioneer in a new
field of psychology called positive psychology. His work is based on
clinical findings that happiness is not the result of good luck or the absence
of negative events in life. Seligman and others psychologists are finding
certain traits can predict the level of happiness in our lives.
- A review of literature in the 1990's found that scientific journals
published about 100 studies on sadness for every one study on happiness.
Seligman and others are trying to spark a new movement on the scientific
study of happiness. The goal of this movement is to help people focus on
their strengths and talents, instead of their weaknesses. The early work in
this field suggests that everyone has "signature strengths"
and the happiest people use their strengths often.
- Although most people assume good physical health is one of the crucial
characteristics to happiness, scientists are finding physical health may
have less impact on happiness than is commonly believed. Plenty of people
take their good health for granted, and do not seem to be any happier for
this oversight. On the other hand, many people who are sick have the
ability to find tremendous happiness in the very simple pleasures of life.
Initial research findings do suggest that happiness is decreased in
individuals who are very ill.
- According to Christopher Peterson, a psychologist from the University of
Michigan, the queen of all virtues that has the strongest link to happiness
is forgiveness. It seems the happiest people among us are not those who have
not been wronged by their friends, family, and co-workers. Happier people do
seem to have the ability to forgive more easily.
- The early work with positive psychology found that people who rated
high on a happiness scale were able to engage in absorbing activities that
often caused them to lose all sense of time. The activities could vary from
sewing a quilt, to working on a puzzle, to playing the piano, to performing
surgery. Happy people seem to find great satisfaction in their daily
- Another characteristic of happiness was when people were able to judge
themselves against their own yardstick, and never against the yardstick of
others. If you donít care about keeping up with the Joneses, chances are
you are happier for it. Ed Diener, a psychologist at the University of
Illinois, goes so far to say that a constant pursuit of materialism is often
toxic to happiness.
- Authentic Happiness - Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your
Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, by Martin E.P. Seligman, Free Press,
2002, ISBN: 0-743-22297-0.
- "Psychologists now know what makes people happy," Marilyn Elias,
USA Today, December 8, 2002.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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