I saw a video that featured a man named Martin Seligman who some call the father of positive psychology. He explained that psychology had been focused since its inception on the medical model. That is, they’ve been interested in finding what is wrong and then finding out how to get rid of it. In some ways they have found success but he says that this focus has ignored a huge group of people, the normal folks who are simply looking for ways to feel better and enjoy their lives. Seligman and his colleagues have been focusing on that group. Rather than focus on illness and psychopathology they focus on the positive side of being human and what helps make people happier.
In the video Seligman lists three states of happiness. The first is simply finding pleasure and enjoying the good things of life. He was quick to point out that this element was short lived, and as he said, it was a square wave. When you experienced the pleasantness you enjoyed, but after it was gone, so was your positive feeling. It was very short lived.
The second element was the state of mind we find when we become enthralled with an activity. He called it FLOW. Everything else disappears and we lose track of time and simply experience this state. It can take on many faces. For some it might be captivated by music, for others it might be a game or another passion/interest.
The third element was where we did things that we tied to meaningfulness. They were important to us due to their meaning.
He then made the point that when we can combine the second and third element that this combination could produce a potent example of something that helped us to feel good. Its impact on us was not short lived like the temporary pleasure, it had a much more lasting impact. He called it Eudaemonic.
We will be looking at more of Seligman’s ideas and practical suggestions about feeling good in newsletters to come.
Think if you have something you do that helps you move into FLOW. Is it something you do often? Something you enjoy? Something that has meaning to you?