The Flow in All of Us

For decades now, scientists have found that being in flow translates to accelerated performance, a shortcut on the path to mastery. Creativity, learning and progression move at warp speed when a person is in flow.Some say coders on flow built the Internet. And that any time a game is won in overtime or a major breakthrough occurs in the sciences or the arts, flow is at the heart of it.“We have known for over 50 years that flow is the state of consciousness where we feel and perform our best,” says Steven Kotler, the director of research for the FlowGenomeProject, based in Austin, Texas. “But we haven’t been good at accessing flow. If we can decode how people are finding flow, then we can find the answers to society.”Steven, who’s an award-winning journalist and a lifelong skier, started researching flow decades ago by talking to scientists who, he realized, studied flow but didn’t often experience it themselves. Then he’d speak with action sports athletes who got into flow on a daily basis without even trying to.“I’m talking to these athletes and I started thinking, wow, they have flow-hacking tips,” Steven says. “Today’s adventure athletes are the best flow hackers we’ve ever seen. They’ve become masters.”Steven has written a book on this subject called The Rise of Superman, which will be published in March. The book documents some of the world’s top action sports athletes—including skier JT Holmes, surfer Laird Hamilton, snowboarders Travis Rice and Jeremy Jones, and others—and how they access flow.To achieve flow, most researchers agree that you need a few internal elements: clear goals that are challenging but within reach, uninterrupted concentration and immediate feedback.In his book, Steven interviews Dr. Robb Gaffney, a former professional extreme skier who now works as a psychiatrist, with his office at the base of California’s Squaw Valley ski area.Robb, a scientist and an athlete, is both a student of flow and a master of it.“Being an athlete has helped me understand the flow states of athletes and perhapsflow states people achieve in other situations,” Robb said recently. “Most folks in my field have never experienced flow by carving down a steep mountainside, but it’s very likely they’ve found it while doingdifferent things.”That perhaps, is the most important thing to know, and a sentiment that most flow researchers agree upon. Although certain athletes seem to have found the doorway into flow, you don’t have to go skiing off a cliff in order to find your way there.“I believe flow states come from a myriad of different situations,” Robb says. “Thebulk of flow experiences on the planet might exist outside the athletic realm.The fact that I’ve had just as many flow state experiences whileworkingin my office as I have had on the snow—those 60-minute sessions that seem to last two minutes—makes me realize that flow doesn’t need to be triggered by my sport.”Steven says it’s a mistake to believe that flow only comes from physical risk. “You get a tremendous amount of flow in business or at start-ups,” he says. “There are a lot of mental, social and financial risks. High consequences drive people into flow, but you can replace the physical consequences with mental and social risks.”
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Top 10 Happiest Major Market Cities

Top 10 Happiest Major Market Cities

It’s no secret that happiness is subjective. The things that make people happy in New York may not be the same for people in Los Angeles. Whether it’s family, finances or football, what makes Americans happy is literally all over the map. Recently, Harris Interactive, a market research firm, released a poll showing that 33 percent of all Americans say they are “very happy.”The Harris Poll Happiness Index asked a series of questions to roughly 2,100 Americans ages 18 and up living in the biggest cities in the country, to calculate the nation’s overall happiness. Relationships with family and friends, spiritual beliefs, financial situations and health concerns were some of the factors used to gauge the results. Of the top 10 major market cities polled, the Dallas/Fort Worth area ranked the happiest, with 38 percent describing themselves as “very happy.” San Francisco wound up at the bottom, with only 28 percent saying they were perfectly content. While San Francisco ranks at the bottom of the list, most in the City by the Bay feel that the future is bright. New Yorkers, who worry about financial issues, are frustrated with work and feel no one is listening to them when it comes to national decisions, worry the least about their health. Chicagoans feel the opposite with 67 percent agreeing that their concerns about national issues are being heard. They also are most likely to use hobbies and pastimes to lighten their moods. Residents of Dallas, Houston and Atlanta are likely to say that their spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force in their lives, and they generally feel their voices are being heard when it comes to national decisions. Bostonians are least likely to worry about their financial situation, and people from Los Angeles are least likely to say that their work is frustrating. When it comes to personal relationships, Washington, D.C., leads the pack with most agreeing that being with friends and family brings them happiness. Philadelphia, affectionately known as the City of Brotherly Love, comes in second in both relationship categories; however, Philly outranks the nation’s capital on the overall happiness list because 86 percent of residents generally feel happy with their lives. That beats out all nine other cities. From the stone tablets in Moses’ hands all the way to David Letterman’s nightly staple, we have always had top 10 lists. Periodically we will report on the findings from various research polls to see where happiness is popping up in the world. We are social people who like to improve our wellbeing by feeling connected, and the data proves that happiness is contagious. See where your city ranks in the Harris Poll Happiness Index Dallas/Fort Worth – 38 percent “very happy” Houston – 36 percent “very happy” Philadelphia – 34 percent “very happy” Atlanta – 34 percent “very happy” Los Angeles – 33 percent “very happy” New York City metro area – 33 percent “very happy” Washington, D.C. – 33 percent “very happy” Chicago – 32 percent “very happy” Boston – 31 percent “very happy” San Francisco – 28 percent “very happy”
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A man sits relaxing on a peer by a lake.

The New Pursuit of Happiness

After a challenging week at work, Saturday afternoon beckons—a stretch of free time to do with whatever you like. You want, reasonably enough, to spend those precious hours in a way that will bring you the most happiness. So you decide to: a. Whip up a batch of piña coladas, park yourself on the couch and catch up on six episodes of The Real Housewives of New Jersey while munching on two or three (or four) red velvet cupcakes. b. Go door to door beseeching your neighbors to sign a petition demanding a traffic light be installed on the corner of Fourth and Fig, followed by two hours spent picking up litter and dog droppings from the local park. Which scenario do you choose? OK, both choices are fairly preposterous. But they offer a clear-cut illustration of what experts see as two paths to happiness. Choice A is an example of hedonia. This is in-the-moment pleasure with no limits or rules. It’s self-gratifying, self-serving; the consumption of things and experiences that produce positive feelings and no pain. Hedonia is the fast-food version of happiness, or, as Michael Steger, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory for the Study of Meaning and Quality of Life at Colorado State University, puts it, “Hedonia is doing whatever the hell you want.” Choice B is entirely more sober, a type of satisfaction that experts call eudaimonia. (You can already tell that this is a far more effortful path; the word itself is nearly impossible to spell correctly or to pronounce. u-dy-MOH-ni-a—if you’d like to try.) Eudaimonia is centered on fulfilling our potential; it’s driven by virtue and a higher purpose: service to others. This is a condition we achieve, says Alan S. Waterman, Ph.D., a leading happiness researcher and professor emeritus in psychology at The College of New Jersey, when we live in accordance with our truest self. The concepts of both hedonia and eudaimonia date back to the Greeks. Trust us, you would not have wanted to give Aristotle the job of picking up a keg for the Sigma Phi frat party. As he saw it, those who conceived of happiness as pleasure and gratification were “the most vulgar,” or barely human. “The life they decide on,” he scolded, “is a life for grazing animals.” Eudaimonia, on the other hand was “an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.” In the last few years, scientists in the field of positive psychology have taken up an examination of these two components of happiness. Their investigations are providing some valuable insights into how each impacts our psychological and physical health. Spoiler alert: The research doesn’t provide any clear-cut answers to what will lead to my or your happiest life. “Within each person lies the ultimate compass,” Michael says. But some of the provocative questions this new research is raising can help you find your true north. Stepping Off the Hedonic Treadmill Are you happy now? Right now? How about now? If you were participating in a modern-day happiness study, you might be asked to complete an online daily log. You might have to check off which activities in a list of several dozen you’d engaged in during the previous 12 hours and to then rate your feelings of satisfaction. Or, you might be texted randomly throughout the day, asked what you’re doing and how you feel. When social scientists add up all these caught-in-amber scores and analyze them this way and that, they end up with ratings of both right-now happiness and big-picture, or global, wellbeing. What these studies generally show is that hedonic behaviors have a short shelf life. Catch someone in the middle of, say, watching an Adam Sandler comedy or scarfing down a Snickers bar, and they’re likely to be pretty content. But a few hours, or even minutes, after the credits roll or the candy wrapper has been tossed aside, those feelings of pleasure recede. The buzz of eudaimonic behavior, however, lingers. In a study that Michael conducted, the hedonic behaviors he included on a questionnaire were things like “bought a new piece of jewelry or electronics equipment just for myself” and “relaxed by watching television or playing video games.” Among the eudaimonic activities were “volunteered my time,” “listened carefully to another’s point of view” and “persevered at a valued goal even in the face of obstacles.” People who engaged in more eudaimonic activities not only reported feeling greater satisfaction, stronger positive emotions and more meaning in life, but those feelings spilled over into the next day. They had what could be called a happiness hangover. What’s more, other studies have shown that eudaimonic behavior confers health benefits, too, including a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s and a decreased risk of heart disease. Considering the health halo that happiness affords, it’s a shame we’re so bad at predicting what’s actually likely to make us happy. You don’t need studies to prove this is the case (though plenty do). Your own experience and that of your friends—especially the perpetually grumpy ones—provide plenty of evidence. The bigger house, the faster car, the latest gizmo-loaded smartphone—all may provide a temporary mood boost, but before long we grow accustomed to these pleasures. In a phenomenon that experts call “hedonic adaptation,” our level of happiness reverts to what it was before we had these fancy baubles. We’re trapped on the “the hedonic treadmill,” holding steady at our happiness set point. For a long time researchers believed that our happiness set point was immutable, as much a matter of genetics as the color of our eyes. But lately experts are taking a fresh look at this theory and concluding that our happiness baseline may not be so static after all. A group of researchers at MIT, Harvard Business School and Duke University confirmed that major life events—like winning the lottery—don’t do much to move our happiness needle in any enduring way. But—here’s the good news—small changes in behavior can boost your baseline happiness over time. The researchers looked at two behaviors—attending religious services of any type and getting physical exercise. Each time people went to, say, a yoga class or the gym, their church or their synagogue, they experienced a little uptick in happiness. Repeated regularly, these shots of happiness had a cumulative effect that led to a permanent change in wellbeing. The participants in the study had, the researchers concluded, stepped off the hedonic treadmill “one small step at a time.” Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., is a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of the books The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Doesand The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Lately, she’s turned her attention to ways to thwart hedonic adaptation. What she’s finding is that effortful, intentional activities can slow down or sidestep happiness habituation. If materialism leads to a happiness dead end, intrinsic goals take us on a scenic route. Building close relationships, investing in the community, mastering new skills, savoring pleasurable experiences are all strategies that can help us, she says, “stretch happiness.” Savoring is a strategy that Michael Steger employs daily. We can refresh our experiences, he says, by being mindful of opportunities to luxuriate. Now living in Colorado after growing up in “really flat, boring” Minnesota, he says, he spends a few minutes every day gazing at the mountains. “I don’t want to become inured to the beauty of the natural landscape around me,” he says. “If I’m just seeing rocks, I’ll push myself to look harder, to see where the clouds are over the mountains, or how a recent rainfall has changed the backdrop.” Easy Does It? Not For True Happiness “A man’s reach should always exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?” the poet Robert Browning wrote. He could have been talking about eudaimonia in that couplet. “Eudaimonia has more to do with striving than achieving,” says Dr. Antonella Delle Fave, a professor at the University of Milan who has studied life satisfaction across the globe. “It’s about developing and growing into the best person we can be.” That effort doesn’t always feel good. “Eudaimonia can be an experience where you’re not happy or even satisfied,” Antonella says. “If you’re engaged in a very difficult work task, you may be absorbed in the project and using all your resources to face a challenge that you feel is meaningful. That generates a feeling of wellbeing…eventually. In the moment, there may be more discomfort than pleasure. Providing support to a friend who has suffered a loss, volunteering in a neighborhood blighted by poverty, training for a triathlon—these also provide a context for engagement that is meaningful, but they are far from carefree activities. Diana Nyad at 64 successfully completing the grueling 110-mile, 53-hour swim from Cuba to Florida, reminding herself to “find a way” with each stroke, was an immeasurably fulfilling experience, but hardly a day at the beach. So why bother with things that are hard? In Antonella’s studies of people in Australia, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and South Africa, one clear consistency was this: Boredom is a health risk. It turns out that staying within the confines of your comfort zone, partaking only in those hedonic experiences that are at your fingertips—a good meal, an escapist movie, a shopping trip to the mall—is strongly linked to depression. “The worst, most disruptive condition that we found in terms of overall wellbeing was apathy,” she says. “People who didn’t perceive challenges in their lives that called upon them to develop skills and resources had the lowest levels of life satisfaction. In the long run, a life of ease does not allow you to develop into a more complex, mature person.” Michael agrees. “I’m suspicious of things that are too easy,” he says. “When we look back at our lives many of the things that are most fulfilling, like raising children, making the commitment to be monogamous, taking a job that’s really challenging—require lots of labor, sacrifice, effort and deferred satisfaction over a long period of time. Lots of sleepless nights and cleaning up baby puke might make us pretty miserable in the moment, but we’ll later see those years through a rosy filter. That conflict is exactly what’s amazing about being human, which is that we’re building lives and meaning over the long haul.” Moving Beyond Mere Pleasure Maybe happiness isn’t the goal after all. Instead, perhaps we want to embrace, as Zorba the Greek put it, “the full catastrophe of life.” That’s the position taken by Edward Deci, Ph.D., and Richard Ryan, Ph.D., two leading researchers on human motivation at the University of Rochester. “I think it’s perfectly fine for people to be pursuing happiness,” Edward says. “On the other hand, I think there are a lot of other things that are pretty important to pursue. I like to pursue sadness. Sadness is an important human emotion. When my beloved dog dies, I want to experience the kinds of feelings that are associated with that. We have a wide range of human emotions, and I’m interested in pursuing them all in appropriate situations expressed in appropriate ways.” What’s more, adds Richard, happiness shouldn’t be mistaken for wellness. “If I’m a well-supplied drug addict,” he says. “I may be doing things that I know are ultimately harmful, but at the moment I’m happy.” So, how does “life, liberty and the pursuit of flourishing” sound? Okay, maybe we don’t need to rewrite the Declaration of Independence, but Edward and Richard suggest that “flourishing,” a concept that dates back to high-minded Aristotle, will serve us better than happiness as a life goal. Flourishing, or thriving, results from fulfilling three basic psychological needs. First we need to experience relatedness, or meaningful connections to other people. Whether it’s family, a romantic partner or friends, “I need to feel,” says Edward, “that there are people in this world that I care for, that I want to help when they need help and who would also be willing to help me when I need help.” A sense of competence—that you have the skills and resources to deal effectively with the world—is another basic psychological need. The third basic need is autonomy. “You need to feel that you’re doing the things that you want to be doing,” says Richard, “rather than that life is pushing you around.” Happiness, as it turns out, is a fortunate byproduct of this “life of excellence.” Studies show, Richard says, that when people pursue extrinsic goals that have to do with material things, image or fame, they’re less happy—even if they’re successful in becoming rich and famous—than people who are primarily interested in intrinsic goals like relationships, personal growth and giving to their communities. Don’t panic: Edward and Richard’s research doesn’t mean we need to aspire to Mother Teresa-like goodness. “We are not all superstars,” says Edward. “But we can all be kind to the elderly widow who lives next door, try to be nice to the people we meet on the street and, if we have the time or means, find a way to contribute to organizations that are doing good in the world.” Michael points it in even more pedestrian terms. “You can say, ‘I’m going to be less of an annoying person,’ ” he says. “I want people to feel better after they’ve interacted with me. That’s not curing cancer or solving the problem of poverty, but it is opening ourselves to embrace the concerns of others in some small way.” How to Spend That Saturday Afternoon In the world outside the psych lab, most activities are neither purely hedonic nor entirely eudaimonic but a combination of both. “In many cases things that are fun often dovetail with things that are noble,” says Michael. “To me, hitting more of these blended moments is a key to the well-lived life.” Take sharing a home-cooked meal with friends. “When we exert some effort that takes into account the experience of other people, I think we’re going to be well on our way to a eudaimonic experience,” he says. So, how should you spend that Saturday afternoon? For his part, Michael might pass it sitting on the porch of his Colorado home, enjoying a beer or two while reading a detective novel and glancing up now and then to observe how the shifting light is dancing across the Rockies. “Not everything has to be complicated all the time,” he says. “We can have fun. At the same time we don’t want to neglect that we’re capable of so much more. I think being human is more than trying to string together as many blissful hours as possible and call that a life.” In other words, we can have our red velvet cupcake and eat it, too. Enjoy a few hours of aimless leisure, then why not go out and ring a few doorbells—literally or figuratively—for something you believe in. Shelley Levitt is a contributing editor to SUCCESS magazine. Her articles on health, beauty and well-being have appeared in Women’s Health, Fitness, WebMD and Weight Watchers magazines.
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Close-up image of DNA

Gene therapy

Have you ever experienced a happiness so profound you felt it in your very bones? In fact, happiness goes even deeper than that—all the way to our genes. And, in a startling new discovery, researchers have found that different types of happiness affect the human genome in dramatically different ways, with potentially big implications for our physical health. “We’re finding that not all things that feel good are the same on the cellular level,” says Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., the lead author of the study, which was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Barbara looked at two different kinds of happiness. Hedonia is “in-the moment” happiness, the kind that comes from consuming things or experiences—a slice of pizza, a movie, a pair of new shoes. Meaningful happiness, what scientists call “eudaimonic wellbeing,” is the buzz we get from having a higher purpose, connecting to a community, being of service to others. It turns out that while eudaimonia gives our biology a boost, hedonic experiences do the opposite, undermining healthy genetic expression. Under the scrutiny of lab examination, hedonic happiness looks a lot like adverse life circumstances such as poverty, social isolation or being diagnosed with a serious illness. “These results really surprised me,” says Barbara, who is the director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,and author of the books Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Lifeand Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become.“Hedonic happiness actually shows a pattern that’s similar to that which is seen with adversity or stress. We’re not seeing it at the same strength, but hedonia is looking like a little version of stress rather than the opposite of stress.” In the study, volunteers completed an online questionnaire designed to measure their levels of hedonic happiness and eudaimonic well-being. Then the researchers drew blood and analyzed the gene expression of the immune cells in these samples. They found that the volunteers whose happiness was primarily hedonic had high levels of inflammatory markers—which are linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s— and low levels of disease-fighting antibody and antiviral gene expression. Volunteers who scored high on the eudaimonic scale displayed a reverse profile. Their robustly healthy immune systems were well-armed against infection while demonstrating little inflammatory activity. Does this mean we all need to go on a fun fast to protect our genomes? Not at all. “What this work tells us is not which kind of happiness to avoid, but rather which one you wouldn’t want to be without, and that’s the eudaimonic,” says Barbara. In the real world, both kinds of happiness reinforce each other. “Hedonia and eudaimonia go hand in hand,” she says. “What we know from past studies is that when people experience the positive uplift of hedonia they’re better able to go on and find meaning in their lives. And, that, in turn, becomes a durable resource. When times are tough you can touch base with the feeling that you’re a part of something larger than yourself and that kind of steadies the turmoil. Shelley Levitt is a contributing editor to SUCCESS magazine. Her articles on health, beauty and well-being have appeared in Women’s Health, Fitness, WebMD and Weight Watchers magazines.
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School children collage

Positive Education: The School of Wellbeing

Imagine sending your kids off to school and them learning reading, writing, arithmetic and flourishing. That’s the concept of positive education, a trend that’s popular in Australia and England, and gaining traction in the United States. Positive education is about merging flourishing—positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment—with traditional education. While many schools focus primarily on academic performance, positive education is about developing your child’s sense of well-being and social responsibility. While the idea of helping students build on their strengths and nurturing their resilience and well-being has been at the heart of Montessori and Steiner approaches for some time, Dr. Martin Seligman is leading the effort to bring positive psychology into more schools. Martin believes the need for positive education is growing with the worldwide prevalence of depression among young people. So he works with staff, parents and students to teach his PERMA model—the five elements of well-being—with the ultimate goal of helping students flourish. (P) Positive Emotions—Feeling positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, interest, hope (E) Engagement—Being fully absorbed in activities that use your skills yet challenge you (R) Relationships—Having positive relationships (M) Meaning—Belonging to and serving something you believe is bigger than yourself (A) Accomplishment—Pursuing success, winning achievement and mastery Some examples of positive education in schools include positive behavior initiatives (teaching empathy and compassion), curriculum designed to increase confidence, and strength projects for children. Michelle McQuaid, a teacher of positive education in Australian schools (and Live Happy blogger), believes “success is achieved when a school leadership team collectively supports the idea of making the well-being of students as important as their academic achievements and inviting, connecting and empowering the whole school community around this idea,” including administrators, teachers, parents and students. “My vision is for children to receive an education that teaches them how to flourish intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically. For this to happen, they need to be a part of an education system that is flourishing—where leadership teams feel challenged and supported, where teachers feel engaged and appreciated, and parents feel confident and empowered,” McQuaid says. What Parents Can Do Praise children for effort rather than intelligence. When you tell a child “You are so smart,” they don’t understand what they have done and how to repeat it, so they fear making mistakes or view failures as being dumb. When you praise effort, children understand they can influence the result, and learn to view failures as learning opportunities. Provide a consistent family routine. Take an interest in what your children are learning. Encourage special interests. Turn off the TV and encourage children to have free playtime where they use their imagination and creativity. Give kids achievable jobs at home to develop a sense of responsibility and self-mastery. Celebrate who your children are, not just what they achieve. Help your children discover their strengths, including character strengths like kindness. Show your children how to master challenges and overcome frustrations with an optimistic and not pessimistic approach. Teach and show your kids how to go on the hunt for gratitude. Share things that are going well. Keep lobbying your children and educators to create a learning environment that allows your child to flourish. What Schools Can Do Assess what you are doing well already. Adopt the PERMA model. Embed positive education into your school strategy so it becomes your school culture. Evaluate your results to assess your effectiveness. Connect with other educators and schools to share your positive education journey and benefit from their knowledge, resources and experiences Sandra Bienkowski, owner of The Media Concierge, LLC, is a national writer of wellness and personal development content and a social media expert.
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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow – 01 by evalottchen, on Flickr

What is Flow?

Flow is a positive psychology concept that focuses on focus. In other words, the state of mind you are in when you have total concentration on a specific task and nothing else around you seems to matter. Total immersion. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a positive psychologist primarily known as the architect of “flow,” describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.”Csikszentmihalyi began researching flow after he became fascinated by artists who would get so lost in their work, they would forgo food, water and even sleep.In order to get into the state of flow, a balance of the challenge at hand and the strengths of the challenger must be met. The motivation is for no other reason than just the pure enjoyment of that certain task. For more information watch Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi's TED talk on Flow.
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What Does It Mean to Thrive?

Based on Barbara Frederickson’s Broaden and Build theory, positive emotions can help us thrive within our lives. Broadening our awareness with positive emotions help us learn and grow, which then leads to developing skills and becoming more resourceful. This positivity compounds over time and eventually leads to an increase in well-being. While feelings of fear and anxiety help narrow our focus and sharpen our “fight-or-flight” response, positive emotions (ex. happiness, joy, contentment) help us expand our life instead of just trying to survive. People who are thriving tend to live longer and lead healthier lives.
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Image of words Positive Psychology

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is an emerging field of study that focuses on the science of happiness. Pioneered by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman in 1998, the purpose of Positive Psychology is to find out the virtues that lead to a meaningful life and the effects on that will have on an individual, as well as the community as a whole.Instead of just treating mental illness and relieving suffering, positive psychologists also focus on the strengths that make life worth living and restoring a healthy balance to well-being.Martin andMihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychology professor from Claremont Graduate University, describe the new science in the following way: "We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise that achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities."Studies have shown that happiness can have a dramatic effect on an individual’s well-being, contributing to every aspect of their life, including health, relationships, employment and longevity. According to the United Nations World Happiness Report 2013, positive emotions help the cardiovascular, immune and endocrine systems; lower the risk of heart disease and strokes; and even speed up the recovery process. Happy workers are more likely to receive positive ratings from management, as well as see an increase in wages. Employee satisfaction can have a positive effect on productivity and performance, increasing revenue, sales and ultimately profit.Positive psychologists believe that figuring out the puzzle and pursuit of happiness can lead to answers to some of our biggest problems individually, nationally and even globally.
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Icons of happiness.

Positive Psychology Timeline

This timeline shows the progression of the unlikely and amazing story of positive psychology. You can read the full story in our article The Happiness Revolution. 1984 Ed Dienercoins the termsubjective well-being. 1985 Ed Dienerpublishes his Satisfaction with Life scale. 1997 Martin Seligmanand MihalyCsikszentmihalyimeet on a Hawaiian beach and begin mapping out a plan for launching positive psychology. 1998 Martin Seligman delivers his "Manhattan Project for the Social Sciences" inaugural presidential address at the American Psychological Association convention. Barbara Fredrickson's "broaden and build" theory of the value of positive emotions is published. 1999 The first positive psychology conference is heldin Akumal, Mexico. The first annual Positive Psychology Summit is held in Lincoln, Neb. The first university programs in positive psychology are available at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. 2000 Special millennial issue ofAmerican Psychologistdevoted to positive psychology. First Templeton Prize to Barbara Fredrickson. 2001 "Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings from the nun study" published, linking happiness and positive outlook to longevity. U.S. News & World Reportpublishes "Happiness Explained" cover story. 2002 First International Positive Psychology Summit in Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Education grants $2.8 million for Martin Seligman to explore positive psychology in a Philadelphia high school. Martin Seligman publishesAuthentic Happiness. 2003 Marcial Losada and Barbara Fredrickson publish their 3:1 positivity ratio, showing that those who flourish exhibit a ratio of at least 3:1 positivity-to-negativity in their behavior and expression. Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough publish "Counting Blessings Versus Burdens" showing that a consistent practice of gratitude increases wellbeing. 2004 $1 million National Institute of Mental Health grant to Sonja Lyubormirskyand Kennon Sheldon to explore practical "intervention" pathways to permanent increases in happiness. Martin Seligman and Chris PetersonpublishCharacter Strengths and Virtues, the definitive text and positive psychology's what-goes-right answer to psychology's classic what-goes-wrong reference textDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). 2005 Timepublishes its cover story, "The Science of Happiness." First master's program in positive psychology at U Penn. "Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change" study shows as much as 40 percent of personal happiness is dictated by personal effort. "Does happiness lead to success?" study shows broad range of benefits, from physiological health to financial and career success and greater social engagement. 2006 Gallup World Poll launched, with sampling that represents 95 percent of the world's population. Tal Ben-Shahar's "Positive Psychology" becomes Harvard's most popular course. 2007 Sonja Lyubormirsky publishesThe How of Happiness. First doctoral program in positive psychology at Claremont Graduate University. 2008 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index launched in the United States. The Pentagom approaches Martin Seligman to develop a positive psychology program for the U.S. Army. 2009 First World Congress on Positive Psychology held in Philadelphia. Barbara Fredrickson publishes her 3:1 positivity ratio finding inPositivity. 2010 Tony Hsieh'sDelivering Happinesshits No. 1 onNew York Timesbestseller list and stays on the list for 27 consecutive weeks. Gretchen Rubin'sThe Happiness Projecthits No. 1 onNew York Timesbestseller list and has stayed on the list continuously for more than two years. 2011 British government begins national happiness survey. Somerville, Mass., becomes the first U.S. city to track its population's happiness. 2012 Harvard Business Reviewpublishes issue on "The Value of Happiness."
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Illustration of the word PERMA

What is PERMA?

PERMA (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement) is an acronym that stands for the five elements developed by Martin Seligman that account for what makes up the “good life” – an authentic and sustained happiness and well-being. No one element defines well-being, but each contribute, either subjectively or objectively.Positive Emotion is one of the cornerstones to well-being. Kindness, gratitude, hope, contentment are all positive emotions that contribute to the “pleasant life.”Engagement, much like positive emotion, is a subjective element to well-being. Engagement is about being totally absorbed (in the flow) by a present task where time and self- consciousness seem to cease.Relationships are an important part of well-being. People who maintain strong positive relationships are generally happier in life. We are “social beings” who need to connect with one another.Meaning in life comes from serving something that is bigger than self. To have a sense of well-being, finding a purpose in life is essential. Altruism and philanthropy are good methods to establishing a meaningful life.Achievement is a sense of accomplishment. Having goals and meeting those goals, improves your well-being and allows you to flourish.
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