Psychology n. [ fr Lat -logy (study of) + Grk psycho (nuts) ] for more than 100 years, had been dominated by disorders [thanks, Freud (coke addict )]. For 125 years, back to when Freud (1856–1939) wrote On Aphasia (1891) ψ was all about what is wrong with us, and how to (maybe ) make us better.
Then, in the 1990s, a rebel group of psychologists, led by Martin Seligman, Ed Diener, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Jonathan Haidt, launched the “positive psychology” movement (some of them later regretted the choice of this term, with its association to psychobabble). They focused their studies and programs on human flourishing – on how to develop our values, strengths, virtues, and talents, so as to help us find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in our lives.
The steps below are based mainly on Jon Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, and the Beyond the Book section of his happinesshypothesis.com. Jon had himself avoided making a list, because humans are complicated. So I just riffed on his list. And also thought this “infographic” might help. Please do not make fun of the graphically-challenged.
- Quiz thyself – at the University of Pennsylvania’s authentichappiness.com (free!) – try the General Happiness Scale, Satisfaction with Life Scale, Optimism Test, and Character Strengths (long form)
- Listen to your critics – a good place to look for wisdom is where you least expect it: in the minds of your opponents
- If you’ve been feeling down for weeks, take the CES-D (depression) Questionnaire. If you score below 16, seek help from a mental health professional, and let your doctor know.
STRENGTHEN YOUR BODY & YOUR MIND
- Body – walking even just 15 mins/day, 5 days a week, makes a big difference (bonus points if you walk with a friend); take 2 fish-oil pills a day to help your mood, brain, and heart
On your deathbed, will you wish you had spent more time at the office, or with your friends and family?
- Work on your most valued relationships. Do something thoughtful and out of the ordinary. Write gratitude letters. Learn the science of love & attachment, together
- Join a gang, or start one. Get together weekly or monthly to share an activity
- Perform random acts of kindness
- Get a dog – they co-evolved with us, and their ability to bond and to love meshes well with our own
MAKE WORK LOVABLE
Focus on how you help people and contribute to the common good
- Focus on your strengths (see Step 1) and use at least one of them every day, in a new way
- Master your work
- Get in the zone (find flow) – do challenging tasks that use your strengths; concentrate; get immediate feedback as you progress
- Take control, even a little control, over how your work is done
- Build alliances – connect and engage with people who can make your work better
GO BEYOND YOURSELF
- Be a bee – our lives only make full sense as members of a larger hive, or as cells in a larger body. Try religion, teaching, science, political campaigns
- Join an organization that has a noble purpose and a noble past. Any volunteer work can take you beyond yourself, but one that has history, traditions, and rituals makes it easier
- Try to live a virtuous life – enhance peace, harmony & cooperation; exercise your best virtues (see Step 1)
- Be One with The Multiverse – in a unified whole, where everything is accepted, nothing is judged; lose your self in an infinity of wonder, awe, joy, love, and gratitude (f.e via an ecstatic religious experience, or psilocybin mushrooms – ask your shaman)
- Carter, Christine. Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. New York: Ballantine Books. (2010)
- Gardner, Howard, Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, and Damon, William. Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet. New York, Basic Books. (2002)
- Haidt, Jonathan. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. Basic Books. (2005)
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Guided Mindfulness Meditation: Series 1. Boulder, CO: Sounds True. (2002)
- Kahneman, Daniel, Diener, Ed, Schwarz, Norbert. Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology. Russell Sage Foundation Publications. (2003)
- Keltner, Dacher, Jason Marsh, and Jeremy Adam Smith, editors. The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. (2010)
- Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds). Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-lived. Washington DC: American Psychological Association. (pp. 275–289)
- Seligman, Martin. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press. (2011)