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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Flourish: Post #2 - Well-being

a. Seligman takes care to distinguish between happiness (the core of his original theory of Authentic Happiness) and well-being. His argument is that he can measure the individual elements of well-being, but happiness is more “mood” related and far more difficult to treat scientifically. Well-being is a construct which leads to the state of someone flourishing and has five elements: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships (positive), Meaning, and Accomplishment (PERMA). To meet the test of well-being, according to Seligman, each element must meet a rigorous three-pronged test. The element must 1) contribute to well-being, 2) be pursued by people for its own sake, and 3) be able to be defined and measured independently.

b. PERMA: Positive emotions are the cornerstone of positive psychology (studying wellness as opposed to disease) and are a core element of well-being and flourishing. Emotions get us to “move,” and moving in a positive direction always trumps the negative. Engagement has been studied by many researchers, especially the research team at Gallup, and found to be at the core for anyone hoping to really enjoy work or life in general. No engagement, no real satisfaction or joy in our pursuits, only drudgery and compliance. Relationships that are positive nourish us and for most of us are the antidote to depression and other such mental maladies. Meaning is about being connected to others and pursuing something larger than the self. Life gets better as our focus gets bigger. Accomplishment emphasizes the pure joy of doing that which we enjoy for its own sake, and again, often in service of a greater good, something bigger than ourselves. For example, a race car driver might win a race and also test out new safety equipment that could ultimately help all drivers.

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