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Authentic Happiness - What is it

By Winsome Coutts

Everyone wants happiness in their lives. But the search for happiness is not as simple as many would like.

Looking for Authentic Happiness

In the past few years researchers led by Dr Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania have coined the term "authentic happiness" to describe the enduring happiness that people are looking for.

Seligman is the author of one of the most influential books in modern psychology – Learned Optimism. This book for the first time helped people discover how to change negative patterns of thinking to more positive, happier and more optimistic thought patterns.

His research has led to a new branch of positive psychology, with its focus on positive emotions, positive personal strengths and positive healthy institutions as a means to help achieve authentic happiness.

Positive psychology looks at your strengths as much as weaknesses, your successes as much as challenges and your healthy functioning as much as despair and depression. The positive psychology research indicates that by focusing on the positive side of life, it is possible to improve authentic happiness and satisfaction with life.

But what is authentic happiness?

It is an enduring, longer lasting happiness state where people overall are happy with their lives and themselves. This is totally different to the short bursts of happiness most people face in their life. The quest for authentic happiness is all about achieving more permanent happiness states.

Seligman suggests there are three paths to the search for happiness – the pleasure path, the engagement path and the meaning path. Of these three, the engagement path and the meaning path are more strongly linked to long lasting happiness than pleasure.

People can pursue pleasure and have happiness in the moment – but not achieve lasting happiness from pursuing pleasure in its own right.

However, pursuing the engagement path to happiness gives a stronger sense of happiness and wellbeing. People want to be engaged in things and activities that capture our imagination and passion. Being engaged is similar to being in the flow – where we lose track of time doing what we love. Our focus is totally on the activity and time loses all meaning.

When we are deeply engaged in something, it is usually in one of our areas of strength. By consciously identifying our strengths and choosing to operate from a place of strength in our business, relationships and family we will feel happier and more successful. However, if we only walk the engagement path to happiness we can overdo the engagement into workaholism.

Our quest for meaning is well known – we want to make a difference not only to ourselves but to others. When we follow the meaning path through finding meaning to our life and our actions, we overcome amazing obstacles, push ourselves further than we thought was possible and achieve more.

Meaning is usually discovered when we use our strengths for a higher good – where we use our strengths to serve others.

What has also been discovered is that authentic happiness is a function of all three paths working together. As Seligman suggested:

Happiness = pleasure + engagement + meaning

Seligman has created a number of tests and questionnaires to help assess your current happiness level and identify your strengths. These are available at no charge online at: www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu

Learn about Life Happiness from Mike Dooley

"It's through the pursuit of my goals and dreams that I learn my lessons and even greater secrets about life and myself. As far as fun and meaning go in my life today, by most standards I've been doing pretty well..." - Taken from Mike Dooley's bio at www.tut.com

I believe Mike Dooley is a true master when it comes to life and happiness.

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Winsome Coutts is the passion behind the new self help authority site, www.4lifeselfhelp.com. She is a lifelong student of personal development, meditation and goal setting. In the pursuit of her own dreams, she has created www.4lifeselfhelp.com as a tool to help others find success and happiness along with resources to live an abundant life.

Visit www.4lifeselfhelp.com today to take advantage of their resource library, free articles, resource tools and guidance.

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