What is Happiness

We all have ups and downs, good and bad events in our lives. And you can be happy even when bad things happen to you.
What is Happiness
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In this write up, I am going to talk about two kinds of happiness, both of which are important; hedonic happiness and eudaimonic happiness. And then I will try to explore the application of those ideas in two self-assessments, two models that come from Dr. Martin Seligman. The first is three approaches to happiness. And the other is PERMA, spelled P-E-R-M-A, it's an acronym. And then at the very end of this write up, I'm going to introduce five self-assessments for you to take, to measure your own happiness based on approaches to happiness and PERMA, as well as three other important self-assessments regarding your personal happiness. I'm excited again to share this with you. And for you to build your own knowledge and perspective about how happy you are, the strengths you have to capitalize upon that and where you may have some opportunities to build ever stronger skills.

What happiness is not? It is not just being positive. That smiley face is not happiness. It's not the absence of bad experiences. We all have ups and downs, good and bad events in our lives. And you can be happy even when bad things happen to you. And happiness has two parts, hedonic happiness and eudemonic happiness. It is also known as, aka, wellbeing, subjective wellbeing, and flourishing. We're going to stick with happiness. Yeah, as I mentioned, happiness has two parts.

Let's start with the first one, hedonic happiness. It's defined in the book, positive psychology in practice. As seeking happiness, positive affect, this is a fancy word for positive emotions, life satisfaction, and reduced negative effect or emotion. In Dr. Martin Seligman's approaches to happiness theory, this is what he called the pleasant life. It has a short-term perspective and it doesn't require a whole lot of investment. So here, it is in a nutshell, Hedonic happiness is when positive emotions exceed negative emotions and an overall sense of life satisfaction. This is it in visuals; cold beer, nice massage, lots of fun at the water park, lovely roses with a fragrance that's wonderful to experience and that lovely buffet of food. And then the quote, “The art of being happy is to be satisfied with what you have."That's the picture of hedonic happiness.

Let's move now to eudaimonic happiness. That's part two. It's defined in positive psychology in practice as seeking authenticity, meaning excellent and personal growth. This kind of happiness has a very long-term perspective. Authenticity is about clarifying one's true values, being yourself, being who you are,what you're good at, what you're not good at,what your values are,and being willing to act in accordance with them. Meaning is having a sense of the bigger picture and contributing to it. There's a why to what you do, a purpose. Excellence is striving for higher quality, accomplishments, what Seligman ultimately calls in PERMA as accomplishment. And last but not least, growth. Becoming your best self, fulfilling your potential, seeking challenges and becoming even more mature as a person. Now, I mentioned that eudemonic happiness takes a long-term perspective. It also takes more investment. It doesn't change as rapidly and you have to sustain it, but it's not subject to the limits that hedonic happiness is. And I also want to mention that you want both hedonic and eudaimonic happiness together because otherwise, you don't have a balanced approach to life.

Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, his first book was, "Authentic Happiness"and it laid out a theory of happiness that he calls, approaches to happiness in three ways. The first is the pleasant life, which we've already identified as hedonic happiness. And then he defines two more approaches to life which are really about eudemonic happiness. The first one of those two is the engaged life where you use your strengths. You bring your best self and you work at a dynamic balance between what you're good at and the challenge so that you're always struggling to meet a challenge that's just a click more than your particular strengths are. That provides an opportunity for growth. And the third approach to happiness is what Seligman calls in the book, "Authentic Happiness, "the meaningful life, where you take your best self, your strengths, and you use it in service of something larger than you.

Now, see where you areon each of these three approaches to happiness given by Dr. Seligman. Dr. Seligman has advanced his theory of happinessto the PERMA model now. PERMA is an acronym that means positive emotions in excessive negative. So that's hedonic happiness. Engagement, which is really strength used at the point of challenge. So that's really the engaged life in the three approaches to happiness. He has since added relationships because the research shows that having positive supportive relationships is critical for personal happiness. Meaning is strengths used in service of something bigger than you.So more than your own personal interest.And he's added accomplishment,which is synonymous in our definition of eudaimonic happiness with growth and mastery. So, while the three approaches to happiness remains a valid and interesting model, which we'll use. He's added relationships explicitly and accomplishment to this model. It'll be interesting to compare your results on both of these. So, here's the key formula,happiness is equal to hedonic and eudaimonic happiness. Positive emotions, greater than negative.Life satisfaction, a sense that things are okay. Authenticity, being your best self. Meaning and purpose, having a why and using your strengths to attain it.Relationships, supportive positive relationships and growth and mastery.

I've taken some liberties, and I've looked at a variety of models, and I've pulled together what I think are the best of these elements of those models to reduce it to this because I think as practitioners, we can work with this definition. So as promised, the next thing in your to-do list is to spend some quality time with yourself and find out how happy you are right now. Take your results and set smart goals, and then build action plans and hone your happiness skills. So, you can use happiness as an approach to life.This is the big ideas wrap upfor what is happiness, happiness defined.Nonetheless, you don't want one or the other,you don't want all hedonic or all eudemonic.You actually want a nice, healthy mix. That combination has been found to result in happier people.

To sum up it can be said, that happiness can be defined, it's measurable, you can change it. It is linked to better life outcomes,both for you personally and for you within your organizationand collectively for everybody in your organization. So, now it's time to move ahead,go spend some quality time with yourselfand the happiness self-assessments.

Shabir Ahmad is a UPSC Aspirant and hails from Raiyar Doodhpathri.

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