Thursday, August 1 2013 12:00

Living The Good Life

Written by Steve Uhlenbrock

If you’re not satisfied with the way your life is going, you’re most likely living life “south of neutral.” If you’re clinically depressed or anxious, then you’re definitely living life way below “neutral.” Our goal is a life lived as much “north of neutral” as possible. Living the happy life. Living the good life. Living the full life.

  Some people think they can’t improve their level of happiness. But the science of positive psychology says they’re wrong! While it’s been shown that about 50% of our happiness is attributed to genetics, and 10% comes from life circumstances we can’t control, that leaves us a whopping 40% of happiness that’s in our own hands through intentional activities.

  Sound good?  Then read on.

  Positive psychology is the scientific study of what goes right in life and what makes life most worth living. And positive psychology coaches help people live life above neutral, with the goals of increasing happiness, good character, the bottom line in the work place, health, well-being and the like. It’s about focusing on what an individual does well and strengthening those areas to increase happiness and satisfaction in life.

  In 1998, while president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Martin Seligman founded the science of positive psychology. According to Seligman, current Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, positive psychology principles can be separated into five areas: pleasure, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement. Following his theory, if you’re doing well in all five areas, you’re living the full life.

  Here’s more about the key areas and what you can do to improve your happiness.

  Pleasure involves having more positive emotions than negative emotions and is known as “surface level” happiness. An example is the happiness you feel when you receive a bouquet of flowers: it makes you happy in the moment, even if it doesn’t ultimately change your life. To improve pleasure, you can do such things as watch a show you enjoy, play a game you like, give someone you love a hug, and make a point to do something that will make you happy everyday.

  Engagement is when you’re so deeply involved in an activity—work, a sport or a hobby—that you get “in the zone.” In positive psychology, it’s called flow. This can happen if you really enjoy cooking, playing music, reading or similar past times. Engagement typically happens when your level of ability is matched by the challenge of the task. To increase engagement, you’ll want to put energy into activities that you do well and continue to challenge yourself.

  Relationships acknowledge that other people matter! The happiest people are those who have good relationships and have real social networks (not just Facebook and Twitter). Being around and involved with other people has been shown to improve happiness and well-being. For this area, join a club or an organization with similar values and interests to yours. Make it a priority to stay in touch with your friends and family members.

  Meaning, purpose and direction in life come from belonging to and serving something you believe to be bigger than yourself. For greater meaning in your life, you can volunteer at a local shelter or a charity you support. Make time to do something altruistic.

  Achievement is accomplishing personally meaningful goals. This can be attained by winning at games, fulfilling a strategy you’ve set, accomplishing tasks. One way to improve this area is to set a goal you want to accomplish, work on it, and stick to it!

  Finally, improving happiness takes work. You can’t improve your happiness by attending one inspirational workshop; it’s something you have to work at on a regular basis. But it’s well worth the effort!  After all, who doesn’t want to be happy?

Steve Uhlenbrock, president of Feel Great Coaching, is a positive psychology coach and adjunct professor at West Chester University, teaching very popular positive psychology courses. Steve has an M.A. in Psychology from West Chester University, an M.Ed. in Performance Psychology from Temple University, and was trained through Mentor Coach.