Flourishing

1-howdoesoursuI have been reading Martin Seligman’s book called Flourish. The subtitle says, “ A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being”.

From the back of the book it says, “Flourish builds on Dr. Seligman’s game-changing work on optimism, motivation, and character to show how to get the most out of life, unveiling an electrifying new theory of what makes a good life—for individuals, for communities, and for nations.” Dr. Seligman is one of the founders of a new theory, Positive Psychology.

Here is a 5 minute link that explains what Positive Psychology is:

In one chapter Dr. Seligman writes about a positive psychology exercise that helps increase well-being. He said we tend to focus on what is going bad in our lives and not what is going well. He also says that focusing on these events can produce anxiety and depression. He says that every night for a week, set aside 10 minutes before bed and think about what went well that day and why they went well. You can have a journal or a computer to record the events but he says it is important to write it down. Next to each item, ask yourself, “Why did it happen?” Like if your husband brought you ice cream, maybe you could say, “My husband can be really thoughtful”. Dr Seligman said “please stick with this for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier and addicted to this exercise 6 months from now.”

I have been trying this for a while with my family. After a trip with two of my children last weekend and then at Sunday dinner a few days ago I again asked, “What went well?” It helped elevate the good parts of the trip to Arizona, instead of focusing on  the long 10 hour ride each way or the overwhelming heat. Similarly, at dinner a few days ago it added a whole new element to our meal. There were five of us and it was a chance to focus on each person and find out what was important to them. By the fourth person, my daughter, she really got into it, describing a fun, “Dad dance” party—(which means dressing and dancing like your Dad) where they all belted out “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” Then she found it on Spotify and started belting it out. She knows the Glee version. I grew up with Barbara Streisand singing it in Funny Girl. Here are both versions of the song:

 

 

Just hearing these two amazing singers is a lift, let alone hearing your daughter belt it out at the dinner table!

I am learning a lot about my children when I ask them “What went well today?” Dr. Seligman also calls it “Three Blessings”, which resonates with me as well. Starting on page 35 of his book, he lists several cases of three therapists who reported very positive results  using positive psychology exercises with their  patients. He said the what-went-well and “the signature strengths test” (another  positive psychology exercise), “markedly lowered depression three months and six months later” and  “substantially increased happiness 6 months later”.

Here is the link to the Signature Strengths test:

http://www.authentichappiness.com. It’s free. Here is Dr. Seligman talking about his book, Flourish. It is 30 minutes long. If you start at minute 12:00 through 17:00 he explains how the Signature Strengths test works.

In this Ted Talk he talks about extremely happy people and what contributes to that. He also talks about the Pleasant Life, the Good Life and the Meaningful Life.

These youtube videos do a good job of summing up the book. What went well for you today?

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