A Scientific Study of Happiness

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“Everyone, without exception, is searching for happiness.”

– Blaise Pascal

 

Have you ever heard someone truthfully say they don’t want to be happy? While sometimes our actions and feelings get in the way, when it comes to the core of existence, we humans all want one thing: complete and utter bliss.

Just one question…What does that even mean?

For almost one hundred years since the birth of psychology, its primary focus had been about relieving human suffering. If humans are a flower garden, psychological research gives us tips on pulling the weeds. While weed pulling is a vital part of tending a garden, it is not the entire concept, or even the point.

In 1991 a pioneering psychologist named Martin Seligman coined the term positive psychology. He and his colleagues have carved a new agenda for research and practice: the study of positive emotion, character and institutions and the nurturing of their growth. Here the other parts of garden tending are accounted for—planting, watering, and drinking in the sunlight.

Over the years, Martin Seligman has identified six categories of positive psychology for study. All these topics form one cohesive acronym: PERMA.

Here we find a comprehensive outline of what true happiness is, and it’s not just about pleasurable sentimentality. Check this acronym out:

  • Positive Emotion: good feelings
  • Engagement: complete absorption in one’s activities
  • Relationships: authentic connection to others
  • Meaning: purposeful existence
  • Achievement: a sense of accomplishment

PERMA!

PERMA

Want to learn how to better cultivate your own happiness? I once devoted an entire semester of my college experience writing a research paper on positive psychology. I’m going to break it down for you. Stay tuned for further installments of a six part series devoted to each of these categories. Each blog is 700 words or less and has all the essential information. I’ll include exercises that will help you develop each kind of happiness and I’ll reference original sources if you want greater detail.

As Roy M. Goodman said, “Remember that happiness is a way of travel – not a destination.” I’m looking forward to taking this journey with you.

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People are a Burden, but Being Alone is Even More Burdensome

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Why does it hurt so much to be alone?

Being alone hurts. I don’t necessarily mean being physically alone, either. What hurts is not having people in your life, not having friends and family that you can count on. That’s what it REALLY means to be alone.

Why do we need people so much?

At a certain point in my life, I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need people. Or at least I thought that if I could rid myself of the need for others, I would be happier.

I got to that point my second year of college when friendships were just not happening for me no matter how hard I tried. The burden of not having people in my life was infinitely heavier and more horrible than any burden that having people would bring.

People are burdens, after all!

When you have people in your life, they weigh you down. You have to deal with their problems. Your life isn’t completely your own, and sometimes the people in your life will need more from you than they are able to give back.

I call it “getting in the trenches” when my friends or my husband or my sisters (I count quite a few women as my sisters, even if we’re not technically related, by the way.) are really counting on me to get them through something.

Getting in the trenches means staying up later than you want to or talking someone back from the brink of a personal disaster. It means asking the hard questions and waiting until you get the hard answers. It’s letting your heart fill up with their sorrow until you weep. It’s work and it’s painful sometimes.

So if people are such a burden, why would I say that having them in my life is LESS of a burden than being alone?

Because I have found that when I get in the trenches, my life starts to take on meaning. When I reach out beyond myself, I can forget myself a little and start healing.

We need people in our lives so that we can learn to see beyond our own tiny microcosms. The tiny world of just ME is crushingly small, but every time I love someone, it expands and takes on new dimensions I never could have imagined.

I’m glad I never got my wish to stop needing people—because I don’t think I could ever find happiness without them.

How amazing it is to look back at times when my friends have gotten into the trenches with me and done the hard work of pulling me back from the brink of my own disasters!

There’s nothing quite as sweet as having someone stand with you at a graveside or text you the exact words you’re searching for. To have someone laugh and cry with you—that is living!

We weren’t meant to do this life thing alone.