Secret Society of Happy People (SOHP) is an organisation that celebrates the expression of happiness.
Founded in August 1998, the society encourages thousands of members from all around the globe to recognise their happy moments and think about happiness in their daily life.
The Secret Society of Happy People supports people who want to share their happiness despite the ones who don’t want to hear happy news. Their mottos include “Happiness Happens” and “Don’t Even Think of Raining on My Parade”.
The main purpose of the Society is to stimulate people’s right to express their happiness “as loud as they want”.
The Society was founded in August 1998 in Irving, Texas, by Pamela Gail Johnson. In December 1998, it gained international reception, when it challenged advice columnist Ann Landers for discouraging people from writing happy holiday newsletters enclosed with their holiday cards. In a letter to Landers, Johnson demanded an apology “to the millions of people you made feel bad for wanting to share their happy news.” The Society’s campaign persuaded Landers to change her advice on holiday letters, one of the rare occasions the columnist had a change of heart. Within the next few years the Society grew bigger being supported by thousands of fans from more than 34 countries.
Pamela Gail Johnson founded the Secret Society of Happy People with the main idea of creating a “safe place” where people can share their happy moments, without being discouraged by the parade rainers. Since 1998 she has been managing the Society by writing posts, writing the newsletter, updating social media information and answering fan’s questions on her blog Ask Pamela Gail: Where Happiness Meets Reality. Each blog post is formed as an answer to the member’s questions submitted through the website. The purpose is to give people advice for handling their unhappy moments and learning the lesson out of each and every one of them. The column is posted weekly. Pamela is also the author of The Secret Society of Happy People’s Thirty-One Types of Happiness Guide released in November 2012 and Don’t Even Think of Raining on My Parade: Adventures of the Secret Society of Happy People.
Happiness Happens Day
In 1999 the Society declared 08 August as the “Admit You’re Happy Day”, now known as the “Happiness Happens Day”. The idea was inspired by the event that happened the previous year on the same date- the first member joined the Society. In 1998 the Society asked the governors in all 50 states for a proclamation. Nineteen of them sent proclamations.
Happiness Happens Month
Celebration of happiness was expanded in 2000, and thanks to the support of not-so-secretly-happy members from around the world, the Society declared August as Happiness Happens Month. The purpose of Happiness Happens Day and Month is to share happiness and encourage people to talk and think about happiness.
Every year, the Society organises an online social media event known as HappyThon, on Happiness Happens Day. The aim of this event is to send inspirational messages via social networks, emails or texts, share happy moments, philosophy, quotes, etc. HappyThon is the first online social media event that promotes happiness around the world.
Since 1998 the Society have been organising voting and announcing the Happiest Events and Moments of the Year. Before the end of the century, a vote for 100 of the Happiest Events, Inventions and Social Changes of the Century was organised. In the third week of January the Society hosted Hunt for Happiness Week. They asked the current governors for proclamation, and got it by seven of them.
Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living, focusing on both individual and societal well-being.
It studies “positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions…it aims to improve quality of life.” It is a field of study that has been growing steadily throughout the years as individuals and researchers look for common ground on better well-being.
Positive psychology began as a new domain of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association. It is a reaction against past practices, which have tended to focus on mental illness and emphasized maladaptive behaviour and negative thinking. It builds on the humanistic movement by Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, James Bugental, and Carl Rogers, which encourages an emphasis on happiness, well-being, and positivity, thus creating the foundation for what is now known as positive psychology.
Positive psychology focuses on eudaimonia, an Ancient Greek term for “the good life” and the concept for reflection on the factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life. Positive psychologists often use the terms subjective well-being and happiness interchangeably.
Positive psychologists have suggested a number of factors may contribute to happiness and subjective well-being. For example, social ties with a spouse, family, friends, colleagues, and wider networks; membership in clubs or social organisations; physical exercise; and the practice of meditation. Spirituality can also be considered a factor that leads to increased individual happiness and well-being. Spiritual practice and religious commitment is a topic researchers have been studying as another possible source for increased well-being and an added part of positive psychology. Happiness may rise with increasing financial income, though it may plateau or even fall when no further gains are made or after a certain cut-off amount.
Definition and Basic Assumptions
Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi define positive psychology as “the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life.”
Positive psychology is concerned with eudaimonia, meaning “the good life” or flourishing. It is focused on living according to what holds the greatest value in life and other such factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life. While not attempting a strict definition of the good life, positive psychologists agree that one must live a happy, engaged, and meaningful life in order to experience “the good life.” Martin Seligman referred to “the good life” as using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.
Positive psychology complements, without intending to replace or ignore, the traditional areas of psychology. By emphasizing the study of positive human development, this field helps to balance other approaches that focus on disorder, which may produce only limited understanding. Positive psychology has also placed a significant emphasis on fostering positive self-esteem and self-image, though positive psychologists with a less humanist direction are less likely to focus as intently on such topics.
The basic premise of positive psychology is that human beings are often intrigued by the future more than they are driven by the past. It also suggests that a combination of positive experiences and emotions concerning the past, the present, and the future leads to a pleasant, happy life. Another aspect of this may come from our views outside of our own lives. Author of Grit, Angela Duckworth, might view this as having an other-centred purpose, of which could have a positive psychological effect on our lives. Seligman identified other possible goals: families and schools that allow children to grow, workplaces that aim for satisfaction and high productivity, and teaching others about positive psychology. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert has also written extensively on the affects of time perception and happiness.
Those who practice positive psychology attempt psychological interventions that foster positive attitudes toward one’s subjective experiences, individual traits, and life events. The goal is to minimise pathological thoughts that may arise in a hopeless mindset and to develop a sense of optimism toward life. Positive psychologists seek to encourage acceptance of one’s past, excitement and optimism about one’s future experiences, and a sense of contentment and well-being in the present.
Related concepts are happiness, well-being, quality of life, contentment, and meaningful life.
Happiness: Has been sought after and discussed throughout time. Research has concluded that happiness can be thought of in the way we act or what we do and how we think in relative terms to it.
Well-Being: Has often been referred to what is inherently good for an individual both physically and mentally, though other aspects could be added in to define well-being.
Quality of life: Quality of life encompasses more than just physical and mental well-being, it involves socioeconomic factors. It is also perceived differently in different cultures and regions around the world, but can come down to how well you are living and functioning in life.
According to Seligman and Peterson, positive psychology addresses three issues: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Positive emotions are concerned with being content with one’s past, being happy in the present and having hope for the future. Positive individual traits focus on one’s strengths and virtues. Finally, positive institutions are based on strengths to better a community of people.
According to Peterson, positive psychologists are concerned with four topics: positive experiences, enduring psychological traits, positive relationships, and positive institutions. He also states that topics of interest to topics of interest to researchers in the field are states of pleasure or flow, values, strengths, virtues, talents, as well as the ways that these can be promoted by social systems and institutions.
While the formal discipline of positive psychology has only existed since 2000, the concepts that form the basis of it have been the subject of empirical study since at least the 1980s, and present in religious and philosophical discourse for thousands of years. It has been influenced by humanistic as well as psychodynamic approaches to treatment. Predating the use of the term “positive psychology”, researchers within the field of psychology had been focusing on topics that would now be included under this new denomination.
The term positive psychology dates back at least to 1954, when Maslow’s first edition of Motivation and Personality was published with a final chapter titled “Toward a Positive Psychology.” In the second edition published in 1970, he removed that chapter, saying in the preface that “a positive psychology is at least available today though not very widely.” There have been indications that psychologists since the 1950s have been increasingly focused on the promotion of mental health rather than merely treating mental illness. From the beginning of psychology, the field has addressed the human experience using the “Disease Model,” specifically studying and identifying the dysfunction of an individual.
Positive psychology grew as an important field of study within psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association. In the first sentence of his book Authentic Happiness, Seligman claimed: “for the last half century psychology has been consumed with a single topic only – mental illness,” expanding on Maslow’s comments. He urged psychologists to continue the earlier missions of psychology of nurturing talent and improving normal life.
The first positive psychology summit took place in 1999. The First International Conference on Positive Psychology took place in 2002. More attention was given by the general public in 2006 when, using the same framework, a course at Harvard University became particularly popular. In June 2009, the First World Congress on Positive Psychology took place at the University of Pennsylvania.
The field of positive psychology today is most advanced in the United States and Western Europe. Even though positive psychology offers a new approach to the study of positive emotions and behaviour, the ideas, theories, research, and motivation to study the positive side of human behaviour is as old as humanity.
Several humanistic psychologists, most notably Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Erich Fromm, developed theories and practices pertaining to human happiness and flourishing. More recently, positive psychologists have found empirical support for the humanistic theories of flourishing. In addition, positive psychology has moved ahead in a variety of new directions.
In 1984, Diener published his tripartite model of subjective well-being, positing “three distinct but often related components of wellbeing: frequent positive affect, infrequent negative affect, and cognitive evaluations such as life satisfaction.” In this model, cognitive, affective and contextual factors contribute to subjective well-being. According to Diener and Suh, subjective well-being is “based on the idea that how each person thinks and feels about his or her life is important.”
Carol Ryff’s Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being was initially published in 1989, and additional testing of its factors was published in 1995. It postulates six factors which are key for well-being, namely self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy, and positive relations with others.
According to Corey Keyes, who collaborated with Carol Ryff and uses the term flourishing as a central concept, mental well-being has three components, namely hedonic (c.q. subjective or emotional), psychological, and social well-being. Hedonic well-being concerns emotional aspects of well-being, whereas psychological and social well-being, c.q. eudaimonic well-being, concerns skills, abilities, and optimal functioning. This tripartite model of mental well-being has received extensive empirical support across cultures.
Influences in Ancient History
While the formal title “positive psychology” has only been in common use since around 2000, the concepts that form the basis of this field have been present in religious and philosophical discourse for thousands of years. The field of psychology predating the use of the term positive psychology has seen researchers who focused primarily on topics that would now be included under the umbrella of positive psychology. Some view positive psychology as a meeting of Eastern thought, such as Buddhism, and Western psychodynamic approaches. The historical roots of positive psychology are found in the teachings of Aristotle, whose Nicomachean Ethics teach the cultivation of moral virtue as the means of attaining happiness and well-being, which he referred to as eudaimonia.
Core Theory and Methods
There is no accepted “gold standard” theory in positive psychology. However, the work of Seligman is regularly quoted. So too the work of Csikszentmihalyi and older models of well-being, such as Carol Ryff’s Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being and Diener’s tripartite model of subjective well-being.
Initial Theory: Three Paths to Happiness
In Authentic Happiness (2002) Seligman proposed three kinds of a happy life that can be investigated:
Pleasant life: research into the Pleasant Life, or the “life of enjoyment,” examines how people optimally experience, forecast, and savour the positive feelings and emotions that are part of normal and healthy living (e.g. relationships, hobbies, interests, entertainment, etc.). Despite the attention given, Martin Seligman says this most transient element of happiness may be the least important.
Good Life: investigation of the beneficial effects of immersion, absorption, and flow felt by individuals when optimally engaged with their primary activities, is the study of the Good Life, or the “life of engagement.” Flow is experienced when there is a positive match between a person’s strength and their current task, i.e. when one feels confident of accomplishing a chosen or assigned task.
Meaningful Life: inquiry into the Meaningful Life, or “life of affiliation,” questions how individuals derive a positive sense of well-being, belonging, meaning, and purpose from being part of and contributing back to something larger and more permanent than themselves (e.g. nature, social groups, organisations, movements, traditions, belief systems).
In Flourish (2011) Seligman argued that the last category of his proposed three kinds of a happy life, “meaningful life,” can be considered as 3 different categories. The resulting summary for this theory is Seligman’s PERMA acronym: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and purpose, and Accomplishments. It is a mnemonic for the five elements of Martin Seligman’s well-being theory:
Include a wide range of feelings, not just happiness and joy. Included are emotions like excitement, satisfaction, pride and awe, amongst others. These emotions are frequently seen as connected to positive outcomes, such as longer life and healthier social relationships.
Refers to involvement in activities that draws and builds upon one’s interests. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains true engagement as flow, a state of deep effortless involvement, feeling of intensity that leads to a sense of ecstasy and clarity. The task being done needs to call upon higher skill and be a bit difficult and challenging yet still possible. Engagement involves passion for and concentration on the task at hand and is assessed subjectively as to whether the person engaged was completely absorbed, losing self-consciousness.
Are essential in fuelling positive emotions, whether they are work-related, familial, romantic, or platonic. As Christopher Peterson puts it simply, “other people matter.” Humans receive, share, and spread positivity to others through relationships. They are important not only in bad times, but good times as well. In fact, relationships can be strengthened by reacting to one another positively. It is typical that most positive things take place in the presence of other people.
Is also known as purpose, and prompts the question of “why.” Discovering and figuring out a clear “why” puts everything into context from work to relationships to other parts of life. Finding meaning is learning that there is something greater than one’s self. Despite potential challenges, working with meaning drives people to continue striving for a desirable goal.
Are the pursuit of success and mastery. Unlike the other parts of PERMA, they are sometimes pursued even when accomplishments do not result in positive emotions, meaning, or relationships. That being noted, accomplishments can activate the other elements of PERMA, such as pride, under positive emotion. Accomplishments can be individual or community-based, fun- or work-based.
Each of the five PERMA elements was selected according to three criteria:
It contributes to well-being.
It is pursued for its own sake.
It is defined and measured independently of the other elements.
Character Strengths and Virtues
The development of the Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV) handbook (2004) represented the first attempt by Seligman and Peterson to identify and classify positive psychological traits of human beings. Much like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of general psychology, the CSV provided a theoretical framework to assist in understanding strengths and virtues and for developing practical applications for positive psychology. This manual identified 6 classes of virtues (i.e. “core virtues”), underlying 24 measurable character strengths.
The CSV suggested these 6 virtues have a historical basis in the vast majority of cultures; in addition, these virtues and strengths can lead to increased happiness when built upon. Notwithstanding numerous cautions and caveats, this suggestion of universality hints threefold:
The study of positive human qualities broadens the scope of psychological research to include mental wellness;
The leaders of the positive psychology movement are challenging moral relativism, suggesting people are “evolutionarily predisposed” toward certain virtues; and
Virtue has a biological basis.
The organisation of the 6 virtues and 24 strengths is as follows:
Wisdom and knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, innovation, prudence.
Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, self control.
Transcendence: appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humour, spirituality.
Recent research challenged the need for 6 virtues. Instead, researchers suggested the 24 strengths are more accurately grouped into just 3 or 4 categories: Intellectual Strengths, Interpersonal Strengths, and Temperance Strengths, or alternatively, Interpersonal Strengths, Fortitude, Vitality, and Cautiousness. These strengths, and their classifications, have emerged independently elsewhere in literature on values. Paul Thagard described examples, which included Jeff Shrager’s workshops to discover the habits of highly creative people. Some research indicates that well-being effects that appear to be due to spirituality are actually better described as due to virtue.
In the 1970s, Hungarian-American psychologist Csikszentmihalyi began studying flow, a state of absorption where one’s abilities are well-matched to the demands at-hand. Flow is characterised by intense concentration, loss of self-awareness, a feeling of being perfectly challenged (neither bored nor overwhelmed), and a sense that “time is flying.” Flow is intrinsically rewarding; it can also assist in the achievement of goals (e.g. winning a game) or improving skills (e.g. becoming a better chess player). Anyone can experience flow and it can be felt in different domains, such as play, creativity, and work. Flow is achieved when the challenge of the situation meets one’s personal abilities. A mismatch of challenge for someone of low skills results in a state of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed; insufficient challenge for someone highly skilled, results in boredom.
Flow can be extremely beneficial when it comes to parenting children. When flow is enhanced between parents and their children, the parents are more capable of thriving in their role as a parent. A parenting style that is positively oriented will also result in children that experience lower levels of stress and overall improve the child’s well-being.
Research Advances and Applications
Topical and methodological development has expanded the field of positive psychology. These advances have enabled the field of positive psychology to grow beyond its core theories and methods. Positive psychology is now a global area of study, with various national indices tracking citizens’ happiness ratings.
Research in positive psychology, well-being, eudaimonia and happiness, and the theories of Diener, Ryff, Keyes and Seligman cover a broad range of topics including “the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life.” A meta-analysis on 49 studies in 2009 showed that Positive Psychology Interventions (PPI) produced improvements in well-being and lower depression levels, the PPIs studied included writing gratitude letters, learning optimistic thinking, replaying positive life experiences and socialising with others. In a later meta-analysis of 39 studies with 6,139 participants in 2012, the outcomes were positive. Three to six months after a PPI the effects for subjective well-being and psychological well-being were still significant. However the positive effect was weaker than in the 2009 meta analysis, the authors concluded that this was because they only used higher quality studies. The PPIs they considered included counting blessings, kindness practices, making personal goals, showing gratitude and focusing on personal strengths. Another review of PPIs published in 2018 found that over 78% of intervention studies were conducted in Western countries.
In the textbook Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness, authors Compton and Hoffman give the “Top Down Predictors” of well-being as high self esteem, optimism, self efficacy, a sense of meaning in life and positive relationships with others. The personality traits most associated with well being are extraversion, agreeability and low levels of neuroticism.
In a study published in 2020, students were enrolled in a positive psychology course that focused on improving happiness and well-being through teaching about positive psychology. The participants answer questions pertaining to the 5 categories known as PERMA. At the end of the semester those same students reported significantly higher scores in all categories (p <.001) minus engagement which was significant at p <0.05. One of the aims of this study was to make it rewarding for positive psychology interventions to stay in the participants lives. The authors stated:
“Not only do students learn and get credit, there is also a good chance that many will reap the benefits in what is most important to them—their health, happiness, and well-being.”
Quantitative methods in positive psychology include p-technique factor analysis, dynamic factor analysis, interindividual differences and structural equation modelling, spectral analysis and item response models, dynamic systems analysis, latent growth analysis, latent-class models, hierarchical linear modelling, measurement invariance, experimental methods, behaviour genetics, and integration of quantitative and qualitative approaches.
In a 2012 Journal of Positive Psychology article published by Grant J. Rich, the usage of qualitative methodology to study positive psychology is explored and considered. Author Rich addresses the popularity of quantitative methods in studying the empirical questions that positive psychology presents. He argues that there is an “overemphasis” on quantitative methods and suggests implementing qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews, observations, fieldwork, creative artwork, and focus groups. Rich states that qualitative approaches are valuable approaches to studying positive psychology. He writes that usage of qualitative methods will further promote the “flourishing of positive psychology” and encourages such practice.
Changing happiness levels through interventions is a further methodological advancement in the study of positive psychology. Enhancing happiness through behavioural interventions has been the focus of various academic and scientific psychological publications. Happiness-enhancing interventions include expressing kindness, gratitude, optimism, humility, awe, and mindfulness.
In 2005, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Kennon M. Sheldon, and David Schkade co-authored an academic paper published in the Review of General Psychology. In their research, they created a behavioural experiment using two 6-week interventions. One intervention studied was the performance of acts of kindness. The other was focused on gratitude and emphasized the counting of one’s blessings. The study participants who went through the behavioural interventions reported higher levels of happiness and well-being than those who did not participate in either intervention. The paper provides experimental support for the effect of gratitude and kindness on enhancing subjective well-being and happiness.
Further research conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Rene Dickerhoof, Julia K. Boehm, and Kennon M. Sheldon, published in 2011 in the academic journal Emotion, found that the interventions of expressing optimism and expressing gratitude enhanced subjective well-being in participants who took part in the intervention for 8 months. The researchers concluded that interventions are “most successful when participants know about, endorse, and commit to the intervention.” The article provides support that when individuals enthusiastically take part in behavioural interventions, such as expression of optimism and gratitude, they may be engaging in an approach to increase happiness and subjective well-being.
In 2014, Elliott Kruse, Joseph Chancellor, Peter M. Ruberton, and Sonja Lyubomirsky published an academic article in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science. In their research, they study the interaction effects between gratitude and humility through behaviour interventions. The interventions they studied were writing a gratitude letter and writing a 14-day diary. In both interventions, Kruse et al. found that gratitude and humility are connected and are “mutually reinforcing.” The article also discusses how gratitude, and its associated humility, may lead to more positive emotional states and subjective well-being.
Researchers Melanie Rudd, Kathleen D. Vohs, and Jennifer Aaker conducted a series of experiments that showed a positive effect of awe on subjective well-being, publishing their results in 2012 in the academic journal Psychological Science. Their research found that individuals who felt awe also reported feeling higher availability of time, more preference for experiential expenditures than material expenditures, and greater life satisfaction. Experiences that heighten awe may lead to higher levels of life satisfaction and, in turn, higher levels of happiness and subjective well-being.
Mindfulness interventions may also increase happiness. In a Mindfulness article published in 2011 by Torbjörn Josefsson, Pernilla Larsman, Anders G. Broberg, and Lars-Gunnar Lundh, it was found that meditation improves subjective well-being for individuals who mindfully meditate. The researchers note that being mindful in meditation includes awareness and observation of one’s meditation practice, with non-reaction and non-judgemental sentiments during meditation.
National Indices of Happiness
The creation of various national indices of happiness have broadened and expanded the field of positive psychology to a global scale.
In a January 2000 academic article published in American Psychologist, psychologist Ed Diener proposed and argued for the creation of a national happiness index in the United States. Such an index would provide measurements of happiness, or subjective well-being, within the United States and across many other countries in the world. Diener argued that national indices would be helpful markers or indicators of population happiness, providing a sense of current ratings and a tracker of happiness across time. Diener proposed that the national index include various sub-measurements of subjective well-being, including “pleasant affect, unpleasant affect, life satisfaction, fulfillment, and more specific states such as stress, affection, trust, and joy.”
In 2012, the first World Happiness Report was published. The World Happiness Report was initiated by the UN General Assembly in June 2011, which passed the Bhutanese Resolution. The Bhutanese Resolution called for nations across the world to “give more importance to happiness and well-being in determining how to achieve and measure social and economic development.” The data for the World Happiness Reports is collected in partnership with the Gallup World Poll’s life evaluations and annual happiness rankings. The World Happiness Report bases its national rankings on how happy constituents self-report and believe themselves to be.
The first World Happiness Report, published in 2012, is a 170-page report that details the state of world happiness, the causes of happiness and misery, policy implications from happiness reports, and three case studies of subjective well-being for:
Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness index;
The UK Office for National Statistics Experience; and
Happiness in the member countries within the OECD.
The World Happiness Report published in 2020 is the 8th publication in the series of reports. It is the first World Happiness Report to include happiness rankings of cities across the world, in addition to rankings of 156 countries. The city of Helsinki, Finland was reported as the city with the highest subjective well-being ranking, and the country of Finland was reported as the country with the highest subjective well-being ranking for the third year in a row. The 2020 report provides insights on happiness based on environmental conditions, social conditions, urban-rural happiness differentials, and sustainable development. It also provides overview and possible explanations for why Nordic countries have consistently ranked in the top ten happiest countries in the World Happiness Report since 2013. Possible explanations include Nordic countries’ high-quality government benefits and protections to its citizens, including welfare benefits and well-operated democratic institutions, as well as social connections, bonding, and trust.
Additional national well-being indices and reported statistics include the Gallup Global Emotions Report, Gallup Sharecare Well-Being Index, Global Happiness Council’s Global Happiness and Well-being Policy Report, Happy Planet Index, Indigo Wellness Index, OECD Better Life Index, and UN Human Development Reports.
Influences on other Academic Fields
Positive psychology has influenced a variety of other academic fields of study and scholarship. It has been applied to various other areas of scholarship, most notably organizational behaviour, education and psychiatry.
Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS)
Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS), also referred to as Positive Organisational Behaviour (POB), began as a direct application of positive psychology to the field of organisational behaviour. One of the first times the term was officially defined and published was in 2003, in the text Positive Organisational Scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline edited by University of Michigan Ross School of Business professors Kim S. Cameron, Jane E. Dutton, and Robert E. Quinn. In the first chapter of the text, Cameron, Dutton, and Quinn promote “the best of the human condition,” such as goodness, compassion, resilience, and positive human potential, as an organisational goal as important as financial organisational success. The goal of POS is to study the factors that create positive work experiences and successful, people-oriented organisational outcomes.
A large collection of POS research is contained in the 2011 volume The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organisational Scholarship, edited by University of Michigan Ross School of Business Professors Kim S. Cameron and Gretchen M. Spreitzer. This 1076-page volume encompasses nine sections and 79 chapters spanning various topics. Major topics include positive human resource practices, positive organisational practices, and positive leadership and change. Much of the volume expands upon and applies core concepts of positive psychology to the workplace context, covering areas such as positive individual attributes, positive emotions, strengths and virtues, and positive relationships. A further definition of POS, as written by editors Cameron and Spreitzer:
Positive organizational scholarship rigorously seeks to understand what represents the best of the human condition based on scholarly research and theory. Just as positive psychology focuses on exploring optimal individual psychological states rather than pathological ones, organizational scholarship focuses attention on the generative dynamics in organizations that lead to the development of human strength, foster resiliency in employees, enable healing and restoration, and cultivate extraordinary individual and organizational performance. POS emphasizes what elevates individuals and organizations (in addition to what challenges them), what goes right in organizations (in addition to what goes wrong), what is life-giving (in addition to what is problematic or life-depleting), what is experienced as good (in addition to what is objectionable), and what is inspiring (in addition to what is difficult or arduous). (Cameron, Kim S.; Spreitzer, Gretchen M. (2011). “Chapter 1. Introduction: What is Positive about Positive Organizational Scholarship?”. In Spreitzer, Gretchen M.; Cameron, Kim S. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship.)
Positive psychology has influenced psychiatry by providing additional therapeutic and cognitive behaviour shifts, including well-being therapy, positive psychotherapy, and practicing an integration of positive psychology in therapeutic practice.
In an 2015 academic article published in Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, Mills and Kreutzer argue for the principles of positive psychology to be implemented to assist those recovering from traumatic brain injury (TBI). They make the case that TBI rehabilitation practices rely on the betterment of the individual through engaging in everyday practices, a practice significantly related to tenets of positive psychology. Their proposal to connect positive psychology with TBI vocational rehabilitation (VR) also looks at happiness and its correlation with improvements in mental health, including increased confidence and productivity, as well as others. While the authors point out that empirical evidence for positive psychology is limited, they clarify that positive psychology’s focus on small successes, optimism and prosocial behaviour is promising for improvements in the social and emotional well-being of TBI patients.
The study of positive psychology has been translated into various popular media outlets, including books and films, and has been an influencing factor in the wellness industry.
There have been several popular psychology books written by positive psychologists for a general audience.
Ilona Boniwell, in her book Positive Psychology in a Nutshell, provided a summary of the current research. According to Boniwell, well-being is related to optimism, extraversion, social connections (i.e. close friendships), being married, having engaging work, religion or spirituality, leisure, good sleep and exercise, social class (through lifestyle differences and better coping methods) and subjective health (what you think about your health). Boniwell further writes that well-being is not related to age, physical attractiveness, money (once basic needs are met), gender (women are more often depressed but also more often joyful), educational level, having children (although they add meaning to life), moving to a sunnier climate, crime prevention, housing and objective health (what doctors say).
Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book The How of Happiness, provides advice and guidance on how to improve happiness. According to The How of Happiness, individuals should create new habits, seek out new emotions, use variety and timing to prevent hedonic adaptation, and enlist others to motivate and support during the creation of those new habits. Lyubomirsky gives 12 happiness activities, including savouring life, learning to forgive, and living in the present.
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert is another popular book that shares positive psychology research findings for a general readership audience. Gilbert presents research suggesting that individuals are often poor at predicting what will make them happy in the future and that individuals are prone to misevaluating the causes of their happiness. He also notes that the subjectivity of subjective well-being and happiness often is the most difficult challenge to overcome in predicting future happiness, noting that our future selves may have different subjective perspectives on life than our current selves.
Coverage of positive psychology has entered the film industry. Similarly, films have provided the basis of new research within positive psychology.
Happy (2011 film) is a full-length documentary film covering overviewing the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience. It also highlights various case studies on happiness across diverse cultures and geographies. The film features interviews with notable positive psychologists and scholars, including Daniel Gilbert, Ed Diener, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
The Positive Psychology News website includes a section on annual Positive Psychology Movie Awards. The Positive Psychology Movie Awards ranks a short list of feature films of 2009, 2014, and annually between 2016 and 2018 that feature powerful messages of positive psychology. The rankings are according to the website’s author, Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D, who is a psychologist, coach, and education director of the VIA Institute on Character. The Positive Psychology Movie Awards presents separate awards for categories including: Best Positive Psychology Film, Award for Positive Relationships, Award for Meaning, Award for Achievement, Award for Mindfulness, Award for Happiness, Signature Strengths Use, among others.
Further research done on positive psychology as represented in feature films has been done in association with the VIA Institute. Contemporary and popular films that promote or represent character strengths are the basis for various academic articles.
The growing popularity and attention given to positive psychology research has influenced industry growth, development, and consumption of products and services meant to cater to wellness and well-being.
According to the Global Wellness Institute, as of 2018, the global wellness economy is valued at $4.5 trillion and the wellness industry represents 5.3% of global economic output. Key sectors of the wellness industry include workplace wellness, fitness and mind-body, personal care, and wellness lifestyle.
Highlighting happiness and well-being has been a strategy harnessed by various companies in their marketing strategies. Food and beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and Pocky, whose motto is “Share happiness!”, emphasize happiness in their commercials, branding, and descriptions. CEOs at retail companies such as Zappos have profited by publishing books detailing their deliverance of happiness, while Amazon’s logo features a dimpled smile.
Positive psychology has been criticized in many different aspects from its conception continuing into the present day.
In 1988, psychologists Shelley E. Taylor and Jonathan D. Brown co-authored a Psychological Bulletin article that coined the phrase positive illusions. Positive illusions are the cognitive processes individuals engage in when self-aggrandising or self-enhancing. They are the unrealistically positive or self-affirming attitudes that individuals hold of themselves, their position, or their environment. In essence, positive illusions are attitudes of extreme optimism that endure even in the face of facts and real conditions. Taylor and Brown suggested that positive illusions protect individuals from negative feedback that they might receive, and this, in turn, preserves their psychological adaptation and subjective well-being. However, later research has found that engaging in positive illusions and related attitudes has led to psychological maladaptive conditions. These conditions include poorer social relationships, expressions of narcissism, and negative workplace outcomes, thus reducing the positive effects that positive illusions have on subjective well-being, overall happiness, and life satisfaction.
Kirk Schneider, editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, has said that positive psychology fails to explain past heinous behaviours such as those perpetrated by the Nazi party, Stalinist marches and Klan gatherings, to identify but a few. He also pointed to a body of research showing high positivity correlates with positive illusion, which effectively distorts reality. The extent of the downfall of high positivity or flourishing is one could become incapable of psychological growth, unable to self-reflect, and tend to hold racial biases. By contrast, negativity, sometimes evidenced in mild to moderate depression, is correlated with less distortion of reality. Therefore, Schneider argues, negativity might play an important role within the dynamics of human flourishing. To illustrate, conflict engagement and acknowledgement of appropriate negativity, including certain negative emotions like guilt, might better promote flourishing. Overall, Schneider provided perspective: “perhaps genuine happiness is not something you aim at, but is…a by-product of a life well lived – and a life well lived does not settle on the programmed or neatly calibrated.”
In 2003, Ian Sample, writing for The Guardian, noted that, “Positive psychologists also stand accused of burying their heads in the sand and ignoring that depressed, even merely unhappy people, have real problems that need dealing with.” He also quoted Steven Wolin, a clinical psychiatrist at George Washington University, as saying that the study of positive psychology is just a reiteration of older ways of thinking, and that there is not much scientific research to support the efficacy of this method. Gable responds to criticism on their Pollyanna view on the world by saying that they are just bringing a balance to a side of psychology that is glaringly understudied. To defend his point, Gable points to the imbalances favouring research into negative psychological well-being in cognitive psychology, health psychology, and social psychology.
Martin Jack has also maintained that positive psychology is not unique in its optimistic approach to looking at optimal emotional well-being, stating that other forms of psychology, such as counselling and educational psychology, are also interested in positive human fulfilment. He goes on to mention that, while positive psychology has pushed for schools to be more student-centred and able to foster positive self-images in children, he worries that a lack of focus on self-control may prevent children from making full contributions to society. If positive psychology is not implemented correctly, it can cause more harm than good. This is the case, for example, when interventions in school are coercive (in the sense of being imposed on everyone without regard for the individual child’s reason for negativity) and fail to take each student’s context into account.
Role of Negativity
Barbara S. Held, a professor at Bowdoin College, argued that while positive psychology makes contributions to the field of psychology, it has its faults. She offered insight into topics including the negative side effects of positive psychology, negativity within the positive psychology movement, and the current division in the field of psychology caused by differing opinions of psychologists on positive psychology. In addition, she noted the movement’s lack of consistency regarding the role of negativity. She also raised issues with the simplistic approach taken by some psychologists in the application of positive psychology. A “one size fits all” approach is arguably not beneficial to the advancement of the field of positive psychology; she suggested a need for individual differences to be incorporated into its application. By teaching young people that being confident and optimistic leads to success, when they are unsuccessful they will begin to believe it is because they are insecure or pessimistic. This could lead them to believe that any negative internal thought or feeling they may experience is damaging to their happiness and should be steered clear of completely.
A recent critical response to the field of positive psychology is that around toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the phenomenon in which individuals do not fully acknowledge, process, or manage the entire spectrum of human emotion, including anger and sadness. This genre of criticism against positive psychology argues that the field of positive psychology places too much importance on “upbeat thinking, while shunting challenging and difficult experiences to the side.” Individuals who engage in a constant chase for positive experiences or states of high subjective well-being may be inadvertently stigmatizing negative emotional conditions, such as depression, or may be suppressing natural emotional responses, such as sadness, regret, or stress. Furthermore, by not allowing negative emotional states to be experienced, or by suppressing and hiding negative emotional responses, individuals may experience harmful physical, cardiovascular and respiratory consequences. Proponents of combating toxic positivity advocate allowing oneself to accept and fully experience negative emotional states.
Methodological and Philosophical Critiques
Richard Lazarus, who was well known in psychology for his Cognitive-Motivational-Relational theory of emotions, has thoroughly critiqued positive psychology’s methodological and philosophical components. He holds that giving more detail and insight into the positive is not bad, but not at the expense of the negative aspect because the two (positive and negative) are inseparable. The first methodological issue noted is positive psychology’s use of correlational and cross-sectional research designs to indicate causality between the movement’s ideas and healthy lives; there could be other factors not researched and time differences that account for healthier lives that the researchers do not account for. Secondly, he considers that emotions cannot be categorised dichotomously into positive and negative; by nature, emotions are subjective and rich in social/relational meaning. Additionally, he claims that emotions are fluid, meaning that the context they appear in changes over time. He states that “all emotions have the potential of being either one or the other, or both, on different occasions, and even on the same occasion when an emotion is experienced by different persons” The third issue is the neglect of individual differences in most social science research. Many research designs focus on the statistical significance of the groups while overlooking differences among individuals. Lazarus’s final methodological complaint is social science researchers’ tendency to not adequately define and measure emotions. Most assessments are quick checklists and do not provide adequate debriefing. Many researchers do not differentiate between fluid emotional states and relatively stable personality traits.
Lazarus further holds that positive psychology claims to be new and innovative although the majority of research on stress and coping theory make much of the same claims as positive psychology. The movement attempts to uplift and reinforce the positive aspects of one’s life, but everyone in life experiences stress and hardship. Coping through these events should not be looked at as adapting to failures, but should be regarded as successfully navigating stress, but the movement doesn’t hold that perspective.
The US Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Programme
The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) programme was established in 2008 by then-Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General George W. Casey, Jr., in an effort to address the increasing rates of drug abuse, family violence, PTSD, and suicide among soldiers. The Army contracted with Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania to supply a program closely based on the centre’s Penn Resiliency Programme, which was designed for 10- to 14-year-old children. Although Seligman proposed starting with a small-scale pilot-test, General Casey insisted on immediately rolling out the CSF to the entire Army. Interviewed for the journal Monitor on Psychology of the American Psychological Association, Seligman said that “This is the largest study—1.1 million soldiers—psychology has ever been involved in.” According to journalist Jesse Singal, “It would become one of the largest mental-health interventions geared at a single population in the history of humanity, and possibly the most expensive.”
Some psychologists have criticized the CSF for various reasons. Nicholas J.L. Brown wrote that “The idea that techniques that have demonstrated, at best, marginal effects in reducing depressive symptoms in school-age children could also prevent the onset of a condition that is associated with some of the most extreme situations with which humans can be confronted is a remarkable one that does not seem to be backed up by empirical evidence.” Stephen Soldz of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis cited Seligman’s acknowledgment that the CSF is a gigantic study rather than a program based on proven techniques, and questioned the ethics of requiring soldiers to participate in research without informed consent. Soldz also criticised the CSF training for trying to build up-beat attitudes toward combat: “Might soldiers who have been trained to resiliently view combat as a growth opportunity be more likely to ignore or under-estimate real dangers, thereby placing themselves, their comrades, or civilians at heightened risk of harm?”
In 2021 the Chronicle of Higher Education carried a debate between Singal and Seligman about whether, with the CSF well into its second decade, there was any solid evidence of its effectiveness. Singal cited studies that, he said, failed to find any measurable benefits in such positive psychology techniques, and he criticized the Army’s own reports as methodologically unsound and lacking peer review. Seligman said that Singal had misinterpreted the studies and ignored the Army’s positive feedback from soldiers, one of whom told Seligman that “if I had had this training years ago, it would have saved my marriage.”
Being “at peace” is considered by many to be healthy (homeostasis) and the opposite of being stressed or anxious, and is considered to be a state where our mind performs at an optimal level with a positive outcome. Peace of mind is thus generally associated with bliss, happiness and contentment.
Peace of mind, serenity, and calmness are descriptions of a disposition free from the effects of stress. In some cultures, inner peace is considered a state of consciousness or enlightenment that may be cultivated by various forms of training, such as breathing exercises, prayer, meditation, tai chi or yoga, for example. Many spiritual practices refer to this peace as an experience of knowing oneself.
People have difficulties embracing their inner spirituality because everyday stressors get the best of them; finding peace and happiness in the little joys of life can seem difficult, and results do not seem all that gratifying. Achieving spirituality is a step-by-step process; there are ways through which one can become more spiritual every day.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, emphasizes the importance of inner peace in the world:
The question of real, lasting world peace concerns human beings, so basic human feelings are also at its roots. Through inner peace, genuine world peace can be achieved. In this the importance of individual responsibility is quite clear; an atmosphere of peace must first be created within ourselves, then gradually expanded to include our families, our communities, and ultimately the whole planet.
Eudaimonia (Greek: εὐδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯moníaː]; sometimes anglicised as eudaemonia or eudemonia) is a Greek word literally translating to the state or condition of ‘good spirit’, and which is commonly translated as ‘happiness’ or ‘welfare’.
In the works of Aristotle, eudaimonia was the term for the highest human good in older Greek tradition. It is the aim of practical philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy, to consider and experience what this state really is, and how it can be achieved. It is thus a central concept in Aristotelian ethics and subsequent Hellenistic philosophy, along with the terms aretē (most often translated as ‘virtue’ or ‘excellence’) and phronesis” (‘practical or ethical wisdom’).
Discussion of the links between ēthikē aretē (virtue of character) and eudaimonia (happiness) is one of the central concerns of ancient ethics, and a subject of much disagreement. As a result, there are many varieties of eudaimonism.
Definition and Etymology
In terms of its etymology, eudaimonia is an abstract noun derived from the words eû (‘good, well’) and daímōn (‘dispenser, tutelary deity’), the latter referring maybe to a minor deity or a guardian spirit.
Semantically speaking, the word δαίμων (daímōn) derives from the same root of the Ancient Greek verb δαίομαι (daíomai, “to divide”) allowing to rethink the following concept of eudaimonia as an “activity linked with dividing or dispensing, in a good way”.
Definitions, a dictionary of Greek philosophical terms attributed to Plato himself but believed by modern scholars to have been written by his immediate followers in the Academy, provides the following definition of the word eudaimonia: “The good composed of all goods; an ability which suffices for living well; perfection in respect of virtue; resources sufficient for a living creature.”
In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that everyone agrees that eudaimonia is the highest good for humans, but that there is substantial disagreement on what sort of life counts as doing and living well; i.e. eudaimon:
Verbally there is a very general agreement; for both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that it is [eudaimonia], and identify living well and faring well with being happy; but with regard to what [eudaimonia] is they differ, and the many do not give the same account as the wise. For the former think it is some plain and obvious thing like pleasure, wealth or honour…
So, as Aristotle points out, saying that eudaimon life is a life which is objectively desirable, and means living well, is not saying very much. Everyone wants to be eudaimon; and everyone agrees that being eudaimon is related to faring well and to an individual’s well-being. The really difficult question is to specify just what sort of activities enable one to live well. Aristotle presents various popular conceptions of the best life for human beings. The candidates that he mentions are:
A life of pleasure;
A life of political activity; and
A philosophical life.
Eudaimonia and Areté
One important move in Greek philosophy to answer the question of how to achieve eudaimonia is to bring in another important concept in ancient philosophy, aretē (‘virtue’). Aristotle says that the eudaimon life is one of “virtuous activity in accordance with reason”; even Epicurus, who argues that the eudaimon life is the life of pleasure, maintains that the life of pleasure coincides with the life of virtue. So, the ancient ethical theorists tend to agree that virtue is closely bound up with happiness (areté is bound up with eudaimonia). However, they disagree on the way in which this is so.
One problem with the English translation of areté as ‘virtue’ is that we are inclined to understand virtue in a moral sense, which is not always what the ancients had in mind. For a Greek, areté pertains to all sorts of qualities we would not regard as relevant to ethics, for example, physical beauty. So it is important to bear in mind that the sense of ‘virtue’ operative in ancient ethics is not exclusively moral and includes more than states such as wisdom, courage and compassion. The sense of virtue which areté connotes would include saying something like “speed is a virtue in a horse,” or “height is a virtue in a basketball player.” Doing anything well requires virtue, and each characteristic activity (such as carpentry, flute playing, etc.) has its own set of virtues. The alternative translation ‘excellence’ (or ‘a desirable quality’) might be helpful in conveying this general meaning of the term. The moral virtues are simply a subset of the general sense in which a human being is capable of functioning well or excellently.
Eudaimonia and Happiness
Eudaimonia implies a positive and divine state of being that humanity is able to strive toward and possibly reach. A literal view of eudaimonia means achieving a state of being similar to benevolent deity, or being protected and looked after by a benevolent deity. As this would be considered the most positive state to be in, the word is often translated as ‘happiness’ although incorporating the divine nature of the word extends the meaning to also include the concepts of being fortunate, or blessed. Despite this etymology, however, discussions of eudaimonia in ancient Greek ethics are often conducted independently of any super-natural significance.
In his Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle says that eudaimonia means ‘doing and living well’. It is significant that synonyms for eudaimonia are living well and doing well. On the standard English translation, this would be to say that ‘happiness is doing well and living well’. The word happiness does not entirely capture the meaning of the Greek word. One important difference is that happiness often connotes being or tending to be in a certain pleasant state of mind. For example, when one says that someone is “a very happy person,” one usually means that they seem subjectively contented with the way things are going in their life. They mean to imply that they feel good about the way things are going for them. In contrast, Aristotle suggests that eudaimonia is a more encompassing notion than feeling happy since events that do not contribute to one’s experience of feeling happy may affect one’s eudaimonia.
Eudaimonia depends on all the things that would make us happy if we knew of their existence, but quite independently of whether we do know about them. Ascribing eudaimonia to a person, then, may include ascribing such things as being virtuous, being loved and having good friends. But these are all objective judgments about someone’s life: they concern a person’s really being virtuous, really being loved, and really having fine friends. This implies that a person who has evil sons and daughters will not be judged to be eudaimonic even if he or she does not know that they are evil and feels pleased and contented with the way they have turned out (happy). Conversely, being loved by your children would not count towards your happiness if you did not know that they loved you (and perhaps thought that they did not), but it would count towards your eudaimonia. So, eudaimonia corresponds to the idea of having an objectively good or desirable life, to some extent independently of whether one knows that certain things exist or not. It includes conscious experiences of well-being, success, and failure, but also a whole lot more.
Because of this discrepancy between the meanings of eudaimonia and happiness, some alternative translations have been proposed. W.D. Ross suggests ‘well-being’ and John Cooper proposes ‘flourishing’. These translations may avoid some of the misleading associations carried by “happiness” although each tends to raise some problems of its own. In some modern texts therefore, the other alternative is to leave the term in an English form of the original Greek, as eudaimonia.
Classical Views on Eudaimonia and Aretē
What is known of Socrates’ philosophy is almost entirely derived from Plato’s writings. Scholars typically divide Plato’s works into three periods: the early, middle, and late periods. They tend to agree also that Plato’s earliest works quite faithfully represent the teachings of Socrates and that Plato’s own views, which go beyond those of Socrates, appear for the first time in the middle works such as the Phaedo and the Republic.
As with all ancient ethical thinkers, Socrates thought that all human beings wanted eudaimonia more than anything else. However, Socrates adopted a quite radical form of eudaimonism (see above): he seems to have thought that virtue is both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia. Socrates is convinced that virtues such as self-control, courage, justice, piety, wisdom and related qualities of mind and soul are absolutely crucial if a person is to lead a good and happy (eudaimon) life. Virtues guarantee a happy life eudaimonia. For example, in the Meno, with respect to wisdom, he says: “everything the soul endeavours or endures under the guidance of wisdom ends in happiness”.
In the Apology, Socrates clearly presents his disagreement with those who think that the eudaimon life is the life of honour or pleasure, when he chastises the Athenians for caring more for riches and honour than the state of their souls.
Good Sir, you are an Athenian, a citizen of the greatest city with the greatest reputation for both wisdom and power; are you not ashamed of your eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation, and honors as possible, while you do not care for nor give thought to wisdom or truth or the best possible state of your soul. … [I]t does not seem like human nature for me to have neglected all my own affairs and to have tolerated this neglect for so many years while I was always concerned with you, approaching each one of you like a father or an elder brother to persuade you to care for virtue.
It emerges a bit further on that this concern for one’s soul, that one’s soul might be in the best possible state, amounts to acquiring moral virtue. So Socrates’ pointing out that the Athenians should care for their souls means that they should care for their virtue, rather than pursuing honour or riches. Virtues are states of the soul. When a soul has been properly cared for and perfected it possesses the virtues. Moreover, according to Socrates, this state of the soul, moral virtue, is the most important good. The health of the soul is incomparably more important for eudaimonia than (e.g.) wealth and political power. Someone with a virtuous soul is better off than someone who is wealthy and honoured but whose soul is corrupted by unjust actions. This view is confirmed in the Crito, where Socrates gets Crito to agree that the perfection of the soul, virtue, is the most important good:
And is life worth living for us with that part of us corrupted that unjust action harms and just action benefits? Or do we think that part of us, whatever it is, that is concerned with justice and injustice, is inferior to the body? Not at all. It is much more valuable…? Much more…
Here, Socrates argues that life is not worth living if the soul is ruined by wrongdoing. In summary, Socrates seems to think that virtue is both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia. A person who is not virtuous cannot be happy, and a person with virtue cannot fail to be happy. We shall see later on that Stoic ethics takes its cue from this Socratic insight.
Plato’s great work of the middle period, the Republic, is devoted to answering a challenge made by the sophist Thrasymachus, that conventional morality, particularly the ‘virtue’ of justice, actually prevents the strong man from achieving eudaimonia. Thrasymachus’s views are restatements of a position which Plato discusses earlier on in his writings, in the Gorgias, through the mouthpiece of Callicles. The basic argument presented by Thrasymachus and Callicles is that justice (being just) hinders or prevents the achievement of eudaimonia because conventional morality requires that we control ourselves and hence live with un-satiated desires. This idea is vividly illustrated in book 2 of the Republic when Glaucon, taking up Thrasymachus’ challenge, recounts a myth of the magical ring of Gyges. According to the myth, Gyges becomes king of Lydia when he stumbles upon a magical ring, which, when he turns it a particular way, makes him invisible, so that he can satisfy any desire he wishes without fear of punishment. When he discovers the power of the ring he kills the king, marries his wife and takes over the throne. The thrust of Glaucon’s challenge is that no one would be just if he could escape the retribution he would normally encounter for fulfilling his desires at whim. But if eudaimonia is to be achieved through the satisfaction of desire, whereas being just or acting justly requires suppression of desire, then it is not in the interests of the strong man to act according to the dictates of conventional morality (This general line of argument reoccurs much later in the philosophy of Nietzsche). Throughout the rest of the Republic, Plato aims to refute this claim by showing that the virtue of justice is necessary for eudaimonia.
The argument of the Republic is lengthy and complex. In brief, Plato argues that virtues are states of the soul, and that the just person is someone whose soul is ordered and harmonious, with all its parts functioning properly to the person’s benefit. In contrast, Plato argues that the unjust man’s soul, without the virtues, is chaotic and at war with itself, so that even if he were able to satisfy most of his desires, his lack of inner harmony and unity thwart any chance he has of achieving eudaimonia. Plato’s ethical theory is eudaimonistic because it maintains that eudaimonia depends on virtue. On Plato’s version of the relationship, virtue is depicted as the most crucial and the dominant constituent of eudaimonia.
Aristotle’s account is articulated in the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics. In outline, for Aristotle, eudaimonia involves activity, exhibiting virtue (aretē sometimes translated as excellence) in accordance with reason. This conception of eudaimonia derives from Aristotle’s essentialist understanding of human nature, the view that reason (logos sometimes translated as rationality) is unique to human beings and that the ideal function or work (ergon) of a human being is the fullest or most perfect exercise of reason. Basically, well-being (eudaimonia) is gained by proper development of one’s highest and most human capabilities and human beings are “the rational animal”. It follows that eudaimonia for a human being is the attainment of excellence (areté) in reason.
According to Aristotle, eudaimonia actually requires activity, action, so that it is not sufficient for a person to possess a squandered ability or disposition. Eudaimonia requires not only good character but rational activity. Aristotle clearly maintains that to live in accordance with reason means achieving excellence thereby. Moreover, he claims this excellence cannot be isolated and so competencies are also required appropriate to related functions. For example, if being a truly outstanding scientist requires impressive math skills, one might say “doing mathematics well is necessary to be a first rate scientist”. From this it follows that eudaimonia, living well, consists in activities exercising the rational part of the psyche in accordance with the virtues or excellency of reason. Which is to say, to be fully engaged in the intellectually stimulating and fulfilling work at which one achieves well-earned success. The rest of the Nicomachean Ethics is devoted to filling out the claim that the best life for a human being is the life of excellence in accordance with reason. Since reason for Aristotle is not only theoretical but practical as well, he spends quite a bit of time discussing excellence of character, which enables a person to exercise his practical reason (i.e. reason relating to action) successfully.
Aristotle’s ethical theory is eudaimonist because it maintains that eudaimonia depends on virtue. However, it is Aristotle’s explicit view that virtue is necessary but not sufficient for eudaimonia. While emphasizing the importance of the rational aspect of the psyche, he does not ignore the importance of other ‘goods’ such as friends, wealth, and power in a life that is eudaimonic. He doubts the likelihood of being eudaimonic if one lacks certain external goods such as ‘good birth, good children, and beauty’. So, a person who is hideously ugly or has “lost children or good friends through death”, or who is isolated, is unlikely to be eudaimon. In this way, “dumb luck” (chance) can pre-empt one’s attainment of eudaimonia.
Pyrrho was the founder of Pyrrhonism. A summary of his approach to eudaimonia was preserved by Eusebius, quoting Aristocles of Messene, quoting Timon of Phlius, in what is known as the “Aristocles passage.”
Whoever wants eudaimonia must consider these three questions: First, how are pragmata (ethical matters, affairs, topics) by nature? Secondly, what attitude should we adopt towards them? Thirdly, what will be the outcome for those who have this attitude?” Pyrrho’s answer is that “As for pragmata they are all adiaphora (undifferentiated by a logical differentia), astathmēta (unstable, unbalanced, not measurable), and anepikrita (unjudged, unfixed, undecidable). Therefore, neither our sense-perceptions nor our doxai (views, theories, beliefs) tell us the truth or lie; so we certainly should not rely on them. Rather, we should be adoxastoi (without views), aklineis (uninclined toward this side or that), and akradantoi (unwavering in our refusal to choose), saying about every single one that it no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not.
With respect to aretē, the Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus said:
If one defines a system as an attachment to a number of dogmas that agree with one another and with appearances, and defines a dogma as an assent to something non-evident, we shall say that the Pyrrhonist does not have a system. But if one says that a system is a way of life that, in accordance with appearances, follows a certain rationale, where that rationale shows how it is possible to seem to live rightly (“rightly” being taken, not as referring only to aretē, but in a more ordinary sense) and tends to produce the disposition to suspend judgment, then we say that he does have a system.
Epicurus’ ethical theory is hedonistic (His view proved very influential on the founders and best proponents of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill). Hedonism is the view that pleasure is the only intrinsic good and that pain is the only intrinsic bad. An object, experience or state of affairs is intrinsically valuable if it is good simply because of what it is. Intrinsic value is to be contrasted with instrumental value. An object, experience or state of affairs is instrumentally valuable if it serves as a means to what is intrinsically valuable. To see this, consider the following example. Suppose a person spends their days and nights in an office, working at not entirely pleasant activities for the purpose of receiving money. Someone asks them “why do you want the money?”, and they answer: “So, I can buy an apartment overlooking the ocean, and a red sports car.” This answer expresses the point that money is instrumentally valuable because its value lies in what one obtains by means of it – in this case, the money is a means to getting an apartment and a sports car and the value of making this money dependent on the price of these commodities.
Epicurus identifies the good life with the life of pleasure. He understands eudaimonia as a more or less continuous experience of pleasure and, also, freedom from pain and distress. But it is important to notice that Epicurus does not advocate that one pursue any and every pleasure. Rather, he recommends a policy whereby pleasures are maximised “in the long run”. In other words, Epicurus claims that some pleasures are not worth having because they lead to greater pains, and some pains are worthwhile when they lead to greater pleasures. The best strategy for attaining a maximal amount of pleasure overall is not to seek instant gratification but to work out a sensible long term policy.
Ancient Greek ethics is eudaimonist because it links virtue and eudaimonia, where eudaimonia refers to an individual’s well-being. Epicurus’ doctrine can be considered eudaimonist since Epicurus argues that a life of pleasure will coincide with a life of virtue. He believes that we do and ought to seek virtue because virtue brings pleasure. Epicurus’ basic doctrine is that a life of virtue is the life which generates the most amount of pleasure, and it is for this reason that we ought to be virtuous. This thesis – the eudaimon life is the pleasurable life – is not a tautology as “eudaimonia is the good life” would be: rather, it is the substantive and controversial claim that a life of pleasure and absence of pain is what eudaimonia consists in.
One important difference between Epicurus’ eudaimonism and that of Plato and Aristotle is that for the latter virtue is a constituent of eudaimonia, whereas Epicurus makes virtue a means to happiness. To this difference, consider Aristotle’s theory. Aristotle maintains that eudaimonia is what everyone wants (and Epicurus would agree). He also thinks that eudaimonia is best achieved by a life of virtuous activity in accordance with reason. The virtuous person takes pleasure in doing the right thing as a result of a proper training of moral and intellectual character. However, Aristotle does not think that virtuous activity is pursued for the sake of pleasure. Pleasure is a byproduct of virtuous action: it does not enter at all into the reasons why virtuous action is virtuous. Aristotle does not think that we literally aim for eudaimonia. Rather, eudaimonia is what we achieve (assuming that we are not particularly unfortunate in the possession of external goods) when we live according to the requirements of reason. Virtue is the largest constituent in a eudaimon life. By contrast, Epicurus holds that virtue is the means to achieve happiness. His theory is eudaimonist in that he holds that virtue is indispensable to happiness; but virtue is not a constituent of a eudaimon life, and being virtuous is not (external goods aside) identical with being eudaimon. Rather, according to Epicurus, virtue is only instrumentally related to happiness. So whereas Aristotle would not say that one ought to aim for virtue in order to attain pleasure, Epicurus would endorse this claim.
Stoic philosophy begins with Zeno of Citium c. 300 BC, and was developed by Cleanthes (331-232 BC) and Chrysippus (c. 280-c. 206 BC) into a formidable systematic unity. Zeno believed happiness was a “good flow of life”; Cleanthes suggested it was “living in agreement with nature”, and Chrysippus believed it was “living in accordance with experience of what happens by nature.” Stoic ethics is a particularly strong version of eudaimonism. According to the Stoics, virtue is necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia. (This thesis is generally regarded as stemming from the Socrates of Plato’s earlier dialogues.)
We saw earlier that the conventional Greek concept of arete is not quite the same as that denoted by virtue, which has Christian connotations of charity, patience, and uprightness, since arete includes many non-moral virtues such as physical strength and beauty. However, the Stoic concept of arete is much nearer to the Christian conception of virtue, which refers to the moral virtues. However, unlike Christian understandings of virtue, righteousness or piety, the Stoic conception does not place as great an emphasis on mercy, forgiveness, self-abasement (i.e. the ritual process of declaring complete powerlessness and humility before God), charity and self-sacrificial love, though these behaviours/mentalities are not necessarily spurned by the Stoics (they are spurned by some other philosophers of Antiquity). Rather Stoicism emphasizes states such as justice, honesty, moderation, simplicity, self-discipline, resolve, fortitude, and courage (states which Christianity also encourages).
The Stoics make a radical claim that the eudaimon life is the morally virtuous life. Moral virtue is good, and moral vice is bad, and everything else, such as health, honour and riches, are merely “neutral”. The Stoics therefore are committed to saying that external goods such as wealth and physical beauty are not really good at all. Moral virtue is both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia. In this, they are akin to Cynic philosophers such as Antisthenes and Diogenes in denying the importance to eudaimonia of external goods and circumstances, such as were recognized by Aristotle, who thought that severe misfortune (such as the death of one’s family and friends) could rob even the most virtuous person of eudaimonia. This Stoic doctrine re-emerges later in the history of ethical philosophy in the writings of Immanuel Kant, who argues that the possession of a “good will” is the only unconditional good. One difference is that whereas the Stoics regard external goods as neutral, as neither good nor bad, Kant’s position seems to be that external goods are good, but only so far as they are a condition to achieving happiness.
“Modern Moral Philosophy”
Interest in the concept of eudaimonia and ancient ethical theory more generally had a revival in the 20th century. G.E.M. Anscombe in her article “Modern Moral Philosophy” (1958) argued that duty-based conceptions of morality are conceptually incoherent for they are based on the idea of a “law without a lawgiver.” She claims a system of morality conceived along the lines of the Ten Commandments depends on someone having made these rules. Anscombe recommends a return to the eudaimonistic ethical theories of the ancients, particularly Aristotle, which ground morality in the interests and well-being of human moral agents, and can do so without appealing to any such lawgiver.
Julia Driver in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains:
Anscombe’s article Modern Moral Philosophy stimulated the development of virtue ethics as an alternative to Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, and Social Contract theories. Her primary charge in the article is that, as secular approaches to moral theory, they are without foundation. They use concepts such as “morally ought”, “morally obligated”, “morally right”, and so forth that are legalistic and require a legislator as the source of moral authority. In the past God occupied that role, but systems that dispense with God as part of the theory are lacking the proper foundation for meaningful employment of those concepts.
Models of eudaimonia in psychology and positive psychology emerged from early work on self-actualization and the means of its accomplishment by researchers such as Erik Erikson, Gordon Allport, and Abraham Maslow.
Theories include Diener’s tripartite model of subjective well-being, Ryff’s Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being, Keyes work on flourishing, and Seligman’s contributions to positive psychology and his theories on authentic happiness and P.E.R.M.A. Related concepts are happiness, flourishing, quality of life, contentment, and meaningful life.
The Japanese concept of Ikigai has been described as eudaimonic well-being, as it “entails actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and is associated with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment.”
Positive Psychology on Eudaimonia
The “Questionnaire for Eudaimonic Well-Being” developed in Positive Psychology lists six dimensions of eudaimonia:
Perceived development of one’s best potentials;
A sense of purpose and meaning in life;
Investment of significant effort in pursuit of excellence;
The Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being is a theory developed by Carol Ryff which determines six factors which contribute to an individual’s psychological well-being, contentment, and happiness.
Psychological well-being consists of positive relationships with others, personal mastery, autonomy, a feeling of purpose and meaning in life, and personal growth and development. Psychological well-being is attained by achieving a state of balance affected by both challenging and rewarding life events.
The Ryff Scale of Measurement is a psychometric inventory consisting of two forms (either 54 or 84 items) in which respondents rate statements on a scale of 1 to 6, where 1 indicates strong disagreement and 6 indicates strong agreement. Ryff’s model is not based on merely feeling happy, but is based on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, “where the goal of life isn’t feeling good, but is instead about living virtuously”.
The Ryff Scale is based on six factors: autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. Higher total scores indicate higher psychological well-being. Following are explanations of each criterion, and an example statement from the Ryff Inventory to measure each criterion.
High scores indicate that the respondent is independent and regulates their behaviour independent of social pressures.
An example statement for this criterion is “I have confidence in my opinions, even if they are contrary to the general consensus”.
High scores indicate that the respondent makes effective use of opportunities and has a sense of mastery in managing environmental factors and activities, including managing everyday affairs and creating situations to benefit personal needs.
An example statement for this criterion is “In general, I feel I am in charge of the situation in which I live”.
High scores indicate that the respondent continues to develop, is welcoming to new experiences, and recognises improvement in behaviour and self over time.
An example statement for this criterion is “I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself and the world”.
Positive Relations with Others:
High scores reflect the respondent’s engagement in meaningful relationships with others that include reciprocal empathy, intimacy, and affection.
An example statement for this criterion is “People would describe me as a giving person, willing to share my time with others”.
Purpose in Life:
High scores reflect the respondent’s strong goal orientation and conviction that life holds meaning.
An example statement for this criterion is “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them”.
High scores reflect the respondent’s positive attitude about his or her self.
An example statement for this criterion is “I like most aspects of my personality”
Applications and Research Findings
Positive Contributing Factors
Positive psychological well-being may emerge from numerous sources. A happy marriage is contributive, for example, as is a satisfying job or a meaningful relationship with another person. When marriages include forgiveness, optimistic expectations, positive thoughts about one’s spouse, and kindness, a marriage significantly improves psychological well-being. A propensity to unrealistic optimism and over-exaggerated self-evaluations can be useful. These positive illusions are especially important when an individual receives threatening negative feedback, as the illusions allow for adaptation in these circumstances to protect psychological well-being and self-confidence (Taylor & Brown, 1988). Optimism also can help an individual cope with stresses to their well-being.
Negative Contributing Factors
Psychological well-being can also be affected negatively, as is the case with a degrading and unrewarding work environment, unfulfilling obligations and unsatisfying relationships. Social interaction has a strong effect on well-being as negative social outcomes are more strongly related to well-being than are positive social outcomes. Childhood traumatic experiences diminish psychological well-being throughout adult life, and can damage psychological resilience in children, adolescents, and adults. Perceived stigma also diminished psychological well-being, particularly stigma in relation to obesity and other physical ailments or disabilities.
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Psychological Needs
A study conducted in the early 1990s exploring the relationship between well-being and those aspects of positive functioning that were put forth in Ryff’s model indicates that persons who aspired more for financial success relative to affiliation with others or their community scored lower on various measures of well-being.
Individuals that strive for a life defined by affiliation, intimacy, and contributing to one’s community can be described as aspiring to fulfil their intrinsic psychological needs. In contrast, those individuals who aspire for wealth and material, social recognition, fame, image, or attractiveness can be described as aiming to fulfil their extrinsic psychological needs. The strength of an individual’s intrinsic (relative to extrinsic) aspirations as indicated by rankings of importance correlates with an array of psychological outcomes. Positive correlations have been found with indications of psychological well-being: positive affect, vitality, and self-actualisation. Negative correlations have been found with indicators of psychological ill-being: negative affect, depression, and anxiety.
Relations with Others
A more recent study confirming Ryff’s notion of maintaining positive relations with others as a way of leading a meaningful life involved comparing levels of self-reported life satisfaction and subjective well-being (positive/negative affect). Results suggested that individuals whose actions had underlying eudaimonic tendencies as indicated by their self-reports (e.g. “I seek out situations that challenge my skills and abilities”) were found to possess higher subjective well-being and life satisfaction scores compared to participants who did not. Individuals were grouped according to their chosen paths/strategies to happiness as identified by their answers on an Orientation to Happiness Questionnaire. The questionnaire describes and differentiates individuals on the basis of three orientations to happiness which can be pursued, though some individuals do not pursue any. The “pleasure” orientation describes a path to happiness that is associated with adopting hedonistic life goals to satisfy only one’s extrinsic needs. Engagement and meaning orientations describe a pursuit of happiness that integrates two positive psychology constructs “flow/engagement” and “eudaimonia/meaning”. Both of the latter orientations are also associated with aspiring to meet intrinsic needs for affiliation and community and were amalgamated by Anić and Tončić into a single “eudaimonic” path to happiness that elicited high scores on all measures of well-being and life satisfaction. Importantly, she also produced scales for assessing mental health. This factor structure has been debated, but has generated much research in wellbeing, health, and successful ageing.
Individual differences in both overall Eudaimonia, identified loosely with self-control and in the facets of eudaimonia are heritable. Evidence from one study supports 5 independent genetic mechanisms underlying the Ryff facets of this trait, leading to a genetic construct of eudaimonia in terms of general self-control, and four subsidiary biological mechanisms enabling the psychological capabilities of purpose, agency, growth, and positive social relations.
According to Seligman, positive interventions to attain positive human experience should not be at the expense of disregarding human suffering, weakness, and disorder. A therapy based on Ryff’s six elements was developed by Fava and others in this regards.
The International Day of Happiness is celebrated throughout the world on the 20th of March. It was established by the United Nations General Assembly on 28 June 2012.
Assembly Resolution A/RES/66/281 states in pertinent part:
The General Assembly,[…] Conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal,[…] Recognizing also the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples, Decides to proclaim 20 March the International Day of Happiness, Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities[…] (United Nations General Assembly, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 28 June 2012).
Home Exercise to Relieve Anxiety – The Ultimate Guide for Healthy Lifestyle and Happiness.
Author(s): Henri-Cartier Bresson.
Edition: First (1ed).
Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.
Are you tired of experiencing numb feet and fingers, sweaty nights, insomnia and other tiresome occurrences?
Is your friend, spouse, mother, father, sibling or anyone close to you suffering from uneasiness, heart palpitations and other symptoms associated with anxiety?
Have you been confusing anxiety with depression?
Do you feel uninformed about anxiety?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you should proceed with digesting the subsequent chapters of this book.
This workbook on anxiety embodies that practice in an easy, user-friendly format that will guide you through understanding your anxiety, knowing where it comes from, and seeing how to best approach it in a unique way that will work for you.
Every one of us is affected by anxiety at some point in our life. You may experience mild anxiety before taking part in a job interview or public speaking session. These types of anxiety shrink when the event is over. However, when the anxiety appears out of nowhere in the absence of any actual threat and interferes with our daily lives, we have to do something about that.
There is nothing to fear in deciding now to face your anxieties. They are a part of you, just like your arms or legs. You can not remove your legs, neither should you amputate your anxiety. So, take a deep breath, turn the page, and meet your anxieties here and now. Get to know them, appreciate them, and learn from them.
This workbook is meant to be your companion. The more you practice it, the better your life will become dealing with your anxiety. Anxiety is not something that has to run your life instead of you. Anxiety should be something you learn to simply acknowledge as a dinner guest and move on without fear that it will start a food fight. That is why it is important to practice the exercises in this workbook daily. Write down your feelings daily. This is a day to day attack on anxiety in the fight for your freedom from it.
Here Is A Preview Of What You Will Learn :-
What is anxiety.
Importance of Anxiety.
Symptoms of anxiety.
Causes of anxiety.
Physical Exercise and anxiety.
How to Create a Successful Exercise Programme.
How to Enjoy Exercise.
This book is a guide to help you deal with your anxieties in a productive way, and it contains many exercises for doing this; however, if you feel totally overwhelmed, you may want to combine the use of this book with professional counselling sessions. When used together, they will provide you with even more powerful guidance and help as you face and embrace your anxieties.
Emotions are the world’s universal language. Understand them, and you understand yourself – and others.
Packed with thought-provoking articles on connecting emotionally with others, freeing your feelings, and engaging in mindfulness, The Science of Emotions, a new Special Edition from the Editors of TIME helps you get in touch with you. And with those around you.
Three distinct sections – “Know Yourself,” “Connect with Others,” and “Free Your Feelings” – help you unlock your emotional intelligence, tame social media envy, understand why we cry, learn how to read body language, and more.
You will also discover the secrets to mental toughness, learn how to let go of guilt, discover the upside of a bad mood, and learn the eight easy ways to get happier.
Filled with photos, infographics, and illustrations, including an uplifting photo essay on joy, this empowering collection offers a full-circle view of feelings ranging from despair to elation, and reveals how to harness emotions to build a richer life.
“Don’t worry, be happy.” Sounds simple enough, yet many encounter setbacks in their pursuit of happiness. What if we could definitively say: “If you do this, you will achieve a happier and healthier life?” What if we could unlock the key to happiness? Enter Science.
In an all new special edition from TIME, The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, editors investigate exclusive, cutting-edge research from the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness.
Focusing in on the debate surrounding whether or not there is a direct relationship between happiness and health, this special edition explores the factors that affect happiness in three outlined sections – mind, life and spirit – and considers aspects such as positivity, optimism, purpose, family, finance, spirituality, and gratitude, in order to examine happiness from different angles.
Although the research included in The Science of Happiness is a work in progress, it is a step toward unlocking the key to happiness by grounding a cute catchphrase in fact and science.