Book review – the author and his book kicked of a happiness revolution in psychology

Martin Seligman is the former President of the American Psychological Association and one of the leaders, pioneers and prominent advocates of Positive Psychology. “Authentic Happiness – Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment”, was the first book to truly shape the science of Positive Psychology and Seligman continues to be an international driving force in the “Study of Happiness”. Seligman explains that your enduring level of happiness is based on:

  • The “Set Range” – your biologically/genetically-determined set happiness level
  • Life Circumstances – contribute in small part to happiness – money has little effect but marriage and living in a democracy seem to have more
  • Voluntary Control – what you can do to raise your happiness to the upper part of your set range.

Seligman separates positive emotions into three temporal domains:

  1. Past (satisfaction, contentment, fulfilment, pride and serenity) – improved by accepting that negative experiences do not effect present and future, increaseing gratitude and forgiving past wrongs
  2. Present (joy, ecstasy, calm, zest, ebullience, pleasure and flow) – improved by focussing less on transitory pleasures (sensory delights (food, sex etc) and more on longer term gratifications (rewarding activities we lose ourselves in)
  3. Future (optimism, hope faith, trust) – improved by becoming more optimistic and hopeful.

Seligman says Authentic Happiness comes from identifying and ultivating your Signature Strengths:

  1. Wisdom & Knowledge
  2. Courage
  3. Love & Humanity
  4. Justice
  5. Temperance
  6. Spirituality & Transcendence

and using them everyday in work, love, play and parenting. With ADHD we often struggle to find happiness and much of what is written in the book speaks directly to our challenges of finding our strengths, in gratitude, in pursuing our dreams. I use much of his theory in my coaching. Seligman has an easy and personal style in this really superb landmark book, in the new science of happiness.