Book Summary: Authentic Happiness

What exactly is happiness?

It's a term that has sparked countless arguments throughout the years. Martin Seligman, the pioneer of positive psychology, claims that pleasure may be found in various ways.

As a side note, positive psychology is a branch of psychology that studies what it means to live a happy and full life.

Until recently, practically all of psychology was devoted to figuring out how to assist individuals in overcoming mental diseases like depression. We'll go through those distinct paths in this synopsis of his book Authentic Happiness, as well as why they're important and how you may integrate more of them into your life.

Come along with us for the next 12 minutes as we delve into what it means to live a happy and purposeful life.

Why Be Happy?

A girl with long hair is jumping with happy expression.

We'll start at the beginning of this overview by exploring why we should wish to be happy in the first place.

The Templeton Positive Psychology Prize was first awarded to Barbara Fredrickson in 2000.

Positive emotions, according to her thesis, have a function in evolution. In particular, they widen our intellectual, physical, and social resources, allowing us to build up reserves to draw on when a challenge or opportunity arises.

What causes this to happen?

Individuals like us more when we are in a good mood. We are far more likely to make friends, discover love, and form coalitions with other people or organizations when we are in a good mood. We're also more receptive to new ideas and experiences, fundamental to evolutionary behavior.

Why is this worth noting? Job happiness, productivity, and income are positively linked to overall satisfaction. There are several advantages to being a happy person.

The Happiness Equation

A simple formula lies at the heart of Martin Seligman's hypothesis.

S+C+V = H

Let's take a quick look at each of these components individually.

H = long-term happiness

This is what we want to improve over time: our happiness levels.

S = set range

You are given a variety of joys for which you may thank your parents. This predefined range, which you nearly always return to after a pleasant or bad event, predicts around half of your degree of happiness.

Lottery winners, for example, are no happier than they were before they won. The contrary is likewise true: you'll ultimately return to your specified range following a negative occurrence.

C = circumstances of your life

Many aspects of your life are beyond your control, such as being born in an affluent or impoverished country. Some factors are under your control, and their impact on your happiness may astound you.

For example, researchers have shown that your wealth, education, general health, age, the climate where you reside, race, and gender have relatively little bearing on your happiness.

On the other hand, being married, having a healthy social life, and practicing religion are linked to happiness. Remember, these aren't moral lessons with moral judgments attached; they're things that research has shown to affect your degree of pleasure.

V = variables under your voluntary control

Ultimately, there are variables over which you have immediate voluntary influence. Your feelings about the past, now, and what you expect to happen in the future. The rest of this overview will go over these elements and how you may use them to boost your happiness levels in the long run.

Positive Emotions About the Past

A woman with long skirt is dancing and singing on the garden.

You have total power over how you think and feel about what occurred to you in the past.

When it comes to thinking about the past, two things get in the way of being joyful. There is a lack of appreciation for the positive occurrences and an overemphasis on the negative happenings. Practice appreciation and forgiveness as a remedy.


Gratitude helps you appreciate and cherish the positive things that have happened in your life. Here's a simple activity to help you get more of it in your life.

Set aside five minutes before bedtime for the following two weeks. So you don't forget, do it right before brushing your teeth. Then, make a list of up to five things you are grateful for in your life. Continue repeating it if it goes well and you find yourself going to bed a bit less worried at night.


As Seligman points out, our feelings about our history are solely based on our recollections; there is no other source. When we use forgiveness, we get the ability to rewrite our own history, loosening the grip of bad events on our lives.

"You can't hurt the perpetrator by not forgiving, but you can set yourself free by forgiving," says Everett Worthington, a renowned forgiveness researcher.

Here's a method for achieving it.


  • R = Recall the pain as objectively as possible. Don't see the other person as bad, and don't wallow in self-pity.
  • E = Empathize. Try to see things from the other person's perspective to understand why they hurt you. This is a difficult stage, but think up a tale that you might see them telling if you asked them why they did it.
  • A = Altruistic forgiveness. It's not easy, but offering forgiveness as a present will make you feel much better.
  • C = Commit to forgive. Write the perpetrator a letter of forgiveness, keep a diary, or inform a close friend.
  • H = Hold on to forgiveness, for you will undoubtedly relive it. Even though forgiveness is not identical to forgetting, it does influence how you feel concerning the memory.

Positive Emotion About the Future

A man is singing and having a positive mindset about his future.

Learning to recognize and challenge habitual negative thoughts might help you feel more optimistic about the future. There are two key components to getting this right.

Explaining Bad Events as Temporary Rather than Permanent

People who give up easily assume that the causes of their bad luck are irreversible. People who fight helplessness think that awful things happen for a reason.

For example, someone who fails at their diet after dining out would claim "diets never work," while "diets don't work as well when eating out" is a better approach to frame the situation.

Explaining Bad Events as Specific Rather than Universal

When failure strikes in one area, those who construct universal reasons for their failings give up on everything. People who provide clear explanations are much more likely to pursue their objectives.

For example, instead of saying "all professors are unjust," someone who receives an unreasonably low mark can say, "Professor Seligman is unfair."

Hope vs. Despair

Find permanent and universal reasons for good occurrences, as well as temporary and unique causes of terrible events, if you wish to have hope - and therefore optimistic emotions about the future.

If you want to be miserable and thus have bad feelings about the future, act reverse. However, one thing is obvious - this is a decision that only you can make.

Positive Emotions About the Present (Pleasures)

Pleasures and gratifications are two different types of good feelings in the present. We'll deal with each of them separately, with the joys coming first.

Physical joys are fleeting pleasurable sensations elicited by the senses. They include things like delectable tastes and fragrances, good bodily movement, pleasing sights and sounds, and so on.

Higher pleasures are similarly fleeting, but they are more complex. They are fueled by emotions such as excitement, happiness, comfort, amusement, etc.

Habituation and savoring are two concepts to bear in mind if you want to get the most out of your life.


Essentially, repeatedly indulging in the same pleasure does not work. The pleasure derived from the second ice cream taste is less than half of that derived from the first. Neurons are programmed to fire in response to novel events but not to circumstances that do not supply new information.

The remedy is to spread your joys out across time. You'll be a lot happier as a consequence.


Savoring is defined as the intentional knowledge of pleasure and the purposeful, conscious attention to the pleasurable experience.

To return to the ice cream example, don't consume it mindlessly while watching TV or surfing the internet. Instead, focus entirely on the experience - don't think, just feel.

Positive Emotion About The Present (Gratifications)

Finally, we'll look at the flip side of pleasant present-day emotion: gratifications. Rather than sensations as with joys, gratifications are defined by their absence. Instead, they're marked by absorption, engagement, and flow, which are brought about by putting your unique abilities and virtues to work.

Concentration on a strenuous activity, a profound sense of easy engagement, and the sensation that time stops and our "self" evaporates are all clear markers of a satisfying experience. More about that condition, which most people refer to as flow, may be found in our overview of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book of the same name.

According to Seligman, there are 24 strengths. We'll construct a list of them here, and as we go through them, keep track of which ones best define you - these are your distinctive qualities.

The 24 Strengths

A man doing meditation for his work life balance.

Seligman divides the strengths into six categories, which he refers to as the six virtues. Surprisingly, all of the world's great philosophical and religious traditions highly importance certain traits.

Wisdom and Knowledge

  • Inquisitiveness about the world. When faced with ideas that do not suit your expectations, you are open to new experiences and adaptable.
  • Passion for learning. You like learning new things on your own and in a classroom environment.
  • Open-mindedness, good judgment, critical thinking. You have a penchant for thinking things through and examining them from all angles.
  • Originality, practical intellect, and street smarts. You have a knack for coming up with new yet acceptable activities to achieve your goals.
  • Social intelligence, emotional intelligence, and emotional intelligence are all terms that can be used interchangeably. You have a good understanding of other people's motivations and feelings, and you can respond appropriately to them.
  • Perspective. You have a unique outlook on life that makes sense to others and yourself.


  • Bravery and valor. You don't cower in the face of danger, difficulty, or suffering.
  • Perseverance, industry, diligence. You complete what you begin.
  • Integrity, sincerity, honesty. You are a trustworthy individual who speaks the truth and lives a true and sincere life.

Humanity and Love

  • Generosity and kindness. You are giving and compassionate to others, and you are never too busy to help.
  • Allowing oneself to be loved and loving oneself. Relationships with those that are close and intimate are important to you.


  • Citizenship, duty, teamwork, loyalty. As a team player, you're fantastic. You're a passionate and loyal teammate who constantly goes above and beyond to ensure the group's success.
  • Fairness and equity. You don't allow your own sentiments to influence your judgments of others. You offer everyone an opportunity.
  • Leadership. You do an excellent job of planning activities and ensuring that they occur.


  • Self-control. When the time is right, you can effortlessly control your desires, needs, and urges.
  • Prudence, discretion, caution. You are a cautious individual. You don't say or do things you'll come to regret afterward.
  • Humility and modesty. You prefer to let your successes speak for themselves rather than seek the limelight.


  • Beauty and excellence appreciation. You take a moment to smell the roses. In all areas, you love beauty, goodness, and expertise.
  • Gratitude. You appreciate the good fortune that comes your way and never takes it for granted.
  • Hope, optimism, future-mindedness. You hope for the best in the future and plan and work to make it happen.
  • Spirituality, purpose, faith, and religious behavior. You have strong and consistent ideas about the universe's deeper meaning and significance. You understand your place in the bigger picture.
  • Mercy and forgiveness. You are forgiving of those who have wronged you.
  • Sense of humor. You like making other people laugh and smile.
  • Zest, passion, enthusiasm. You have a lot of energy. You put your whole heart and soul into the things you do.

Once you've recognized your distinctive qualities, the greatest way to improve your pleasant experiences is to find employment and interests that allow you to put them to use regularly.

The Pleasant, Good, Meaningful, and Full Lives

How can we combine the skills we need to be fulfilled now that we have the tools to raise our degree of happiness in our lives?

We desire pleasant sentiments regarding the present, past, and future in a pleasurable existence. The good life is when we use our unique skills to attain fulfillment in the areas that matter most. We tie the usage of our signature strengths to something greater than ourselves when we live a meaningful life.

Finally, having a complete life entails leading a well-balanced, enjoyable, and purposeful existence.

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