Up until less than two decades ago, the main purpose of psychology was to treat mental disorder and make miserable people less miserable. With the development of the science of mental illness that has enabled the accurate classification of mental disorder and effective treatment of each type, the focus has been shifted to how to make normal people happier.

Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, proposed that positive psychology should have three aims. It should be concerned with human strength instead of weakness. It should be interested in building strengths rather than repairing damage. Last but not least, it needs to focus on making the lives of normal people happier and more fulfilling.

Even though positive psychology is a fairly new branch of psychology, it has advanced over the last two decades to be able to measure the different types of happiness and determine the causation of the positive states. According to Seligman, there are three different types of happy lives: the pleasant life, the good life and the meaningful life.

The pleasant life is comprised of positive emotions and learning the skills to amplify and prolong these emotions. The drawback of a pleasant life is that it’s 50% heritable and not very modifiable. The intensity of positive emotions diminishes rapidly with repetition.

The good life is a life of engagement. Time stops when you are indulged in activities you love and enjoy. If pleasure has to be sought and felt, you lose yourself during a flow due to intense concentration. Thus the good life can be achieved by identifying your highest strengths and recraft your life in such a way that you can use them as much as possible in every aspect of your life.

The meaningful life utilizes your strengths to belong to and serve something bigger than yourself. When you serve others, your happiness actually lasts.

Research shows what differentiates happy and unhappy people isn’t religion, wealth, looks, or even the ratio of good and bad events occurring in their lives. Surprisingly, happy people are extremely social and are more often involved in romantic relationships. But the association between happiness and social life is correlational instead of causal. In other words, socialization may not necessarily make people happy, but rather happy people tend to be more sociable.

The rigorous scientific study of life satisfaction as a function of the three forms of happiness reveals that pleasure has little contribution to overall life satisfaction. Meaning has the strongest contribution followed by engagement. When you have both meaning and engagement, pleasure is like icing on the cake. A happy and fulfilled life should have all three elements. I believe it’s up to the individual to decide what the right mix is for him or her.

The major retailer I used to work for observed the minimal number of national holidays, and therefore it came as a pleasant surprise when I found out that I’d have today off (Veteran’s Day). Since Jake is in school, I plan to design a beautiful day savoring in mindfulness. After finishing this post (engagement), I am going shopping for myself and my family (pleasure). Then I’ll meet a friend for lunch and maybe stop by at another’s friend’s office to say ‘hi’ to everyone (socializing). I was going to take Jake to Tae Kwon Do after school. But if the weather gets really nasty (prediction of snow in the afternoon), I may pick him up early from school and play the game of Life with him while engaging him in a discussion of a behavioral issue (meaning). I myself am faced with a challenge at this time. Joe and I think it’s solvable. Nevertheless, right now it feels bigger than it actually is. I am hoping throughout the day and the rest of the week, I’ll start to see that the solution we put in place is doable and maybe for the better. If not, new adjustments will have to be made. It will be the topic for another post. For now, I am going to enjoy today and make it pleasurable, engaging and meaningful!