Creating a cultural shift in happiness

Creating a cultural shift in happiness

In a recent survey, over 2,000 people were asked to choose which they’d prefer for the society they lived in – the greatest overall happiness and wellbeing, or the greatest overall wealth. Of those surveyed, 87% voted for happiness and wellbeing, while only 8% opted for wealth. If we share the view of most of those surveyed, the challenge we face is how to play our part in raising the levels of gross national (and international) happiness. One approach to doing this is through engaging in a cultural shift in the way we seek out happiness.

A useful clue about how personal cultures can change is given in Martin Seligman’s classic text on positive psychology, Authentic Happiness. In it he describes setting his students two pieces of homework. The first was to engage in a pleasurable activity and then write about this afterwards. The second was to do an act of service that helped others, and then write about that too. For many of his students, the results were life-changing.

While the pleasurable activities felt nice at the time, the effects on mood were short-lived. In contrast, some students were still feeling good days or weeks after their act of kindness. There are two types of happiness here: short-term pleasures and the longer lasting afterglow from having done something we feel good about. Generating this second type of happiness involves calling on our strengths to rise to a challenge that matters to us.   read the full story here