Summary of Authentic Happiness

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Authentic Happiness book summary
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getAbstract highly recommends this work by Martin E. P. Seligman, the founder of "positive psychology" and the author of Learned Optimism. This book combines the erudition of psychological research with the accessibility of a self-help text. The author explains why happiness matters. He recapitulates and takes issue with the flawed deterministic assumptions that guided much of twentieth century psychology. He is careful to emphasize the importance of your individual control over your feelings and thoughts. The idea that people actually are in control of their fate marks a departure from Freudianism and behaviorism. Seligman argues, instead, for an understanding of character and virtue rooted in early Greek philosophy. However, his book is not merely theoretical or descriptive. He offers guidance on how you can change your way of thinking to change how you feel - and, thereby, get on the road to achieving long-term happiness for yourself and for others, especially your children.

About the Author

Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the director of the Positive Psychology Network, and former president of the American Psychological Association. His 20 books include Learned Optimism and The Optimistic Child.



Health and Illness

Twentieth century psychology concentrated on mental disease, and made considerable progress defining a range of illnesses. However, psychology has had very little to say about the good life. Only recently has research shown that it is possible to pursue and increase happiness. Happiness is not an intangible or nebulous concept. Its consequences are measurable. One study of nuns, a very homogenous, controlled population, found that the most cheerful women lived much longer than the less cheerful.

However, happiness is not what many people think it is. For example, it is not the consequence of health and wealth. Instead, happiness comes from exercising six virtues that all major religious and philosophical traditions identify as fundamental to a good life: 1) wisdom - including learning, prudence and creativity; 2) courage - including fortitude, perseverance and confidence; 3) love - including both giving and receiving love; 4) justice - including fairness, citizenship and leadership; 5) temperance - including humility, discretion and self-control and 6) spirituality and transcendence - including gratefulness and a love of beauty.

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