In this chapter, Positive Feeling and Positive Character, Seligman explores ways in which researchers can tell if someone is happy. Is it from the way they communicate or could it simply be the way they smile? He illustrates a number of studies to show if people are happy or not such as looking at kindness vs. pleasure. He also looks at optimism and pessimism. He writes on pages 9-10, “Optimistic people tend to interpret their troubles as transient, controllable, and specific to one situation. Pessimistic people, in contrast, believe that their troubles last forever, undermine everything they do, and are uncontrollable. To see if optimism predicts longevity, scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, selected 839 consecutive patients who referred themselves for medical care forty years ago…Of these patients, 200 had died by the 2000, and optimists had 19 percent greater longevity, in terms of their expected life span, compared to that of the pessimists.” So of course, these studies made me look at whether I was one of the happy and optimistic ones or was I an Eeyore?
On page 15, Seligman includes a survey developed by Michael W. Fordyce called the Fordyce Emotions Questionnaire. It has a list from 0 to 10 with 0 being “Extremely unhappy” to 10 being “Extremely happy”. I put myself at an 8 which is “Pretty happy”. We’ll see what I am at the end of this book.
In summary,this chapter is a overview of what is to come in the next chapters. I am looking forward to exploring happiness these next few weeks.
Note: This is a spiritual book club series on the book, Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, a professor the University of Pennsylvania in Psychology. He has also written Learned Optimisim. If you would like to order this book, click the Barnes and Noble icon below: