The father of the “positive psychology” movement, Martin Seligman has a new book out, and the Economist reviews it this week. (Thanks, Aldis!)
“He has uncovered various structured ways of perking people up, all of them, he insists on the very first page of his new book, “grounded in careful science”. Much of this book consists of the results of various complex tests and interventions designed to reduce depression and anxiety and increase resilience and self-discipline. Writing a “what-went-well-today-and-why” diary for a week, for example, tends to lower depression levels for as much as six months, he claims.
“Flourish” represents a partial rejection of Mr Seligman’s previous work, “Authentic Happiness” (a title he says was forced on him by his publisher). To focus solely on happiness rather than the more expansive concept of “well-being”, Mr Seligman now says, is a form of “monism” that neglects important ingredients, such as “relationships” and “accomplishment”.
Consider the decision to have children. Research consistently shows that parents are less satisfied with their lives than the childless. Yet the human race continues to propagate itself. Either, says Mr Seligman, we are “massively deluded” about the effects of children on our happiness, or we take more than “life satisfaction” into account when choosing to breed. “