Psychological Self-Help

Navigation bar
  Home Print document View PDF document Start Previous page
 18 of 179 
Next page End Contents 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23  

18
counting our blessings (being grateful) has positive impact on several
aspects of our mood, adjustment, and physical symptoms. 
Forces Affecting Happiness and Depression 
Current research suggests a tendency towards depression is inborn
so that each of us probably has a set point for depression and on a
different dimension for happiness. Studies of twins and adopted
children support the inheritance notion. Of course, in spite of any set
point, radical changes in our lives can change our feelings. Someone
important to us dies and we are saddened for months, but eventually
we usually come back to our set point. Winning a multi-million dollar
lottery has drastic impact on our emotions but only for a year or so,
then we go back to our usual mood. Paraplegics return to their pre-
accident level of happiness after a year or two. Sure, there are some
terrible experiences so traumatic that some people can’t ever recover,
like the death of a child or a brutal assault. In the opposite direction, a
lonely person, who finds someone who really loves him/her, may be in
high spirits for the rest of his/her life. 
Seligman doesn’t let us forget our ever-present genetic guidance
system and estimates the available data suggests that one's general
level of happiness is about 50% inherited—he believes even being of
good cheer is about half determined by the genes. Okay, but the
genes are, thus far, beyond our control. We have to just make the
most of what we were given at birth. We also have only limited control
over our natural body chemistry, such as serotonin, that affects our
happiness. Most people believe that life circumstances have a
powerful influence over their happiness (“if I get rich, I will be happy”)
but the research findings, as we have seen, suggest that our
circumstances are the source of only 10-15% of our happiness. In
short, our genes and our brain chemistry may be barriers to
happiness…and our hopes that good fortune will bring us happiness via
good circumstances may be illusions. To Seligman another approach to
happiness has much more potential--he believes we have the ability to
develop and use personal habits, attitudes, and traits that can
increase our happiness. This is his general thesis and the basis of his
self-help approach. Let’s try to understand this. 
Seligman, being an academic researcher, cites a great deal of
research and presents it in an interesting way, but keep in mind that
he is mostly discussing the "commonly used ways to gain happiness"
that are currently available to the average person. In general, he
doesn’t invent new happiness-producing techniques. Remember, too,
this is primitive science...just estimates of correlations between crude
circumstances and happiness over large numbers of people. It is
important to keep in mind, I think, that there are probably hundreds of
unique ways for unique individuals to gain happiness. You don't have
to be married and have children...or be educated, highly successful,
and make big money...or be religious and get your hope through the
promises of religion...some people can probably even be happy while
Previous page Top Next page

advertisement


« Back


advertisement