Psychological Self-Help

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being self-centered and immoral. There are many ways you can carve
your own niche of happiness in the world. 
Given time, often involving life-long endeavors and goals, you can
certainly have some influence over the circumstances of your life, in
spite of the research cited above. Yet, we all know being born with
below average academic ability or given parents who belittle learning
or provided a poor K-12 education, it is very hard to become a
physician, astronaut, professor, etc. Much of Psychological Self-Help
deals with exactly how to make some of these changes in
circumstances or the environment (see the chapter indices and use the
search engine on the main page to find self-change methods). Keep in
mind, however, that while your life circumstances usually only
determine a small part of your total happiness, once a barrier is
overcome and put behind you, such as poor education, self-doubts, or
shyness and a lack of friends, it is no longer a barrier and your
unhappy circumstances in the past may even become an asset. 
Positive reactions and attitudes towards the past, the present, and
the future may be more modifiable for most people than actual life
circumstances. Let’s review Seligman’s (2002) work to learn more
about this. 
Seligman’s Suggestions for Increasing Happiness 
Note: the next several pages offer a detailed summary of Authentic
Happiness and a critique. If you are into serious and long-term work
on building happiness, you might be well advised to read and work
through the book itself, rather than read my summary. Hopefully, my
overview will put Seligman’s suggestions into perspective, and then
you can apply the more hopeful specific techniques from several
His book, Authentic Happiness, begins by reviewing the benefits of
being happy, much like the research I’ve just summarized. An
optimistic, happy person has a better chance of being more
productive, having more friends, a satisfying marriage, better health,
and a longer life (of course, those end results contribute to one’s
happiness, so there is a chicken and the egg question here). Happy
people are not the most realistic, e.g. they over-estimate their skills
and the control they have in dealing with problems; they see
themselves as above average in intelligence and social ability. Seeing
yourself favorably, even if wrong, contributes to happiness, I suppose,
but other research shows optimists are not happier and more
successful than pessimists (Chang, 2000). 
No one would deny that great contributions to the world have been
made by very unhappy people. So, sad feelings may have some merit
and contribute to doing good in many lives. Indeed, people with
bipolar disorders often enjoy the “highs” on their hyperactive days.
They are often more creative than us ordinary folks. Some therapists
believe that chronically happy and overly joyful people might be prone
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