"I just want to be happy."
"I know I have it good, but I just don't feel happy."
"My life just feels kind of meaningless."
I hear comments like these ones all the time. The pursuit of happiness is a major goal for a lot of people. But, how do we actually go about becoming happier? How much happiness is enough? And... what is happiness, really?
Martin Seligman is the brilliant researcher and author behind the positive psychology movement. In his book Authentic Happiness (sidebar, this is one of my favorite psychology books- definitely check it out if you are interested in this topic!), Seligman lays out his theory for what the truly happy life is. Actually, he describes 3 distinct dimensions that make up the happiest life possible.
The Pleasant Life mostly focuses on positive emotions and positive experiences. You are living this life if you spend a lot of time doing things that bring you pleasure. For example, you might really like trying out new coffee shops, reading the latest bestseller, or planning a family reunion.
The Good Life happens when you understand your strengths and use them to enhance your own life. If one of your strengths is that you appreciate the beauty of nature, you might spend a lot of time outdoors, savoring sunsets and taking delight in the wildlife.
The Meaningful Life is experienced when you use your strengths for a higher purpose or institution. Continuing the previous example, you are living the meaningful life if you take your strength of appreciating the beauty of nature and use it in your volunteer position at the nature center, educating others about local plants and animals.