The Science of Happiness Applies to Physicians Too
Are you completely happy with your practice? With your academic career? With you leadership role? If not, there is an emerging science, the Science of Happiness, and a new approach, the Positive Psychology movement, that is here to help you figure out how you can change things and get happy!
The Happy Equation
According to Martin Seligman, PhD, professor of Psychology at U Penn, and a notable researcher in the Positive Psychology movement, happiness results from three factors:
- Your “set range” – your “biological” capacity for happiness
- The circumstances and environment of your life, such as whether you live in a stable country at peace, have a job, a loving spouse, good partners.
- Those factors and attitudes that are completely under your voluntary control to change.
In his book, Authentic Happiness, Seligman outlines a compelling prescription for creating more fulfillment and happiness in your life—your WHOLE life: work, home, play, relationships.
Here are a few of Seligman’s Authentic Happiness principles:
- Let go of the false belief that your past negative experiences determine your present and future
- Increase your gratitude about the good things in your past
- Learn how to forgive past wrongs
- Distinguish between pleasures and gratifications: Pleasures are sensory experiences with a strong emotional component, but which don’t require a lot of thinking. By contrast, gratifications come from applying your unique strengths and virtues (hence “authentic”) and have a longer lasting quality. Therefore, spend more energy creating gratifying experiences.
Core to achieving “authentic happiness” is uncovering your natural strengths—what Seligman calls “signature strengths.”
Know Your Strengths
We all have our own “top 4 or 5” strengths. The key is to learn what they are and do everything we can to express them, particularly in our work!
When working with my own clients, I frequently have them complete Seligman’s “Values in Action” assessment, a 240-quesion survey that provides a means to gaining greater understanding of their underlying drivers and motivators. The survey computes their “top 5” signature strengths.
Seligman and his team describe 24 strengths and virtues in terms of “values in action,” and group them into these 6 overarching categories:
- Wisdom and Knowledge
- Humanity and Love
Note: You have the opportunity to learn more about Authentic Happiness, to complete a Values in Action Assessment and get a complimentary debrief on your results. See Tele-class announcement below.
The purpose of delving more deeply into your personal strengths and virtues is to identify and create more opportunities whereby you use and express them. From Seligman’s perspective, it is the difference between living a good life, versus living a meaningful life.
If you are interested learning more about the Positive Psychology movement and how to apply this new thinking to your own life, I encourage you to attend the Tele-class on May 16. Or contact our office directly to arrange for you to complete the “Values in Action” survey and debrief the results.