Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category
This month’s book review is on Martin Seligman’s new book “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being“. Seligman has spent his carrerr studying happiness and has created the theory of Authentic Happiness. Over the course of ten years he defined his theory to one of Well-Being, and states that the goal to create well-being in our lives is to increase our ability to flourish. He asserts that to flourish in our life we need five elements and uses the mnemonic PERMA:
Positive Emotion, which includes happiness and life satisfaction
Engagement: learning new things
Positive Relationships: having people in our lives who really care about us
Meaning: belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than the self
Accomplishment: feeling that what we do in our life is valuable and worthwhile
Along with the extensive research and theoretical background, there are several exercises in this book to help increase our sense of well – being. One such exercise is the Signature Strengths Exercise: A signature strength is defined by: a sense of ownership; a feeling of excitement while displaying it; a sense of yearning to find new ways to use it; invigoration while using the strength; joy, zest and enthusiasm. There is a signature strength questionnaire on the website and in the back of this book to help identify your particular strengths. Seligman encourages readers and clients to not only become aware of their strengths but to exercise them in a new way in various parts of their lives.
Flourish has a very interesting section about positive physical health and what the author calls the “biology of optimism”. He outlines research showing that optimism makes people less vulnerable and pessimism makes us more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease. Optimists take action and have healthier lifestyles – they believe their actions matter so they act on medical advice and take better care of themselves. Optimists also tend to have richer social networks and the more friends and the more love in your life, the less illness.
For me the most intriguing and uplifting part of this book was the chapter on Turning Trauma into Growth. There are so many people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for many reasons such as natural disasters, poverty, assaults and personal traumas. But this chapter explores the possibility that although people naturally show depression and anxiety after extreme adversity, they also have a great potential to grow. There are five elements to contribute to post-traumatic growth:
Understand the response to the trauma itself – recognizing the impact to your beliefs about self, others and the future
Anxiety reduction – utilizing techniques for controlling intrusive thoughts and images
Constructive self-disclosure – feeling encouraged to tell the story of the trauma
Creating a trauma narrative – being able to see the trauma as a fork in the road that enhances an appreciation of what personal strengths were called upon, how some relationships improved, how spiritual life strengthened, and what new doors opened
LIfe principles and stances that are more robust to challenge – recognizing new ways to be altruistic, accepting growth without survivor guilt, crafting a new identity as a survivor
Perhaps the best part of this book is that it is clear throughout every chapter that Martin Seligman practices what he preaches. He truly believes that well-being is possible and can significantly change our lives. He uses countless examples of patients, groups and often his own personal examples to demonstrate the strategies and the effectiveness of practicing well-being and learning to truly flourish in our daily lives. His full Signature Strengths test is an appendix of the book, outlining 24 strengths in a self-rating scale. More information can be found on his website: www.authentichappiness.org.
For previous month’s book reviews, click here.