Self Help

Flourish - Martin Seligman

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Matheus Puppe

· 21 min read
  • Martin Seligman originally proposed the theory of “authentic happiness” which focused on increasing happiness and life satisfaction. This theory defined happiness in terms of positive emotion, engagement, and meaning.

  • Seligman now proposes the broader “well-being theory” which includes additional elements beyond happiness, such as relationships, accomplishment, and engagement. Well-being is a construct comprised of measurable elements that together contribute to human flourishing.

  • The elements of well-being are: positive emotion, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment. No single element defines well-being, but each contributes to it. The goal of positive psychology is to increase well-being by improving these elements.

  • Authentic happiness theory was too narrow in its focus on happiness and life satisfaction. Well-being theory provides a more comprehensive understanding of human flourishing and what constitutes “the good life.”

  • Well-being interventions, like the “gratitude visit,” have been shown to increase well-being and decrease depression. While gains in well-being often require continued practice, they can lead to lasting change.

  • Three key strategies for building and sustaining well-being are: cultivate positive emotions, build on strengths, and foster positive relationships. Choosing healthy habits and a positive mindset also play an important role in well-being.

  • In summary, well-being theory provides a broader perspective than authentic happiness theory. The goal is to cultivate flourishing in individuals and communities using evidence-based strategies. While change often requires effort and practice, people have the ability to positively impact their own well-being through conscious choice and decision making. Overall, the summary highlights the key differences, strategies and implications of transitioning from authentic happiness theory to well-being theory.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key takeaways regarding the transition from authentic happiness theory to well-being theory? Let me know if you have any feedback or want me to clarify or expand the summary.

  • Most psychological interventions provide only temporary relief of symptoms rather than lasting change. People quickly adapt to improvements in circumstances and revert to their baseline level of happiness. This suggests happiness and well-being may be hard to improve in a lasting way.

  • However, Seligman and positive psychology research show that well-being can be lastingly increased using specific interventions. These include exercises like writing down three things that went well each day and why. Studies found this led to less depression and more happiness even 6 months later.

  • Seligman first tested positive psychology on himself and others close to him. He found the interventions had remarkable and lasting impacts. He then taught the techniques to therapists and found they helped even depressed clients, including a middle-aged woman who developed a more positive outlook.

  • Positive psychotherapy combines therapy techniques with positive psychology interventions tailored to clients. It aims to build positive resources and skills to decrease depression and increase flourishing. Studies found it more effective for relieving depression than treatment as usual or medication alone.

  • However, positive psychology faces obstacles from entrenched industry interests invested in the status quo. The drug and therapy industries prioritize temporary symptom relief over cure because it is more profitable. They lobby to influence funding and research priorities in their favor. Positive psychology threatens their model by offering an alternative focused on building positive resources and well-being.

  • Government funders also favor the medical model of symptom relief over alternative conceptions of well-being. More open-minded research is needed.

  • To move beyond 65% symptom relief, therapists need to teach coping skills for managing negative symptoms and emotions, and skills for cultivating well-being. Recognizing the limits of drugs and therapy is also needed.

  • Seligman’s early education in philosophy focused on theoretical “puzzles” rather than practical problems. He came to view this as misguided. Psychology was also dominated by theoretical work rather than a focus on relieving human suffering and cultivating well-being. Seligman moved to applied work aimed at these goals.

  • In summary, positive psychology interventions can build happiness and well-being in a lasting way. But overcoming obstacles from entrenched interests and misguided theoretical foci requires recognizing their limits, teaching coping skills, and cultivating the conditions for human flourishing.

  1. Martin Seligman believed psychology went astray by focusing only on theoretical analysis rather than practical application. He pursued applied research on topics like well-being, optimism, and resilience.

  2. A 1946 policy led top psychology departments to prefer theoretical researchers over applied researchers focused on real-world problems. This lacked grounding in practical needs, so theory was not properly constrained.

  3. Successful sciences integrate theory and practical application. Psychology lacked this integration, so its theoretical work was divorced from real-world relevance.

  4. Seligman created master’s programs in applied positive psychology to teach both theory and application. The programs were personally and professionally transformative by exposing students to rigorously researched interventions and skills for well-being.

  5. The Penn Resiliency Program (PRP) teaches well-being and coping skills to schoolchildren based on positive psychology. Studies show PRP significantly reduces and prevents depression, with effects lasting for years. PRP shows well-being education is feasible and beneficial.

  6. Movies and stories can powerfully convey lessons about meaning, purpose, and calling. Seligman and students bonded over movies exploring these themes.

  7. Seligman views positive psychology as a calling, not just a career. He aims to share this passion and perspective with students.

  8. Focusing on strengths and potentials, not just weaknesses and criticism, enables positive change. This is a key message students learned from the program.

  9. The MAPP program gave students knowledge and skills to pursue positive psychology as a career and improve their own well-being. It transformed both students’ personal lives and professional paths.

  10. Students applied lessons from the MAPP program to improve relationships, find life partners, host conferences, write books, and build thriving businesses or nonprofits.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key perspectives, arguments, interventions, and impacts discussed regarding Seligman’s work in positive psychology? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

• Mental speed and slowness are both important for achievement. Speed allows more of a task to become automated, freeing cognitive resources. But slowness is needed for creativity, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.

• Adele Diamond, a psychologist, helps impulsive kindergarteners slow down so they can develop executive function skills. Structured play helps children slow down in an enjoyable way.

• Mental acceleration refers to how fast you can gain new knowledge and automatize new parts of a task. Someone’s speed on a task can increase over time as their knowledge grows.

• Angela, a graduate student, was very fast mentally but lacked knowledge in her field of study. Although her speed allowed her to participate in conversations, her lack of knowledge led to poor reviews. Speed and knowledge must be balanced.

• Achievement depends on skill and effort. Skill includes both speed (automaticity) and knowledge (what you know). Effort includes both fast, impulsive thinking and slow, deliberate cognitive processes. The right balance of speed and slowness depends on the situation. But in general, more achievement comes from cultivating both speed and slowness.

• An ideal balance of speed and slowness depends on the task. Slowness allows for executive function, creativity, and strategic thinking. But speed frees up mental resources by automating basics.

• Psychology traditionally focuses on victimhood and determinism. Positive psychology focuses on agency, responsibility, and growth. Character and choice shape outcomes, not just environment.

• Success depends on character and grit as much as intellect or environment. Students won’t achieve without motivation and perseverance, no matter the school. Blaming environment alone encourages victimhood and excuses bad behavior.

• Environment vs. character is a debate on whether circumstances or individuals themselves most determine behavior and outcomes. Positive psychology and “positive education” believe both environment and character matter.

• In summary, the key concepts are balance of speed (automaticity) and slowness (thoughtful cognition); responsibility and agency; positive education; character; environment vs. character. Success comes from cultivating knowledge, skill, effort, character, and the right mindsets, not from environment or intellect alone.

• The rate at which people acquire new knowledge and skills is an important factor in achievement and success. Angela Duckworth developed and demonstrated this idea. She quickly became an expert in psychology, motivation, and success through deliberate effort and practice.

• Effort, measured as time spent on task, is essential for achievement and gaining expertise. Deliberate practice, or sustained focused effort over time, is key. World-class achievement usually requires about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

• Self-discipline determines how much time and effort one can put into achievement. Angela Duckworth found self-discipline to be a better predictor of grades than IQ. Girls tend to have more self-discipline, which contributes to their higher grades. Self-discipline also predicts less weight gain during puberty.

• Grit refers to extreme self-discipline and passion for long-term goals. It is rare but leads to extraordinary achievement. Duckworth proposed the idea of grit to capture this combination of persistence and passion.

• A growth mindset, the belief that abilities can be developed, promotes grit and achievement. A fixed mindset hinders them. Mindsets influence the effort and persistence one puts into achievement.

• Learning is a skill that requires effort and practice. Meta-learning means improving one’s learning process and ability. Grit and a growth mindset facilitate meta-learning.

• Parenting styles that cultivate self-discipline, grit, and a growth mindset in children foster higher achievement. Certain practices are more likely to develop these qualities.

The key ideas are that speed of learning, effort, self-discipline, grit, mindsets, meta-learning, and parenting influence achievement and success. Time spent practicing and gaining knowledge and skill drives achievement. Grit and growth mindset enable the required effort and persistence.

  • Unrealistic negative thoughts can interfere with performance but should be evaluated during less demanding times. The Army’s resilience program builds skills like re-interpreting negative thoughts.

  • Building optimism and mental toughness can help prevent trauma-related problems. Exercises like gratitude journaling enhance well-being.

  • Identifying character strengths and stories of using them to overcome challenges helps build resilience. For example, a nurse showed creativity by making a wound vacuum and a sergeant showed wisdom helping another soldier.

  • Building relationships is covered. The program teaches active constructive responding - responding supportively to good news, which builds closeness. Soldiers identify how to improve their typical response styles.

  • Effective praise specifies actions and skills, not just “good job”.

The program aims to strengthen sergeants and soldiers by teaching practical strategies for professional and personal challenges. Despite the military context, civilian examples were still relevant as many struggle with relationship issues during deployment too.

The course was tailored for the military, dividing it into building mental toughness (like reframing thoughts), building strengths (identifying top strengths and stories), and relationships (active constructive responding, effective praise).

Sergeants attended workshops then taught soldiers. The course provided tools to cope with stressful situations by building optimism, evaluating thoughts, using strengths, and fostering relationships.

The summary attempts to explain how positive psychology interventions can improve health and relationships. The key points are:

  1. Learned helplessness and optimism: Early research found that exposure to uncontrollable adverse events can lead to learned helplessness, reducing motivation and performance. Optimism, the belief in a positive future, acts as a buffer against helplessness and leads to better health outcomes. This shows psychological factors significantly impact health and well-being.

  2. Cardiovascular health: Multiple studies show optimists have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death compared to pessimists, even controlling for traditional risk factors. Pessimism seems harmful, while optimism is protective. The effects apply to both genders. However, an association with heart disease is not conclusively proven based on the information given.

  3. Infectious illness: Studies show positive emotion is linked to a lower risk of developing a common cold. The effect seems bidirectional, with high positive emotion reducing risk and low positive emotion increasing risk. The mechanism may be changes in immunity, as positive emotion is associated with lower inflammation. This demonstrates the impact of psychological factors on physical health.

  4. Health assets: The author argues that health is more than just illness absence. The presence of well-being, termed “positive health,” also predicts good health outcomes. Focusing on building health assets, not just reducing disease risks, can improve public health. This “turning medicine on its head” approach is what the author proposed to study for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  5. Relationships: The skills taught in the Master Resilience Training program, like assertive communication, can strengthen relationships and reduce family conflict in soldiers. By preventing issues like PTSD and depression, the program aims to improve the well-being of both soldiers and their families.

In summary, positive psychology interventions that cultivate optimism, positive emotion, health assets, and strong relationships have significant benefits for both physical and mental health. The evidence demonstrates their protective effects and ability to reduce health risks, supporting a proactive approach to well-being. The influence of psychological factors on health is bidirectional, with both costs of negative states and benefits of positive ones. Overall, positive health and well-being deserve greater priority in society and medicine.

The common cold and the flu are caused by viruses. The cold is caused by rhinoviruses while the flu is caused by influenza viruses. Both the cold and flu are contagious respiratory illnesses spread through coughs and sneezes.

Symptoms of a cold include:

•Runny or stuffy nose •Sore throat •Cough •Sneezing •Mild fatigue •Rarely fever

Flu symptoms are more severe and include:

•Fever or feeling feverish with chills •Cough and sore throat •Muscle or body aches •Headaches •Fatigue •Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)

The flu can lead to complications like pneumonia, bacterial infections, and hospitalization. The flu vaccine can prevent the flu while there is no vaccine for the common cold.

Treatment focuses on managing symptoms. For colds, this includes:

•Rest •Fluids •Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, decongestants, cough suppressants, throat lozenges, etc. •Saline nasal drops

For the flu, prescription antiviral drugs like Tamiflu can help reduce severity and length if taken within 48 hours of symptoms starting. Otherwise, the treatment is similar to colds.

To prevent colds and the flu:

•Get the annual flu vaccine •Wash your hands frequently •Disinfect commonly touched surfaces •Avoid close contact with people who are sick •Cover your coughs and sneezes •Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and manage your stress •Consider taking vitamin C, zinc, elderberry, and probiotics/prebiotics to boost your immunity

The cold and flu are usually relatively mild illnesses for most people. However, populations at higher risk of flu complications include young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions like heart and lung disease. See a doctor right away if your condition gets worse or last more than 10 days.

  • Policies should aim to improve well-being and quality of life, not just maximize GDP. Prosperity involves more than just wealth and income.

  • Subjective well-being refers to life satisfaction and positive experiences. Objective well-being refers to factors like health, education, safety, and environment. Policy should consider both.

  • There are debates around how to measure well-being and weigh objective versus subjective factors. But most experts agree well-being should influence policy.

  • The 2009 Stiglitz Report argued that GDP is too narrow a measure and policy should also consider happiness, life satisfaction, leisure time, and inequality. The OECD now measures well-being across 11 dimensions.

  • Critics argue that subjective well-being is hard to measure and should not determine policy. But well-being surveys can complement objective data and provide useful insights. Policy should aim for what really matters to people.

  • Promoting well-being has benefits like better health, productivity, education, and social cohesion. National accounts of well-being can guide better policymaking and help evaluate the impacts of policy changes.

  • There is no single measure of well-being. Multiple indicators are needed to capture its complexity. Policy should consider data on income, health, work-life balance, education, relationships, meaning, and life satisfaction.

  • In summary, while policy has traditionally focused on boosting GDP, there is a growing recognition that prosperity depends on more than just wealth. Well-being—including both objective and subjective factors—should be an aim of policy. By measuring well-being and using complementary indicators, policy can do more to actually improve people’s lives.

The key argument is that policy should aim to improve overall well-being and quality of life rather than just maximize GDP or income. A broad, multi-dimensional view of well-being that includes both objective and subjective components should guide policymaking. Measurements of well-being can help determine what really matters to people and evaluate the success of policies. Promoting well-being has many benefits, so it deserves a central role in policy.

• A study found that 61% of psychologists experience clinical depression during their careers. Treating distressed people daily may increase vulnerability to depression in therapists.

• Theories of well-being should include more than just happiness. Well-being has several measurable elements, though none define it completely.

• Meaning, relationships, and social interaction are crucial for well-being. Focusing only on happiness or material gain undermines long-term satisfaction.

• Interventions targeting relationships, meaning, and modifiable factors show promise for improving well-being. A scientific approach is needed to determine what works.

• Depression treatments typically suppress symptoms rather than curing the underlying condition. Their effects are often small, with remission rates around 20-55% and high recurrence risks.

• Antidepressants and therapy rarely lead to sustainable well-being. Positive psychotherapy aims to cultivate skills and strengths for lasting happiness.

• The failure of many treatments to cure or meaningfully boost well-being long-term does not mean clinicians are incompetent. But we must recognize their limits and consider alternative approaches that focus on strengths and skills, not just symptoms.

• Overall, the key findings are that existing depression treatments have limited effectiveness, do not usually cure or substantially improve well-being in a lasting way, and an alternative strength-based approach may be needed. The mental health field should focus more on developing interventions that cultivate sustainable well-being rather than just suppressing symptoms.

The summary outlines the major points and arguments discussed regarding the limited effectiveness of current depression treatments, the need to move beyond a symptom focus, and alternative approaches aimed at building skills and strengths for well-being. Please let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

  • Antidepressant medications were approved based on small differences from placebos of about 2 points on the Hamilton Depression Scale. Reviews found 82% of effects were due to placebos. In half of trials, there was no difference between placebo and drug. Effects were temporary and did not differ based on dosage.

  • Positive psychology focuses on strengths and flourishing rather than just symptoms. How people celebrate good events predicts relationship quality better than how they fight. Coping with feelings rather than eliminating them is an alternative approach.

  • Most personality traits are 50-60% heritable. Depression often stems from traits. Highly accomplished people like Lincoln and Churchill had depression. A statue of Churchill aimed to reduce stigma.

  • An example teacher gave an “A for ‘applied’” to value skills and growth over knowledge alone. Franklin proposed focusing on useful topics since time was short. The goal was learning “as practical and applied as possible.”

  • Rates of disorders like depression have risen, though happiness has not. Certain groups like the Amish have much lower rates. Positive emotions fuel well-being; negative ones deplete it.

  • Schools can teach well-being. “Positive education” teaches subjects engagingly and well-being skills. It improves satisfaction, optimism, self-esteem, relationships, behavior, achievement, and staff well-being. Benefits extend beyond scores.

  • Positive mood enhances coherence and broadens attention. Negative mood narrows it. The Penn Resiliency Program prevents depression/anxiety, reduces conduct problems, and works across groups. Geelong Grammar’s program improved character strengths, skills, and well-being.

  • Character went out of favor but is regaining interest. Moral reasoning/action differ. Character sanctions are less punitive. Programs build character. Character and situations interact; traits predispose views. Virtue ethics considers character cultivation through habit and practice.

  • The University of Chicago’s house system aimed to build character, leadership, responsibility, and community. Inspired by Wilson Lodge at Princeton.

  • PTSD, once “shell shock” and “combat fatigue,” was recognized in 1980. Criteria include trauma exposure, reexperiencing, avoidance, arousal. A case shows symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, detachment. High rates in Iraq veterans. Impacts health, work, adjustment. Some report post-traumatic growth: life appreciation, relationships, strength. It depends on optimism, support, meaning, processing. Interventions facilitate it. The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program builds strengths and meaning.

  • Most trauma survivors show resilience or recovery. After 9/11, initial Manhattan PTSD rate of 7.5% dropped to 0.6%. Rates in military and general populations are lower than thought. Studies of U.K. veterans found 4% for Iraq/Afghanistan versus 16-17% for U.S. Iraq/11% for Afghanistan. Differences suggest policy/healthcare/combat/fitness factors.

  • Civil War soldiers showed little PTSD. Often “irritable heart syndrome,” maybe capturing trauma effects. Under 10% know post-traumatic growth: trauma need not mean psychopathology.

  • Grief is normal; prolonged/exaggerated suggests disorder/depression. 15-20% are vulnerable to these, so more likely PTSD. Effects of substantial incentives for disorders like PTSD are unknown. Benefits provide a safety net but could prolong symptoms in some. Careful policy and diagnosis needed.

Here is a summary of the requested entries:

James A. Blumenthal - A cardiologist and health psychologist known for studying the effects of stress, depression, and optimism on cardiovascular health. His research has shown that optimism and social support can help mitigate the negative health effects of stress and depression. He has conducted several randomized trials demonstrating the benefits of stress management and exercise interventions for heart disease patients.

Lawrence Bobo - A sociologist known for studying racial attitudes, public opinion, and inequality. His research examines the complex and often contradictory racial attitudes held by Americans. He has studied how racial stereotypes and resentment persist in subtle forms and shape policy attitudes. His work provides insight into the roots of racial inequality and how to promote more egalitarian attitudes.

Elena Bodrova - An expert in child development and early education known for her work on self-regulation in children. With co-author Deborah Leong, she developed the Tools of the Mind curriculum focused on promoting executive function skills such as emotional control, working memory, and flexible thinking in young children. Her research shows that these skills are crucial for school readiness and life success.

Monique Boekaerts - An educational psychologist known for her work on self-regulated learning. Her research examines how students can develop knowledge, skills, and motivation to manage their own learning processes. She has studied the role of personal goals, motivations, attributions, and coping strategies on students’ ability to self-regulate their learning. Her work provides guidance for teaching students strategies to become lifelong learners.

Annika Bolte - A clinical psychologist known for studying the links between optimism, health behaviors, and physical health. Her research examines how optimism and other positive traits may influence health through biological mechanisms, health habits, coping strategies, and social relationships. For example, she has found links between optimism and lower inflammatory responses as well as healthier diets and exercise habits. Her work provides evidence for the benefits of cultivating positive psychological factors for health and well-being.

George Bonanno - A psychologist known for studying resilience, grief, and trauma. His research examines why some people are able to maintain stable psychological and physical functioning in the face of acute or chronic adversity. He has studied links between resilience, flexibility, optimism, social support, and health. His work provides guidance for interventions to build resilience and coping strategies in both children and adults facing loss, trauma, or other life stresses.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key information for each of the requested entries? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

F. W. Bond: Studied links between optimism and work success. E. Boring: Pioneering experimental psychologist. G. H. Bower: Cognitive psychologist who studied mood and memory. K. S. Bowers: Psychologist studying links between optimism and health. S. Bowles: Evolutionary anthropologist and economist. M. A. Boyd: Anthropologist studying altruism and cooperation. R. Boyd: Anthropologist studying evolution of cooperation. J. A. Boydstun: Political scientist studying opinion formation. P. Boyle: Psychologist studying links between optimism and health.

M. Brandman: Psychologist studying post-traumatic growth in cancer survivors. C. Branigan: Linguist studying indirect requests and politeness. D. M. Bravata: Physician studying optimism training in cardiac patients. P. Brickman: Pioneering psychologist and researcher on pleasure. T.W. Britt: Psychologist studying optimism and health in military personnel. N.A. Christakis: Physician studying spread of obesity through social networks. D. Clifton: Business consultant focused on strengths and leadership. L.M. Burrell: Psychologist studying effects of trauma on memory. J.E. Calvin: Pioneering psychologist studying motivation, drive, and homeostasis. J.E. Calvin Jr.: Physician and researcher in preventative cardiology. K. Cameron: Psychologist focused on positive organizational scholarship.
Byron Campbell: Sociologist studying social inequalities and poverty. T.M. Chaplin: Health psychologist studying optimism and health behaviors. D. Carpenter: Poet and author. P. Carroll: Cognitive scientist studying decision making and rationality. G.W. Casey: Neuroscientist studying self-regulation and resilience in children. C. Castellon: Psychologist studying post-traumatic stress in veterans. C. Castro: Anthropologist studying emotional expression across cultures.

  • Limit screen time and encourage unstructured play for children. This aids well-being, learning and development. Outdoor, social play is best.

  • Help youth set small, achievable goals and praise their effort and progress. Review goals regularly and help them stay accountable. This builds motivation and optimism.

  • Promote healthy habits in youth like good sleep, nutrition and exercise. These habits support physical and mental health. Learn together through fun activities.

  • Discuss ethics, values and meaning with youth. Answer their questions with care, concern and wisdom. Be a good role model through your own behavior and choices.

  • The benefits of teaching well-being and supporting youth flourishing are substantial for both individuals and society. The goal should be equipping youth with skills and habits to lead meaningful, purposeful and optimistic lives.

  • Martin Seligman pioneered the positive psychology movement, focusing on optimism, flourishing and well-being.

  • He began studying learned helplessness and depression, finding that we can learn to feel helpless in the face of adversity.

  • In the 1990s, Seligman shifted to studying the positive side of life. He founded positive psychology, examining human flourishing and optimal functioning.

  • Seligman developed the theories of authentic happiness and well-being. Authentic happiness involves positive emotion, engagement and meaning. Well-being involves positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment.

  • Seligman emphasized optimism, hope and virtues like courage, humanity, justice, temperance and wisdom. He created the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths.

  • Seligman applied positive psychology to education, therapy, organizations and the military. He helped develop the Master Resilience Training program for the U.S. Army.

  • Seligman wrote Authentic Happiness, Learned Optimism, Flourish and other influential books. He promoted living a virtuous, meaningful, purposeful life marked by authentic relationships.

  • Seligman won many major awards, including from the American Psychological Association. He was APA president in 1998.

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About Matheus Puppe