Category Archives: psychology

Flourish by Martin Seligman: book summary
Flourish, the new book by Martin Seligman (full title: “Flourish – A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being“) starts with a big committment: “This book will help you flourish.” And ends (spoiler!) with a challenging goal, PERMA 51: the commitment to facilitate flourishing in 51% of the people of the world by year 2051. In between, you get an inspiring overview of what Positive Psychology has accomplished, and how.

Flourish is Martin Seligman’s first book in ten years. Previously, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, initiated by Dr. Martin Seligman fifteen years ago, is about raising the bar for the human condition. In Flourish, Martin Seligman refines the scope of Positive Psychology: happiness alone doesn’t give life meaning. In this book, well-being takes the leading role, and Happiness is described as one of the five pillars of Positive Psychology.

In Flourish, Martin Seligman addresses what enables us to cultivate talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world. In a word, what allows us to flourish, which he summarizes it with PERMA:
Positive Emotion

According to Martin Seligman’s research, these are the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment.

Flourish builds on his previous publications which include:
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-0752-7 (Paperback reprint edition, W.H. Freeman, 1992, ISBN 0-7167-2328-X)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (1991). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-671-01911-2 (Paperback reprint edition, Penguin Books, 1998; reissue edition, Free Press, 1998)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (1993). What You Can Change and What You Can’t: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-41024-4 (Paperback reprint edition, Ballantine Books, 1995, ISBN 0-449-90971-9)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (1996). The Optimistic Child: Proven Program to Safeguard Children from Depression & Build Lifelong Resilience. New York: Houghton Mifflin. (Paperback edition, Harper Paperbacks, 1996, ISBN 0-06-097709-4)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-2297-0 (Paperback edition, Free Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7432-2298-9)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). ‘”Can Happiness be Taught?”. Daedalus, Spring 2004.
* Peterson, Christopher, & Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 987-0-19-516701-6
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-1-4391-9075-3

Flourish by Martin Seligman: book reviews
“It would be unfair not to praise some of the good work Seligman highlights in Flourish. He draws attention to poor evidence for the benefits of psychiatric drugs and also suggests some behavioural changes and strategies that, if used wisely, can be very helpful, such as learning to respond more actively and constructively to what friends, family and colleagues say”.
Julian Baggini on The Financial Times

His writing reflects his brilliance in clear and understandable terms. Martin Seligman continues to have a powerful, positive effect on individuals and societies, and I believe that Flourish will have a powerful, positive effect on you.
Christine Duvivier on

Flourish by Martin Seligman: praise
“Brilliant, beautiful, useful, and true. How many books can you say that about? Well, you can say it for sure about Flourish. Written by a master of research as well as a thoroughly joyful man, Flourish will allow you to flourish if you simply read the book and follow its sane, sage, ground-breaking advice”.
— Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of Shine: Using Brain Science to Bring the Best from Your People

“If you liked Authentic Happiness, you will like Flourish ten times more. This book is bound to be not only a source of knowledge, but a fount of inspiration.”
— Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want

“A compelling view of a positive human future, for individuals, corporations, and nations, brilliantly told.”
— Tony Hsieh, author of Delivering Happiness

More praise for Flourish by Martin Seligman can be found on:

Flourish by Martin Seligman: book reviews
In his new book, he sets out to expand the concepts outlined in his 2002 book Authentic Happiness. The earlier book described happiness as a combination of positive emotions, “flow,” and meaning. In his new book, Seligman adds two more elements he considers critical: accomplishment and personal relationships. Together, these elements add up to well-being. Mix in some some self-esteem, resilience, and optimism, and you get flourishing.
— Dennis Whittle,

More book reviews for Flourish by Martin Seligman can be found on:

Flourish by Martin Seligman: book covers and Martin Seligman pictures

Flourish: interview with Martin Seligman
Maia Szalavitz: You are one of the founders of “positive psychology” and yet you say in your new book that focusing solely on the positive emotion of happiness as a foundation for a good life isn’t enough. What do you mean?

Martin Seligman: Happiness or subjective well-being is just one of the ends we want in life. We asked the question, “What else do we choose to do, what else north of indifference is there, for people who are free, that they might do for its own sake?”

I argue that happiness is only one of five [free motivations]: we also do things for meaning and purpose, even if that brings no happiness. I’ve met people who said that Mother Teresa was a miserable cuss — she did her work even if it brought no smiles and satisfaction.

Another [motivation] is engagement — that’s the [experience] of being totally engaged in what you’re doing, which blocks out all other feeling and thinking. We also want relationships, even if they bring none of the other experiences. And, finally kicking and screaming, I got dragged into [accepting that the last one] is winning or accomplishment.

[We abbreviate it as PERMA.] P is positive emotion, E is engagement, R is relationships, M is meaning and A is accomplishment. Those are the five elements of what free people chose to do. Pretty much everything else is in service of one of or more of these goals. That’s the human dashboard.

Maia Szalavitz: So what can we do to get more PERMA?

Martin Seligman: If you have people recognize the catastrophic thoughts that [arise] when they encounter a situation they don’t like, and [give them ways to] realistically argue against them, you can systematically move pessimism into optimism. With long-term follow-up, we see that doing so prevents depression.

It’s very much like cognitive therapy. I think the mechanism of action seems to be changing hopelessness into hope, teaching people to recognize their most catastrophic thoughts and realistically argue against them.

If you have people every night write down three things that went well that day [and examine why], six months later people have [more happiness and less depression].

On the relationship side, if you teach people to respond actively and constructively when someone they care about has a victory, it increases love and friendship and decreases the probability of depression.

If your spouse comes home and she has been promoted, it’s a bad idea to say, “You know what tax bracket that will put us into?” as opposed to, “Let’s relive it! What did your boss say and why do you think you got the promotion?”

There are now about 12 to 18 exercises in the PERMA literature that are documented to increase [flourishing]. It’s important that you actually do these exercises, [rather than just think about doing them]. Some of the exercises are cognitive, like thinking about three things that went well today. Others are more about doing, things like actually making a “gratitude visit” [seeking out and thanking people for what they’ve done in your life] or being active and constructive with people you love. It’s not just head stuff, it’s also action.

You can read Martin Seligman’s Flourish interview with Maia Szalavitz on:

Flourish by Martin Seligman: videos
Martin Seligman on Flourishing, Public Policy and the Army

Audiobook: Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin

This is an abstract from the book: A course in happiness, meaning, motivation, and well-being

Eudaimonia is a classical Greek word, commonly translated as happiness. Consisting of the word “eu” (“good” or “well being”) and “daimōn” (“spirit”, used by extension one’s fortune), it often refers to human flourishing. It was a central concept in ancient Greek ethics, along with the term “arete” (virtue) and “phronesis” (practical or moral wisdom). Webster dictionary defines happiness as “A) state of well-being and contentment, joy. B) a pleasurable or satisfying experience”.
These definitions show that the different aspects of happiness are given different importance by different people; the meaning of happiness in the ears of the listener. For some, it is an inflated term plastered on self-help books; for others, a way of living achieved by living in harmony with ourselves, events, conditions, people and environment around us.

Subjective well-being is not the same as happiness, even if such terms are often used as synonymous. Subjective well-being, as defined by Ed Diener, covers “a broad category of phenomena that includes people’s emotional responses, domain satisfactions, and global judgements of life satisfaction. Subjective well-being consists of two distinctive components: an affective part (evaluation guided by emotions and feeling), which refers to both the presence of positive affect (PA) and the absence of negative affect (NA), and a cognitive part (information-based appraisal of one’s life, evaluated using expectations and “ideal life” as benchmark). It is commonly abbreviated as SWB.

The usage of the term “subjective well-being”, or even the term “joy”, is much less widespread then the one “happiness”. While we use happiness in the title of this Book because that is what people search for and it is widely mentioned in the field of positive psychology, a suitable way to rephrase it is, in our opinion, “living joyfully” (when referred to the ordinary meaning of the word), and to use the already mentioned “subjective well-being” which is the accepted standard when it comes to scientific research.

Measuring subjective well-being
There are several ways to measure SWB , both on a collective and individual basis. Often, countries are ranked by their happiness, and cities by how liveable they are. One ranking system is based on how well nations combine level and differences in happiness, for the period 2000-2009, as reported by Veenhoven, R., World Database of Happiness, Erasmus University Rotterdam (available at: accessed on July 7th, 2010).

This ranks the most liveable cities in the World, as reported by Economist Intelligent Survey (available on: accessed on July 7th, 2010).

Caring about others faciliates our happiness: this is a way we can summarize a working paper published on by researchers Lara B. Aknin, Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh, Elizabeth W. Dunn, John F. Helliwell, Robert Biswas-Diener, Imelda Kemeza, Paul Nyende, Claire Ashton-James, Michael I. Norton

From the abstract: this research provides the first support for a possible psychological universal: human beings around the world derive emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others (prosocial spending). Analyzing survey data from 136 countries, we show that prosocial spending is consistently associated with greater happiness. To test for causality, we conduct experiments within two very different countries (Canada and Uganda) and show that spending money on others has a consistent, causal impact on happiness. In contrast to traditional economic thought—which places self-interest as the guiding principle of human motivation—our findings suggest that the reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts.

These kind of researchers are very beneficial in terms of being more aware. What about a research concerning how dedicating time to people facilitates our happiness as well?