Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E. P. Seligman

Flourish by Martin E.P. SeligmanLongtime psychologist Martin Seligman argues that there is more to mental health than the absence of mental illness. He is a proponent of a movement he calls “positive psychology,” which proposes a five-fold view of well-being
represented by the acronym PERMA: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. A rigorous scientist, Seligman packs his book with statistics and results from numerous experiments, showing that positive psychology really does make a difference in our life fulfillment.

For example, he makes the point that most of us have heard of PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder—but we need a better understanding of post-traumatic growth. Without a working knowledge of how to grow stronger through life’s adversity, we are apt to fear that every downturn in our mood is the beginning of depression or some other mental syndrome.

This book is the story of the positive psychology movement and how it is gaining ground in schools, universities, corporations, and the military. It is also filled with practical exercises for individuals to use, such as WWW: “What Went Well.” At the end of the day, think of three things that went well, and analyze how your personal strengths contributed to them going well. I tried this, and it really does help me to notice and build on the things in my life that are successful.

Seligman makes the point that some of the most accomplished people in history have had to struggle with depression and have come out stronger for it. Life is a balance. None of us are happy all the time, but well-being is more than happiness; it also encompasses growth, along with a positive sense of achievement and purpose in life. This book provides an excellent road map to point us in the right direction.

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