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The Science Behind Happiness

Up until the last decade psychology has focused on the diagnosis of mental illness, empirically proven  interventions that decrease symptoms, and medications that improve daily functioning. Thanks to this research there is hope for people suffering from a multitude of symptoms such as anxiety and depression.  Some people, including myself, believe that looking at the causes of mental illness is only part of the picture.  Martin Seligman, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent the last decade studying psychology from the opposite end of the spectrum.  Instead of looking to what causes depression he and his collegues have been researching what increases life satisfaction and makes people happy.  I recently stumbled across an acroynm, S.O.A.P., that draws on this research and represents  four keys that unlock happiness.

Social Connections – people who have close friends, friendly neighbors, and supportive co-workers are less likely to experience sadness,  lonliness, low self-esteem, and problems with eating and sleeping.

Optimistic Style – people with an optimistic style tend to believe that when bad things happen they are under their influence, that they have good and resourceful qualities, and that their struggle is time and context limited.

Appreciation – People who have appreciation or gratitude for people and things in their life tend to score higher in life satisfaction and happiness.

Purpose and Meaning – One of the best predictors of happiness is when individuals feel their life has purpose, they are making a contribution, and they find meaning in suffering.

So if you would like to increase the amount of happiness and life satisfaction you experience, remember to cultivate relationships, develop an optimistic outlook, practice daily gratitude and find the meaning or purpose in your life.