Happiness Is An Inside Job | KCUR

Happiness Is An Inside Job

Apr 9, 2012

What’s the key to happiness? Is it money? Status? Your own lake house with jet skis?

On Monday's Central Standard we speak with KU Professor of Family Medicine Dr. Bruce Liese about how to achieve happiness, and the pitfalls along the way.



What is happiness and where does it come from?

  • A person's core identity determines what makes them happy
  • Wikipedia describes happiness as a "fuzzy concept" that can mean different things to different people
  • Happiness is broadly defined as a mental state of well-being
  • It may be experienced as fulfillment, satisfaction, joy, jubilation, elation, etc.

Why is happiness important?

  • Because it's the goal of most people's lives ("Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" from the Declaration of Independence)
  • Most people don't understand how to sustain happiness
  • Most people don't understand that, generally, they create their own misery and happiness
  • The pursuit of happiness can result in good and bad outcomes
  • The pursuit of "happiness imposters" (illusions) can cause significant problems

What are the "happiness imposters" (i.e., illusions that pose as happiness)?

  • Money
  • Possessions
  • Power
  • Achievement
  • Immediate gratification

Positive Psychology ...

  • Focuses on positive emotions like happiness
  • Roots are in humanistic psychology
  • Martin Seligman is the father of modern positive psychology
  • Edward Diener has dedicated his career to studying happiness
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has advanced the science of happiness by highlighting the concept of "flow"

What is "flow" and how does it relate to happiness?

  • Absorption in a satisfying activity
  • Total and complete engagement
  • Immersion in the journey as well as the destination
  • When time flies by

Do wealth, youth, or intelligence make us happy?

  • After basic needs are met, money does little to raise sense of satisfaction with life
  • Intelligence is not correlated with happiness
  • Older people are generally happier than younger people

How is happiness achieved? Martin Seligman suggests the acronym PERMA:

  • Pleasure (sensations of taste, feel (tactile), smell, sound)
  • Engagement (flow; being absorbed in an activity)
  • Relationships (social ties)
  • Meaning (being a part of something "bigger")
  • Accomplishment – achieving goals