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Authentic Happiness Martin Seligman Book Summary

Updated: Feb 7, 2021

One hundred and eighty nuns were entered into a study about longevity. They all had pretty much a similar background. They all had the same lifestyle, the same economic class, and the same social class. This study focused on which one of the nuns uses more positive words and experiences more positive emotions. This is what they found out. The nuns who expressed words relating to good and positive feelings lived longer. In this book, Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman talks about many studies that confirm happier people not only have better health and live longer, they also tend to be more productive. Positive emotions aren't just good for us, but they also make us better human beings. When we are happy, we want to engage more with others and lift them up. But on the other side, it's when we are down that we become more self-focused and selfish. This book mainly deals with happiness and how we can increase the level of happiness in our lives. But in order to increase our happiness, first, we need to understand what are the main components of happiness. Based on the book, Happiness results from three main factors which are given in the following equation: H = S + C + V.

Set range:

This is the range mainly determined by your biology, and your happiness will be normally within this range. We all tend to have an inherited range of happiness, along with which we can move. This study shows that if you take a happiness test, almost half of the scores you get on the test are the same as the scores your biological parents would have gotten if they had taken the test. There is not that much you can do here, but the book suggests that you can increase the range if you push yourself to be a little bit more social despite your genetic tendencies. People who have a low range of happiness tend to avoid social interactions, but happy people are very social and there is some reason to think that their happiness is caused by lots of socializing.


These are the circumstances that affect your happiness, some conditions like having money, being married, or being healthy contribute to happiness.

Studies show that there is a direct correlation between how much money you make and how satisfied you are in life, but the correlation disappears once the income exceeds a threshold and more money doesn't bring more happiness anymore.

Married people are usually happier unless their marriage is really bad. Studies show that most happy people are involved in a romantic relationship. Some people can argue this by saying that happier people are more likely to have a romantic relationship. On health, surprisingly, objective health has little impact on happiness. It's how healthy we feel we are that has a major impact. This has less to do with our actual health and more with our ability to see our health positively.

Religious people are usually happier and more satisfied with life. On average, the more fundamental the religion one has, the happier he is. This is maybe because religion provides hope and meaning in life.

But things like, education, climate, race, and gender have no impact on happiness. Climate might give you a quick boost, but it quickly goes away.

Voluntary control:

This is what you can control and the things you can do to get your happiness to the upper part of your set range. But how can we do this? To answer the question, this book divides happiness and positive emotions into three categories. Past, future, and present. Positive emotions about the past are like satisfaction and pride, about the future are like optimism, faith, and hope, and about the present are like joy, calm, and flow. To be happy about your past, you need to first let go of the false belief that your past controls your present and future. Second, think more about the good things that happen to you in the past. And third, learn how to forgive past mistakes. To be happier about the future, you need to change the way you interpret things in order to become more optimistic and hopeful. To be happy about the present, you need to first understand the difference between pleasure and gratification. Pleasures are usually momentary that comes through the senses like sexual feelings, tasty foods, or good music. Gratifications are not necessarily feelings and last longer than the pleasures, it comes from the flow state by doing activities that engage us and that we really like to do.

This clarifies what Seligman means by authentic happiness. He says we should not rely on shortcuts like watching TV, having sex, or buying things to feel happy. He sees that positive emotions without the exercise of the character lead to emptiness and depression. We want to feel like we deserve our positive feelings. That's why he says that authentic happiness comes from cultivating our most fundamental strengths, which he calls signature strength, and then using them every day in our lives.

This was an excellent book, and I really enjoyed reading it, and I recommend it to anyone interested in psychology and happiness. I hope you learned something from this video and if you did, support the work by liking the video and subscribe for more book summaries in the future. Subscribe and tune in. See you in the next video.

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