Happiness, positive psychology and a new movie!

Happiness, positive psychology and a new movie!

The happiest people in the world, according to one theory, barely know they’re happy. They’re too busy. Their commitment to satisfying love and fulfilling work leaves no time for self-pity, regret, fears of the future or any other source of unhappiness.

That’s fine in theory but few of us can make it work consistently and many can’t manage it at all. What kind of human being achieves happiness, and why? These questions have lately been judged worthy of earnest debate in the therapy world and this season Mike Leigh, the British director of Secrets & Lies among other excellent films, takes up the subject in Happy-Go-Lucky. His main character, a schoolteacher named Poppy (Sally Hawkins), may be the happiest woman ever seen on film.

It’s been a decade or so since therapists began to seriously turn their minds in this direction. In 1998 Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, in his presidential address to the American Psychological Association, urged his colleagues to study why and how happiness exists. He argued that psychologists, having dealt for generations with damaged psyches, should look into the creation of the human strengths that help us offset misery.

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