But what if we are already pretty happy? Does it serve a purpose to work to find ultra-happiness?
Many believe that success leads to happiness. This sends us on a mission to achieve more, be more, and do more in the name of happiness and living life to the fullest.
If I can only have this job, make this much money, and live in this house, then I’ll finally be satisfied with my life.
Research has shown that satisfaction with life is a major indicator of success, or in other words, happier people tend to be more successful in certain life domains. Though on closer observation, very high levels of satisfaction can actually limit the achievement of our full potential in certain domains.
If I’m satisfied with the life I have, what’s the point of striving for more?
Mental health has long been defined as the absence of psychopathologies, such as depression and anxiety. However, the absence of mental illness is only a minimal outcome from the perspective of positive psychology.
The absence of mental illness does not necessarily constitute complete mental health. Someone may not have a mental illness but they may not be satisfied with their life or striving to reach their potential. They may be surviving, but not thriving.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Within this definition there is an emphasis on the idea of living optimally and gainfully, which relates to a term applied to complete mental health called flourishing.
Exercise and physical activity has been shown to have great psychological benefits, and most likely this is nothing new to you.
However, due to a busy life and natural changes in our physical ability we may not find time or feel too exhausted to engage in a strenuous workout.
A simple solution is to go for a brisk walk. Walking is pleasurable for most people, it isn’t excessively demanding, and it’s a form of exercise that can be engaged in often and without guidance.
Walking won’t necessarily offer the same extent of physical benefits related to strength, but nonetheless, be open to the psychological benefits of walking.
I have incorporated this valuable activity into my life ever since getting a dog. When the weather permits, I enjoy waking up to the sun rising and going for a walk. I really try to admire the smell of morning dew, the sound of trees rustling and birds chirping, and watching for wildlife along the way.
In other words, they consistently feel good and do good.
Some people just seem to be full of energy, positivity and have optimal mental health.
So, what leads someone to flourish and thrive mentally, emotionally and physically? Is there something fundamentally different about them?
According to recent research by Barbara Fredrickson, “flourishers” displayed more positive emotional reactivity to pleasant events compared to non-flourishers or depressed individuals.
Fredrickson is known for the broaden-and-build theory, which posits that “recurrent experiences with positive emotions ultimately “build” a variety of beneficial personal resources.”
The myth of the mad-genius is prevalent in movies, books, and popular culture and has been a belief that goes back as far as Aristotle.
Is there really any truth to this notion? Is there a significant relationship between creativity and mental illness?
Research reveals that the rates of psychological disorder in samples of highly creative people are somewhat higher than in the general population.
There are certainly many notable creative figures who suffered from some form of mental instability.
Abraham Lincoln has been reported to suffer from depression
Vincent Van Gogh was known to be peculiar and suffer from unstable moods.