The terminology of happiness and positive psychology

Happiness. The English language lacks words for describing two entirely different states of happiness. FPsychologists call the transient, short-term happiness that brings a smile to your face “Hedonic happiness.” Long-term contentment and satisfaction with life is another thing entirely; Aristotle called it Eudaimonic happiness. Ironically, these two happinesses are not directly related; lots of smiles does not guarantee long-term wel-being. To thrive, you need both. This is sometimes called Flourishing.

  • Happiness = Hedonic pleasure, an emotion

    • pleasure (Seligman)
    • pleasure (fleeting) and passion (flow) (Hseih)
    • having frequent positive feelings as well as having infrequent and less intense negative feelings (Gaffney)
  • Eudaimonia = Living well, psychological well being
    • Eudaimonia is Greek for ”human flourishing.”
    • doing well and living well (Aristotle)
    • reflective psychological well-being characterized by virtue and reason.
    • the joy we feel striving after our potential (Achor)
    • a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind…not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being (Matthieu)

Thriving. Our term for flourishing at work.

Beneficial behaviors of people flourishing:

higher morale, lower turnover, spend more time in flow (the zone) fully immersed in work, intrinsically motivated, healthier — fewer sick days, better with customers, increased sales, more resilient to stress, perform better in leadership positions, receive higher performance ratings, energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, less likely to be depressed or anxious, more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, experience fewer headaches, stay more engaged in the face of difficulty, rise above obstacles more easily, better at their jobs, report more job satisfaction, experience positive emotions such as joy, interest and pride, greater likelihood of working actively toward new goals, more likely to succeed, more likely to recommend their organization to others, spend double the time at work focused on what they are paid to do, feel better about themselves, and enjoy life.

Blips is Internet Time Lab’s mobile app that captures an individual’s self-report of thriving and displays it on the web in aggregate form.

Positive emotions: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. They reinforce one another. More is better.

Subjective well-being: Ed Diener’s term for judging life positively and feeling good. A person has high SWB if she or he experiences life satisfaction and frequent joy. Diener chose it because studying happiness sounded frivolous.

Hedonic adaptation. Habituation. After a while, anything seems ordinary. Also known as the Hedonic treadmill.

Explanatory style: how we explain the nature of past events. People with an optimistic explanatory style interpret adversity as being local and temporary while those with a pessimistic explanatory style see those events as more global and permanent.

Losada line: 2.9013 = the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful. This means it takes about three positive comments to find off one negative one.

The Pygmalion Effect: when our belief in another person’s potential brings that potential to life.


  • opposite of mindlessness
  • result of meditation.
  • paying attentional in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally (Kabat-Zinn)
  • “keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

VIA Signature Strengths = character strengths: talents you enjoy using, things you’re good and feel good using. Generally, the skills you’re using when you enter Flow. Find them and assess yours at Authentic Happiness.

What have I missed or misinterpreted?


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