202 Future Happiness

Based on research by Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005) written by Mara Rowcliffe, MS.

Happy people are healthier, more successful, and more socially engaged. Can we increase our happiness for the long haul?

Psychologist Martin Seligman investigated activities that increase happiness immediately, and determining which also last longer term, at least for 6 months. Online, over 500 adults completed one of five exercises daily over one week.  Over six months they periodically measured their depression and happiness.

Two exercises—using their primary strengths of character in a new and different way each day, and writing down three good things that occurred each day and then identifying their causes —increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms that sustained for the entire six months. In another exercise, participants wrote a letter of gratitude and then delivered it in person to someone who had been particularly kind to them but whom they had never really thanked. This exercise caused large positive changes but the happiness did not last.

To achieve a lasting boost in happiness, either daily for one week, write down three things that went well and identify why, or think about your top five character strengths and daily use one of them differently. Why not try both?


Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. American psychologist, 60(5), 410.

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