The World Taking It Outta You? A Seligman Study Shows How You Can Cheer up by Giving Back!

The world taking it outta you? Cheer up by Giving Back!

Posted Mar 26, 2010

Feeling stressed or depressed? Sometimes you gotta step outside yourself to remove yourself from your dark mood.

And that's not just my opinion - it's the researched view of positive psychology expert, Martin Seligman.

There are three paths to happiness, according to Seligman:

1. the pleasant life
2. the good life
3. the meaningful life

“The pleasant life” is basic moment-to-moment contentment—doing simple things like downing martinis or playing computer games. But eventually, you’ll get bored and want more.

“The good life” comes through “engagement”: spending time with friends and family or getting involved with a rewarding work project. This is a step-up on the happiness food chain.

But the biggest feelings of happiness come from leading “a meaningful life”— using personal strengths to serve some larger end.

In an experiment called “Philanthropy versus Fun,” Seligman divided up his psychology students so that one group engaged in pleasurable activities (going to the movies, eating yummy ice cream) and the other group did philanthropic activities (volunteering at a soup kitchen, reading to the blind).

Guess what? The happiness afterglow of the fun was nothing compared to the lasting happiness of doing altruistic acts.

Meaning? Doing good for others will make you feel good—and, according to Seligman, your highest level of feel-good.

My guess? Altruism raises your mood because it raises your self- esteem, which increases happiness. Plus giving to others gets you outside of yourself and distracts you from your problems.

Bounce Back Assignment:

Ask yourself: 

What loving deed can I do?

How can I help those in greater need?

What's an interesting, empowering charity where I can make an ongoing contribution?

NOTE: The above is an excerpt from my book THE BOUNCE BACK BOOK - which has a symbolic red rubber cover on the outside -- and inside all kinds of resiliency psychology tips - and was praised by Anthony Robbins! If you're feeling stressed and/or depressed, you can discover more resiliency psychology techniques, by clicking this line, right here, right NOW!

About the Author

Karen Salmansohn

Karen Salmansohn is an author and contributor to She also writes a popular business column for amNY newspaper called "The 1 Minute Career Therapist."

More Posts