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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The science of well-being revisited, 2 May 2011
This review is from: Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being - and How To Achieve Them (Paperback)
Positive psychology has come to be defined as "the scientific study of what enables individuals and communities to thrive". "Flourish" explores this concept of thriving. The last 15 years, Martin Seligman has been one of the major driving forces behind positive psychology. He has authored influential bestsellers such as Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (1991) and Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment (2002). Now, again about a decade later, Seligman writes a new account of what he has been teaching and telling on conferences lately. He does so in a somewhat peculiar mix: a) a manifesto for a broad science of well-being, b) accounts of positive psychology research and practice, interlaced with c) a backstage history of positive psychology.

a) First of all, "Flourish" is a manifesto for a science of well-being. Seligman departs from his earlier "Authentic Happiness" concept and posits the broader topic of "well-being". "Authentic happiness" comprised three components: 1. positive emotion (feeling good), 2. engagement (flow) and 3. meaning. Seligman now adds two more components of well-being: 4. positive relationships and 5. accomplishment. To my humble opinion, the addition of 4. positive relationships is long overdue, whereas the addition of 5. accomplishment may turn out to be controversial.

b) Next, this book gives several examples of well-being research. Don't expect yet another pop self-help peptalk of "happiness in 5 easy steps". In a sound academic style, Seligman describes research on positive psychology exercises, post-traumatic growth, links between psychological well-being and health, and promising future research on well-being. Seligman also offers the reader a short peek into existing well-being (teaching) programs such as positive psychotherapy, MAPP (training Masters in Positive Psychology), Penn Resiliency Program (in schools), Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (in the U.S. Army), ...

c) Last (but not least), Seligman describes the history of Positive Psychology, the backstage academic and political bickering, the impact on science, media and politics. Seligman does not eschew stressing his own importance in this, balancing it with a self-depreciating humor (although it remains doubtful whether all readers really want to know about his diarrhea ensuing his watermelon diet).

These three thematic threads are intertwined in this book totaling 349 pages (First U.S. hardcover edition April 2011). Don't be misguided by the lack of notes in the main text: in the back, this book does contain 49 pages of extensive, page-per page notes where you can check many of the quoted scientific studies. A topic and name index of 28 pages is also included.

The book is definitely a U.S. product and may not always resonate with people from non-Anglo-Saxon cultures. This may be one of the major challenges in reaching the commendable and ambitious mission articulated at the end of this book: "By the year 2051, 51 percent of the people of the world will be flourishing."

I found "Flourish" a fascinating read that has held me captivated for three days straight.
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