Martin Seligman Founder of Positive Psychology
Seligman speaks about Three Kinds of Happiness.
The Pleasant Life: This is the life of pleasure. Good food, lots of friends, comfort and luxury. The problem with the pleasant life is that it “habituates” In other words for example, the first dish of ice cream is wonderful, by the fourth or fifth the pleasure wears off.
The Engaged Life: This is the life of flow. Seligman speaks of the “three arenas of life: work, play and love.
The engaged life is a life where we are fully absorbed in what we are doing. We are using our highest strengths on a regular basis. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has done a lot of work in this area and has identified factors that occur when we are in a state of flow.
Meaningful Life: This is a life where we are not only using our highest strengths. But we are also using them in a way that is in service of something bigger than ourselves; a goal that has intrinsic value beyond our own needs.
He goes on to say that the full life is one in which all three types of happiness exist. He also says we can increase our pleasant life. But if we do not also increase our Engagement the pleasantness will be fleeting. If we increase the level of Engagement and Meaningfulness in our lives then increasing the pleasant aspects of our lives will increase our overall happiness or sense of well being.