Brain Pickings

Flourish: The Father of Positive Psychology Redefines Well-Being


Back in the day, I had the pleasure of studying in a department graced by Dr. Martin Seligman, father of the thriving positive psychology movement — a potent antidote to the traditional “disease model” of psychology, which focuses on how to relieve suffering rather than how to amplify well-being. His seminal book, Authentic Happiness, was among the 7 essential books on the art and science of happiness, and today marks the release of his highly anticipated follow-up. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (public library) is rather radical departure from Seligman’s prior conception of happiness, which he now frames as overly simplistic and inferior to the higher ideal of lasting well-being.

Flourish is definitely not a self-help book, though it does offer insightful techniques to optimize yourself, your relationships and your business for well-being. If anything, it can read a bit wonky at times, as Seligman delves into fascinating empirical evidence culled from years of rigorous research. But I find this remarkably refreshing and stimulating amidst the sea of dumbed down psycho-fluff.

Relieving the states that make life miserable… has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. The time has finally arrived for a science that seeks to understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and provide guideposts for finding what Aristotle called the ‘good life.'” ~ Martin Seligman

Seligman identifies five endeavors crucial to human flourishing — positive emotion, engagement, good relationships, meaning and purpose in life, and accomplishment, cumulatively called PERMA — and examines each in detail, ultimately proposing that public policy have flourishing as its central goal.

The content itself — happiness, flow, meaning, love, gratitude, accomplishment, growth, better relationships — constitutes human flourishing. Learning that you can have more of these things is life changing. Glimpsing the vision of a flourishing human future is life changing.” ~ Martin Seligman

Seligman’s work over the years has taken him inside the brains of British lords, Australian school kids, billionaire philanthropists, Army generals, artists, educators, scientists and countless more of humanity’s most interesting and inspired specimens. The insights gleaned from these clinical cases are both sage and surprising, inviting you to look at the pillars of your own happiness with new eyes.

Though more closely related to his older work, this excellent 2004 TED talk is still a fantastic primer for the broader umbrella concept of positive psychology and thus very much representative of the fundamental thinking in Flourish.

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LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy on the Future of Taste


Iconic musician, producer, DJ and DFA Records founder James Murphy is perhaps best-known as the frontman of hipster darling LCD Soundsystem. Earlier this year, he broke many a fan’s hearts when he announced his retirement, and last weekend he made his dramatic exit with LCD Soundsystem’s final epic performance in Madison Square Garden, an event most eloquently described by Jeremy Larson as “an exploration [of] how one band compiled every good sound from every band that came before them and turned it into a four hour sound orgasm.”

To commemorate Murphy’s retirement, our friends from m ss ng p eces — the same folks who brought us that priceless behind-the-scenes look at TED earlier this year and last week’s superb Michael Wolff documentary — dusted off their archives, dug out a 30-minute interview they shot with Murphy in 2006, and edited it down to 9 insightful minutes of his thoughts on the future of taste, music discovery and the challenge of reconciling creative merit with technology.

What’s going to be missing is the unconscious peer pressure that guides people into different forms of taste. What it’s gonna be replaced by is lifestyle marketing and taste engines, which scares the crap out of me.” ~ James Murphy

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One Day Without Shoes: Going Barefoot for Children


We’re longtime supporters of TOMS Shoes, the wonderful buy-one-give-one social enterprise donating a pair of their signature lightweight alpargata shoes to a child in need for every pair sold. Today, more than any other day, we’re reminded of just why we love them so: Today is TOMS’ annual One Day Without Shoes — an inspired effort to raise awareness about the millions of children worldwide who must walk barefoot for miles every day as they go to school and trek across dirt roads for clean drinking water.

Over 100,000 people will go barefoot today, and they’re doing it to raise awareness about the millions of people who don’t have a choice.”

We’re partaking:

Are you?

And, when you’re done tomorrow, consider snagging some of TOMS’ snazzy shoes to automatically get yourself a mini-me footwear twin in a child somewhere on the other side of the globe. There’s no app for that!

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Ball of Light: How Light Painting Saved a Man’s Life


We love a good creativity-saves-lives story, and it hardly gets any better than Australian photographer Denis Smith‘s: Two years ago, Smith was suffering from depression, cracking under the pressure of a demanding job, struggling with money, and living on the verge of alcoholism. One day, he discovered photography and light painting, and eventually developed his unique, otherworldly “ball of light” style, the product of a remarkably simple — and absolutely brilliant in its simplicity — technique.

It all takes place at night. I can’t tell you exactly how I find them, and I’m still not exactly sure what they mean. But what I do know is that taking these photographs has changed my life.” ~ Denis Smith

In this microdocumentary by photographer Sam Collins, Smith shares his fascinating life story and his unusual creative process:

With normal photography, the shutter opens and closes in a photograph, and you get a snapshot of what’s there in front of the camera. And with light painting, what you do is the shutter stays open for a long period of time, so when it’s a dark environment, it brings more light in, and if you move a light around in front of the camera, it stays embedded in the picture.”

Smith’s art embodies the saving grace that is creative restlessness, and his life experience is a living testament to its duality — the same restlessness that may drive us to addiction and depression can also drive us to invent, to innovate, to create. The challenge, of course, is choosing the creative over the destructive edge, and resting in it.

via PetaPixel via @kirstinbutler

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