Happiness and Appreciation

Happiness and Appreciation

In a recent edition of “Coaching for Happiness” Ben Dean, a colleague of Martin Seligman, defines the core strength of appreciation of beauty and excellence. In doing so he refers to Peterson and Seligman’s (2003) text and the following definition – “the ability to find, recognize, and take pleasure in the existence of goodness in the physical and social worlds” (p. 537).

He notes that Peterson and Seligman further specify that individuals benefit from appreciating three main types of “goodness”:

– 1. Physical or auditory beauty (e.g., the beach at sunset, Beethoven’s Fifth)

– 2. Skill or talent (e.g., a perfect dive)

– 3. Virtue or moral goodness (e.g., an anonymous good deed)

Awe is the emotion that most frequently accompanies this strength. Its behavioral manifestations include wide eyes, open mouth, goose bumps, tears, or even a lump in the throat.

When we exercise this strength, we feel uplifted. Viewing an artistic masterpiece or reading about a heroic, selfless act in the newspaper does not make us feel small in comparison. Rather, it instills within us a sense of awe and connection to something larger than ourselves. Appreciation of beauty and excellence is a virtue of transcendence.

Did you know that if you practice using this strength you can improve it and as a result, experience more awe, more happiness? Try it!