This article was originally published on Nov. 11, 2016.
When we think of happiness, we typically think of things that bring us immediate pleasure -- a decadent meal, a favorite book or a relaxing day on the beach. These pleasures do bring happiness, but only temporarily. Recent studies have shown that true happiness, or life satisfaction, works a bit differently.
In one study, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman categorized hundreds of people into three groups based on how they pursued happiness:
The Pleasant Life: People in pursuit of the Pleasant Life seek happiness by looking for pleasure. They are good at savoring the moment and making their pleasures last. These people are often described as "thrill-seekers."
The Engaged Life: People in pursuit of the Engaged Life seek happiness by working hard at their passions. They immerse themselves so deeply in these that they sometimes come across as cold and uncaring; but for them, time seems to melt away as they experience a state of total engagement.
The Meaningful Life: People in pursuit of the Meaningful Life use their strengths to work toward something they believe contributes to a greater good. This greater good motivates them deeply.
Seligman found that people who pursued the Pleasant Life experienced little happiness, while those who pursued the Meaningful Life and the Engaged Life were very happy.
While Seligman's research is just a single study, it shows that where you focus your energy and attention has a big impact on your happiness. Those who pursued the Engaged Life and the Meaningful Life had something important in common -- they were deeply passionate, and they used their strengths to better themselves and the world around them.
Indeed, happy people are highly intentional. If you want to follow in their footsteps, learn to incorporate the following habits into your repertoire.