Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Happiness is a New York Times best seller and already destined to become a classic of ‘self-help with substance’.

I’ve already blogged about Seligman (see The Sultans of Happiness). He’s a former President of the American Psychological Association, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and founder of the Positive Psychology movement. Before him, psychology was viewed in terms of diagnosing what was wrong with people. Now, there is a complementary emphasis on what makes for mental health, well-being and quality of life.

Authentic Happiness is not a fluffy DIY manual. It has substance. Seligman builds his structure on a solid foundation of research rather than the usual mixture of pseudo-science and sophistry. I had the chance to read the book properly only this summer, having read some of Seligman’s other stuff before. There’s nothing like getting back to the source.


It consists of three parts. In Part 1, Seligman sets the scene by asking some general questions about happiness as well as mixing it with his personal wanderings from grouch to what he is now. He shows what is in our power to change about our own attitudes and what is not, as well as how we can gain happiness in our view of the past, present and future.

Part 2 centres on the core of Seligman’s theory about happiness; true happiness is founded on personal strenths and virtues. He explains these and provides aids for us to discoer what ours are.

Part 3 applies all this to the spheres of work, love, and purpose in life.


The book is written in a non-technical way and is quite conversational in tone. There are plenty of endnotes for those who want to take things further. Its only weakness is the few pages towards the end in which Seligman indulges in some theological flights of fancy about the meaning of life in an evolutionary universe.

I can highly recommend the book. I will include many of its ideas and tools in my December workshop on The Psychology of Happiness. If you want to find out more, come and join us then!