Home All (S)he’s just not that into “Authentic Happiness”

(S)he’s just not that into “Authentic Happiness”

written by Dana Arakawa 24 January 2007

Dana Arakawa, MAPP '06, has a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Hawaii. Before venturing into psychology, Dana graduated with honors from Georgetown University with a B.S. in International Economics, and spent a year in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. Her research has appeared in the Gallup Management Journal and International Coaching Psychology Review, as well as in publications in Latin America. Full bio. Dana's articles are here.

Positive Psychology changed my life.  When I discovered Positive Psychology, I found an articulation of something that I had always been searching for.  I resonated with the concept of the three states of life—pleasant, engaged, and meaningful—and I wanted to study and support the development of positive emotions, character strengths, and institutions.  When I heard about the MAPP program, I knew instantly that it was something I had to do.  Positive Psychology has given me a framework to work within, and a network of fabulous, like-minded people who share my enthusiasm for investigating what is best about life. 

A social network

This network is definitely the best, and most unexpected, component of my journey.  Meeting other people impassioned about Positive Psychology almost reminds me of high school, when people find a sense of belonging within a group, club, or sports team.  Except I’ve found that Positive Psychology is more than just a hobby—when people regularly discuss issues like love, gratitude, purpose, engagement, and meaning, deeper bonds are quickly formed.  Perhaps that is why I’ve been able to forge such great relationships through Positive Psychology, as our common interest denotes congruent values and motivations. 

Reflecting on the quality of relationships I’ve made through Positive Psychology prompted me to remember all the people outside this network who impact my life.  There are so many people I love and admire, who simply don’t share my excitement about Positive Psychology.  If you’re reading this article right now, you probably care about issues like engagement and meaning, and are intrinsically motivated to think about how these states can be cultivated.  I’m curious about all those people who aren’t reading this news site, or who wouldn’t do it on their own accord—all the people who just don’t really care or think about these things!

The first person that always comes to mind is my brother.  It is has always been a part of my personality to search for more in life, a quality that has its benefits and it drawbacks.  While I was frequently discontent—before I learned the value of practicing gratitude—my brother was always grounded, content, and blissfully devoid of the impulses to study happiness or to search for meaning…because he was already happy, and he just doesn’t feel the need to contemplate the meaning of his life.  While some may attribute his disinterest in existential questions to age, I would not be surprised if he never cares!  Reflecting on our differences got me interested in people who wouldn’t normally think so much about happiness—they experience and enjoy being happy, but don’t feel the need to investigate this emotional state and systematically plan how to get more of it with a life coach or a self-help book. 

As I look out at the people I know, I see varying degrees of interest in Positive Psychology.  Some people are naturally happy and instinctively practice many of the principles that Positive Psychologists have shown to be successful in raising subjective well-being: being grateful, forging strong relationships, giving of the self to others, etc.  Others are not so happy, but don’t seem to want to think about how they can be happier.  In my monthly article, I plan to interview people who I think have an interesting relationship (or non-relationship) to Positive Psychology, people who can provide different perspectives from the one common within the Positive Psychology network.  These people will be united by a common theme—they probably wouldn’t go out and buy Authentic Happiness for themselves. 

I’m trying to brainstorm more interview questions, so let me know if you have any thoughts or ideas.  Thanks!

Social network courtesy of Luc Legay

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Senia 24 January 2007 - 11:49 am

Great article, Dana! I’m looking forward to reading your future monthly articles – thanks! Neat… what to ask non-believers?

Something like, “If you’re not using a positive psychology approach to life, you’re using some other beliefs and other approach to life. How do you measure the success of the approach you’re using? How do you know whether your life approach is working for you?”

Kathryn Britton 24 January 2007 - 12:01 pm

How about
What gets you out of bed and on to your chosen horse each morning?

Polly 24 January 2007 - 9:22 pm

Nice work, Dana! I like the title of your article, especially. So, do you already have a list of people you plan to interview?

You could maybe ask about significant past experiences that may have led them to their specific life approaches….I’ll keep brainstorming….

Gigi 24 January 2007 - 11:17 pm

Go Dana! Love the nuance to ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ – very apropos. I’m looking forward to what answers you’ll find to your questions through the interviews!

Talia Mana, Centre for Emotional Well-Being 25 January 2007 - 8:12 pm

I love this website and I especially love Positive Psychology. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.:razz:

Dave Shearon 25 January 2007 - 10:36 pm

“Interesting. Very interesting! I wonder…” (It’s a Harry Potter quote — anyone know where?) Dana, you might think about both naturally positive folks like your brother (Jon Haidt’s “winners of the cortical lottery”) and also those negative folks who don’t want to face the possibility/responsibility of giving up their negativity. There’s a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divide that comes to mind here.

David J. Pollay 28 January 2007 - 1:05 am

Hi Dana,

You know how much I have enjoyed our conversations about Gratitude. I’m not surprised by your plan to interview other people about their relationship to Positive Psychology. Your natural curiosity will make you a great interviewer. I am looking forward to reading the results of your interviews.

I like the questions, “How do you know you’re happy?” In addition to “What makes you happy? and “How do others know you’re happy?” and “How does your happiness impact your success in life?”

Enjoy Dana!

Warm Regards,


Dana Arakawa 29 January 2007 - 10:10 am

Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions for questions! I’m very excited to start the interviews… 🙂

B.B. Liu 4 February 2007 - 2:33 pm

Dana – You know I wasn’t in the Positive Psychology program at Penn, but hearing you talk about all the people you’d met and all the ideas you learned in your classes really made an impact on me. Thanks so much for opening my eyes to the workd of Seligman and for recommending to me all those great books you’re always reading. See, the ripples you’ve created are spreading already!


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