Glossary

Anticipation: The positive emotion associated with expecting something positive to happen in the future. Anticipation is more pleasurable to the extent that the expected event is more pleasurable, we can imagine it vividly, we think it’s probable, and it’s happening soon. More optimistic people tend to imagine positive events with greater vividness and expect them to happen sooner, increasing their anticipation (Tali Sharot, The Optimism Bias).

Authenticity: Showing up and being real, honest, and seen. It requires a daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection).

Autotelic self: An individual who is more likely to engage in flow experiences. They have self-chosen goals and are able to see threats as opportunities for challenge and growth. They aren’t overly focused on themselves or on what people think of them, but rather on external objects (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow).

Belonging: An innate human desire to be part of something larger than us, which begins with self-acceptance and being authentic (Brene Brown, Daring Greatly).

Compassion: The feeling of suffering with someone else, not judging them or shielding ourselves from their suffering (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection).

Connection: The energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment (Brene Brown, Daring Greatly).

Coping: What you do in the face of pain, stress, or suffering from a negative occurrence. Coping can be problem-focused, which focuses on finding solutions and taking action; or emotion-focused, which focuses on changing how you feel (Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness).

Core self: Our deepest and most stable characteristics, including our character and the principles we live by (Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier).

Courage: Speaking honest about who we are, including our feelings and experiences (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection).

Enjoyment: A sense of novelty and accomplish that comes from not meeting expectations, but going beyond them. It requires an investment of energy (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow).

Expectancy theory: The idea that our brain operates based on what we expect to happen next, triggering neurological and physiological processes (Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage)

Experience stretching hypothesis: The theory that everyone experiences the same range of emotions, but different experiences cause different emotions in different people. One experience might make someone feel 10/10 happy, and someone else feel 5/10 happy (Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness). 

Explanatory style: The way you explain to yourself why events happen, including how permanent, pervasive, and personal the causes are – i.e., how long they’ll last, how much of your life they’ll affect, and how much is your fault (Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism).

Faith: A place of mystery where we find the courage to believe in what we can’t see and the strength to let go of the fear of uncertainty (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

Fear extinction: The process of learning that something isn’t threatening any more, as the anterior cingulate cortex learns to regulate amygdala activity in the face of a stimulus (Tali Sharot, The Optimism Bias).

Flow: A state of optimal experience where we’re so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Flow leads to an expansion of the self and a sense of mastery and control (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow). 

Gratification: A positive experience in the present when we’re fully engaged, thinking, and using our strengths, as in flow. Gratification doesn’t go along with an emotion at the time because we’re so absorbed in what we’re doing (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness).

Happiness set point: Your genetic predisposition for happiness or unhappiness, which accounts for 50% of your happiness. Researchers arrived at this number by studying the differences in happiness between fraternal and identical twins raised together and apart (Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness).

Hedonic adaptation: We adapt well to both negative and positive circumstances: after major life events like divorce, winning the lottery, or becoming paraplegic, our happiness levels eventually return to normal. Studies have shown that we adapt to getting married within about two years and to winning the lottery within one (Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness).

Hedonist: Someone who seeks current pleasure while ignoring the consequences for the future (Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier).

Hope: When you tend to explain good events to yourself as permanent and universal, and bad events as specific and temporary. In other words, you believe the good is broad and lasting and the bad is narrow and short-lived (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness). Setting realistic goals, figuring out how to achieve them while staying flexible, and believing in ourselves (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection).

Ideal self: Our image of the best we are capable of, which includes exercising our strengths and virtues. When we live up to this, we feel gratified personally and validated by other people (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness).

Impact bias: The tendency to predict that bad events will have a greater effect on well-being than they actually do. In thinking about future hardships, we underestimate our ability to adapt to them and forget about all the positive circumstances in our life that will be unchanged (Tali Sharot, The Optimism Bias).

Intuition: The ability to hold space for uncertainty and trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight (including insight, experience, faith, and reason) (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

Language squishing hypothesis: The theory that people have different ranges of emotions: a 10/10 on someone’s happiness scale might be a 5/10 on the scale of someone else who has experienced greater happiness and satisfaction (Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness).

Lasagna principle: The idea that happiness isn’t just about doing the things you enjoy; quantity matters as well – you wouldn’t want to eat lasagna all the time, even if you loved it (Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier).

Love (Brené Brown): Allowing your most vulnerable self to be seen, and honoring the resulting spiritual connection with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love requires you to love yourself first, and has to grow. It’s stunted by shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and withholding of affection, which should be rare, acknowledged, and healed (Daring Greatly).

Meaning markers: Things that are valuable and meaningful to you in life, which guide your behavior and goals. Using meaning markers at work can help you reduce stress; improve productivity, energy, and engagement; and reach your goals faster. But we have to be wary of “hijackers,” which look like meaning markers but foster negativity (e.g., wanting to lose weight because you don’t like yourself) (Shawn Achor, Before Happiness).

Meaning, Pleasure, Strengths (MPS) Process: A method of finding fulfilling work that involves looking at the overlap between what gives you meaning and pleasure, and where your strengths lie (Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier).

Motivation: The drive and inspiration to do something.

Nihilist: Someone who doesn’t believe that happiness is possible in the present or future(Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier).

Optimism bias: A term coined by Neil Weinstein, the optimism bias is the way we tend to overestimate the likelihood of positive events and underestimate the likelihood of negative ones. Most of us exhibit an optimism bias, and it changes our actions because we try to make our predictions come true. Optimists tend to live longer in the face of illness because they take appropriate actions rather than succumbing to passive acceptance. Optimists are less likely to die from accidental and violent events like car crashes or drowning because the belief that they have something to lose tampers their risk taking. Optimists are less anxious and stressed. Optimism translates into better outcomes because when we expect something great and don’t achieve it, our frontal lobe goes to work figuring out why and learning for the future. If we don’t expect greatness, this doesn’t happen. In the end, moderate optimism correlates with good decision making while extreme optimism (and the attendant lack of realism) correlates with bad decisions (Tali Sharot, The Optimism Bias).

Pleasure:A type of positive emotion in the present. Pleasures can be bodily, which use our senses, or “higher,” which have a cognitive component (e.g., excitement or relaxation) (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness). A feeing of contentment when the information in consciousness meets our expectations (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow)

Positive affect: The outward display of positive emotion in the form of bubbliness or good cheer (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness).

Positive computing: The study and development of IT and communication technology that promotes flourishing and respects people’s different ideas of the good life (Martin Seligman, Flourish). 

Positive health: The study of health assets, including subject ones (optimism, life satisfaction, zest), biological ones (heart rate variability, oxytocin), and functional ones (friendships, flourishing work)(Martin Seligman, Flourish).

Post-traumatic growth: Psychological flourishing after a traumatic event. We get there by finding the positive in the experience, being accepting and optimistic, and dealing with the problem (rather than denying or avoiding it) (Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage). Personal transformation comes from renewed appreciation of being alive, enhanced personal strength, acting on new possibilities, stronger relationships, spiritual deepening (Martin Seligman, Flourish).

Predictive encoding: Anticipating a positive outcome so you’ll be more likely to achieve it (Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage).

Psychological immune system: Related to the optimism bias, the psychological immune system is Daniel Gilbert’s way of explaining how we tend to look for facts that support our beliefs and our positive interpretations. At the same time, just as a hyperactive immune system is detrimental to the body, we don’t go overboard into the realm of unrealistic optimism (Stumbling on Happiness).

Rate racer: Someone who forges present pleasure for future benefit (Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier).

Religious coping: A form of coping with traumatic events that includes praying and reexaming your sense of meaning. In the face of trauma, it can help you see the positives, be hopeful, and feel comforted (Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness). 

Satisfaction: Positive emotion about the past (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness).

Savoring: Generating, intensifying, or prolonging enjoyment. Savoring is often associated with the present, but it’s also possible to savor the past and the future. Sonja Lyubomirsky calls savoring a combination of flow and gratitude (The How of Happiness). 

Self-compassion: First and foremost, self-compassion requires self-kindness, being warm and understanding to our own suffering instead of criticizing or ignoring the pain. It requires you to be mindful of emotions, not suppressing or getting caught up in them. It’s helpful to remind ourselves that we’re all human, and we all make mistakes (Brene Brown, Daring Greatly).

Self-concordant goals: Self-concordant goals come from a desire to express ourselves rather than impress others. As a result, they are often intrinsic values (growth, connection, contribution) rather than extrinsic. We feel like we want to pursue them, not that we have to (Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier).

Self-determined motivation: Defined by Ken Sheldon and colleagues, it’s motivation that is based on your interests and values, not on negative emotions or other people’s expectations. Figuring out what you have self-determined motivation to do will help you follow through and succeed (Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness).

Shame resilience: The ability to experience shame while still being authentic, true to your values, and practicing courage, compassion, and connection. One of the best ways to do that is to voice your shame and receive empathy from others (Brene Brown, Daring Greatly).

Social resilience: The ability to grow and maintain social relationships and recover from social isolation (Martin Seligman, Flourish).

Social support: Help and comfort from other people, including emotional, information, and tangible. Social support helps you cope, persist, and achieve goals (Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness). 

Strengths: Traits that we value in and of themselves, which also lead to virtuous action (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness).

Tetris Effect: The habit of scanning the world for a certain pattern, named after the way people who play tetris for hours start to see tetris blocks in real life. The Tetris Effect can be negative, if you’re in a habit of scanning the world for mistakes and threats, or positive, if you’re in the habit of scanning for opportunities and reasons to be happy (Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage).

Time affluence: The feeling that you have a lot of time, that you’re not constantly pressured or rushed (Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier).

Vulnerability: The uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure that is part of life (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly)

“What now” syndrome: When you spend time pursuing wealth but finally get it and aren’t happy (Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier).

Wholeheartedness: Feeling you’re worthy of love and belonging, which is the greatest predictor of feeling love and belonging. Through interviews and research, Brené Brown has discovered that Wholehearted people are authentic, self-compassionate, resilient, and creative. They practice gratitude and trust in faith. They cultivate calm and stillness and know how to rest. They’ve discovered meaningful work, as well as the value of laughter, song, and dance (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly).

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