I’m amazed when I think about that there are people whose sole job is to study how to be happy. Psychologist and researcher, Martin Seligman, studies happiness. He’s divided happiness into three general types: 1) Positive emotion, 2) Engagement, and 3) Meaning.

Keep reading for a short summary of each type and a few suggestions about how each can be used to cultivate happiness.


3 Types of Happiness


Positive Emotions

This type of happiness is one in which we seek to have pleasant emotions such as gratitude, vitality, exhilaration, optimism, and trust. Whether it’s the high that comes from skydiving or the contentment of helping a friend, positive emotions can be a powerful driving force in ones life. A person that practices this type of happiness regularly is seeking what researchers call “the pleasant life.”


How You Can Get It: Do activities that generates the emotions you want to feel. One good way to do this is to list the emotions you want to regularly feel and make a bucket list of activities that you think will create those emotions. For extra points you can find friends with similar bucket lists.


Bonus Tip: Write a letter of gratitude to someone who made a real difference in your life. Feeling gratitude is a trade secret of the “happiness industry.” Even people who regularly thank someone mentally have better physical health.



Engagement is feeling totally absorbed in an activity so that any self-consciousness and reflective thoughts are not experienced. One type of engagement is called “flow.” It is when one is intensely concentrating on something that is the perfect level of challenge for them (not bored or overwhelmed). It often comes with a sense that “time is flying by.” Another type of engagement is called “mindfulness.” It’s much like flow, but it uses intentional focus to put oneself into a state of flow. These types of happiness both come with a lot of health benefits. In fact, they’re often used to reduce stress and treat anxiety, depression and chronic pain.


How You Can Get It: Identify a physical activity (surfing, basketball, running, etc.) in which you’ve felt that feeling of flow before and search for or start a local MeetUp.com group.


Bonus Tip: Learn to put yourself in a state of mindfulness. Even 5 minutes a day can change your health and help you feel more connected. Here’s some guided audio exercises to help you get started.



Practicing this type of happiness is often called the “Life of Affiliation” because it connects us to people and things that are bigger than ourselves- AKA a purpose. It is the feeling of belonging to a group of people that share a common purpose. Ideally, that purpose matches your values.


How You Can Get It: Identify your Values and goals, then find a group of people who share them.


Bonus Tip: Remind yourself that cheerfulness doesn’t equal happiness. The biggest predictor of life satisfaction is “Eudaimonia” (AKA pursuing personal growth, developing your potential, and contributing to the lives of others).