Keyes outlines positivity, mental health, pursuit of happiness
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 02:02
Dr. Corey Keyes opened his lecture titled “The Pursuit of Happiness” earlier this week with the words of John Lennon.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life,” Keyes quoted. “When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Keyes, an associate professor in the department of sociology at Emory University, visited Oregon State University to deliver a lecture about happiness and mental wellness.
Keyes is known for his work in sociology and positive psychology, as well as coining the term “flourishing” to describe those who are mentally healthy. Dr. Keyes describes his area of study as reconceptualizing mental health.
“Well, I’m trying to study the presence and absence of good mental health so that we can get beyond defining and operationalizing mental health as just the absence of things like depression,” Keyes said.
Dr. Keyes’ talk covered a variety of subjects related to happiness and mental health. One thing he said was health and illness are actually two separate things. Many people define “health” as the absence of illness, but this is not solely the case.
“Health is more than the absence of illness, and that health is much more serious than illness, and we need to privilege health above illness,” Keyes said.
He used the terms flourishing and languishing to describe the two ends of his mental wellness scale. Someone who is flourishing is mentally healthy, while someone who is languishing is not.
Dr. Keyes also said while most people equate happiness with emotional health, it isn’t the only factor. Psychological health and social health are also large factors in determining mental wellness and happiness. He also says people who are mentally healthy tend to live longer and be at a lower risk for mental illness overall.
Keyes says he usually gets a good reaction to these lectures.
“A colleague used to say, ‘When you start talking positively, people lean forward in their seats. And when you start talking about pathology, you often find them leaning back. So the reactions tend to be, I think, generally warm and positive.’”
The audience seemed to agree, in fact many were leaning forward in their seats, intently interested and listening to what he had to say. Stephanie Jenkins, assistant professor in the school of history, philosophy and religion, enjoyed the lecture.
“I thought it was great,” Jenkins said. “I really like the move towards thinking about mental health as a communal activity that is not rooted in the absence of disease.”
Emmett Sleipness, news reporter