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In the happy zone

Flourishing with Paul Pahil

In the first of a two-part article, we speak with Paul Pahil, founder of September’s “Budapest’s Happiness Week”. His professional mission is based on his belief that all people have the right to experience the richness and benefits of optimal living. This month we’ll discuss positive psychology and “flourishing”.

Why did you choose to leave London and live in Hungary?

I arrived in summer 2004 and decided to set up Hungry 4 Learning Kft. I wanted to introduce the scientific practices of “Positive Psychology”. I moved to Budapest because I realized there are many talented people in the city, though there is a strong environment of low resilience and high pessimism. Pessimistic people are eight times more likely to become depressed when bad events happen. Over time, depressed people learn to be helpless and exert little control in what happens in their lives. Hence I wanted to use Positive Psychology interventions to make people more resilient and “flourish”.

Flourishing is when people experience a high frequency of positive emotions and low frequency of negative emotions. This occurs when they have the “emotional fuel” to take part in meaningful activities and become engaged. A good analogy of this is when athletes speak of “being in the zone”. Here they need to be in environments where they are valued by others and have the opportunity to build upon their self-esteem in constructive ways.

There is a low level of flourishing in the whole region, with only 8% of all Hungarians experiencing “flourishing”. People who experience flourishing are more creative, productive, enjoy their lives more, and can live up to nine years longer. When more people flourish, society gains through reduced mental illness, reduced suicide attempts, reduced premature mortality and improved functioning. The focus of our work is on well-being, which directly improves creativity, health, performance, customer satisfaction and supportive relationships.

We can only flourish and mobilise others when the conditions in the environment are optimal. The essence for me is to collaborate with others to create value for our new environments. This was the inspiration behind creating Budapest’s Happiness Week, which has run for the past three years, where anyone who is interested in developing their well-being could participate for free. We are already planning the next Budapest’s Happiness Week for 10-16 September, 2017.

What really is Positive Psychology? Is it something fashionable?

Paul and Csíkszentmihályi

World-famous psychologists Martin Seligman and Mihály Csíkszentmihályi developed the concept of Positive Psychology in 2000 to counter-balance the focus of psychology on pathology, or what’s wrong with people. They do not advocate a simple switch to focus only on what is right but simply to get back to a balanced analysis of people and situations.

Positive Psychology has caught the attention of the world as it is an empirically-based discipline that, for the past two decades, has been researching and developing techniques for optimal human functioning for individuals, teams and organisations.

The main focus is for people to flourish and then the goal is to increase flourishing. Flourishing rests on five pillars, each of which we value for its own sake, not merely as a means to some other end. The five elements are positive emotions, engagement, supportive relationships, meaning and the need to achieve. These elements, which we choose for their own sake in our efforts to flourish, are the rock-bottom fundamentals to human well-being. What is the good life? It is pleasant, engaged, meaningful, achieving, and being connected.

Next month we’ll get into the difference between Positive Psychology and positive thinking.

Paul Pahil
is able to recall his first experience of “flow” in karate, which is a state of deep concentration when the conscious part of the brain starts shutting down and the more powerful unconscious takes control. He was 12 years old. Further flow experiences led him to become British and Regional Karate Champion at the age of 14. With his interest in sports and his goal to enhance his performances in national competitions, he undertook studies in sports science at university. By then he was regularly coaching adults to increase their performance and well-being.

Upon completion of his studies, Paul continued training teams of diverse nationalities at British Airways until he moved to Budapest in 2004. It was only natural for him to undertake post-graduate studies in Positive Psychology. Fundamentally he believes in unleashing the potential in people regardless of age, gender, impairment, sexual orientation, ethnicity and personal beliefs.

For more information about Paul, please visit his company’s webpage HERE


On March 26th, 2017 Paul will lead a Positive Motivation workshop (Hungarian language only). See the offer below.

Clinic Hours
Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
24-hour ‘on-call’ assistance.

Scheduled Appointments
Call +36-1-224-9090 at any time of the day.
Alternatively, get in touch by email.