In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
Ten Best Happiness Posts of 2015
We bring you a compilation of perhaps the best posts on Happiness that came out in 2015. All these find roots in the science of Psychology. We hope this collection of reads will enrich you, humor you, and get you to re-think your ideas on happiness. We apologize that while choosing these, personal bias may have crept in unintended.
1. Writing Your Way to Happiness
A NYT post by Tara Parker-Pope that explores the power of expressive writing. This kind of writing has benefits. And it is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But our inner voice isn’t always smooth.
By writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves. “These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself,” says Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor.
“When you get to that confrontation of truth with what matters to you, it creates the greatest opportunity for change,” says Dr. Jack Groppel, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute.
2. Science On Whether Money Can Buy Happiness
Science writer David DiSalvo writes this post about money and happiness. A symposium of psychology researchers, called Happy Money 2.0 (here’s the book that resulted from that — Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending) attempted to uncover an answer to the perennial question: Does money bring happiness?
They concluded that spending money on experiences indeed gave more happiness than money spent on things, and that the real magic in buying experiences lay in the pleasantness of anticipation. Building more waiting time into buying experiences will let you squeeze as much anticipatory happiness as possible from the investment.
Michael Norton said of if more money really increase happiness, “Wealthy individuals–whether worth $1 million or $10 million–are not happier as their wealth increases.”
3. Happiness Has A Scent That Makes You Happy
Rachel Gross writes in Slate about our happiness being sensed through the smell of our sweat. A new research published in Psychological Science, we release chemicals when we experience happiness. These the scientists call chemosignals. And these chemicals are detectable by others who smell our sweat.
In the study, when women smelled the “happy sweat” of males, they displayed the body markers that reflect a state of happiness. These included a “Duchenne smile”—a genuine smile that extends all the way to your eyes, as opposed to a fake smile.
Gün Semin of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, senior researcher on the study, says, “This suggests that somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness. In a way, happiness sweat is somewhat like smiling — it is infectious.”
4. Can Reading Make You Happier?
Ceridwen Dovey writes about bibliotherapy and happiness. Now, bibliotherapy is a broad term for the ancient practice of reading for therapeutic effect. The first use of the term is usually dated to a jaunty 1916 article in The Atlantic Monthly, “A Literary Clinic.” The practice came into its own when Sigmund Freud began using literature during his psychoanalysis sessions.
After the First World War, traumatized soldiers returning home from the front were often prescribed a course of reading. Today, bibliotherapy takes many different forms. There are literature courses for prison inmates, and reading circles for old people suffering from dementia.
For all avid readers who have been self-medicating with great books their entire lives, it comes as no surprise. Reading books can be good for your mental health and your relationships with others.
But exactly why and how is now becoming clearer, thanks to new research on reading’s effects on the brain. It has to do with mirror neurons in our brains.
Mirror neurons are nerve cells that fire in our brains both when we perform an action ourselves and when we see an action performed by someone else. Since the discovery of mirror neurons, the neuroscience of empathy has become clearer.
5. Emotional Range More Important Than Happiness
Inside Out was a wonderful movie for both kids as well adults. The film is set in the mind of a young girl named Riley, where five personified emotions — Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust — try to lead her through life as her parents move their house and she has to adjust to new surroundings.
Linda Mottram and Matthew Bevan write in ABC News about the psychology of happiness ‘inside’ the movie. They talk to the psychologist adviser behind the movie, and get this ‘out’ — “We should not be fixated on one emotion over another in pursuit of fulfillment.”
Professor Dacher Keltner from the University of California was the key researcher advising the Pixar team on which emotions should be in the film, and the role they should play in Riley’s life. Professor Keltner’s research shows all emotions become equally important as a person matures.
“We know scientifically that if you pressure people to be happy, they’re actually going to be less happy,” he said. “Part of what happens is that a naive over-valuation of happiness makes us under-appreciate other emotions like anger or fear.”
6. Personality Strengths For Success And Happiness
Written by Sherrie Campbell, psychologist and author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person, this posts points out that counting on yourself reduces your frustration while increasing personal freedom for yourself and others. It is the only way to develop the seven personality strengths necessary for success.
When you are not self-aware, you tend to overreact in anger or in fear. It is as if they stepped on your triggers. When others don’t meet your expectations, read your mind, expect your feelings, it is as if they are walking on eggshells. People cannot not know how you feel until you speak up. You must communicate with others regularly and effectively.
Living to please others is not self-loving, it is self-diminishing. In life your ability gets measured by how you overcome adversities and insecurities, not avoid them. When you are aware of yourself you see yourself as a work in progress.
7. Google’s Algorithm For Happiness
David G. Allan is editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness. He wrote this story in 2014 for the BBC.
A few years ago, Chade-Meng Tan, one of the company’s first engineering employees in Mountain View, noticed many of his colleagues were stressed out and unhappy at work, so he decided to do something about it. He persuaded his bosses to let him create a course that would teach employees mindfulness skills to enhance emotional intelligence and promote wellbeing, and he transitioned to the HR department to run it. In a nod to his employer, he called it Search Inside Yourself, an admittedly corny name that is also the title of his book about the course’s techniques.
Meng promises to teach us the “scientifically proven” secret of happiness in three easy steps:
- Calm your mind
- Log moments of joy
- Wish other people to be happy
Meng is not the only one to suggest that meditation and mindfulness is good for our mental health. For example, the monk Matthieu Ricard, who the press has dubbed “the world’s happiest man” has written a book on the subject: A Guide To Developing Life’s Most Important Skill – Happiness.
But does it work? There is some evidence that mindfulness can help stave off negative thoughts. A recent review of 209 studies found that the practice can help treat depression, anxiety and stress. (Some researchers even claim that the stress-reduction promised by meditation could help slow the effects of aging.)
8. Happiness Spreads But Depression Doesn’t
This is direct release from University of Warwick on EurekAlert! — The Global Source Of Science News. Professor Frances Griffiths, head of social science and systems in health at Warwick Medical School, said: “Depression is a major public health concern worldwide. But the good news is we’ve found that a healthy mood amongst friends is linked with a significantly reduced risk of developing and increased chance of recovering from depression.
“Our results offer implications for improving adolescent mood. In particular they suggest the hypothesis that encouraging friendship networks between adolescents could reduce both the incidence and prevalence of depression among teenagers.”
The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B entitled Spreading of healthy mood in adolescent social networks.
9. Your “Precuneus” May Be the Root of Happiness
Christopher Bergland, who is a Guinness World Record for running (153.76-miles in 24 hours on a treadmill) and is the three-time champion of the Triple Ironman ( 7.2-mile swim, 336-mile bike, followed by a 78.6-mile run done consecutively), writes this article. He is the author of The Athlete’s Way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss.
Wataru Sato and his team at Kyoto University have found an answer from a neurological perspective. Overall happiness, according to their study, is a combination of happy emotions and satisfaction of life coming together in the precuneus, a region in the medial parietal lobe that becomes active when experiencing consciousness
Sato and his team scanned the brains of research participants with MRI. The participants then took a survey that asked how happy they are generally, how intensely they feel emotions, and how satisfied they are with their lives.
Their analysis revealed that those who scored higher on the happiness surveys had more grey matter mass in the precuneus. In other words, people who feel happiness more intensely, feel sadness less intensely, and are more able to find meaning in life have a larger precuneus.
“Over history, many eminent scholars like Aristotle have contemplated what happiness is,” lead author Wataru Sato said. “I’m very happy that we now know more about what it means to be happy.”
10. Behavioral Economics Doesn’t Understand Happiness
Just as you are ready to seal your 2016 wish for a winning lottery ticket, Professor Richard Thaler yells, “Wait a minute!” Neoclassical economics is all wrong, according to Thaler.
Terry Burnham asks right at the beginning of this article, “What would make you happier in 2016?”
Behavioral economics argues that the neoclassical economics is wrong. Real humans, in the language of behavioral economic founders Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, exhibit biases and heuristics, or, more colloquially, humans are crazy. Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Prize winner, and author of the international bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow.
For the sake of your 2016 wishes, behavioral economics makes three related claims:
- First, people do not know what makes them happy.
- Second, fewer options are sometimes better than more options.
- Third, more money may not make you happier.
In short, we love to eat and sleep because eating and sleeping were good for our ancestors.
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