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Thread: Happiness Research

  1. #1

    Happiness Research

    A good article on the conclusions of research on human happiness.*
    [*]The only place I might disagree with the professor a little bit is toward the end: While I fully agree that "relationships" and "experiences" may be more important to happiness than "buying things", I think his example of such an experience (flying "first class" on a plane) is not the most profound experience that would come to mind, and seems rather just 'consumer society hedonism' ...

    What do you think? Is your view of happiness in line with the professor's?

    NEW YORK TIMES
    April 22, 2008
    A Conversation With Daniel Gilbert
    The Smiling Professor
    By CLAUDIA DREIFUS

    At Harvard, the social psychologist Daniel Gilbert is known as Professor Happiness. That is because the 50-year-old researcher directs a laboratory studying the nature of human happiness. Dr. Gilbert’s “Stumbling on Happiness” was a New York Times paperback best seller for 23 weeks and won the 2007 Royal Society Prize for Science Books.

    Q. HOW DID YOU STUMBLE ONTO YOUR AREA OF STUDY?

    A. It was something that happened to me roughly 13 years ago. I spent the first decade of my career studying what psychologists call “the fundamental attribution error,” which is about how people have the tendency to ignore the power of external situations to determine human behavior.

    Why do many people, for instance, believe the uneducated are stupid?

    I’d have been content to work on this for many more years, but some things happened in my own life.

    Within a short period of time, my mentor passed away, my mother died, my marriage fell apart and my teenage son developed problems in school. What I soon found was that as bad as my situation was, it wasn’t devastating. I went on.

    One day, I had lunch with a friend who was also going through difficult times. I told him: “If you’d have asked me a year ago how I’d deal with all this, I’d have predicted that I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning.”

    He nodded and added, “Are we the only people who could be so wrong in predicting how we’d respond to extreme stress?”

    That got me thinking. I wondered: How accurately do people predict their emotional reactions to future events?

    Q. HOW DOES THAT RELATE TO UNDERSTANDING HAPPINESS?

    A. Because if we can’t predict how we’d react in the future, we can’t set realistic goals for ourselves or figure out how to reach to them.

    What we’ve been seeing in my lab, over and over again, is that people have an inability to predict what will make us happy — or unhappy. If you can’t tell which futures are better than others, it’s hard to find happiness. The truth is, bad things don’t affect us as profoundly as we expect them to. That’s true of good things, too. We adapt very quickly to either.

    So the good news is that going blind is not going to make you as unhappy as you think it will. The bad news is that winning the lottery will not make you as happy as you expect.

    Q. ARE YOU SAYING THAT PEOPLE ARE HAPPY WITH WHATEVER CARDS ARE DEALT TO THEM?

    A. As a species, we tend to be moderately happy with whatever we get. If you take a scale that goes from zero to 100, people, generally, report their happiness at about 75. We keep trying to get to 100. Sometimes, we get there. But we don’t stay long.

    We certainly fear the things that would get us down to 20 or 10 — the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a serious challenge to our health. But when those things happen, most of us will return to our emotional baselines more quickly than we’d predict. Humans are wildly resilient.

    Q. DO MOST OF US HARBOR UNREASONABLE NOTIONS OF WHAT HAPPINESS IS?

    A. Inaccurate, flawed ideas. Few of us can accurately gauge how we will feel tomorrow or next week. That’s why when you go to the supermarket on an empty stomach, you’ll buy too much, and if you shop after a big meal, you’ll buy too little.

    Another factor that makes it difficult to forecast our future happiness is that most of us are rationalizers. We expect to feel devastated if our spouse leaves us or if we get passed over for a big promotion at work.

    But when things like that do happen, it’s soon, “She never was right for me,” or “I actually need more free time for my family.” People have remarkable talent for finding ways to soften the impact of negative events. Thus they mistakenly expect such blows to be much more devastating than they turn out to be.

    Q. SO, IF WE DIDN’T HAVE THESE MECHANISMS, WOULD WE BE TOO DEPRESSED TO GO ON?

    A. There may be something to that. People who are clinically depressed often seem to lack the ability to reframe events. That suggests that if the rest of us didn’t have this, we might be depressed as well.

    Q. AS THE AUTHOR OF A BEST SELLER ABOUT HAPPINESS, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE ON HOW PEOPLE CAN ACHIEVE IT?

    A. I’m not Dr. Phil.

    We know that the best predictor of human happiness is human relationships and the amount of time that people spend with family and friends.

    We know that it’s significantly more important than money and somewhat more important than health. That’s what the data shows. The interesting thing is that people will sacrifice social relationships to get other things that won’t make them as happy — money. That’s what I mean when I say people should do “wise shopping” for happiness.

    Another thing we know from studies is that people tend to take more pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x” amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable good or an object. One reason for this is that experiences tend to be shared with other people and objects usually aren’t.

    Q. HAVE YOU JUST EXPRESSED A VERY ANTI-AMERICAN IDEA?

    A. Oh, you can spend lots of money on experiences. People think a car will last and that’s why it will bring you happiness. But it doesn’t. It gets old and decays. But experiences don’t. You’ll “always have Paris” — and that’s exactly what Bogart meant when he said it to Ingrid Bergman. But will you always have a washing machine? No.

    Today, I’m going to Dallas to meet my wife and I’m flying first class, which is ridiculously expensive. But the experience will be far more delightful than a new suit. Another way I follow what I’ve learned from data is that I don’t chase dollars now that I have enough of them, because I know that it will take a very large amount of money to increase my happiness by a small amount.

    You couldn’t pay me $100,000 to miss a play date with my granddaughters.

    And that’s not because I’m rich. That’s because I know that a hundred grand won’t make me as happy as nurturing my relationship with my granddaughters will.

    Q. SO YOU HOLD WITH THE NOTION THAT “MONEY CAN’T BUY YOU HAPPINESS”?

    A. I wouldn’t say that. The data says that with the poor, a little money can buy a lot of happiness. If you’re rich, a lot of money can buy you a little more happiness. But in both cases, money does it.

    Q. ARE YOU, DAN GILBERT, HAPPY?

    A. I am. I think good things are happening to me and will continue. I am not optimistic about the rest of the species, but I’m so blessed, it’s almost scary. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I have a wildly sunny disposition. I love to laugh. My book is full of jokes.

  2. #2

    Re: Happiness Research

    I'd say it pretty much rings true with me.

    Interesting the discussion between buying things versus relationships as I'd say one could support the other, but not necessarily so. For instance. To buy/rent a more spacious house for your family could add to the happiness and mean you could have people over to stay. Conversly it could mean that you have to move away from alot of friends family/work to be ale to afford it :lol:

    I sold my car and bought an old mini-bus and converted it to a camper van(stressful but fun challenge), now my family have a base to go out for days, go travelling in and it's brought us much joy and enabled us to visit relatives with out relying on paying for hotels. It's great. May be not so great when the next MOT comes round though :lol:

    Kev

  3. #3

    Re: Happiness Research

    Hey Jundo and the rest of the Treeleafers,

    As I started reading the text I realised that what professor meant by "happiness" was not what I would define as such which already makes it tricky to discuss the topic.

    Interestingly, just the other day I heard an interview on the topic of happiness with the ... happiness expert Aymee Coget.
    She defined the types of happiness one talks about in the Science of happiness which might be of some help.

    In general terms the Science of Happiness defines happiness as " frequent experience of positive emotion".

    Three types of happiness (according to the "Happy Science") explained by A. Corget for the wide audience:

    1) Hedonic Happiness: something that 100% of our population has experienced at one point in our lives. And this is from-we experience this type of happiness when we have external stimulus. For instance when a secret admirer gives us flowers, we're happy. However, right after that we could get in a fight with our mother or we could get stuck in a traffic jam, so we're not happy anymore.

    2)Eudemonic Happiness: pretty new in the research community. It is sustainable. It is based from being your authentic self. Utilizing your strengths and having purpose and meaning in life. We don't have to rely on external sources to give this type of happiness to us.

    3) Chaironic Happiness(the term was coined in 2007): what differentiates it from the others is a sense of spiritual connection. This is the type of happiness where you can happy even when you're dying on your deathbed. This is the type of happiness that the Dali Lama experiences.

    So it seems zazen is the right way to go :wink:

    It doesn't seem that the professor really differentiates between the different types and this might confusing and might also explain why you think flying first-class would not seem like "the most profound experience that could come to mind": flying first-class and/or buying a new suit seem to fall under the Hedonic happiness category if we use the suggested by A. Coget categorization (same as instant gratification?).

    I don't think about being happy until the discussion comes up and don't really know what that means to me. Certainly not buying a new suit however good it would make me feel. :-). I have noticed, though, that the tough experiences are very effectively handled by the psyche, sort of fading away and also have read that this is the way we are "programmed" by the evolution to make it easier to survive.

    Gassho,

    Irina

  4. #4

    Happiness must be shared

    Can one be happy alone? (I mean the sustainable type of happiness).

    Have you guys seen "Into the wild"? The guy seemed very Zen to me in his non-clinging attitude. At first he is very keen to get away from people, civilization and materialism but towards the end of the movie comes to the realization that happiness must be shared. Very insightful film!

    We are more interdependable than we would like to admit or than we realize. In Sweden one hears "Alone is strong" a lot and people are very hung up on being independent (embedded into the upbringing from early years) but my impression is (I come from a very different culture which is the total opposite of Swedish in this sense which too drove me crazy at times :roll: ) that those same people long for a sense of community, of being closer to one another, that when they have an opportunity to open up to one another and want it they often simply don't know how.

    My own contribution to making people more joyful (I was tempted to write "happier") is to establish an eye contact with a person I meet on my way and smile. Oftentimes I first see surprise in the person's eyes and then a beautiful smile back.


    Gassho,
    Irina

  5. #5

    Re: Happiness Research

    It all sounds pretty good to me.

    I like his Dr. Phil response. He is, rightly I think, concerned with what the data suggest, not his personal opinions about happiness, like Dr. Phil might be.

    Bill

  6. #6

    Re: Happiness Research

    Hi,

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Gilbert
    What we’ve been seeing in my lab, over and over again, is that people have an inability to predict what will make us happy — or unhappy. If you can’t tell which futures are better than others, it’s hard to find happiness.
    If you lose sight of the present moment and become entangled in speculation about which futures are better than others, it's hard to find happiness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Gilbert
    As a species, we tend to be moderately happy with whatever we get. If you take a scale that goes from zero to 100, people, generally, report their happiness at about 75. We keep trying to get to 100. Sometimes, we get there. But we don’t stay long.
    I suppose my happiness level is about 75 - but I'm not trying to get to 100. I'm perfectly happy with 75, so is it really 75 or 100???

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Gilbert
    Oh, you can spend lots of money on experiences. People think a car will last and that’s why it will bring you happiness. But it doesn’t. It gets old and decays. But experiences don’t. You’ll “always have Paris” — and that’s exactly what Bogart meant when he said it to Ingrid Bergman. But will you always have a washing machine? No.
    Well, isn't buying a new car also an experience? I'm not advocating consumerism (my car is 15 years old and was driven a grand total of 800 kilometers last year, just for the record. ), but I think he may be missing something here. I think it's not the case of experience vs. object, but rather a matter of habituation. Sooner or later you get used to that car, and if you stay long enough in Paris I dare say it will lose it's appeal sooner or later as well. Is one really and truly happy in the very moment of being in Paris or buying a new car, or is it just yearning for that past experience which creates the illusion of happiness in retrospect?

    Gassho
    Ken

  7. #7

    Re: Happiness Research

    Re: Happiness research

    I think our practice is much much more than that (or less) Our pracitce is open to everything in the world and the little moments where we just are what we are in that moment. Nothing to add and nothing to take away. So at those moments I guess it doesn't matter if your flying first class (or even flying to meet your wife) the boarding gate can be just as enjoyable.

    G,W

  8. #8

    Re: Happiness Research

    I agree with Irina that it is difficult to discuss happiness without defining what it is (thanks for the definitions--I haven't heard them before.)

    I've always had two basic problems in searching for happiness. The first was that searching doesn't work. Martin Seligman (Authentic Happiness) suggests that one can increase the amount of momentary happiness in your life through mindfulness and savoring. That is, a certain amount of happiness is around you most of the time--all you need to do is recognize it. As Dorothy says in the "Wizard of Oz" I know that if I ever go looking for my heart's desire, I'll never go any further than my own back yard. For if it isn't there, I never really lost it.

    The second problem is what we are always told will make us happy and doesn't. (i.e., whiter teeth, a new car, more power, more stuff). It took me a long while to see through all that. I often fell into the trap of "If I can just ________, I'll be happy.

    To me, happiness comes down to savoring the good things and good people around me and being helpful. At least that is my current theory.

    Gassho,

    Linda

  9. #9

    Re: Happiness Research

    Is happiness not just another temporary mind state which arises according to changing conditions in the
    "scenery of our life" as Uchiyama terms it?

    When Dan Gilbert states that yes, he is happy and thinks good things will continue to happen to him perhaps he is being unduly optimistic. I think of the man in Joko Beck's story who jumps off the top of a ten-story building and as he passes the fifth floor on his way down is heard to say "So far, so good"!

  10. #10

    Re: Happiness Research

    Quote Originally Posted by Jenny
    II think of the man in Joko Beck's story who jumps off the top of a ten-story building and as he passes the fifth floor on his way down is heard to say "So far, so good"!
    I think I was pushed, I don't remember jumping
    Anyway, the 5th floor is just what it is. Hey look, a bird! Looks like rain tomorrow. That wind feels good.

  11. #11

    Re: Happiness Research

    Skye said "the fifth floor is just what it is. Hey look a bird! Looks like rain tomorrow.
    That wind feels good."

    I agree with you - the curiosity and wonder of 'what is', of this second.(Different from feeling happiness in a first-class plane seat.) And it's all free. A free fall!

    But it's the use of the word "happiness" - short-lived bursts of emotion when things go well - I am not sure about.
    Joko uses the word "joy" which is present even when things are unpleasant, even catastrophic. They are just what is happening. As she says "This is it"! - neither happy nor unhappy.

    :?

  12. #12

    Re: Happiness Research

    Joy is present when we drop body and mind. You can feel it even when it happens just for an instant. This practice doesn't offer anything ie. happiness or any of that. It offers the chance to let go and enjoy how you are right now. It let's you "enjoy" your life. When we drop our likes, dislikes, needs and wants, tension, and focus, you are only what presents itself at that moment. Whether that is joy, I can't say. I would call it being realized by the ten directions. Smelling the incense, feeling the body, forgetting who you are. Zen is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self and be realized by the ten directions and losing point of reference.

    Gassho Will

  13. #13
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Happiness Research

    I read someplace recently (I really should have noted where) that one theory is that happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. That is something I will remember for a long time...

    Kirk

  14. #14

    Re: Happiness Research

    in my opinion....

    if you see one thing as good, other things become bad. So, good and bad create to each other.
    Only if you don't define anything as good or bad, just see all thing as it is, then we can come to the true happiness.

    Gassho, Shui Di

  15. #15

    Re: Happiness Research

    Hi Kirk,

    Good to hear from one of the original 'Treeleafers'!

    I think you and Shui Di are both on to something ... Be content with what you have and life as it is ... Know the Good of dropping 'good' and 'bad' ... That's the Way for sure!

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I read someplace recently (I really should have noted where) that one theory is that happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. That is something I will remember for a long time...

    Kirk
    Quote Originally Posted by Shui_Di
    in my opinion....

    if you see one thing as good, other things become bad. So, good and bad create to each other.
    Only if you don't define anything as good or bad, just see all thing as it is, then we can come to the true happiness.

    Gassho, Shui Di
    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16

    Re: Happiness Research

    A couple of soundbites from "Ending the pursuit of happiness" by Barry Magid (fresh out of the press and, IMHO, a landmark piece in the assimilation process of Zen in the West):

    "Zazen is not a technique. It is not a means to an end. It's not a way to become calmer, more confident, or even "enlightened". Indeed, our whole practice can be said to be about putting an end to self-improvement, an end to our usual pursuit of happiness -or its Zen equivalent, the pursuit of enlightenment. Not that we can't be happy (or enlightened), it's just that we'll get there by a very different route than we once imagined -and it may not look like what we expected when we started out" (bold letters by yours truly)

    "With a Zen of "no gain", we step outside of our usual realm of questions and answers, problems and solutions, off the endless treadmill of self-improvement and instead experience the completeness of our life as it already is" (Another way to put what Shui Di just said)

    "The perfection that we are so busy pursuing is to be found nowhere but right here in this very moment, regardless of its content. This is the most basic spiritual insight that we can have. " (italics are the author's this time)

    Gassho, Alberto

  17. #17

    Re: Happiness Research

    What is material happiness? How does it lead to The Story of Stuff.


  18. #18
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Happiness Research

    I have to say, I've seen that video, and, while parts of it are valid, she stretches statistics in ways that go too far. In particular, at one point she says that 90% of all stuff is not used after a month. That's simply ludicrous, unless she includes food and water...

    Kirk

  19. #19

    Re: Happiness Research

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    In particular, at one point she says that 90% of all stuff is not used after a month. That's simply ludicrous, unless she includes food and water...
    Are you referring to this section? :?:

    We have become a nation of consumers. Our primary identity has become that of consumer, not mothers,
    teachers, farmers, but consumers. The primary way that our value is measured and demonstrated
    is by how much we contribute to this arrow, how much we consume. And do we!
    We shop and shop and shop. Keep the materials flowing.

    And flow they do!

    Guess what percentage of total material flow through this system is still in product or use 6 months
    after their sale in North America. Fifty percent? Twenty? NO. One percent.44 One! In other words, 99
    percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport—99 percent of the stuff we run through this
    system is trashed within 6 months.
    Now how can we run a planet with that rate of materials throughput?
    Here is the explanation according to the doc:

    Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism, (1999) p. 81.
    Note: Since so many viewers have asked about this fact, I’ll include
    the whole paragraph from Natural Capitalism to provide more
    explanation: “In short, the whole concept of industry’s dependence
    on ever faster once-through flow of materials from depletion to
    pollution is turning from a hallmark of progress into a nagging
    signal of uncompetitiveness. It’s dismaying enough that compared
    with their theoretical potential, even the most energy-efficient
    countries are only a few percent energy-efficient. It’s even worse
    that only one percent of the total North American materials flow
    ends up in , and is still being used within, products six months after
    their sale. That roughly one percent materials efficiency is looking
    more and more like a vast business opportunity. But this opportunity
    extends far beyond just recycling bottles and paper, for it
    involves nothing less than the fundamental redesign of industrial
    production and the myriad uses for its products. The next business
    frontier is rethinking everything we consume; what is does, where
    it comes from, where it goes, and how we can keep on getting its
    service from a net flow of very nearly nothing at all – but ideas.”
    emphasis added by Annie.)

    Annie adds: This statement is not saying that 99 percent of the
    stuff we buy is trashed. Think beyond your household to the
    upstream waste created in the extraction, production, packaging,
    transportation and selling of all the stuff you bought. For example,
    the No Dirty Gold campaign explains that there is 79 tons of mining
    waste for every one ton of gold produced; that translates into
    about 20 tons of mine waste created to make one gold wedding ring.

  20. #20

    Re: Happiness Research

    Another article related to this. Good news for the old fuddy-duddies like me. I especially like this observation:


    A certain amount of distress in old age is inevitable, including aches, pains and deaths of loved ones and friends. But older people generally have learned to be more content with what they have than younger adults, Yang said.

    This is partly because older people have learned to lower their expectations and accept their achievements, said Duke University aging expert Linda George. An older person may realize "it's fine that I was a schoolteacher and not a Nobel prize winner."

    ...

    "Contentment as far as I'm concerned comes with old age ... because you accept things the way they are," she said. "You know that nothing is perfect."




    Who's happier -- older or younger?

    * Story Highlights
    * Survey finds older people tend to be happier than younger folks
    * Odds of being happy rise five percent for every ten years of age
    * Expert: Older people more content because of lowered expectations
    * Research: Baby boomers are the least happy

    CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Newsflash for rock stars and teenagers: It turns out everything doesn't go downhill as we age -- the golden years really are golden.

    That's according to eye-opening research that found the happiest Americans are the oldest, and older adults are more socially active than the stereotype of the lonely senior suggests.

    The two go hand-in-hand -- being social can help keep away the blues.

    "The good news is that with age comes happiness," said study author Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist. "Life gets better in one's perception as one ages."

    A certain amount of distress in old age is inevitable, including aches, pains and deaths of loved ones and friends. But older people generally have learned to be more content with what they have than younger adults, Yang said.

    This is partly because older people have learned to lower their expectations and accept their achievements, said Duke University aging expert Linda George. An older person may realize "it's fine that I was a schoolteacher and not a Nobel prize winner."

    George, who was not involved in the new study, believes the research is important because the general public continues to think that "late life is far from the best stage of life and they don't look forward to it."

    Yang's findings are based on periodic face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans from 1972 to 2004. About 28,000 people aged 18 to 88 took part.

    There were ups and downs in overall happiness levels during the study, generally corresponding with good and bad economic times. But at every stage, older Americans were the happiest.

    While younger blacks and poor people tended to be less happy than whites and wealthier people, those differences faded as people aged.

    In general, the odds of being happy increased 5 percent with every 10 years of age.

    Overall, about 33 percent of Americans reported being very happy at age 88, versus about 24 percent of those age 18 to their early 20s. And throughout the study years, most Americans reported being very happy or pretty happy; less than 20 percent said they were not too happy.

    A separate University of Chicago study found that about 75 percent of people aged 57 to 85 engage in one or more social activities at least every week. Those include socializing with neighbors, attending religious services, volunteering or going to group meetings.

    Those in their 80s were twice as likely as those in their 50s to do at least one of these activities.

    Both studies appear in April's American Sociological Review.

    "People's social circles do tend to shrink a little as they age -- that is mainly where that stereotype comes from, but that image of the isolated elderly really falls apart when we broaden our definition of what social connection is," said study co-author Benjamin Cornwell, also a University of Chicago researcher.

    The research rings true for 81-year-old George O'Hare, a retired Sears manager in Willowbrook, Illinois. He's active with church, AARP and does motivational speaking, too. His wife is still living, and he's close to his three sons and four grandchildren.

    "I'm very happy because I've made friends that are still living," O'Hare said. "I like to go out and speak in schools about motivation."

    "Happiness is getting out and being with people, and that's why I recommend it," he said.

    Ilse Siegler, an 84-year-old retired nurse manager in Chicago, has a slightly different perspective. Her husband died 35 years ago; she still misses him everyday.

    She has vision problems and has slowed down with age. Yet, she still swims, runs a social group in her condo building, volunteers in a retirement home and is active with her temple. These all help "make life more enjoyable," she said.

    While Siegler said these aren't the happiest years of her life, she's content.

    "Contentment as far as I'm concerned comes with old age ... because you accept things the way they are," she said. "You know that nothing is perfect."

    Cornwell's nationally representative study was based on in-home interviews with 3,005 people in 2005-06. While it didn't include nursing home residents, only about 4 percent of Americans aged 75 to 84 are in nursing homes, Cornwell said.

    It's all good news for the aging population. However, Yang's study also found that baby boomers were the least happy. They could end up living the unfortunate old-age stereotype if they can't let go of their achievement-driven mind-set, said George, the Duke aging expert.

    So far, baby boomers aren't lowering their aspirations at the same rate earlier generations did. "They still seem to believe that they should have it all," George said. "They're still thinking about having a retirement that's going to let them do everything they haven't done yet."

    Previous research also has shown that mid-life tends to be the most stressful time, said Cornell University sociologist Elaine Wethington. "Everyone's asking you to do things and you have a lot to do. You're less happy because you feel hassled."

    The new studies show "if you can make it through that," there's light at the end of the tunnel, Wethington said.

    Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

  21. #21
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Happiness Research

    I also think that, as we age, we live more ups and downs, and are therefore more likely to accept them than when we were younger.

    Kirk

  22. #22

    Re: Happiness Research

    Sonja Lybomirsky at California University is researching with these questions in mind:

    1) What makes people happy?; 2) Is happiness a good thing?; and 3) How can we make people happier still?

    The researchers explain the finding that money doesn't bring happeness by hedonic adjustment: people tend to quickly get used to the good stuff. The data from the US shows that the level of experienced happiness in the US stays on the same level since the mid 1900s, despite the increase in the standard of living.

    According to this research it is not successful career and social life that lead to happiness but the other way around.

    The studies of the twins helped the researchers to better understand how our experiences well-being depends on the genes: the genes determine our personlaity which in turn matters for the level of happiness of an individual (Timothy Bates' in Edinburgh publised a study on that last month). As a result of the numerous interviews (1 000 twin sets) they could see that those born more sociable, active and hardworking (!!!) had a larger chance to feel (beeome) happy.

    From Sonja's site:

    "On-going studies in my laboratory are exploring additional cognitive and motivational processes that support the differing worlds of enduring happiness versus chronic unhappiness. For example, several investigations have revealed that unhappy individuals are more likely than happy ones to dwell on negative or ambiguous events. Such "dwelling" or rumination may drain cognitive resources and thus bring to bear a variety of negative consequences, which could further reinforce unhappiness. These findings demonstrate some of the maladaptive by-products of self-reflection, suggesting that not only is the "unexamined life" worth living, but it is potentially full of happiness and joy."

    I never really thought about the benefits of feeling happy and connecting it to how one perceives life.

    Another interesting bit:

    "To cast our work on happiness in a broader framework, we have also been exploring the meaning and expression of happiness and suffering across cultures and subcultures. For example, current research is investigating the value and reasonableness of the pursuit of happiness in "meritocratic" vs. "non-meritocratic" cultures (e.g., U.S. and Russia, respectively). Our preliminary findings suggest that Russians are less concerned with the pursuit of happiness, less likely to deem happiness as attainable or stable, and less likely to publicly express happiness than their American counterparts."

    Sonja's site: http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~sonja/.

    Gassho,

    Irina

  23. #23

    Re: Happiness Research

    A little addition

    A pie diagram in the article I read about these studies showed that (according to the studies) happeness depended 50% on genes (!), 40% on one's own behaviour and choices and 10 % on personal circumstances. (Sonja Lyubomirsky's studies were conducted in the US, the country with high living standard and political stability). Basically, one has to work harder on being happy if the genes let you down :shock:

    Gassho,

    Irina

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