Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

Socializing boosts health, happiness

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

As students’ summer classes and work schedules fill their days to the brim, many may feel that the time crunch requires them to neglect their social life.

But not spending enough time with family and friends can compromise human health, UCLA researchers have found.

“(Social contact with others) has effects on the body that are more powerful than cigarette smoking and your cholesterol level,” said Shelley Taylor, a distinguished professor of psychology. “The magnitude is very strong.”

Click here for the full article.

Do you hear that, all you fellow college students who take too many hours of classes and participate in too many extracurriculars and run around being busy busy busy OMG SO BUSY?

You (and I) need a break.

Grab some friends, sit down (prefereably outside in the bright Indian summer sunshine) and relax.  Talk.  Play around, even.

You’ll be glad you did – much more glad, in the long run, than you would be if you stayed in and studied.  I assure you, with few exceptions, your grades are not that important, in the grand scheme of things.

They Teach Happiness at Harvard

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

An entire industry has been built up around the pursuit of happiness. A stroll past any bookstore window demonstrates the explosive popularity of the feel-good, self-help movements of recent years. And whether these products are genuine paths to ultimate happiness or just pleasure-peddling scams, the trend seems likely to hold.

Now, even the Ivy League is getting in on the act, layering serious academic research onto the pop-psychology phenomenon to develop a “science of happiness.” Known as “positive psychology,” the field was pioneered at the University of Pennsylvania and came to Harvard a decade ago when an elective course on the topic was first taught.

Click here for the full article.

Woo hoo!  Tal Ben-Shahar made it into BusinessWeek!  You do know that Butter Bee Happy’s “write 5 happy thoughts a day” idea came from Ben-Shahar’s book Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, right?  Well, if you didn’t, you do now.  We BBHers LOVE Ben-Shahar!

I think it’s very interesting that Ben-Shahar’s class became so popular at Harvard.  I wonder if it would have had as much or more success at another university that was less academically stressful?   I don’t know anyone currently enrolled at Harvard, but I have had friends who attended Yale, Princeton, and MIT, and they often mentioned how much stress their classes caused them.  I know they were learning a lot and being very productive, but they didn’t seem as happy as some of my other friends who attended more relaxed, less competitive universities.  Maybe students at Harvard needed a class on happiness more than students at other universities needed one.  What do you think?

-MJ

The Secrets To Happiness

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Daniel Gilbert, PhD, a Harvard psychologist, says that Americans do a tremendous amount of “miswanting.” We keep wanting things that will never make us happy. For example, practically everyone wants to be rich and thin. Yet, he points out, studies show that having enough money for the basic necessities of life–food, clothing, and shelter, which cost maybe $40,000 a year–is all we really need for happiness. The effect of the next $10 million is negligible.

This tells us that although we fervently believe that something we can touch, like piles of cash or cellulite-free thighs, is going to light up our hearts, the truth is that we usually don’t know what will make us happy. Worse, we don’t know that we don’t know, so we ardently pursue the wrong things.

Click here for the full article.

I think relationships provide an excellent example of miswanting.  Have you ever longed for or loved someone who actualy made you miserable?  I bet you have, or know someone who has.

Take as an example Philip*, whose girlfriend is hated by all his friends because she only uses Philip for his money, or Sonia*, whose boyfriend regularly cheats on her and verbally abuses her.  But Philip and Sonia say that they love their girlfriend and boyfriend, and want to remain with them, regardless of the misery these relationships cause.  I would call this miswanting – they desperately want and pursue someone who, ultimately, will not make them happy.

-MJ

*Names and situations are fictional.

Can You Predict Happiness?

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

If you think you can predict what you will like, think again. When people try to estimate how much they will enjoy a future experience, they are dependably wrong, according to research by Harvard psychologists — and the reason is something they call “attentional collapse.” When we imagine future experiences, we tend to compare them with alternative experiences — experiences we’ve had in the past, or other experiences we might have before or after. But the fact is that none of those alternatives come into play once we’re actually in the moment. That’s what Daniel Gilbert, author and Harvard psychology professor, means by “attentional collapse”: it’s the idea that when we are actually having an engaging, encompassing experience, it acts like a black hole of imagination, sucking in all of our attention and making our preconceptions irrelevant.

The thought of a weekend office picnic, for example, sounds tedious compared with a trip to the spa, but fun compared with working overtime on a Sunday. But these comparisons have little bearing on our actual experience of the picnic because once we arrive and start chatting with colleagues or playing softball, the experience draws our attention away from the alternatives. “The kinds of comparisons we’re making when we’re imagining the future aren’t the kinds we make when we get there,” Gilbert says.

Click here for the full article.

The Economic Power — And Pitfalls — Of Positive Thinking

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

People who are optimistic are more likely than others to display prudent financial behaviors, according to new research from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

But too much optimism can be a problem: people who are extremely optimistic tend to have short planning horizons and act in ways that are generally not considered wise.

Manju Puri and David Robinson, professors of finance at Duke, report in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of Financial Economics that the differences between optimists and extreme optimists provide important insights into the interaction between psychology and economic and lifestyle choices.

Click here for the full article.

Science of happiness leads researchers back to nature

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Happiness takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to Ottawa psychology researcher John Zelenski.
Zelenski, the head of Carleton University’s “happiness lab,” is just starting to get comfortable with happiness. Not the mental state, but the word itself used to describe his line of scientific inquiry, a field of study that has gathered steam in the past decade.

Recently, that inquiry had led Zelenski to ask how nature makes us happy. And whether the human happiness generated by admiring a sunset or walking through the woods can help save the planet.

“Happiness is not a fish you can catch,” according to Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace.
Scientists beg to differ. Sure, catching the fish of happiness isn’t easy, but what we learn about the human condition of happiness can affect how we choose to chase it.

Click here for the full article.

Politicians told to focus on wellbeing

Monday, April 28th, 2008

[...] It is time for politicians to start focusing on the politics of wellbeing rather than the politics of wealth, one of the world’s leading psychologists told an audience in Auckland last night (April 22).Professor Martin Seligman, the pioneer of positive psychology, told an audience of 150 people attending a lecture at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, sponsored by Human Resource consultancy the Foresight Institute, that creating wealth was no longer enough.

Despite countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the United States being wealthier than ever before, they were all experiencing epidemics of depression, he said. New Zealand scored particularly badly in world rankings of wellbeing, usually placed at around 22 or 23, compared with Australia, which was usually placed around 8.

“Why is there so much pessimism and depression and lack of wellbeing?” he asked. “Given the prosperity of your nation, and given what’s happened in the past century, why is there so much depression? Depression is probably 20 times more common than it was 50 years ago.

Click here for the full article.

Happiness: Good for Creativity, Bad for Single-Minded Focus

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Despite those who romanticize depression as the wellspring of artistic genius, studies find that people are most creative when they are in a good mood, and now researchers may have explained why: For better or worse, happy people have a harder time focusing.

University of Toronto psychologists induced a happy, sad or neutral state in each of 24 participants by playing them specially chosen musical selections. To instill happiness, for example, they played a jazzy version of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. After each musical interlude, the researchers gave subjects two tests to assess their creativity and concentration.

Click here for the full article.

Pursuit of happiness

Friday, April 25th, 2008

[...]Imagine you are a president or prime minister. It is imperative to keep your people happy because you hope to be re-elected in order to make your citizens happier and to run your country efficiently. You also know that people care about personal factors like health, income, education and development in general. You have an intuitive idea that they care also about external factors like inflation and security. But how do you work out the relative importance of all these things that constitute well-being which in turn translate to happiness? We are talking about happiness economics.

Historically, economists have said that well-being is a simple function of income. By their argument, happiness ought to be the preserve of the super rich— the Bill Gates and the Roman Abramovichs of this world. But the million dollar question is: Are the rich always happy?[...]

Rooted in this postulation is the thinking of happiness economics, which is the study of a country’s well-being by combining economists’ and psychologists’ techniques. The goal of happiness economics is to determine where people derive their well-being. Happiness economists hope to change the way governments view well-being and how to most effectively govern and allocate resources given this paradox.

Click here for the full article.

Genes Hold The Key To How Happy We Are, Scientists Say

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Happiness in life is as much down to having the right genetic mix as it is to personal circumstances according to a recent study.

Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh working with researchers at Queensland Institute for Medical Research in Australia found that happiness is partly determined by personality traits and that both personality and happiness are largely hereditary.

Using a framework which psychologists use to rate personalities, called the Five-Factor Model, the researchers found that people who do not excessively worry, and who are sociable and conscientious tend to be happier.

They suggested that this personality mix can act as a buffer when bad things happen, according to the study published in the March issue of Psychological Science.

Click here for the full article.