Friday, February 12, 2016

The Science of Happiness: Lesson 1

what is happiness: “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness, 2007.  It captures the fleeting positive emotions that come with happiness, along with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life—and suggests how these properties of happiness complement each other.  The Greater Good Center, Berkeley University

Quantifying Happiness
Life satisfaction: A general assessment that, as a whole, one's life is good and worth living. Researchers usually measure life satisfaction by using the Satisfaction with Life Scale, developed by University of Illinois professor Ed Diener and colleagues.
Positive affect: A technical term to describe the experience of feeling a positive emotion, such as joy, love, or amusement. As Dr. Lyubomirsky notes above, positive affect is an important ingredient to happiness and is sometimes used synonymously with happiness, though it generally refers to a fleeting emotional state rather than an enduring way of being. It is often measured using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS).

Subjective well-being: As mentioned above, researchers often use this term interchangably with happiness, perhaps because it sounds more precise and scientific. It refers to the way people evaluate their lives, in terms of both their global life satisfaction and emotional states--i.e., it is often assessed by measuring life satisfaction and positive affect. It is strongly tied to positive health.

Evolution of meaning of Happiness Darrin M. McMahon, Ph.D., is a professor of history at Florida State University and the author of Happiness, A History.

Greeks and Romans: From Luck and within the power of a few
Happiness is never simply a function of good feeling—of what puts a smile on our face—but rather of living good lives, lives that will almost certainly include a good deal of pain.  “Happiness is a life lived according to virtue,” How we order ourselves and our lives as a whole than anything that might happen individually to any one of us.  Attained only for the a few disciplined ones!
Jewish and Christian ideas: It can be found in the past in a lost Golden Age, in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were perfectly content. happiness is not something we can obtain in this life. 
Happiness revolution:  French Encyclopédie, the Bible of the European Enlightenment, declares  "everyone has a right to be happy. " Pleasure was good. Pain was bad. Suffering is inherently wrong, and that all people, in all places, should have the opportunity, the right, to be happy.

Now:  there are important connections between hope and happiness.  Focus less on our own personal happiness and instead on the happiness of those around us, for relentless focus on one’s own happiness has the potential to be self-defeating. 

Happiness and meaning:  Instead of saying that “money doesn’t buy happiness,” we ought to say instead that “money doesn’t buy meaning.”  Spending time with loved ones is often more difficult, but ultimately more satisfying, than spending time with friends.   Happiness is about getting what we want in life—whether through people, money, or life circumstances. Meaningfulness, in contrast, seems to have more to do with giving, effort, and sacrifice. It is clear that a highly meaningful life may not always include a great deal of day-to-day happiness. And, the study suggests, our American obsession with happiness may be intimately related to a feeling of emptiness, or a life that lacks meaning.

There is more to happiness than pleasure aloneBeing happy and finding life meaningful overlap, but there are important differences. A large survey revealed multiple differing predictors of happiness (controlling for meaning) and meaningfulness (controlling for happiness). Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present-oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness. Concerns with personal identity and expressing the self contributed to meaning but not happiness.

Happiness may be rooted in having one’s needs and desires satisfied, including being largely free from unpleasant events. Meaningfulness may be considerably more complex than happiness, because it requires interpretive construction of circumstances across time according to abstract values and other culturally mediated ideas.

Five major differences between a happy life and a meaningful one.
    • Happy people satisfy their wants and needs, but that seems largely irrelevant to a meaningful life. Therefore, health, wealth, and ease in life were all related to happiness, but not meaning.
    • Happiness involves being focused on the present, whereas meaningfulness involves thinking more about the past, present, and future—and the relationship between them.In addition, happiness was seen as fleeting, while meaningfulness seemed to last longer.
    • Meaningfulness is derived from giving to other people; happiness comes from what they give to you. Although social connections were linked to both happiness and meaning, happiness was connected more to the benefits one receives from social relationships, especially friendships, while meaningfulness was related to what one gives to others—for example, taking care of children. Along these lines, self-described “takers” were happier than self-described “givers,” and spending time with friends was linked to happiness more than meaning, whereas spending more time with loved ones was linked to meaning but not happiness.
    • Meaningful lives involve stress and challenges. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness, which suggests that engaging in challenging or difficult situations that are beyond oneself or one’s pleasures promotes meaningfulness but not happiness.
    • Self-expression is important to meaning but not happiness. Doing things to express oneself and caring about personal and cultural identity were linked to a meaningful life but not a happy one. For example, considering oneself to be wise or creative was associated with meaning but not happiness.
  • “Having a meaningful life contributes to being happy and being happy may also contribute to finding life more meaningful,”  “ there’s evidence for both of those.”
    Warning: If you are aiming strictly for a life of hedonic pleasure, you may be on the wrong path to finding happiness. “For centuries, traditional wisdom has been that simply seeking pleasure for its own sake doesn’t really make you happy in the long run,”   In fact, seeking happiness without meaning would probably be a stressful, aggravating, and annoying proposition, argues Baumeister.  Instead, when aspiring to a well-lived life, it might make more sense to look for things you find meaningful—deep relationships, altruism, and purposeful self-expression, for example—than to look for pleasure alone… even if pleasure augments one’s sense of meaning, as King suggests.“Work toward long-term goals; do things that society holds in high regard—for achievement or moral reasons,” he says. “You draw meaning from a larger context, so you need to look beyond yourself to find the purpose in what you’re doing.”
    Chances are that you’ll also find pleasure—and happiness—along the way.
HAPPINESS is not an absence of sorrow, anger, and sadness
1. Too much happiness can make you less creative—and less safe. when people experience intense and perhaps overwhelming amounts of happiness, they no longer experience the same creativity boost.  Too much positive emotion—and too little negative emotion—makes people inflexible in the face of new challenges.When we experience happiness, our attention turns toward exciting and positive things in our lives to help sustain the good feeling. When feeling happy, we also tend to feel less inhibited and more likely to explore new possibilities and take risks. People in this heightened ‘happiness overdrive’ mode   engage in riskier behaviors and tend to disregard threats, including excessive alcohol consumption, binge eating, sexual promiscuity, and drug use.  Happiness may be best when experienced in moderation—not too little, but also not too much.
2. Happiness is not suited to every situation.  Our emotions help us adapt to new circumstances, challenges, and opportunities. Anger mobilizes us to overcome obstacles; fear alerts us to threats and engages our fight-or-flight preparation system; sadness signals loss. These emotions enable us to meet particular needs in specific contexts.   Happiness—it helps us to pursue and attain important goals, and encourages us to cooperate with others. But just as we would not want to feel angry or sad in every context, we should not want to experience happiness in every context. Happiness has a time and a place—it’s not suited for every situation!
3. Not all types of happiness are good for you.  “Happiness” is a single term, but it refers to a rainbow of different flavors of emotion: Some make us more energetic, some slow us down; some make us feel closer to other people, some make us more generous.One example is pride, a pleasant feeling associated with achievement and elevated social rank or status. As such, it is often seen as a type of positive emotion that makes us focus more on ourselves. Pride can be good in certain contexts and forms, such as winning a difficult prize or receiving a job promotion.  However,  when we experience too much pride or pride without genuine merit, it can lead to negative social outcomes, such as aggressiveness towards others, antisocial behavior, and even an increased risk of mood disorders such as mania. Pride may actually hinder our ability to empathize, or take another person’s perspective during difficult emotional times.  The bottom line: Certain kinds of happiness may at times hinder our ability to connect with those around us.
4. Pursuing happiness may actually make you unhappy.  Is pursuing happiness healthy?  The more people pursue happiness the less they seem able to obtain it. Mauss shows that the more people strive for happiness, the more likely they will be to set a high standard for happiness—then be disappointed when that standard is not met. The pursuit of happiness is also associated with serious mental health problems, such as depression and bipolar disorder. It may be that striving for happiness is actually driving some of us crazy.
How to find healthy happiness?
First, it is important to experience happiness in the right amount. Too little happiness is just as problematic as too much. 
Second, happiness has a time and a place, and one must be mindful about the context or situation in which one experiences happiness. 
Third, it is important to strike an emotional balance. One cannot experience happiness at the cost or expense of negative emotions, such as sadness or anger or guilt. These are all part of a complex recipe for emotional health and help us attain a more grounded perspective. Emotional balance is crucial.
Finally, it is important to pursue and experience happiness for the right reasons. Too much focus on striving for happiness as an end in itself can actually be self-defeating. Rather than trying to zealously find happiness, we should work to build acceptance of our current emotional state, whatever it may be. True happiness, it seems, comes from fostering kindness toward others—and toward yourself.June Gruber, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, the director of the Yale Positive Emotion and Psychopathology Laboratory, and a licensed clinical psychologist. She was recently named a "Rising Star" by the Association for Psychological Science. To read the academic paper on which this essay is based, click here.
Benefits of Happiness
Longer life expectancy
Physical Health is better with happiness
Social Health:  I am judge to be more warm, intelligent--social benefits
Marriage- less divorce, more love   Family togetherness
More creativity at work  I am feeling happy at work  higher quality of work, beter negotiator.  Mangers that cultivate well being and connections, the people I am supervising have better profiles and better health.
How a culture is doing in a culture of happiness- It matters- Not the GDP  Denmark, Norway, Central America do better than the USA, they are happier nations.

Happier people are more sociable and energetic, more charitable and cooperative, and better liked by others. Not surprisingly then, happier people are more likely to get married and to stay married and to have richer networks of friends and social support. Furthermore, contrary to Woody Allen's suggestion in Annie Hall that happy people are "shallow and empty, and . . . have no ideas and nothing interesting to say," they actually show more flexibility and ingenuity in their thinking and are more productive in their jobs. They are better leaders and negotiators and earn more money. They are more resilient in the face of hardship, have stronger immune systems, and are physically healthier. Happy people even live longer. happiness appears to have numerous positive by-products that few of us have taken the time to really understand. In becoming happier, we not only boost experiences of joy, contentment, love, pride, and awe but also improve other aspects of our lives: our energy levels, our immune systems, our engagement with work and with other people, and our physical and mental health. In becoming happier, we bolster as well our feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem; we come to believe that we are worthy human beings, deserving of respect. A final and perhaps least appreciated plus is that if we become happier, we benefit not only ourselves but also our partners, families, communities, and even society at large.

Happiness is so important that an entire country--admittedly a very small country, the size of Switzerland--has made its goal to increase the well-being of its citizens. The king of Bhutan, the last Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas, nestled between Indian and China, decided that the best way to foster economic development would be to boost his nation's gross domestic happiness--that is, to focus on the GDH rather than the GDP. Bhutan's emphasis on the happiness of its people above all else appears to have produced society-wide benefits. Although most people in this tiny country are subsistence farmers, they have what they need--food on the table and universal health care--and have refused to make money from commercial ventures that might compromise the health and beauty of their environment and their egalitarian existence
How happy can you be?
50  Genes
10 Life circumstances
40 under our control
Successful at being happy
a. Good relationships  grateful, thankful, optimistic, living in the present, active, religious, have life goals
Why study happiness

USA people has become lonely  -Loneliness - Stress- reduced happiness - inmune system suffers

Increase on narcissism:  I am a center of the universe- materials goods= happiness NOT

Gratitude, kindness, Compassion, Volunteerings----Rise in inequality  Antidotes to excess in inequality

The Science of Happiness
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Kindness Brings Happiness

Curious about why kindness matters to happiness? Look no further! Week 3 covers the kindness-happiness loop and shows evidence that it works!
*This course is self-paced, which means that students can start, learn the material, and finish anytime before June 30, 2016. This email highlights Week 3: Compassion and Kindness. If you are just beginning the course, consider starting with our Introductory Week 1, then moving on to Week 2. Ready for Week 4 or Week 5? They're all yours!
Week 3 of the Science of Happiness explores:
  • How to increase your compassion bandwidth
  • The challenges to compassion and kindness
  • The evolutionary and biological roots of kindness
  • Also, how kindness is contagious!
Discuss: Got more to say about Week 3? Join discussions and check out: Why does kindness foster happiness?
Share your story: Since starting The Science of Happiness, have you made any life changes? Has the course inspired you to pick up new habits, drop old ones, or take some action? We’re compiling student stories into a blog post, and we’d love to hear from you--you can post on Facebook or email

Course resources 

  • Explore. The Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley, produces The Science of Happiness. Sign up today to start receiving the GGSC's free "Greater Good" e-newsletter.
  • Get social. Join our GG101x group on Facebook
  • Earn Continuing Education Credit. Are you a mental health professional in the United States? You can earn up to 16 Continuing Education Credit hours here
  • Sign up for an edX Verified Certificate of Achievement (by June 30). Get proof that you have completed The Science of Happiness for your resume, job applications, or school applications. While courses are always free on edX, getting a Verified Certificate could be well worth the cost down the road.
With Gratitude,
The Science of Happiness (GG101x) Team

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