Here, by way of a reflection back over the last year of happiness & wellbeing stories is just one story from each of the first 3 months of these collections.
And each of the Happiness At Work Edition headings provide a link to that particular collection if you are interested in looking back further…
by Maria Popova
From Plato to Buddha, or what imperfection has to do with the neuroscience of the good life.
If you, like us, are fascinated by the human quest to understand the underpinnings of happiness but break out in hives at the mere mention of self-help books, you’re in luck: We’ve sifted through our personal library, a decade’s worth of obsessive reading, to bring you seven essential books on the art and science of happiness, rooted in solid science, contemporary philosophy and cross-disciplinary insight. From psychology and neuroscience to sociology and cultural anthropology to behavioural economics, these must-reads illuminate the most fundamental aspiration of all human existence: How to avoid suffering and foster lasting well-being…
Linda Carroll, July 5, 2012
An intriguing new study suggests that men are happier and less stressed when they do more of the housework…
Though there were no data to explain why men were happier and less stressed when doing more housework, the researchers have their theories. “Men who leave the chores to women may be subject to more complaints than men who do their share of home chores,” the researchers suggested. “It is also plausible that some men want a more equitable role in the home and their well-being is reduced when the pressure of their jobs gets in the way.”
Scott and Plagnol suspect that men might be more willing to share housework equally if they knew there were benefits to the arrangement.
“Our study points to wider benefits for men who do their fair share of the housework,” they wrote. “Men today play a far greater role in home and child care than their fathers or grandfathers. It might help change move faster if the benefits of a more equitable divide became more widely known.” …
Curtis Roosevelt, 10th July 2012
Capitalism needs profit, of course. It will fail without the entrepreneurship that seeks profit. But at the extremity of private enterprise is greed, an appetite that runs amok when given the chance. Without regulations, without restraints backed up by law, the appetite for power — money and position — is uncontrollable. This human weakness, a lust which is quite basic in our nature, is behind all our economic recessions. Irresponsibility – buccaneering – is inevitable when entrepreneurs are left to themselves. Greed will win out!
What the business and financial people driving the economy have forgotten is that the gains they derive from profits produced by enterprise must be shared if our society is to function with any cohesion. We are one people, one nation. But is this today’s reality? Income inequality is now a major issue in the United States. In his time Franklin Roosevelt talked plainly about this problem. He brought it out into the light and made it a cornerstone of the New Deal. What do we hear from our leaders today?
And what of happiness? That’s the word Laura Musikanski used when reporting on a United Nations conference convened last April: “The UN Embraces the Economics of Happiness.” Don’t turn away thinking some well-meaning NGOs have gone off the deep end again with some half-baked notions of pie in the sky. The conference was a serious affair attended by 650 luminaries and addressed by senior diplomats from many countries. On this occasion, the UN’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, proclaimed that “social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible.” Well-known experts from academia also spoke. Lord Richard Layard, John Helliwell and Jeffrey Sachs introduced the unfortunately titled “World Happiness Report.”
Despite its name, the report is neither frivolous nor reckless. It seeks to introduce a new economic paradigm that shifts us away from looking at economic growth and recession as strictly financial matters, as if they were divorced from social consequences. It points to the current global order’s failure, even inability, to implement the drastic changes required for realistic, sustainable societies. Implicitly indicted are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Their previous conditions for loans we now see were often destructive to economies in the Third World instead of helpful. And yet we continue now on the same destructive path with the European Union’s strict policies when loaning money to Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal.
I found the U.N. report useful. It helps to reinforce the basic thrust of this column. Government policies today, whether they emphasize austerity or stimulus, fail to recognize and correct the fact that the overall well-being of citizens continues to be outweighed by the protection of a single sector of our society, the financial one. No matter how important the financial sector may be, this state of affairs is unconscionable. Economic thinking that ignores the social element is not good economics.
So here’s the million-dollar question: When will policymakers start to take happiness seriously? …
First annual results of Measuring National Wellbeing Programme show teenagers and pensioners have key to happiness.
As part of the government’s attempts to develop an alternative measure of national performance to GDP, the Office for National Statistics has published its first tranche of detailed subjective data exploring how happiness and anxiety levels vary according to factors including sex and ethnic group.
Responses by 165,000 people in the annual population survey reveal the average rating of “life satisfaction” in Britain is 7.4 out of 10 and 80% of people gave a rating of seven or more when asked whether the things they did in their lives were “worthwhile”…
Relationships also play a big part, with 82% of people in marriages or civil partnerships giving high or medium life satisfaction ratings, followed by cohabiting couples on 79%, single people on 71% and divorced people on 60%. Women also rated slightly higher on both the “life satisfaction” and the “worthwhile” question, but reported an average level of 3.3 for anxiety, compared with men’s three…
Far more significant, however, appears to be the impact of work: not only not having it – which leads twice as many unemployed people to rate their satisfaction levels as low or very low as those in a job – but also what kind of work you do. The highest average life satisfaction was reported by those in professional occupations such as teaching, medicine or law and was lowest among “process, plant and machine operatives”…
But work is significant. Higher scores were given by groups of employees “with more responsibility and control over their work, as well as higher incomes”.
July 31st, 2012
We’re losing our sense of awe at our own peril, however. The title of a new Stanford study tells you all you need to know: Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Apparently, watching awe-inspiring vidoes makes you less impatient, more willing to volunteer time to help others, more likely to prefer experiences over material products, more present in the here and now, and happier overall…
ANGELA MOLLARD, AUGUST 05, 2012
REMEMBER when ‘happy’ was just something you were? Or weren’t. Good days, bad days, happy days, sad days – all jumbled in a life you lived rather than thought about too much.
Today happiness is a commodity; a ‘goal’, a ‘revolution’, a ‘project’. It’s what we want for ourselves and our children. “Yes, please,” we’d say to the doctor if she could vaccinate against sadness, along with the usual measles and mumps. Anything to immunise ourselves against pain and unease.
I write this because I’ve had an awful week – made somewhat worse by the book I’m reading (for work, not pleasure) called The Happiness Project. Ironically, as my world filled with woes, I read chapter after chapter about one woman’s attempt to “lighten up”, “be serious about play” and “keep a contented heart”. “I am happy,” writes Gretchen Rubin in her mega-selling memoir, “but I’m not as happy as I should be.”
More helpful, I think, than having an articulate and much-blessed woman tell you how to find happiness, is having a flawed and down-in-the dumps columnist recount the details of her weekus horribilis. (Shall we start with my appalling Latin?)
I may be guilty of over-sharing, but my argument is this: we live in a culture that propagates the notion that happiness should be a constant state of mind and perfection our universal aim. To that end, most weeks I write jaunty, optimistic and ‘wise’ missives underneath a photo that makes me look 10 times prettier than I really am. “Great life, lucky cow,” you probably say to yourself and, yes, sometimes it is and sometimes I am.
But if I neglect to tell you the bad stuff – the hard, horrible, trying times – then I’m as guilty of perpetuating perfect images as those ads where mums are always smiling…
There’s lots of sound good sense in Rubin’s project, but I’m concerned we’re trying to anaesthetise anguish from our lives. Psychologists are observing a new generation suffering “a discomfort with discomfort”.
“Please let them be devastated at age six,” implores Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. I hear her. Last year, my eldest didn’t practice for a music exam and received a correspondingly poor result. It’s been the best lesson in her charmed life…
AUGUST 14, 2012 // BY: JULIET MICHAELSON
A poll conducted for the BBC, published today, shows that 56% of us say the Games have had a positive effect on us personally, and a whopping 83% say they’ve had a positive effect on the UK as a whole. Another poll by the consumer group Which? also showed an Olympic bounce – an increase in the proportion of people who felt satisfied with their lives during the first week of the Games.
To find out why the Olympics have made us feel so good we can turn to the findings of well-being science. We know that experiencing a sense of belonging is a crucial component of feeling good about our lives – and the Olympics have certainly made us feel part of the nationwide ‘Team GB’. And more than that, they’ve demonstrated a sense of people pulling together to work towards a shared goal – from the ‘Gamesmaker’ volunteers and medal-winning athletes to the cheering crowds – another thing the research shows is a route to happiness. In fact, it is possible to see how each of our evidence-based Five Ways to Well-being – Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give – have been encouraged in some way by the Olympics.
The positive feelings that have been generated need no further justification – of course we are happy to be happy. But in fact, research has shown that experiencing positive emotions does have practical benefits. For example, psychologists have found that experiencing positive emotions broadens people’s horizons – encouraging creativity. So this could be a good moment for businesses to experiment with new ways of doing things – although there is a substantial body of evidence suggesting the long-termeconomic impact of major sporting events is negligible.
And will the feel good factor last? In the BBC poll over half of respondents said the effects for the UK will be short-lived. I suspect they may be right. Good feelings are, after all, a response to what is happening in our lives, and pretty soon both the Olympics and Paralympics will be over. If they succeed in bringing about the much-discussed ‘legacy’ and new sports-based habits form, it is quite possible that some of the good feelings associated with the Olympics could remain too.
But forming new habits is a notoriously difficult nut to crack…
“The implication both of the Baboon research and the Whitehall Study of British Civil Servants is how can we create a society that has the conditions that allow people to flourish?
“Control is intimately related to where you are in the occupational hierarchy…When people report they have more control in their work, they’re being treated more fairly, there’s more justice…the amount of illness goes down…
“Give people more involvement in their work, give them more say in what they’re doing, give them more reward for the amount of effort they put out and it might be that you not only have a healthier workforce but a more productive workplace as well.”
Michael Marmoot, The Whitehall Study, University College Medical School, London
Intelligence comes at a price. The human species, despite its talent for solving problems, has managed over the millennia to turn one of its most basic survival mechanisms–the stress response–against itself. “Essentially,” says Stanford University neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, “we’ve evolved to be smart enough to make ourselves sick.”
In the 2008 National Geographic documentary Stress: Portrait of a Killer, Sapolsky and fellow scientists explain the deadly consequences of prolonged stress…
Chronic stress has also been shown in scientific studies to diminish brain cells needed for memory and learning, and to adversely affect the way fat is distributed in the body. It has even been shown to measurably accelerate the aging process in chromosomes, a result that confirms our intuitive sense that people who live stressful lives grow old faster.
By studying baboon populations in East Africa, Sapolsky has found that individuals lower down in the social hierarchy suffer more stress, and consequently more stress-related health problems, than dominant individuals. The same trend in human populations was discovered in the British Whitehall Study. People with more control in work environments have lower stress, and better health, than subordinates.
Stress: Portrait of a Killer is a fascinating and important documentary–well worth the 52 minutes it takes to watch…
Monday 24 january 2011
Have you ever had the feeling that everyone else seems so sorted, so at ease? You look about you and see friends chatting over lunch, people laughing on their mobiles, others escaping contentedly through novels or newspapers. According to Alexander Jordan and colleagues, most of us have such a tendency to underestimate other people’s experience of negative emotion. In turn the researchers think this skewed perception perpetuates a collective delusion in which we all strive to present an unrealistically happy front because we think that’s the norm…
…an enduring mystery is why we continue to underestimate other people’s misery whilst knowing full well that most of our own negative experiences happen in private, and that we frequently put on a brave, happy face when socialising. Why don’t we reason that other people do the same? Jordan and his colleagues think this is probably part of an established phenomenon in psychology – ‘the fundamental attribution error’ – in which people downplay the role of the situation when assessing other people’s behaviour compared with their own.
A fascinating implication of this research is that it could help explain the popularity of tragic art, be that in drama, music or books. ‘In fictional tragedy, people are given the opportunity to witness “the terrible things in life” that are ordinarily “played out behind the scenes”,’ the researchers said (quoting Checkhov), ‘which may help to depathologise people’s own negative emotional experiences.’…
We still love these Great Questions that The Happiness Project author, Gretchin Rubin asks different people when she interviews them:
These are really great questions that we might ask ourselves ~ and ask each other ~ to uncover some of the wisdom we each already carry. And, perhaps too, to reveal some of the holes in our current understanding about what helps or hinders our own happiness.
- What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
- What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
- Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
- Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful?
- Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
- Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why?
- Is there some aspect of your life that makes you particularly happy?
- Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?
Many believe that conscious awareness originates in the brain alone. Recent scientific research suggests that consciousness actually emerges from the brain and body acting together. A growing body of evidence suggests that the heart plays a particularly significant role in this process.
Far more than a simple pump, as was once believed, the heart is now recognized by scientists as a highly complex system with its own functional “brain.” …
The heart’s ever-present rhythmic field has a powerful influence on processes throughout the body. We have demonstrated, for example, that brain rhythms naturally synchronize to the heart’s rhythmic activity, and also that during sustained feelings of love or appreciation, the blood pressure and respiratory rhythms, among other oscillatory systems, entrain to the heart’s rhythm.
We propose that the heart’s field acts as a carrier wave for information that provides a global synchronizing signal for the entire body…
Basic research at the Institute of HeartMath shows that information pertaining to a person’s emotional state is also communicated throughout the body via the heart’s electromagnetic field. The rhythmic beating patterns of the heart change significantly as we experience different emotions. Negative emotions, such as anger or frustration, are associated with an erratic, disordered, incoherent pattern in the heart’s rhythms. In contrast, positive emotions, such as love or appreciation, are associated with a smooth, ordered, coherent pattern in the heart’s rhythmic activity. In turn, these changes in the heart’s beating patterns create corresponding changes in the structure of the electromagnetic field radiated by the heart, measurable by a technique called spectral analysis.
More specifically, we have demonstrated that sustained positive emotions appear to give rise to a distinct mode of functioning, which we call psychophysiological coherence.
During this mode, heart rhythms exhibit a sine wave-like pattern and the heart’s electromagnetic field becomes correspondingly more organised. At the physiological level, this mode is characterised by increased efficiency and harmony in the activity and interactions of the body’s systems.
Psychologically, this mode is linked with a notable reduction in internal mental dialogue, reduced perceptions of stress, increased emotional balance, and enhanced mental clarity, intuitive discernment, and cognitive performance…
Most people think of social communication solely in terms of overt signals expressed through language, voice qualities, gestures, facial expressions, and body movements. However, there is now evidence that a subtle yet influential electromagnetic or “energetic” communication system operates just below our conscious awareness. Energetic interactions likely contribute to the “magnetic” attractions or repulsions that occur between individuals, and also affect social exchanges and relationships. Moreover, it appears that the heart’s field plays an important role in communicating physiological, psychological, and social information between individuals…
The Heart’s Field and Intuition
There are also new data suggesting that the heart’s field is directly involved in intuitive perception, through its coupling to an energetic information field outside the bounds of space and time. Using a rigorous experimental design, we found compelling evidence that both the heart and brain receive and respond to information about a future event before the event actually happens. Even more surprising was our finding that the heart appears to receive this “intuitive” information before the brain. This suggests that the heart’s field may be linked to a more subtle energetic field that contains information on objects and events remote in space or ahead in time…
By EVE TAHMINCIOGLU | Published: SEPTEMBER 20, 2012
When Anne Marie Slaughter wrote her now infamous The Atlantic article titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” she wasn’t naive about how the piece might stir up women.
She wanted to question the status quo, and possibly help inspire change.
But for everyone out there who may have interpreted her article as a narrative meant to inspire women to give up their careers for motherhood, she says, you were wrong.
And for those who thought she damaged the women’s movement’s progress leveling the workplace playing field, she says, get over it.
It’s time to move beyond the tired mommy wars, and the notion that women should be afraid to point out the flaws in the U.S. workplace for fear of rocking the boat.
Slaughter wondered why we don’t hold up commitment to family the way we hold up commitment to fellow soldiers in the military. “We glorify ‘Band of Brothers’ but if you say, ‘I can’t stay in this job because of my commitment to those I love’ it’s viewed differently. In so many ways caring for family is not OK.”
“I value people who value those they are closest to,” she said.
So just in case you were wondering, Slaughter stressed, “I believe you can do it all.”
However, she’s come to the conclusion that it’s not “just a matter of individual commitment” when it comes to making it all work.
If we don’t change “the work environment” in the United States, or the arc of what makes a “successful-career environment,” she stressed, “some women will make it, but for every one else we actually need change.”
Being Happy, Creative & Productive
BridgeBuilders STG limited
Presentation slides from a workshop, commissioned by Ardent Hare, at
Whitechapel Gallery, London, 17th September 2012
University of Portsmouth, 10th September 2012
Slideshow movie created by Mark Trezona
Soundscape by Mark Trezona & Martyn Duffy
with original music by Martyn Duffy