Saturday, January 27, 2007

Happiness Mish Mash

“Everything has been figured out, except how to live.”
Jean-Paul Sarte (1905-1980)

T F An unhappy child is likely to become an unhappy adult
T F People become less happy as they age
T F Financial security contributes to happiness
T F Having close friends increases happiness more than having children
T F College graduates are less happy than high school graduates
T F Happy and unhappy people have an equal amount of misfortune in their lives

Half of these statements are true and half are false..........

This little quiz falls somewhere in the beginning of my book on happiness, which i put aside a couple of years ago and won't return to until I am very sure I can write it. This little introduction also falls somewhere in the beginning:

Long ago a panel of Gods and Goddesses held an emergency meeting to find ways to protect the secret of life. They were concerned that as humankind expanded its knowledge and reach, human beings would one day be able to access the knowledge known only to the highest Gods. One God said, “Let’s hide the secret at the bottom of the deepest ocean.” “No”, said another, “They will one day have submarines.” Another said, “Let’s hide it at the top of the highest mountain”. “No”, said another. “They will one day have airplanes and helicopters.” There was silence for a long time. Then, the youngest among them said, to the great relief of all, “Why don’t we hide it inside them? They’ll never think to look there.”

Every now and then I take a look at either the first draft manuscript or my book proposal for what I call " my happiness book". My favorite thing is always reviewing and rediscovering the facts and research that validate certain aspects and characteristics of happiness. For example:

1. Jessica receives a 10% raise at work. She is thrilled with the extra money and recognition that she has done a good job. Then she hears that Victor received a 15% raise. This information makes her immediately unhappy. What will happen the next time she finds that someone else is doing better? Even if Jessica manages to surpass Victor, her reference is likely to drift upward to Laura, and then she will feel unhappy again. (Social comparisons impede lasting happiness).

2. A passion for order and control is inconsistent with scientific findings that chaos is essential to the survival of life. A healthy heartbeat is more chaotic than a diseased heartbeat, and the normal brain is more chaotic than the dysfunctional brain.

3. From 1950 through the 1970’s, a controversial scientist at the University of Wisconsin brutally raised infant rhesus monkeys without mothers. Totally isolated at birth, he gave them a choice of two types of artificial “surrogate” mothers. One had a monkey head made of wood and a wire mesh torso to which a bottle of milk was attached. The other surrogate mother had a similar head and torso, but instead of a milk bottle, this one’s torso was wrapped in terry cloth. The baby monkeys chose the terry cloth mothers.
(Nuturing contact is more important than life sustaining nutrition)

4. Simply touching someone’s arm or hand lowers their blood pressure. One study of victims of heart attacks found that pet owners survived the longest: petting and stroking a pet was the most calming thing a patient or former patient could do.
(If the rhesus monkeys didn't convince you...)

5. Myth #1 When you’re happy, everything goes smoothly.
In a study of over thirteen thousand people, 96 percent of subjects rated their satisfaction with life typically no higher than “fairly positive”. The satisfied life was not one of the extremes but steady, generally positive feelings (Diener and Diener 1995).

6. Among people who say they are satisfied with their life as a whole, 50 percent report frequent worries (Glatzer and Zapf 1984).

7. The work of Mihaly Cikszetmihalyi has been a breakthrough in introducing the concept of “flow”—the moments in life when you are so involved in what you are doing that nothing else seems to matter. In those moments you are fully alive and masterfully content. (People who live in the present moment are happier than people who are pre-occupied with the past or future)

8. Describe the two most intense hours of your life. Then choose three words about those two hours that say it all
(It's my nature: I have to ask intense's a teaching tool, really.)

9. In a study on adult self-esteem, researchers found that people who are happy with themselves take defeat and explain it away, treating it as an isolated incident that indicates nothing about their ability. People who are unhappy take defeat and enlarge it, making it stand for who they are and using it to predict the outcome of future events (Brown and Dutton 1995).

I could so easily go on. If I had time right now, I would include another dozen of these facts and findings. What I like most about them is that they add scientific, not just "emotional", credibility to one of the most important things in all the world--a happy life.

That's all for now. My adrenalin is happily flowing.

And by the way, is this interesting?



  1. Very interesting! I loved hiding it within ;)
    How'd I do?

  2. “Why don’t we hide it inside them? They’ll never think to look there.” Brilliant.

    You gotta write this book!! I only have a moment to read a few of the numbered facts, but I'll come back after dinner and read the rest ... but I had to comment on
    #2 -- I have an irregular heart beat with two longer-than-usual valves that give my pulse a little hiccup. When my heart went 140 beats a minute for three months at the end of my pregnancy, I made it out just fine, thanks to my normally goofy heart beat.
    #4 I can clearly remember stressful times in life when people have reached out to touch me and how that simple touch helped me feel tremendously better.

    Okay, gotta eat dinner! :)

  3. p.s. this is very intersting!!

  4. kj,
    wow, you've given us a lot of things to think about. i don't know where to start.

    but, i have to agree on the power of touch to heal. Joshua, my eldest, was born premature and had to stay in the hospital for a month. Touch is such a necessary part of the treatment for preemies that mothers are encouraged to do kangaroo care - you hold your baby inside your gown so that you are skin to skin. The nurses at the NICU swear that preemies who are constantly touched and/or handled by their mothers gain weight faster and their heartbeats stabilize. Sadly, a lot of the babies who have been there for 4-6 months are rarely visited by their mothers.

  5. I thought it was interesting, too. I'd read the book :)

  6. The panel reminds me of the musk-deer fable we learned at yoga teacher training. The musk deer was wondering where the good smell was coming from. He looked everywhere. But it was coming from his own glands...and happiness is like that, inside.

  7. Yes, mighty mighty interesting !! a hot topic too, there is often something written about that in newspapers, ... also because the opposite side of the medal is : depression, a big concern in our society of today. It highly interests me too.
    And that's the way to do it : collect and collect, go through that stuff again and again, and meanwhile ideas are ripening and forming in your head, untill one day it all flows out in a book (of course, I don't have to tell you this, you are the writer)
    For me this quote had much truth : The three grand essentials of happiness are: Something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. (Alexander Chalmers)
    P.S. I also read about the evidence that touching and hugging lowers blood pressure, that holding hands lowers the stress level : that's interesting info.

  8. Yes, it is interesting. I am thinking.

  9. as always your posts are interesting. so yes! this post is VERY, VERY INTERESTING!

  10. "They’ll never think to look there.”....
    Isn't that just totally amazing and true? Within ourselves?
    Not just an interesting post, but one that needs to be saved under "reference".....
    so much to ponder!
    Next chapter, please....

  11. I'm with Melisa; you have to write this book. I know a couple of people who suck the joy from everything and would love to give to them. Although I'm sure they wouldn't acknowledge they need it, or recognize their behavior as part of their problem!

  12. I agree with the others, you should write that book! It looks very promising!
    I don't need it now since I am happy but who knows I might need your book in the future!

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  14. I am including a link for you from an old NYT article about the The Futile Pursuit of Happiness
    that you might be interested in.

    Happiness indeed is an utterly interesting topic!

  15. that first quote is sooo true!


  16. tammy, you're off by one. half are true, half are false...

    melissa, because it's my great love, can't write the book until i know i can. sad but true.

    oh menchie, i want to show up at that nicu and hold and hug those babies. honest to god, i read your comment and starting thinking, "could i?"

    bearette, nice to hear from you! yes, it's inside of each of us, isn;t it?

    hildegarde, you have become one of my very favorite visitors. you are so wise and thoughtful.

    gautami, there is so much i could learn from what you already know.

    maria, thank you very much. it's nice to have you back.

    sas, welcome and thank you. there will be more installments.... :)

    bibi, "suck the joy"--not without my permission, you don't! always always nice to see your smiling avatar

    ces, you have an indeflatable optimism, especially for a joyful pessimist.

    sidney, i am so glad you are happy. probably your willingness to live your life's work has alot to do with it. you are an inspiration to me.

    cristosova, i printed this article. it is really excellent. i hope you will keep in touch--a pleasure to get to know you.

  17. Yes, this is interesting! I should be working...but instead I'm sitting here reading this post...drawn in. I couldn't pull myself away!

  18. Yes, I love stuff like this.