Presentation on theme: "Catching Happiness: Putting Positive Psychology into Practice Bill O’Hanlon www.billohanlon.com."— Presentation transcript:
Catching Happiness: Putting Positive Psychology into Practice Bill O’Hanlon
2 New book out in June 2011
What is Positive Psychology? Research evidence about what works in human life; what makes people happier; what gives their lives a sense of satisfaction and meaning; what helps them function better; Also called “Subjective Well-Being”
Psychological studies are biased toward the negative Psychological publications and studies dealing with negative states outnumbered those examining positive states by a ratio of 17 to 1 in a survey done in Myers, D. and Deiner, E. (1995) “Who is Happy?,” Psychological Science, 6:10-19.
Therapy has had a negative bias
The Power of Negative Thinking “I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?” –Ronnie Shakes
This comes in part from the Freudian legacy Freud thought the best we could hope for was “ordinary misery.” He questioned the quest for happiness and indeed, all our motives, and ascribed dark impulses and infantile wishes to them.
Relevant research People who are in a more positive mood are better liked by others and more open to new ideas and experiences. Fredrickson, Barbara. (1998). “What good are positive emotions?” Review of General Psychology, 2:
Negative talk shown to increase stress hormones A recent study shows that extensive discussions of problems and encouragement of ‘‘problem talk,’’ rehashing the details of problems, speculating about problems, and dwelling on negative affect in particular, leads to a signiﬁcant increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which predicts increased depression and anxiety over time. Byrd-Craven, J., Geary, D. C., Rose, A. J., & Ponzi, D. (2008). “Co- ruminating increase stress hormone levels in women,” Hormones and Behavior, 53, 489–492.
The essence of this approach Discover what works and what’s going well Focus on what can enhance rather than merely fix human life Focus on resources rather than problems Identify strengths and use those in the service of chang e
Seligman’s List of Virtues/Signature Strengths: Six areas [The Reverse-DSM] Wisdom and Knowledge Courage Love and Humanity Justice Temperance Spirituality and Transcendence Find this list and some self-tests at:
Wisdom and Knowledge Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge
Wisdom and Knowledge Curiosity and interest in the world Love of learning Judgment Critical thinking Open-mindedness Ingenuity Originality Practical intelligence Emotional intelligence Perspective
Courage Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal
Courage Valor and bravery Perseverance Industry Diligence Integrity Genuineness Honesty
Love and Humanity Interpersonal strengths that involve “tending and befriending” others
Love and Humanity Kindness Generosity Loving and allowing oneself to be loved
Justice Citizenship Duty Teamwork Loyalty Fairness and equity Leadership
Justice Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life
Temperance Strengths that protect against excess
Transcendence Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and thereby provide meaning
Transcendence Appreciation of beauty and excellence Gratitude Hope Optimism Future mindedness Spirituality Sense of purpose Faith, religiousness Forgiveness and mercy Playfulness and humor Zest, passion and enthusiasm
Relevant research Two studies show that focusing on or creating pleasant experiences enhances our learning or performance abilities. Kids who were asked to spend 30 seconds remembering happy things did better on learning tasks they were given just after remembering the happy stuff. Internists who were given some candy or who watched a funny video (vs. reading humanistic statements about medicine and a control group) did better at diagnosing a hard-to-diagnose case of liver disease. References: Masters, J., Barden, R. and Ford, M. (1979). "Affective states, expressive behavior, and learning in children," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37: Isen, A, Rosensweig, A. and Young, M. (1991). "The influence of positive affect on clinical problem solving," Medical Decision Making, 11:
How to apply this to changework End sessions with compliments or pleasant topics Or at the very least, neutral topics and emotional tones
Caveats and Challenges Much of this research is new and preliminary Some of it is correlational and some of it is experimental Much of is not done by and for clinicians or pointed toward practical uses, so it takes some translation We will have to wait to find out what really works in clinical settings
Happiness defined Pleasure/positive emotions +engagement +meaning =Happiness
There are some benefits of happiness Happy people: Are half as likely to die over the same time period as others Danner, D.D., Snowdon, D.A. & Friesen, W.V. (2001). “Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings from the Nun Study,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80: Diener, Ed and Seligman, Martin. (2002). “Very happy people,” Psychological Science, 13: Half as likely to be disabled Live longer than average Have better health habits Have lower blood pressure Have more robust immune systems Are more productive on the job Are able to tolerate more pain
There even seem to be economic benefits to happiness Cheerful college students ended up earning $25,000 more per year than their dour counterparts. King, Laura and Lyubomirsky, Sonja. (2005). “The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?” Psychological Bulletin, 131:
Happiness and longevity Happiness both seems to prevent people from falling ill and reduce stress (which is associated with inflammation, which is associated with chronic and acute illnesses) Happiness is also associated with better health habits, which likely is a factor in the longevity of happy people Veenhoven et al. (2008). “Healthy happiness: effects of happiness on physical health and the consequences for preventive health care,” Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(3):449. Siahpush, M, Spittal M, Singh GJ. (2008). “Happiness and life satisfaction prospectively predict self-rated health, physical health, and the presence of limiting, long-term health conditions,” American Journal of Health Promotion, 23(1). Moskowitz, J.T. (2003). “Positive affect predicts lower risk of AIDS mortality,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 65: Danner, D., Snowdon, D. and Friesen, W. (2001). “Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings in the nun study,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80:
Happiness is relatively stable One year after winning the lottery or becoming quadriplegic, people’s happiness level return to where they were before the drastic change of circumstance (Happiness Set Point; genetically influenced but not fixed) Brickman, P.; Coates, D.; and Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). “Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36: There are some things that seem to permanently increase happiness levels People are generally pretty bad at predicting what will make them happy
Estimates of contributors to happiness and where we can influence happiness levels
Life circumstances Country Level of national income Comparative income Job security Meaningful work/life Age
Genetic/temperament factors Set point for happiness Explanatory style Depression tendencies
Haidt’s Formula H = S + C + V H = your general happiness level S = your happiness set point C = your life conditions V = your voluntary activities Haidt, Jonathon. (2006). The Happiness Hypothesis. NY: Basic.
Happiness is challenging "The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” –Benjamin Franklin
Problems with deliberately pursuing happiness We are bad at predicting what will make us happy We overestimate the negative effects of bad stuff We overestimate the lasting happiness/satisfaction that will result from good stuff Our preferences change Habituation/the hedonic treadmill
The Hedonic Treadmill "When we have an experience -- hearing a particular sonata, making love with a particular person, watching the sun set from a particular window of a particular room–on successive occasions, we quickly begin to adapt to it, and the experience yields less pleasure each time. Psychologists call this habituation, economists call it declining marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage" (p. 130). From Dan Gilbert’s Stumbling On Happiness
The Paradox of Happiness: Happiness eludes us when we try to get or create it directly “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.” –Eric Hoffer “If only we'd stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.” –Edith Wharton
Trying to be happy or monitoring your happiness blocks happiness People were told to monitor their happiness or try to be more happy while listening to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. People who merely listened to it reported more happiness afterward than people who were monitoring their happiness or trying to be happy while listening. Schooler, J., Ariely, D. and Lowenstein, G. (2003). “The pursuit of happiness can be self-defeating,” in Brocas and Carillo (Eds.) The Psychology of Economic Decisions, Vol. 1, pp NY: Oxford University Press.
But all is not lost; one can increase happiness (but not directly) Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities. –Aldous Huxley
Does money make us happy? “Money can’t buy happiness, but neither can poverty.” –Leo Rosten
Looking for joy in all the wrong places A study by Tim Kasser at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, found that young adults who focus on money, image and fame tend to be more depressed, have less enthusiasm for life and suffer more physical symptoms such as headaches and sore throats than others (The High Price of Materialism, MIT Press, 2002).
Money and happiness Americans who earn $50,000/year are much happier, in general, than those who earn $10,000/year But those who earn $5 million/year are not substantially happier than those who earn $100,000 People who live in poor countries are less happy than those who live in moderately wealthy countries; but those who live in moderately wealthy countries are not much happier than those who live in very wealthy countries. Source: Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard, Penguin, 2005.
Four Keys to Unlock Happiness S.O.A.P. S ocial Connections O ptimism A ppreciation (Gratitude) P urpose (greater than oneself)
S.O.A.P. S ocial Connections and Happiness
Social connections and happiness Countless studies document the link between society and psyche: people who have close friends and confidants, friendly neighbors, and supportive co-workers are less likely to experience sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, and problems with eating and sleeping. The single most common finding from a half century's research on the correlates of life satisfaction, not only in the United States but around the world, is that happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one's social connections. Putnam, Robert D Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 332)
Relationships “By far the greatest predictor of happiness in the literature is intimate relationships.” – Sonja Lyubomirsky, researcher at UC- Riverside, author of The How of Happiness
Connection can help reduce PTSD Being with someone else during an earthquake is protective against PTSD Armenian, H. et. Al. (2000). “Loss as a determinant of PTSD in a cohort of adult survivors of the 1998 earthquake in Armenia: Implications for policy,” Acta Psychiatr. Scand., 102(1): Post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers in group treatment recovered at a significantly higher rate (88.3%) than those in individual treatment (31.3%) Beck, J. et.al. (2009).“Group Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: An Initial Randomized Pilot Study,” Behavior Therapy, 40(1):82-92.
Positive social talk matters The amount and type of parental talk to infants varied between disadvantaged families and those who had higher incomes and education Disadvantaged parents generally talked less than advantaged (10 million words vs. 80 million words) Disadvantaged parents directed more “discouragements” (no; shut up; stop) to their kids (200,000 vs. 80,000 “encouragements” [chit chat; positive comments; gossip; joking; running commentary; praise]) Advantaged parents had a reversal of this ratio (500,000 encouragements to 80,000 discouragements) It turns out that these differences have profound and hard to reverse effects on intellectual and academic achievement (vocabulary growth and standardized intellectual achievement tests measured at ages 3 and 9) Hart, B. and Risley, T. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company
Social connections are at risk in modern societies Shared family dinners and family vacations are down over a third in the last 25 years Having friends over to the house is down by 45% over the last 25 years Participation in clubs and civic organizations is down by over 50% in the last 25 years Church attendance is down by about a third since the 1960s Putnam, Robert D. (2000). Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster. See also:
Social connections are at risk in modern societies 65% of Americans spend more time with their computers than with their spouses Kelton Research, the "Cyber Stress" study, Digital Home Services, Parks 2007
Even in severe poverty, social connections help happiness levels Robert Biswas-Diener and Ed Diener surveyed life satisfaction of the homeless and prostitutes living in the slums of Calcutta and found that healthy bonds with family and good social relationships were correlated with higher life satisfaction levels. Biswas-Diener, R. and Diener, E. (2001). “Making the best of a bad situation: Satisfaction in the slums of Calcutta,” Social Indicators Research, 55,
Happiness and social connections People with five or more close friends (excluding family members) are 50% more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than respondents with fewer. One survey of 800 college alumni showed that classmates who valued high income, job success and prestige more than close friends and a loving marriage were twice as likely to be “fairly” or “very” unhappy.
Relatedness and happiness research finding Most of us are happier during the weekends Why? Relatedness Autonomy Researchers randomly beeped 74 adults aged over 3 weeks and asked them to rate how they felt, how close they felt to others they were with and whether they felt competent and autonomous Ryan, R. M., Bernstein, J. H., & Brown, K. W. (2010). “Weekends, Work, and Wellbeing: Psychological Need Satisfactions and Day of the Week Effects on Mood, Vitality, and Physical Symptoms.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 29,
Two kinds of social connections One-to-one: friendships; pets; marriage; intimate partnerships; child-parent Group/community connections: neighborhoods, interest groups, church communities, professional or work groups, groups of friends, sports teams, military units, support groups and so on
Connective rituals A review of 50 years of research (32 studies) on family rituals showed that regular routines had a positive effect on health and family relationships Common routines: Dinnertime Bedtime Chores Talking on the phone Visiting with relatives Typical family rituals: Birthdays Holidays Family reunions Funerals Religious rituals and services Fiese, Barbara H.; Tomcho, Thomas J.; Douglas, Michael; Josephs, Kimberly ; Poltrock, Scott; and Baker, Tim. (2002)."A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?," ; Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 4.
Using a positive psychology to improve relationships
Relevant research Happily married couples say 5 positive remarks for every negative remark, even when having conflicts Couples who are headed for divorce use less than 1 (0.8) positive remarks for every negative one Source: Gottman, J., Gottman, J. And DeClaire, J.(2006). 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage. NY: Crown.
Infidelity/fidelity and positive interactions in relationships Couples with a 2.4 to 1 ratio of positive interactions (nodding, smiling, eye contact) to negative (eye rolling, scowling, expressing contempt) were more likely to experience infidelity after being married than couples with a 4 to 1 positive to negative interaction ratio Allen, E., et.al. (June 2008). “Premarital Precursors of Marital Infidelity,” Family Process, 47(2):
Positive Illusions in Relationships Sandra Murray and colleagues at SUNY Buffalo have done many research studies in which they have found that if one sees one’s partner more positively than they see themselves, the relationship is better (rated more positively and satisfying). Also it helps to reframe their negative qualities as assets. Murray, S. L., & Holmes, J. G. (1993). “Seeing virtues in faults: Negativity and the transformation of interpersonal narratives in close relationships,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., Dolderman, D., & Griffin, D. W. (2000). “What the motivated mind sees: Comparing friends' perspectives to married partners' views of each other,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 36, Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (1996). “The benefits of positive illusions: Idealization and the construction of satisfaction in close relationships,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 70, Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (1996). “The self-fulfilling nature of positive illusions in romantic relationships: Love is not blind, but prescient,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71,
S.O.A.P. O ptimism and Happiness
Optimism and Positive Psychology What we can learn from some psychotically optimistic dogs
Pessimistic vs. Optimistic Styles Bad stuff is: Permanent and will persist; Pervasive; Out of my control Reflects: My resourcelessness; Bad qualities (“I’m such a loser”) Pessimistic explanatory style
Pessimistic vs. Optimistic Styles Bad stuff is: Time and context limited (“I am just going through a rough patch”; or “This job sucks”); Under my influence I possess good and resourceful qualities Optimistic explanatory style
Good to know Optimistic and pessimistic styles and tendencies are relatively stable traits, but they can be affected by actions and changed focus of attention One study found that even naturally pessimistic people who spent one week doing exercises in which they: Identified and wrote down times in the past in which they were at their best Wrote down their personal strengths Expressed gratitude to someone they had never properly thanked Wrote down three good things that happened that day Were happier when their happiness levels were measured 6 months later Seligman, M., Stern, T., Park, N & Peterson, C. (2005). “Positive Psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions,” American Psychologist, 60:
Creating or restoring hope Rehabilitating or inviting people into preferred, compelling positive futures
Elspeth McAdam... A young girl I was working with had experienced abuse. She walked into my office as a very large girl with shaved hair, tattoos on her head, and I don't think she had showered in a week. I had been asked to see her because she was so angry. She clearly didn't want to come and see an expletive expletive shrink. She was very angry at being there. I just said to her, 'You've talked to everybody about your past. Let's talk about your dreams for the future.' And her whole face just lit up when she said her dream was to become a princess. In my mind I could not think of two more opposite visions–but I took her very seriously. I asked her about what the concept of princess meant for her.
Elspeth McAdam She started talking about being a people's princess who would do things for other people, who would be caring and generous and a beautiful ambassador. She described a princess who was slender and well dressed. Over the next few months, we started talking about what this princess would be doing. I discovered that, while this girl was 14 and hadn't been attending school for a long time, the princess was a social worker. I said, 'Okay it is now ten year's time and you have trained as a social worker. What university did you go to?' She mentioned one in the north of England. I asked, 'What did you read [study] there?' She said, 'I don't know, psychology and sociology and a few other things like that.' Then I said, 'Do you remember when you were 14? You'd been out of school for two or three years. Do you remember how you got back in school?'
Elspeth McAdam She said, 'I had this psychiatrist who helped me.' I said, 'How did she help you?' And she started talking about how we made a phone call to the school. I said, "Who spoke? Did you or her?' She replied, 'The psychiatrist spoke but she arranged a meeting for us to go to the school.' I said, 'Do you remember how you shook hands with the head teacher when you went in? And how you looked and what you wore?' We went into these minute details about what that particular meeting was like– looking from the future back. And she was able to describe the conversations we had had, how confident she had been, how well she had spoken, and the subjects she had talked about. I didn't say any more about it.
Elspeth McAdam About a month after this conversation she said to me, 'I think it's about time we went to the school, don't you? Can you ring and make an appointment?' I asked if she needed to talk about it anymore and she said no, that she knew how to behave. When we went into the school she was just brilliant. I first met that girl ten years ago. Now she is a qualified social worker. She fulfilled her dream–although she didn't go to the university she mentioned.
Future-Orientation Research Participants in a study were asked to write down their ideal future, in which all had gone well and they had met their desired hopes and goals, for a few minutes on 4 consecutive days Control groups were asked to write about a traumatic event that had happened to them for those minutes on 4 days; another was asked to write about life goals as well as a trauma; another control group was asked to write about their plans for the day on those 4days Results: The “future-oriented” group reported more subjective well- being after the experiment than the controls; the trauma and “future- oriented” groups both had less illness when followed up 5 months later King, L.A. (2001). “The health benefits of writing about life goals,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27:
Expectancy talk When; will How quickly? Yet; so far After; before
Letter From The Future Have the client write a letter from their future self to their current self from a place they are happier and have resolved the issues that are concerning them now From [five years/two months/ten years/one year] from now; let your intuition and their response guide the time frame; adjust as necessary Have them describe where they are, what they are doing, what they have gone through to get there, and so on Have them write about the crucial things they realized or did to get there or write about some crucial turning points that led to this future Give themselves some sage and compassionate advice from the future
Letter From The Future Use these questions to guide their letter writing: What have you learned and gained perspective on since back in [fill in the present date/year]? What things were you worried or frightened about in those days that seem trivial or far away for you today? What problems seemed overwhelming or insurmountable in those days that you did eventually resolve or overcome? What sage advice would your future self give to that present self? What comfort or reassurance would your future self give to your present self? Who were you troubled by, frightened by or concerned with that now doesn’t matter as much?
Exercise: Future Self Letter Try writing the future letter to yourself to find out what it feels like from the inside out Try the method with one of your clients/patients within the next few weeks
Hope comes from believing your efforts can make a difference Carol Dweck and colleagues gave children a fairly simple puzzle and told half the kids a comment that told them they were smart and the other half that they must have worked hard to solve the puzzles. Then they offered them a choice of simple or challenging puzzles. 90% of the kids who were praised for effort chose the difficult puzzles; a majority of the kids who were praised for intelligence chose the easier ones. Then all the kids were given some difficult puzzles. Then some that were about as easy as the initial ones. The “work hard” kids did 30% better than they had in the initial scores, while the “intelligence” kids scores declined by 20%. A. Cimpian et. al (2007). “Subtle Linguistic Clues Affect Children’s motivations,” Psychological Science, 18:
Working backwards from the future When we are done with therapy and things are better, what will be happening in your life? What could you do, think or focus on during the next while that would help you move a little bit in that direction or would at least be compatible with it? If your problem disappeared, what would be different? In your relationships? In your daily life? In your thinking or focus of attention? In your actions? In any other areas? Is there any part of that you could start to implement in the near future?
Future Pull “The best thing about the future is that comes only one day at a time.” –Abraham Lincoln GET A FREE COPY OF THE SLIDES
S.O.A.P. A ppreciation and Happiness
Appreciation Awe Gratitude Thankfulness Recognizing grace (unearned blessings) Showing and expressing appreciation to others Mindfulness Savoring
Appreciation/Gratitude Two aspects: Acknowledgment and recognition Acknowledgment: Noticing Affirming Recognition That the things we are grateful for came in part from outside ourselves Source: Emmons, Robert. (2007). Thanks: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier. NY: Houghton Mifflin.
Appreciation/Gratitude “The aim of life is appreciation.” –G.K. Chesterton
The Gratitude Exercise At the end of each day, after dinner and before going to sleep, write down three things that went well during the day. Do this every night for a week. The three things you list can be relatively small or large in importance. After each positive event on your list, answer in your own words the question: “Why did this good thing happen?” This exercise was found to increase happiness and decrease depression up to 6 months after the week. [Note: 60% of participants carried on the habit.] Seligman, M.; Steen, T.A.; Park, N.; and Peterson, C. (2005). “Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions,” American Psychologist, 60:
Three Aspects of Appreciation 1. Highlighting Gratitude to Oneself: Note to oneself things that one can be grateful for on a weekly basis 2. Savor: Note to oneself or others what one appreciates aesthetically, like a beautiful sunset, a good meal, and so on 3. Expressing Gratitude to Others: Express appreciation to those people one values and is grateful to
Gratitude/appreciation Expressing gratitude has a short-term positive effect (several weeks) on happiness levels (up to a 25% increase) Those who are typically or habitually grateful are happier than those who aren’t habitually grateful Park, N. Peterson, C. and Seligman, M. (2004). “Strengths of character and well- being among youth,” Unpublished manuscript, U. of Rhode Island.
Appreciation/Gratitude Research 1 People who noted weekly the things they were grateful for increased their happiness levels 25% over people who noted their complaints or were just asked to note any events that had occurred during the week. Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2),
Gratitude Letters In research studies, both initiator and recipient of a gratitude letter report positive outcomes. Instructions: Write a gratitude letter to a person you choose, expressing your gratitude and for what and why, specifically, you are grateful. If at all possible, deliver it personally and ask the person to read the letter in your presence. If personal delivery is not possible, mail, fax, or the letter and follow up with a phone call. Source: Chris Peterson, A Primer in Positive Psychology
Savoring Savor: To appreciate fully; enjoy or relish - American Heritage Dictionary Pay full attention; engage Use as many of the senses as you can (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) Don’t multi-task; focus on what you are experiencing or perceiving Don’t overdo; savoring diminishes due to the hedonic adaptation if done too much or too often Share it with others
Three Types of Savoring Anticipating something good [Future- oriented savoring] Enjoying something in the present moment [Present-oriented savoring] Remembering something pleasurable from the past [Past-oriented savoring]
Past-oriented savoring methods Replaying happy days Keeping a savoring photo album Remembering acts of kindness Recalling best moments
Present-oriented savoring methods Cellphone-, -, TV-, computer-free time periods Sensory focus moments (VAKGO) Watching sunrise or sunset Feeling the breeze with eyes closed Smelling food or environmental scents Tuning in to bodily sensations Tasting/savoring food Slow eating with no distractions Mindfulness practices Tuning in to feelings of the moment
Future-oriented savoring methods Vividly imaging an anticipated event Imagining what the future without some current hassle or problem would be Exploring your best possible future self Your ideal day
Relational savoring Ellen Langer and Leslie Coates Burpee found that couples relationships are more rewarding when partners use mindfulness to notice variations in their partners rather than generalizing (“You are always distracted.” or “You are never spontaneous.”). Burpee, L. and Langer, E. (2005). “Mindfulness and marital satisfaction,” Journal of Adult Development, 12:
S.O.A.P. P urpose/meaning and Happiness
The Meaningful Life and Happiness Several studies with older Americans find that one of the best predictors of happiness is whether or not a person thinks his or her life has a purpose. If they had no such sense of purpose, seven out of ten people studied felt unsettled about their lives; if they had a sense of purpose seven out of ten felt satisfied. Lepper, H. (1996). In Pursuit of Happiness and Satisfaction in Later Life: A Study of Competing Theories of Subjective Well- Being. Ph.D. Dissertation, UC Riverside.
The Meaningful Life and Happiness College students who enjoyed their lives and studies were compared to those who didn’t. The main difference was that those students who were happier had an underlying sense of purpose in life. Rahman, T. and Khaleque, A. (1996). “The purpose in life and academic behavior problem students,” Social Indicators Research, 39:59.
Elements of the Meaningful Life Purpose Contribution Engaging work or activities Finding meaning in suffering Turning negative or hurtful events into happiness or satisfaction with positive connotations or meaning
What animates your life? Recognize what brings you alive or animates you Finding and connecting with the source of your energy and uniqueness Recognizing and claiming your own voice and sensibility
Howard Thurman Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
The Four Energies That Give You Direction and Purpose Blissed Blessed Pissed Dissed
Source: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, New York: Harper, Flow Focused concentration Absorption Feeling strong and alert Effortless control Unselfconscious At the peak of one’s abilities Sense of time disappears or stretches out Transcendence Mindfulness/present moment focus
Leonard Cohen There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
Wounded I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work and my God. - Helen Keller Real suffering burns clean; neurotic suffering creates more and more soot. - Marion Woodman
Wounded/Cursed/Indignation to Life Direction/Purpose Where have you been wounded? Where or about what have you been cursed? Where have you or someone you care about been disrespected or treated unfairly? How have these experiences sensitized you to the problems or suffering in this area? What do you think you might be able to do to relieve or prevent similar suffering for others in the future? How could you turn this wound, curse or disrespect into a blessing, a vocation, a calling, or a life or career direction?
Compassion/Contribution/Service When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package. –John Ruskin The Dead Sea (no outlet) vs. The Sea of Galilee (outlet)
Contribution and Compassion It’s Not About You! “We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give.” –Winston Churchill
Albert Schweitzer You must give something to your fellow men. Even if it is a little thing, do something for those who have need of help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of giving... The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
Ralph Waldo Emerson “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
Relevant research Life satisfaction was shown to increase 24% with the level of altruistic activity in the person’s life. Williams, A., Haber, D., Weaver, G. and Freeman, J. (1998). “Altruistic activity,” Activities, Adaptation, and Aging, 22:31.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?
Contribution U of Michigan study by Stephanie Brown 423 older couples- 5 year study Couples who reported (unpaid) helping someone else even as little as once a year were between 40 and 60% less likely to die than those who reported not helping anyone else during the previous year Examples: volunteering, babysitting for grandchildren; assisting family members Brown, Stephanie; Nesse, Randolph; Vinokur, Amiram; and Smith, Dylan. (2003). “Providing Social Support May Be More Beneficial Than Receiving It: Results From a Prospective Study of Mortality” Psychological Science, 14:320–27.
I, Me, Mine as a clue to suicide About 300 poems from the early, middle and late periods of nine suicidal poets and nine non-suicidal poets — from the 1800s to the present — were compared using the computer text analysis program, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) Textual analysis of poets who committed suicide shows more use of the words “I,” “me,” and “mine,” when compared with poets who died of natural causes. Shannon Wiltsey Stirman and James Pennebaker. (2001). “Word Use in the Poetry of Suicidal and Nonsuicidal Poets,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 63:
Laura King, U of Mo. “People who want to live a more fulfilling life should quite reading self-help books and start helping others.” (quoted in Biswas-Diener, R. and Dean, B. (2007). Positive Psychology Coaching, NY: Wiley.)
W.H. Auden We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.
Acceptance of self and others/developing compassion Compassion Passion=Feeling Com=with
Compassion Training Training and practice in lovingkindness meditation and “lojong” (mind training: proverbs to help shift consciousness, such as): Find the consciousness you had before you were born Treat everything you perceive as a dream Be grateful to everyone When everything goes wrong, treat disaster as a way to wake up Was found to be correlated with: Decreased reactivity to stress Decreased inflammation Pace, T. et. al (2009). “Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress,” Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34(1):
Compassion Research Brain scans (fMRI) of long-time meditating Tibetan Buddhist monks compared with controls noted: Decreased stress Increased activity in brain areas related to empathy Increased baseline activity in left pre-frontal cortex (associated with happiness in other studies) Lutz A, Brefczynski-Lewis J, Johnstone T, Davidson RJ. (2008). “Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise.” PLoS ONE 3(3): e1897. doi: /journal.pone
Forgiveness "Forgive," according to Webster's New World Dictionary, means: "to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; pardon; to overlook an offense; to cancel a debt.” For more on this subject, visit:
Forgiveness Robert Enright, Ph.D., an educational psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stresses that true forgiveness is not: ･ Forgetting. If the hurt wounded you enough to require forgiveness, you may always have a memory of it. ･ Excusing or condoning. The wrong should not be denied, minimized, or justified. ･ Reconciling. You can forgive the offender and still choose not to reestablish the relationship. ･ Weakness. You do not become a doormat or oblivious to cruelty.
Forgiveness research The act of forgiveness can result in: Less anxiety Less depression Better health outcomes Increased coping with stress Increased feelings of closeness to God and others Worthington, E.L. (ed.) (1997). Dimensions of Forgiveness: Psychological Research & Theological Perspectives. PA: Templeton Foundation Press.
Forgiveness steps/process R.E.A.C.H. Recall the hurt Emotional shift Altrusitic gift of forgiveness for the transgressor Commitment to emotional shift Hold onto the forgiveness Worthington, E.L. (ed.) (1997). Dimensions of Forgiveness: Psychological Research & Theological Perspectives. PA: Templeton Foundation Press.
Forgiveness research 25 patients with diagnosed stage-1 hypertension who received forgiveness training achieved significant reductions in anger expression when compared to the control group. Participants who started the program more angry achieved significant reductions in blood pressure. Tibbits, D., Ellis, G., Piramelli, C., Luskin, F., & Lukman, R. ( 2006). “Hypertension reduction through forgiveness training,” Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling. 60(1-2):27-34.
Forgiveness research 20 women who had been emotionally abused in relationships were assigned to either forgiveness training or training in anger validation, assertiveness and interpersonal skill building. Women in the forgiveness group showed significantly greater improvement in trait anxiety, PTSD, self-esteem, amount of forgiveness, environmental mastery and finding meaning in suffering. Reed, G.L et.al (2006). Journal of Clinical Psychology, October,
Forgiveness research Carlsmith, Gilbert and Wilson created an experiment with a planted confederate in a group who took financial advantage of the others in the group. After being taken advantage of, participants were given the opportunity to financially punish the offender and were asked before they did so how they thought getting revenge would make them feel. They all predicted it would be cathartic and would make them feel better. But in fact they ended up feeling worse. They ruminated about the person and the wrong more when they sought revenge. Those who forgo revenge minimize the wrong and “move on.” Carlsmith, Gilbert and Wilson. (May 2008). “The paradoxical consequence of revenge,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 95, No. 6).
Forgiveness research By exacting revenge, people think more about the person and the event. "Rather than providing closure, it does the opposite: It keeps the wound open and fresh.” Kevin Carlsmith, Colgate University
Forgiveness Letter Think of the people who have wronged you whom you have never explicitly forgiven, although you would like to do so. Write a letter, not necessarily to be sent, to one of these individuals describing in concrete terms why you forgive him or her. Do not send this letter unless you really want to do so and are sincere in your forgiveness. Derived from Chris Peterson’s A Primer in Positive Psychology. NY: Oxford University Press, 2006.
One way to think of forgiveness “Turning the other cheek turns out to have selfish advantages. Someone who does you an injury hurts you twice: first by the injury itself, and second by taking up your time afterward thinking about it. If you learn to ignore injuries you can at least avoid the second half. I've found I can to some extent avoid thinking about nasty things people have done to me by telling myself: this doesn't deserve space in my head. I'm always delighted to find I've forgotten the details of disputes, because that means I hadn't been thinking about them. My wife thinks I'm more forgiving than she is, but my motives are purely selfish.” –Paul Graham
Fred Luskin’s idea on forgiveness It moves the person from a victim story to a hero story Some has been active rather than passive They have chosen to forgive a wrong; that involves seizing their power back from the other person or the situation
Forgiveness “Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.” –E.H. Chapin
Forgiveness “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.” –Oscar Wilde
3 Pillars of Positive Psychology Positive subjective experience of the past, present and future Investigation of positive individual characteristics: the strengths and virtues Positive institutions and positive communities Source: M. Seligman, in Flourishing, ed. by Keyes and Haidt
What does make us happy?: The “big seven” Family relationships (good relationships) Financial situation (up to a certain level) Work (being employed and having meaningful work) Community and friends (good connections) Health (subjective sense of good health) Personal freedom (feeling of government oppression/restriction vs. freedom) Personal values (belief in God or bigger purpose or meaning) Source: U.S. General Social Survey
Four Key Findings S.O.A.P. S ocial Connections O ptimism A ppreciation (Gratitude) P urpose (greater than oneself)
A Mnemonic: P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E. P urpose/Meaning O ptimism S ocial Connections I ncreased Gratitude/Appreciation T ake care of others I ncome above a certain level V ocational security E xercise
Egyptian Afterlife Entry Questions Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others? Source: The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson
Seligman’s summary There are three levels to happiness: Pleasure, the delight you get from chocolate, fast cards, and sex; engagement; The feeling of “flow” you get when you’re doing something you’re good at; and. Meaning, the fulfillment you get from being engaged in an effort greater than yourself. Pleasure is ephemeral and contributes very little to real happiness… but meaningful engagement brings lasting contentment. “It’s pretty simple, actually. Figure out what you’re good at. And then apply your strengths to a greater purpose. And don’t forget to cultivate optimism along the way.”
Best advice for happiness and life satisfaction Practice gratitude Have lots of good social interactions and relationships Lower your expectations and don’t compare yourself to others that you might think are better off and would provoke envy Find secure work with meaning Practice service and contribution to others and the world Develop an optimistic thinking style Focus on hopeful futures Exercise regularly (preferably with someone else)
An irreverent perspective “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.” –Albert Schweitzer
Best Summary Books Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness Chris Peterson, A Primer in Positive Psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss Dan Gilbert, Stumbling On Happiness
Resources Journal of Happiness Studies people.virginia.edu/~jdh6n /cappeu/index.aspx