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The Science of A Meaningful Life January 11, 2011 Dacher Keltner University of California, Berkeley

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Presentation on theme: "The Science of A Meaningful Life January 11, 2011 Dacher Keltner University of California, Berkeley"— Presentation transcript:

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2 The Science of A Meaningful Life January 11, 2011 Dacher Keltner University of California, Berkeley

3 What is the Meaningful Life? JenHiking in the Sierras ModerationUnderstanding self VirtueStanding out from others EudamoniaFulfilling duties JusticeRising in Status Financial Well-being Democracy Laughter Being in love Friends Success at Work Delicious burrito Reunion with family Giving

4 Happiness and Health Happy nuns at times less likely to die between 80 and 90 Happy about aging adds 7.5 years to life Happy at 70 adds 20 months to life Happiness associated with –Fewer health symptoms –Fewer strokes –Fewer fatal accidents –Reduced cardiovascular disease –Reduced allergic reaction

5 Happiness at work Most cheerful college students make $25,000/year compared to least cheerful Happy workers more productive, better job performance Happiness leads to boost in creative thought, problem solving Happiness makes for more integrative negotiators Emotionally intelligent managers have more satisfied teams

6 The Unbearable Heaviness of the Teens Teen years as crisis –Rise in anxiety, depression, perfectionism –Epidemics in materialism, narcissism Wait for frontal lobe growth New rules and principles Crisis means the return of old patterns

7 Our culture needs it

8 STRESS and the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis Chronic stress and: –Increased feelings of vulnerability, isolation, lack of control, threat –Stress, anxiety, fear, nervousness –Vigilance to threats –immune system compromised, ulcers, damage to DNA, damage to brain cells, shortened lives in response to disease

9 Take care or die

10 The Prosocial Nervous System

11 The Jen Ratio A person of jen, Confucius observes, “wishing to establish his own character, also establishes the character of others.” A person of jen “brings the good things of others to completion and does not bring the bad things of others to completion.” Jen RatioHigh Jen Acts/Low Jen Acts

12 The Meaningful Life High Jen EngagementCynicism ConnectIsolation TrustDistrust GiveGreed PlayAggress AppreciateBlame OptimismPessimism AcceptanceRejection NarrativeSuppression ContemplateHyperactivity SacredAnomie

13 Connect Strong support leads to lower levels of cortisol (Kiecolt-Glaser) Strong support leads to lower levels of cortisol (Kiecolt-Glaser) Give stressful speech with supportive member in audience, lower blood pressure Give stressful speech with supportive member in audience, lower blood pressure Spiegel et al., 1989: women with breast cancer who are in supportive group therapy better life expectancy (37 vs. 18 months) Spiegel et al., 1989: women with breast cancer who are in supportive group therapy better life expectancy (37 vs. 18 months) Your connections spread outward Your connections spread outward

14 Touch and the spread of goodness

15 Connection Fist bumps Eye contact Knowing names Mindfulness: Loving Kindness Cuddle clubs Illusion of weak ties?

16 Trust Rewards Rewards Builds Trust Builds Trust Signals Safety Signals Safety Soothes Soothes

17 Coding Touch

18 Building a trusting mind Talking about intentions of others All people want to be happy All suffer

19 GIVE GIVE If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject. Ayn Rand If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion (His Holiness, the Dalai Lama) Giving $20 improves happiness more than spending $20 on self Giving $20 improves happiness more than spending $20 on self

20 Play

21 Varieties of Play Satire Word play Nicknames Rough and Tumble Imaginative games, characters Enhanced health, conflict resolution, creativity

22 Nicknames for sale Dadu Dadu Guy Boobis Poopis Fufu Bison, Bogman

23 Gratitude Reverence for what has been given to you McCullough: Written accounting of gratitude, better health 3 weeks later Lyubomirsky: 1 time a week write down what you’re grateful for, boosts in happiness

24 Gratitude diaries Thorns and roses (5 th grade) Language of politeness Thank you notes

25 Optimism Expectations that the future holds socially desirable outcomes Optimistic people report higher levels of overall well- being and happiness Optimistic people report higher levels of positive emotion Optimistic people have higher resting vagal tone Optimism measured in 1945 (in men) predicts better reports of health 35 years later Optimism rated in coded acceptance speeches in 20th century presidential candidates predicted the victor 18 of 22 times Writing about best self: Greater Happiness, health

26 Maximizing Perfectionism) vs. Satisficing (Barry Schwartz) Whenever I’m faced with a choice, I try to imagine what other possibilities are, even ones that aren’t present. When I am in the car listening to music, I often check other stations to see if something better is playing, even if I’m satisfied with what I’m listening to. I often find it difficult to shop for a gift for a friend Renting videos is really difficult. I’m always struggling to pick the best one. I’m a big fan of lists that attempt to rank things. I find writing is very difficult. It’s so hard to get the words just right. No matter what I do, I have the highest standards for myself.

27 Toxic perfectionism Especially toxic for girls (Triple Bind: Steve Hinshaw) Language of perfectionism Perils of praise for native strengths rather than effort, work (Dweck)

28 Narrative Write about strongest emotions of trauma, or the facts of the event Traumas studied: bereavement, divorce, holocaust survivors, 9-11 victims Effects: increased well-being, enhanced immune function, reduced visits to health center, reductions in anxiety, depression

29 Contemplation (Alan Wallace: Genuine Happiness) Attention –Breathing Settle into relaxed posture Focus attention in between what you’re looking at and eyes Breathe 21 times Attend to movements of lungs Mindfulness –Of body Imagine attention as curved surface Move this attention up and down body Be mindful of sensations throughout body Loving Kindness –Bring to mind a person who is dear to you –Imagine person’s sufferings, yearnings –Wish for person’s happiness –Extend to another person, broadening circle of care

30 The Sacred In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life-- no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental; to be brothers, to be acquaintances, master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. (“Nature”(1836/1982), p.39).

31 The Varieties of Awe and Wonder Nature, art, politics, religion, collectives, rock and roll Nature, art, politics, religion, collectives, rock and roll Benefits: Reduced depression, increased altruism, increased longevity Benefits: Reduced depression, increased altruism, increased longevity Qualities Qualities –Transcendent purpose –Small self –Sense of Design –Common humanity –Self located in broader pattern/force

32 Jumping off rocks near Lake Tahoe Singing family songs late at night Learning to breathe together

33 TEN TIPS FOR THE GOOD LIFE Connect vs. IsolationFist bump, back pat, 10 minute mindfulness Trust vs. DistrustDescribe others in terms of good intentions Give vs. GreedService learning, volunteerism Play vs. AggressionNicknames, wrestling, satirize self Appreciate vs. BlameGratitude diary, Thank You letter Optimism vs. PessimismDelights of small goals Acceptance vs. RejectionSpeak respectfully; praise effort not ability Narrative vs. SuppressionQuestions, Diaries, Thorns & Roses Contemplate vs. HyperactivityFavorite sayings, count to six breathing exercise Sacred vs. AnomieSacred place, camping, museum, patterns Greater Good Science Center

34 Thank You


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