Here are a few recent posts I found interesting.
empathy, happiness, positive psychology, resilience
As a crisis hotline counselor, I often talk to callers in the grip of some intense negative emotions. I try to help them develop a more positive outlook on life and be able to face whatever challenges come their way. But how to do that?
A recent study, published in the journal Emotion, suggests the key lies in helping people not simply avoid negative emotions but cultivate positive emotions. These positive emotions, it seems, help build inner strength and resiliency—which, in turn, pave the way for lasting happiness.
In the study, lead by Michael Cohn, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, researchers tracked 86 students every day for a month, asking them how strongly over the previous 24 hours they’d felt a variety of positive emotions, such as amusement, awe, compassion, and gratitude, and negative ones like anger, disgust, fear, and shame. At the very beginning and end of the experiment, the researchers also measured participants’ resilience, asking them how much they agreed with statements like “I quickly get over and recover from being startled” and “I enjoy dealing with new and unusual situations,” as well as their general satisfaction with life.
Cohn and colleagues found that participants who felt more positive emotions toward the start of the month showed a boost in their levels of resiliency and life satisfaction—and, in turn, the greater their resilience, the more likely they were to experience positive emotions as the month progressed. But just generally feeling satisfied with life toward the start of the month did not increase their resiliency or positive emotions.
Meaningful life, Uncategorized, flow, happinessRead more.
In Curious?, George Mason University psychologist Todd Kashdan provides self-help backed by science, toting curiosity as the means to a fulfilling life. Kashdan asks his readers: Is life really all about achieving happiness, or is it actually the pursuit of happiness that gives our lives purpose and meaning?
Assisted by experimental data, stories from his therapy practice, and his own life experiences, Kashdan argues that it is the drive for knowledge, fulfillment, and happiness, motivated by one’s curiosity, that allows for meaningful personal growth. “Two simple processes—triggering intrigue and sustaining interest—are at the heart of a fulfilling life,” he writes.The book includes strategies to boost one’s curiosity and explanations as to why curiosity is so important to so many different situations, from romance to parenting to achieving our goals. Kashdan describes his ideal person, who he dubs the “curious explorer,” as one who frequently experiences intense feelings of curiosity and acts on them daily. Curious explorers, evidently, are well-liked, personable, and achieve greater success in their careers. Based on multiple studies, Kashdan concludes, “Very curious people are viewed by strangers and close friends as comfortable, animated, interesting, and fun.” This all makes sense: If you deny your feelings of curiosity and avoid new directions, odds are your life is going to be relatively dull and unrewarding.
compassion, meditation, mindfulness
In Buddha’s Brain, Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius provide a skillful blend of Buddhist philosophy and neuroscience, drawing on both to explore the roots of suffering and the path to emotional liberation.
Though they delve into Buddhist concepts as well as scientific research, Hanson and Mendius consistently write in plain English, understandable to the lay reader. They make clear how our bodies are geared to respond to the joys and setbacks that come our way. For instance, the neurotransmitter dopamine is linked to rewards, so levels can surge when things go our way. But if our expectations are not met, dopamine levels drop, causing unpleasant feelings or even cravings for positive experiences. What’s more, the body produces numerous “pleasure chemicals”—endorphins, oxytocin, and norepinephrine, for example—in response to the good surprises in life. Between these biochemical punishments and rewards, we are bound to chase positive experiences, run from negative ones—and suffer along the way.
Practicing compassion for oneself and for others, they argue, is one of the most reliable ways to free ourselves from the inevitable hurts and disappointments of life. As they explain the biology behind standard meditation and relaxation techniques like deep breathing and guided imagery, the authors trace a route to emotional resilience and well-being.