Happiness, A Commodity?
Recently, a conference was held in San Francisco on the subject of happiness: Happiness and Its Causes. We did not attend but thought we could pass along some linking.
First, we are amazed in the number of people dedicated to the 'happiness business.' But, we sound too skeptical already.
"Quite a few of the panelists actually argued that happiness should not be the ultimate goal of existence. Philosopher and psychologist Owen Flanagan paraphrased Kant: Happiness is one thing, being good is another. And indeed, he said, preaching contentment for its own sake only serves the interests of the powerful."
"Spiegel went on to add that in bad times, the goal should be to convert corrosive emotions (that reinforce helplessness) into emotional states that provoke action or reflection: convert anxiety into fear, depression into sadness, illness into meaning. We can achieve happiness when we are actively trying to make the world a better place."
We did note that the Center's magazine, Greater Good Magazine, had published an article entitled, America's Trust Fall: Trust is essential to strong relationships and a healthy society, but it has been declining for decades, report Pamela Paxton and Jeremy Adam Smith. How can America learn to trust again?
One paragraph must strike us all in its relevancy today: Trust helps the economy. Economists Armin Falk and Michael Kosfeld have shown that, when performing tasks for others, an atmosphere of distrust reduces individuals’ motivation and accomplishments, trust in each other has declined much more steadily and consistently than our trust in institutions and probably increases the cost of doing business. Other research by Stephen Knack and Philip Keefer has found that countries whose citizens trust each other experience stronger economic growth.
Another popular approach mentioned on an Oprah show is the three month course, Awakening Joy, that can taken online (for a suggested donation of $250, though it is noted that no one is turned away for lack of funds) or attended in person at Berkeley, CA.
Course principles are enumerated:
1. Developing and Increasing Wholesome States: The course uses practices that lead the mind toward states of happiness and well-being. Once we understand what healthy activities help support these wholesome states, we can intentionally invite and cultivate them.
2. Focusing on the Gladness That Arises with Wholesome States: While engaged in a healthy activity we experience an actual positive uplift of energy. The teachings speak of the value of experiencing “gladness connected with the wholesome” and of delight that “gladdens the heart.” By being very present for this gladness we increase its impact on us. This gladness is what I’m calling a joyful heart.
3. Inclining the Mind towards Wholesome States: “Whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon will be the inclination of their mind,” taught the Buddha. As we incline the mind toward wholesome states of well-being, such as gratitude or kindness, they are more available to us. Current brain research confirms this. As we practice certain states of mind we actually change our brain structure, deepening the groove towards depression or happiness.
And further into the magazine, there's an interview, Can I Trust You?; A conversation between world-renowned psychologist Paul Ekman and his daughter Eve, with Jason Marsh:
"I have been studying lying professionally for more than 20 years, but it was not easy to deal with it as a parent," he writes in his 1989 book, Why Kids Lie: How Parents Can Encourage Truthfulness, which includes chapters by his wife, Mary Ann Mason, a professor and former dean at the University of California, Berkeley, and his son Tom, Eve's older brother. Indeed, as that book makes clear, it is one thing to be able to catch a kid in a lie; it's something very different to be able to raise a trustworthy child.
So how does an expert on lying, deception, and truthfulness try to foster trust and trustworthiness? Paul and Eve, who is now 28, recently sat down with Greater Good's editor in chief, Jason Marsh, to discuss the benefits of trusting your kids (even when it's nerve-wracking to do so), how to encourage trustworthy behavior, and what it takes to build trust between parents and children.
Read the rest of the conversation:
It sounds like every kid's worst nightmare: the parent who always knows whether you're telling the truth. But when it came down to it, Paul Ekman's scientific expertise on lying was of limited usefulness to Paul Ekman the parent.
Even the National Bureau of Economic Research is addressing the subject of ... happiness:
"espite robust economic growth over the past three decades, Americans do not report being any happier today than they were thirty years ago. Yet in Happiness Inequality in the United States (NBER Working Paper No. 14220), Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers find that happiness is more evenly distributed among Americans — in other words, the happiness gap has narrowed. Examining data for 1972 to 2006, Stevenson and Wolfers find that two-thirds of the black-white happiness gap has disappeared, and the male-female gap has vanished entirely — and may have even reversed. However, paralleling changes in the income distribution, differences in happiness by education have widened substantially."
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- Who is the Expert on Marriage? A Typical Breadth of Experience by Today’s Younger Generation
- The Noble Purpose: Human Cells Respond in Healthy, Unhealthy Ways to Different Kinds of Happiness
- Telling Lies: The Irrepressible Truth?
- New Studies: Older People and Trust; Science Faculty’s Subtle Gender Biases
- As Facebook Raises a $Billion IPO, A Profile of Its 'Friends'
- Relationship Satisfaction: Do You Empathize With Me ... or Not?
- Who Are More Emotionally Balanced and Better Able to Solve Highly Emotional Problems?
- The Series, This Emotional Life