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6 Secrets to Happiness (According to Science)


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6 Secrets to Happiness (According to Science)

 

February 11, 2013 Alternet/By Robert T. Gonzalez

 

What does science have to say about the pursuit of happiness?

 

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Science has all the answers, right? Wrong. But it has a pretty good sense of things, a lot of the time. So what does science have to say about the pursuit of happiness? A lot. Like, build-an-entire-industry-around-it, even-the-pseudo-scientific-stuff a lot.

 

So let's look at some of the more recent things science has had to say about happiness and how you can score some for yourself — including one tip that might actually work (and you won't even have to pay us to hear it).

 

1. Surround yourself with happy people

Or, at the very least, surround yourself with people who surround themselves with happy people. A longitudinal investigation conducted over 20 years in collaboration with the Framingham Heart Study revealed that shifts in individual happiness can cascade through social networks like an emotional contagion. That's right, happiness is kind of like a disease. (The researchers don't mean Facebook, btw, but physical, old-school networks — like live-in friends, partners and spouses; and siblings, friends and neighbors who live close by.)

 

"Most important from our perspective is the recognition that people are embedded in social networks and that the health and wellbeing of one person affects the health and wellbeing of others," conclude the researchers, noting that the relationship between people's happiness was found to extend up to three degrees of separation (i.e. all the way to friends of friends of friends). "This fundamental fact of existence provides a fundamental conceptual justification for the specialty of public health. Human happiness is not merely the province of isolated individuals."

 

Also worth noting: the researchers found sadness to be nowhere near as "infectious" as happiness.

 

 

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4. Smile for once

Darwin laid it out for us all the way back in 1872: "The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it," he wrote. And recent studies — involving botox, of all things — suggest he was onto something. SciAm's Melinda Wenner explains:

 

Psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people whose ability to frown is comp­romised by cosmetic botox inject­ions are happier, on average, than people who can frown. The researchers administered an anxiety and depression questionnaire to 25 females, half of whom had received frown-inhibiting botox injections. The botox recipients reported feeling happier and less anxious in general; more important, they did not report feeling any more attractive, which suggests that the emotional effects were not driven by a psychological boost that could come from the treatment's cosmetic nature.

 

 

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6. STOP IT. Stop trying to be happy.

If you take away one thing from this post, let this be it: to be happy, there's a decent chance you'll have to stop trying to be happy. Sorry to get all zen-master on you, but that's the way it is.

 

Nevermind the fact that measuring happiness is a lot like trying to weigh an idea in pounds and ounces. Yes, there are ways to gauge happiness, whether chemically or with a questionnaire, but when you get right down to it, "happiness" means different things to different people, and is one of the single most nebulous ideals in existence — and one of the biggest downsides to this truth is that setting a goal of happiness can actually backfire.

 

Some of the most important research on happiness to emerge in recent years stands in direct opposition to the cult of positivity typified by bullsh*t positive-thinking self-help books that place a lopsided emphasis on setting grand personal goals of happiness. In a review co-authored in 2011 by Yale psychologist June Gruber, researchers found that the pursuit of happiness can actually lead to negative outcomes — not because surrounding yourself with positive people, mastering a skill, smiling, getting therapy or practicing self-governance aren't conducive to happiness, in and of themselves, but because "when you're doing it with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy, that can lead to disappointment and decreased happiness," says Gruber.

 

So be the zen master. Stop trying to focus on becoming happier and just be. Surround yourself with people not to become happy, but to enjoy their company. Master a skill not to increase your happy feels, but to savor the process of becoming. Read More

As always, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! A proud supporter of the 10% (or slower) rule.

 

Requip - 3/16 ZERO  Total time on 25 years.

 

Lyrica: 8/15 ZERO Total time on 7 or 8 yrs.

BENZO FREE 10/13 (started tapering 7/10)  Total time on 25 years.

 

Read my intro thread here, and check the about me section.  "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up." Lily Tomlin

 

 

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This makes some degree of sense. In particular I think having self-respect (mastering a skill) and surrounding yourself with people who are rewarding (happy people) are good ideas.

 

I think therapy is a bit more dicey, though not a surprising finding. It's like 'get married'. I've seen plenty of evidence that married people are happier but just marrying any ol person is likely to cause misery. I'm not so sold that therapy is a secret to happiness.

 

Anyway, very interesting 6 things.

"Well my ship's been split to splinters and it's sinking fast
I'm drowning in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it's light and it's free
I've got nothing but affection for all those who sailed with me.

Everybody's moving, if they ain't already there
Everybody's got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now."

- Zimmerman

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