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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Thorns and Roses"

~Jen.  Play.  Give.  Trust.  Touch.  Take care of others.  Moderation.  Laughter.  Virtue.  Justice.  

  For a period, I did write on the subject of happiness.  Time to re-visit that subject.  We've put considerable attention here on the troubles of life, how to identify them, and, what can be done about them.  Yet, positive emotions are just as important and carry just as much gravitas and impact on our life experience.
Today I heard Dacher Keltner, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, U.C. Berkeley speak on this topic.  He talked about the science of compassion and the physiology of altruism amongst other things related to the subject of happiness as humans.  Happiness at age 70 adds almost 2 years to our lifespan he explained.  "Happiness is associated with good health."And, happiness at work leads to more successful performance, boosts creative thought, and enhances negotiating skills.  Research has shown that of 15 countries studied, the U. S.-with all of our freedom and physical comforts, and educational opportunities, is the 2nd least happy country in the world, at least at the age of 18. 

What are some of the things that we know lead to enhanced health and happiness?  Humans are social beings.  We need personal support and social connection ourselves and we need to be empathetic and helpful to others.  When we see suffering we naturally respond-don't ignore that response.  Help, if you can; it will be good for you.  While the amygdala in the brain picks up threat and modern day stressors are often perceived that way, cortisol is released and too much cortisol leads to shortened teleomeres   On the other hand, when we see suffering, it activates a very old, long-standing part of our brain that wants to respond (because we are social animals-just like the Bonobo monkey).  The response releases oxytocin which cascades through the organs of our body and stimulates care taking impulses.

How to be happier and healthier:
  • Be trustworthy and try to trust others:  It signals safety.
  • Give:  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
  • Touch.  Emotions can be accurately communicated by touch.
  • Play:  Laugh often, use your imagination, create nicknames.
  • Practice gratitude:  Develop reverence for what has been given to you.

(Credit:  Much of the above was gleaned from a talk entitled Born to Be Good:  Lessons From the Science of a Meaningful Life.  For more information go to the Greater Good Science Center website and to the book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers)
Related posts:    From the Outside In.  Harvey.  Happiness.  The Easy Way.  Happiness and Preferences.  Success.  Happiness Note.  More On Happiness.  Spring.  Children Full of Life.  Nourishment to the Soul.  Your Aliveness.  Just for Fun.  A Little Lottery Win Each Day, and more.  Peruse the blog, there are a number of posts on this topic.

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