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September 16th, 2015

“Most of us have signed on for a cultural approach that has to do with possessions and status and achievements as markers of happiness…But having bought into that vision and aspired to it on a fundamental level, we’re lonelier than ever” – Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley

By Ron Nakamoto

The article below by Barbara Graham is an excellent overview of the current research and thinking on "Happiness". Graham highlights several points:

– The word "happiness" derives from the Old Norse and Old English root "hap", which means luck or chance. The idea of creating our own individual happiness is a relatively recent concept in human history, beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries with Thomas Jefferson and John Locke. "Before then, suffering was considered the norm and happiness was thought to be a matter of luck" says Graham.

– "(P)sychologists have teased happiness into two components: eudaimonic happiness, the well-being that arises from a sense of purpose or service to others; and hedonic happiness, which comes from enjoying a good meal, making love, or other passing pleasures. And though both types of happiness are essential to a balanced, contented life, a recent study conducted by Barbara Frederickson at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Steven Cole of the UCLA School of Medicine found that blood samples of people with high levels of eudaimonic happiness demonstrated a better immune response profile than those with high levels of hedonic happiness."

– “Research suggests that when people consciously practice gratitude, they’re increasing the flow of beneficial neurochemicals in the brain,” Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and author of "Hardwiring Happiness". Numerous research studies indicate that Gratitude is a key factor in sustainable happiness, especially the "eudaimonic" type mentioned above.

– “Awe uniquely predicts happiness,” says Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley. I find this idea to be an extension of Gratitude, rather than a separate one, because of the Empowered Wealth concept of "Appreciative Gratitude". In other words, "awe" to me is one of several ways to express extreme appreciation (others might include humility or reverence).

– Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, says, “Many of us persist in searching for the one true path to happiness, like the one diet that will work when all others have failed…In truth there is no magic bullet. There are hundreds of things you can do." Echoing Lee Brower's Motion Theory, Lyubomirsky says, “Start with small steps to create an upward spiral…Sense which of these activities feels most natural and most easily fits with your lifestyle, then try something a little more challenging later on. Ideally, some of the practices, such as focusing on relationships and becoming a better listener, will in time become automatic."

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What Is Happiness Anyway? – Mindful
The new science of happiness helps us find deeper meanings.

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