Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cultivate well-being: Seligman

Relieving stress and anxiety might help you feel better — for a bit. Martin E.P. Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, does not see alleviating negative emotions as a path to happiness.

“Psychology is generally focused on how to relieve depression, anger and worry,” he said. “Freud and Schopenhauer said the most you can ever hope for in life is not to suffer, not to be miserable, and I think that view is empirically false, morally insidious, and a political and educational dead-end.”

“What makes life worth living,” he said, “is much more than the absence of the negative.”

To Dr. Seligman, the most effective long-term strategy for happiness is to actively cultivate well-being.

In his 2012 book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being,” he explored how well-being consists not merely of feeling happy (an emotion that can be fleeting) but of experiencing a sense of contentment in the knowledge that your life is flourishing and has meaning beyond your own pleasure... (continues)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Great expectations

The glass ceiling of happiness is held in place by two stout pillars, one psychological, the other biological. On the psychological level, happiness depends on expectations rather than objective conditions. We don’t become satisfied by leading a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon. Dramatic improvements in conditions, as humankind has experienced in recent decades, translate into greater expectations rather than greater contentment. If we don’t do something about this, our future achievements too might leave us as dissatisfied as ever.” 
― Yuval Noah HarariHomo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Happy philosophers

Have you ever noticed how dour the great philosophers look in their portraits? Martin O’Neill, senior lecturer in politics at the University of York, decided to put a happier spin on the history of philosophy...

Image may contain: 1 person Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Solve for Happy

Also on tap for Fall. “What I realized was that I would never get to happiness as long as I held on to the idea that as soon as I do this or get that or reach this benchmark I’ll become happy."... For human beings, simply put, the default state is happiness... as long as their most basic needs are met—no immediate hunger, no immediate fear, no scary isolation, no physical pain or enduring sleeplessness—they live in the moment, perfectly happy.” Mo Gawdat (g'r)


"In Pursuit of Unhappiness"

We're finally reading Darrin McMahon's Happiness: A History this Fall. Here's an op-ed he wrote for the Times when it came out.
Tallahassee, Fla. - "HAPPY New Year!" We seldom think of those words as an order. But in some respects that is what they are.

Doesn't every American want to be happy? And don't most Americans yearn, deep down, to be happy all of the time? The right laid out in our nation's Declaration of Independence -- to pursue happiness to our hearts' content -- is nowhere on better display than in the rites of the holiday season. With glad tidings and good cheer, we seek to bring one year to its natural happy conclusion, while preparing to usher in a happy new year and many happy returns.

Like the cycle of the seasons, our emphasis on mirth may seem timeless, as though human beings have always made merry from beginning to end. But in fact this preoccupation with perpetual happiness is relatively recent. As Thomas Carlyle observed in 1843, " 'Happiness our being's end and aim' is at bottom, if we will count well, not yet two centuries old in the world."

Carlyle's arithmetic was essentially sound, for changes in both religious and secular culture since the 17th century made "happiness," in the form of pleasure or good feeling, not only morally acceptable but commendable in and of itself. While many discounted religious notions that consigned life in this world to misery and sin, others discovered signs of God's providence in earthly satisfaction. The result was at once to weaken and transpose the ideal of heavenly felicity, in effect bringing it to earth. Suffering was not our natural state. Happy was the way we were meant to be.

That shift was monumental, and its implications far reaching. Among other things, it was behind the transformation of the holiday season from a time of pious remembrance into one of unadulterated bliss. Yet the effects were greater than that. As Carlyle complained, "Every pitifulest whipster that walks within a skin has had his head filled with the notion that he is, shall be, or by all human and divine laws ought to be, 'happy.' "

Carlyle was notoriously cranky, but his central insight -- that the new doctrine of happiness tended to raise expectations that could never possibly be fulfilled -- remains as relevant today as it was in 1843. Despite enjoying far better living standards and more avenues for pleasure than before, human beings are arguably no happier now than they've ever been.

Sociologists like to point out that the percentage of those describing themselves as "happy" or "very happy" has remained virtually unchanged in Europe and the United States since such surveys were first conducted in the 1950's. And yet, this January, like last year and next, the self-help industry will pour forth books promising to make us happier than we are today. The very demand for such books is a strong indication that they aren't working.

Should that be a cause for concern? Some critics say it is. For example, economists like Lord Richard Layard and Daniel Kahneman have argued that the apparent stagnancy of happiness in modern societies should prompt policymakers to shift their priorities from the creation of wealth to the creation of good feelings, from boosting gross national product to increasing gross national happiness.

But before we take such steps, we might do well to reflect on the darker side of holiday cheer: those mysterious blues that are apt to set in while the streamers stream and the corks pop; the little voice that even in the best of souls is sometimes moved to say, "Bah, humbug." As Carlyle put it, "The prophets preach to us, 'Thou shalt be happy; thou shalt love pleasant things.' " But as he well knew, the very commandment tended to undermine its fulfillment, even to make us sad.

Carlyle's sometime friend and long-time rival, the philosopher John Stuart Mill, came to a similar conclusion. His words are all the more worth heeding in that Mill himself was a determined proponent of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. "Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so," Mill concluded after recovering from a serious bout of depression. Rather than resign himself to gloom, however, Mill vowed instead to look for happiness in another way.

"Those only are happy," he came to believe, "who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way." For our own culture, steeped as it is in the relentless pursuit of personal pleasure and endless cheer, that message is worth heeding.

So in these last days of 2005 I say to you, "Don't have a happy new year!" Have dinner with your family or walk in the park with friends. If you're so inclined, put in some good hours at the office or at your favorite charity, temple or church. Work on your jump shot or your child's model trains. With luck, you'll find happiness by the by. If not, your time won't be wasted. You may even bring a little joy to the world.

Darrin M. McMahon

Maslow's hierarchy, updated

Philosophy Matters (@PhilosophyMttrs)
Maslow's hierarchy, updated : good wifi is the foundation of all happiness pic.twitter.com/kPSwiVBUVG

Sunday, April 23, 2017

For 79 years, this groundbreaking Harvard study has searched for the key to happiness

For close to 80 years, Harvard University researchers have studied the lives of the same group of men. Since 1938, they’ve tracked their development, documenting every two years details about their physical and emotional health, their employment, their families and their friendships.
By looking at human development over a lifespan, the early researchers hoped to find trends that would provide insight into what factors ultimately led to a good life.
The big takeaway from the decades of research and millions of dollars spent on the famous Grant Study is that, as the Beatles sang, all you need is love. It was not money or status that determined a good life. Those who were happiest and healthier reported strong interpersonal relationships, while those who were isolated had declines in mental and physical health as they aged. In November 2015, Robert Waldinger, the director of the program, shared that key finding in a widely popular Ted Talk that has been viewed close to 14 million times — there’s clearly an appetite for learning what to prioritize to have more fulfilling lives.
But the program is now feeling the squeeze of a constrained funding climate, and Waldinger and his team worry that money will dry up.
Most of the budget for the longitudinal study comes from the federal government, the National Institutes of Health in particular, and every five years, Harvard has to make the case again for why the American taxpayer should foot the bill for this work.
It’s not lost on Waldinger, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, that to an outsider what they do might not seem like the most pressing of research compared to looking for cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. And with President Drumpf suggesting cutting NIH’s budget by 19 percent, Waldinger worries that the famous study could be viewed by the cash-strapped grant-givers as dispensable.
“One of the first things to go are the long-term things that don’t pay off right away,” he said. “This is basic psychological science, it’s not always directly applicable but gives you the underpinnings. It’s one of the things that lets you understand that homosexuality is not a choice for people, these are basic developmental understandings, we understand more about alcoholism being a disease and not a crime, we learn this by following people along.”
(continues, WaPo)

American students less happy?

American high school students are generally satisfied with their lives. But many of their peers in other countries are happier.
Asked to rank their life satisfaction on a scale from 0 to 10, American 15-year-olds gave an average mark of 7.4, according to a study released Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international research group.
American students scored close to the average of 7.3 among OECD’s 35 member countries. But students in such countries as Iceland and Finland are doing much better. And an average Mexican high schooler rated life satisfaction at 8.2 out of 10.
American students also reported higher levels of anxiety over tests, bullying or a feeling of not belonging at schools, compared with many of their peers.
Teacher and parental support, spending time with friends and being physically active make it more likely that a student will be satisfied with life, according to the study. But feeling anxiety over grades and spending too much time online are signs a student may feel dissatisfied.
“In happy schools, teacher support — as perceived by students — tends to be much greater,” said study co-author Andreas Schleicher.
Studying hard does not necessarily mean being miserable. The authors highlight the cases of Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where good grades and high spirits exist side by side.
There are also some gender differences. Feeling very satisfied with one’s life is more widespread among boys, while feeling low life satisfaction is more common among girls across most countries and cultures. Why that was the case was unclear from the report.
The study was conducted in 2015 with 540,000 randomly selected kids who completed written tests and questionnaires.
Tom Loveless, who researches education policies with the Brookings Institution in Washington, was skeptical about the way the survey looked at U.S. high school students. He said that at the time of the study, most 15-year-old sophomores would have spent a little more than a year in their current high school, so their well-being could have been shaped by other factors.
— Associated Press

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Happiness returns to MTSU

Happiness returns

Coming to MTSU, Fall 2017-
PHIL 3160 –
Philosophy of Happiness
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 2:40-4:05 pm, James Union Building 202. Examining the concept of human happiness and its application in everyday living as discussed since antiquity by philosophers, psychologists, writers, spiritaul leaders, and contributors to pop culture.
 “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Aristotle

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” - Marcus Aurelius

 “Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”   Immanuel Kant

“Happiness consists in frequent repetition of pleasure”

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

“If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.”  Edith Wharton

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”   Albert Camus

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”  Ernest Hemingway

“That's the difference between me and the rest of the world! Happiness isn't good enough for me! I demand euphoria!” 

“This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy… I'd far rather be happy than right any day.” ― Douglas Adams

Join the conversation! For more info contact Dr. Phil Oliver, Phil.Oliver@mtsu.edu

Monday, March 20, 2017

Happiness in Denmark is "hygge"

With this year’s updated U.N. rankings due out tomorrow, the country that’s defending its title as the world’s champion of happiness is, quite possibly, NOT your first guess: Faith Salie reports our Cover Story:

When you picture the happiest place in the world, you might imagine white-sand beaches and swaying palm trees. But it turns out, the happiest place is a bit different.

Welcome to Denmark, a small country of nearly six million people. No tropical beaches here -- just rain for about 50% of the year. But despite the weather, this country still maintains a sunny disposition … so sunny, in fact, it’s been named the happiest country in the world... (continues, CBS Sunday Morning)
British Humanists (@BHAhumanists)
Happy #InternationalDayofHappiness! Here's a good bit of advice from one of our favourite novelists, George Eliot. pic.twitter.com/dvzwhgJUcy

Five Books (@five_books)
On the #InternationalDayofHappiness, here's @oliverburkeman on why we need to leave the 'cult of optimism'
buff.ly/2mk9Kt3 pic.twitter.com/Mz7p5zLP57

Motoko Rich (@motokorich)
Denmark not bitter about falling behind Norway: "Good for them. I don't think Denmark has a monopoly on happiness" apne.ws/2nJL8He