Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"Get Up and Move. It May Make You Happier"

When people get up and move, even a little, they tend to be happier than when they are still, according to an interesting new study that used cellphone data to track activities and moods. In general, the researchers found, people who move are more content than people who sit.

There already is considerable evidence that physical activity is linked to psychological health. Epidemiological studies have found, for example, that people who exercise or otherwise are active typically are less prone to depression and anxiety than sedentary people.

But many of these studies focused only on negative moods. They often also relied on people recalling how they had felt and how much they had moved or sat in the previous week or month, with little objective data to support these recollections.

For the new study, which was published this month in PLoS One, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England decided to try a different approach. They would look, they decided, at correlations between movement and happiness, that most positive of emotions. In addition, they would look at what people reported about their activity and compare it with objective measures of movement.

Writing Your Way to Happiness JAN. 19, 2015
How Exercise May Protect Against Depression OCT. 1, 2014
Work. Walk 5 Minutes. Work.DEC 28


To accomplish these goals, they first developed a special app for Android phones. Available free on the Google app store and ultimately downloaded by more than 10,000 men and women, it was advertised as helping people to understand how lifestyle choices, such as physical activity, might affect people’s moods. (The app, which is no longer available for download, opened with a permission form explaining to people that the data they entered would be used for academic research.)

The app randomly sent requests to people throughout the day, asking them to enter an estimation of their current mood by answering questions and also using grids in which they would place a dot showing whether they felt more stressed or relaxed, depressed or excited, and so on.

Periodically, people were also asked to assess their satisfaction with life in general.

After a few weeks, when people were comfortable with the app, they began answering additional questions about whether, in the past 15 minutes, they had been sitting, standing, walking, running, lying down or doing something else.

They also were asked about their mood at that moment.

At the same time, during the 17 months of the study, the app gathered data from the activity monitor that is built into almost every smartphone today. In essence, it checked whether someone’s recall of how much he or she had been moving in the past quarter-hour tallied with the numbers from the activity monitor.

In general, the information provided by users and the data from activity monitors was almost exactly the same.

Of greater interest to the researchers, people using the app turned out to feel happier when they had been moving in the past quarter-hour than when they had been sitting or lying down, even though most of the time they were not engaged in rigorous activity.

In fact, most of the physical activity that people reported was gentle walking, with little running, cycling or other more strenuous exercise.

But the links between moving in any way and feeling happy were consistent for most people throughout the day, according to the data from their apps. It also didn’t matter whether it was a workday or weekend.

The researchers also found that people who moved more frequently tended to report greater life satisfaction over all than those who reported spending most of their time in a chair.

In general, the results suggest that “people who are generally more active are generally happier and, in the moments when people are more active, they are happier,” says Gillian Sandstrom, a study co-author who was a postdoctoral researcher at Cambridge and is now a lecturer in psychology at the University of Essex.

In other words, moving and happiness were closely linked, both in the short term and longer term.

Of course, this type of study does not establish causation. It cannot tell us whether being more active actually causes us to become happier or, conversely, whether being happy causes us to move more. It only shows that more activity goes hand-in-hand with greater happiness.2COMMENTS

The study also is limited by its reliance on cellphone data, Dr. Sandstrom says, because it may not have captured information about formal exercise. People often do not carry their phones when they run, cycle or engage in other types of vigorous activity, she and her colleagues point out in the study. So those types of workouts would not be reflected in the app or the phones’ activity monitor, making it impossible to know from this data set whether formal exercise is linked to happiness, for better or worse.

Still, the size of the study group and the consistency of the findings are compelling, Dr. Sandstrom says. They do indicate that if you get up and move often, you are more likely to feel cheerful than if you do not. nyt

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy in unhappiness

“You make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and are happy in that." -Maude Gonne, declining marriage to William Butler Yeats

http://writersalmanac.org/ 12.21.16

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Beyond Happiness

Here's a contender text for the course next Fall: Beyond Happiness: How to find lasting meaning and joy in all that you have, by Anthony Seldon. He says happiness is a trap that may block us from achieving "deeper meaning and joy." He's not against happiness as such, just happiness pursued exclusively and obsessively, to the neglect of other virtues.
"Seldon distinguishes between pleasure, happiness and joy... The pursuit of happiness can all too easily become a trap which seduces us into thinking there is no more to life than being happy. In fact, the author is highly critical of 'positive psychology' and other dominant schools of thought... we need to reach beyond [mere happiness] if we are to access the deepest levels of human experience open to us, and find our own unique path in life... Paradoxically, as this book demonstrates, stepping off the happiness treadmill will ultimately make for a happier and more fulfilled life." GR

Monday, November 28, 2016

Is the present really such a gift?

No, says Ruth Whippman, author of “America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks.”
...Perhaps the single philosophical consensus of our time is that the key to contentment lies in living fully mentally in the present. The idea that we should be constantly policing our thoughts away from the past, the future, the imagination or the abstract and back to whatever is happening right now has gained traction with spiritual leaders and investment bankers, armchair philosophers and government bureaucrats and human resources departments. Corporate America offers its employees mindfulness training to “streamline their productivity,” and the United States military offers it to the Marine Corps. Americans now spend an estimated $4 billion each year on “mindfulness products.” “Living in the Moment” has monetized its folksy charm into a multibillion-dollar spiritual industrial complex.
So does the moment really deserve its many accolades? It is a philosophy likely to be more rewarding for those whose lives contain more privileged moments than grinding, humiliating or exhausting ones. Those for whom a given moment is more likely to be “sun-dappled yoga pose” than “hour 11 manning the deep-fat fryer.”
On the face of it, our lives are often much more fulfilling lived outside the present than in it...
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SciAm MIND (@sciammind)
Trending today: Americans are obsessed with happiness—but not all cultures feel that way bit.ly/2guPgK1

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What George Eliot Teaches Us about the Life-Cycle of Happiness

...and the Science of Why We’re Happier When We’re Older

“One has to spend so many years in learning how to be happy.”

Much like creativity is a skill rather than a gift andgenius the product of work ethic rather than inspiration, happiness, too, is a practice rather than a state, one that necessitates both learning and constant maintenance. Long before the findings of modern psychology and cognitive science, beloved authorGeorge Eliot arrived at this insight one spring Sunday in 1844.

Writing in a letter to her dear friend Sara Hennell, found in George Eliot’s Life, as Related in her Letters and Journals (public library; public domain), 25-year-old Eliot reflects on the life-cycle of happiness, defying the romantic myth of the idyllic childhood and insisting instead that our capacity for happiness swells with age:


One has to spend so many years in learning how to be happy. I am just beginning to make some progress in the science, and I hope to disprove Young’s theory that “as soon as we have found the key of life it opes the gates of death.” Every year strips us of at least one vain expectation, and teaches us to reckon some solid good in its stead. I never will believe that our youngest days are our happiest. What a miserable augury for the progress of the race and the destination of the individual if the more matured and enlightened state is the less happy one! Childhood is only the beautiful and happy time in contemplation and retrospect: to the child it is full of deep sorrows, the meaning of which is unknown. Witness colic and whooping-cough and dread of ghosts, to say nothing of hell and Satan, and an offended Deity in the sky, who was angry when I wanted too much plumcake. Then the sorrows of older persons, which children see but cannot understand, are worse than all. All this to prove that we are happier than when we were seven years old, and that we shall be happier when we are forty than we are now, which I call a comfortable doctrine, and one worth trying to believe!



As is often the case with history’s greatest luminaries, Eliot intuited something profound that has since been confirmed and quantified by modern science. In herbook on optimism bias and the life-cycle of happiness, neuroscientist Tali Sharot shares some data consistent with Eliot’s sentiment. This is the pattern of a typical person’s happiness over the course of a lifetime — a pattern that persists even when controlled for variables like marital status, health, and cultural climate:



The data comes from behavioral economist Andrew Oswald’s research, which Sharot synthesizes:


Happiness and the ability to learn from bad news alter with age in reverse patterns. The latter follows an inverse U shape, while the former a more traditional U shape. The behavioral economist Andrew Oswald found that from about the time we are teenagers, our sense of happiness starts to decline, hitting rock bottom in our mid-40s (middle-age crisis, anyone?). Then our sense of happiness miraculously starts to go up again rapidly as we grow older. This finding contradicts the common assumption that people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are less happy and satisfied than people in their 30s and 40s.

[…]

All in all, Oswald tested a half million people in 72 countries, in both developing and developed nations. He observed the same pattern across all parts of the globe and across sexes. From Switzerland to Ecuador, from Romania to Singapore, Slovakia, Israel, Spain, Australia, and China. Happiness diminishes as we transition from childhood to adulthood and then starts rising as we grow wrinkles and acquire gray hair. And it’s not only we humans who slump in the middle and feel sunnier toward the end. Just recently, Oswald and colleagues demonstrated that even chimpanzees and orangutans appear to experience a similar pattern of midlife malaise.

The increase of happiness with age might have to do with the notion that attention, like a muscle, grows with training. Since happiness is so heavily anchored to ourcapacity for presence and so diminished by our mind-wandering, the ability to trulysee when we look at the world — something that takes time, practice, and awareness that youth rarely affords — is central to our sense of well-being. But if happiness is a habit to be cultivated, so is its opposite: Lest we forget, 40-year-old Eliot reminds us inThe Mill on the Floss that “one gets a bad habit of being unhappy.” Fortunately, Eliot did grow her own capacity for contentment with age.

-MARIA POPOVA, brainpickings

Monday, July 18, 2016

"Happify"

“Happiness. It’s winnable.” This is the dubious assertion that greets me on the Happify website, before I click “Start my journey” and sign up for the service.

I begin my journey in January. It seems like as good a time as any to try to become happier. The holidays are over. The long, bleak, shut-in months of winter stretch ahead of me. Few of the variables in my life are likely to change. There is unlikely to be a new job or relationship, or a move that would skew my happiness readings one way or another. Of course you can’t measure your happiness in a vacuum—and you probably wouldn’t be very happy in a vacuum anyway—but if there really is an app that can make you happier, I wanted to try it when my life was relatively stable. I decided to do it for a month.

Happify is a self-improvement program offered in both website and app form. It claims “your emotional well-being can be measured,” measures it for you, and provides little tasks and games to help you increase it. The company was founded by Ofer Leidner and Tomer Ben-Kiki, who previously ran an online gaming company called iPlay. About four years ago, Leidner and Ben-Kiki developed an interest in positive psychology and mindfulness, and wondered if they could pair it with their online gaming expertise. According to Leidner, they thought, “the models for delivering anything around mental health were clearly, in our mind at least, ripe for some disruption.”

Happify is technically free, but to access more advanced options, and detailed statistics, you have to pay—$11.99 a month (or less if you sign up for six months or a year all in one go)... (continues)