Up@dawn 2.0

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

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