The Consequences of Happiness

What would it look like if we flipped the script on happiness? Rather than viewing it as the logical outcome of good things, could we look at happiness as the cause of good things? It is these questions and more that Dr. Ed Diener attempts to answer in his lecture “The New Science of Happiness.” Dr. Diener was a psychologist, professor, and author at the University of Utah and the University of Virginia as well as a senior scientist for the Gallup Organization. He is noted for his research over the past thirty years on happiness, including work on temperament and personality influences on well-being, theories of well-being, income and well-being, cultural influences on well-being, and the measurement of well-being. His body of work ha been cited over 257,000 times and remains impactful to this day. Check out his lecture below!

Show Your Friends You Love Them!

In a recent NPR interview, psychologist and friendship expert Marisa Franco details going through a rough breakup in 2015 and her attempts to learn on her friends for support. They did yoga, cooked and read together. As she and her friends grew closer, she realized they were a deep well of love, community and healing. And she began to understand the importance of non-romantic, non-family relationships.

Franco’s professional work now focuses on helping others experience that same profound level of friendship. Her latest publication offers tips on how to improve the quality of our platonic relationships. Some of these tips are below, but you can read the full article at

https://www.npr.org/2022/09/01/1120550646/how-to-show-your-friends-you-love-them-according-to-a-friendship-expert:

  • Say it – Tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them when you think of them in passing. Remind them you are grateful to know them. These simple acts provide a layer of security in the relationship. It shows your friends that you genuinely care for them and lets them know it’s safe to invest in your friendship.

  • Show them – “Think about what your skills and talents are and find a way to turn that into a generous act,” she says. For example, when she found out that her friends wanted to learn more about how to set up investment accounts, she used her research and analysis skills as a psychologist to put together a presentation on the topic for them. You can share acts of generosity like this with your friends, too. If you’re great with kids, you might offer to babysit for your friends who are parents. If you’re a gym rat, you could help your friend train for a race they have coming up. Or if you got a raise at work, treat your friends to a fancy dinner to celebrate.

  • Be Honest – We feel a deeper connection to our friends when our vulnerability is met with validation and support, says Franco. It means they accept us for who we really are, the good and the bad. So don’t be afraid to share your struggles with your friends, whether it’s an ex you’re having trouble getting over or a new job you’re having second thoughts about. They’re not going to judge you — and it may bring you closer. If you’re looking for a way to let your guard down without divulging your darkest secrets, Franco suggests sharing something positive, like a personal achievement — maybe you just finished sewing your first quilt, or you broke your own time record on a run.

  • Fight – But being able to deal with conflict with friends in a healthy, constructive way can strengthen your friendships, she says. It might be painful at first, but it shows you want to be authentic with them — and that you want to make your relationship better. Start by telling your friend how much you value them, says Franco. It signals that the reason you’re bringing up the issue is because you’re invested in the friendship. Use “I” statements when explaining your concerns so your friend doesn’t feel like you’re blaming them. For example, if you’ve noticed they’ve been canceling plans at the last minute since they started a new job, you might say: “I feel hurt when you bail on our plans without giving me any notice.” Ask your friend for a different behavior you want to see in the future. For example, “It would be great if you gave me a heads up a few hours in advance if you know you’re not going to be able to make it.”

How to Have Fun.

The following is summarized from the NPR article “How to have real fun — even when life’s got you down” which can be read in full at https://www.npr.org/2022/02/22/1082374139/how-to-have-fun-and-why-you-should

Catherine Price, author of “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again,” defines fun as a time when you are able to embody a mix of three things: playfulness, connection and flow.

Playfulness – “I don’t mean you have to play a game. You don’t have to play make-believe, you have to do charades,” says Price. Playfulness is when you embrace a spirit of lightheartedness and freedom. It means letting go of the idea that you have to be perfect or to achieve something.

Connection – You feel a sense of connection with the activity that you’re doing. You feel a sense of connection with your physical body. Or, most likely, you feel a sense of connection with another person or group of people through a shared experience.

Flow – You know that thing where you’re totally immersed in something and can even lose track of time? That.

Price also offers a handy acronym to help bring more fun in your days: SPARK

S — make Space for fun! Put your phone down, or even set aside some time on your calendar to make sure you are really dedicating yourself to looking for fun.

P — Pursue passions. “You don’t need to put pressure on yourself and think ‘I’m going to become a professional snowboarder,'” Price says. Set the bar low! Look for things that interest you and let those guide you.

A — A is for attracting fun, which means having an open mind about when and where fun might appear. Price recommends an improv-style “yes, and” approach to having fun, where you look for fun as well as jump into other folks’ fun.

R — Rebellion! Price found in her research that a little bit of gentle rebellion was a good way to make fun happen. So, jump in a pool with your clothes on! Go roller skating in the middle of the night! Stepping out of what is expected of you can be a great way to seek out fun moments.

K — Keep at it! Like any new practice, the only way to really incorporate it into your life is to try it many times. So don’t give up if basket weaving doesn’t work for you — maybe it’ll be guitar or making zines or working in the community garden that becomes your next fun magnet!

How Can I Tell if I’m Depressed or Burned Out?

Dani Blum is an associate writer for Well at The New York Times. the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Philadelphia magazine. She recently penned an article meant to help people distinguish between burn-out, depression, and what do to about each. You can read the full article “How Can I Tell if I’m Depressed or Burned Out?” at NYTimes.com.

Dani writes “Workers can become burned out when they feel like they don’t have control over their day-to-day lives, getting bogged down in the minutiae of their tasks. People who are burned out may feel depleted and cynical about their jobs; they can resent their assignments and co-workers. They might feel irritable and ineffective, like they just can’t get anything done. For people who interact with others in their jobs, like health care workers or people in the retail and service industries, they might start to lose empathy, thinking of patients or customers as just another number, or a rote task to complete. There are also a litany of physical symptoms that can come with the unending stress of burnout: insomnia, headaches, gastrointestinal issues.”

She goes on to write “The World Health Organization includes burnout in the International Classification of Diseases, its diagnostic manual, characterizing it as an “occupational phenomenon,” not a medical condition. Depression, however, is a clinical diagnosis. People with depression often experience anhedonia, the inability to enjoy activities they once treasured. “You can be reading a book you used to love and now you hate it,” said Dr. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis. “Or you love watching Bravo, but now it doesn’t make you laugh anymore.” With burnout, you might not have energy for your hobbies; with depression, you might not find them fun or pleasant at all, said Jeanette M. Bennett, an associate professor who studies the effects of stress on health at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.”

A key differentiator is that burnout gets better when you step away from work, said Dr. Rebecca Brendel, president of the American Psychiatric Association. When you take vacation time, or a mental health day, you feel at least slightly recharged. Depression doesn’t go away if you change your circumstances. “There’s not that bounce-back effect,” she said. “It takes more than that.”

The authors recommend the following for burnout:

  • Take a mental health day or a “sad day” off work, if you’re able to, can offer a reprieve from your symptoms.
  • Consider a career change — which is easier said than done, Dr. Gold acknowledged. “Being able to say, ‘This is a bad workplace, that’s it, I quit,’ is a privilege beyond privilege,” she said.
  • Turn off notifications from your work email or Slack at certain hours.
  • If there’s one meeting you consistently dread, try to block off five or 10 minutes right after to do something that can help you relax,
  • Accentuate the elements of your job that you find meaningful. Maybe that means mentoring a more junior colleague.
  • Exercise can help relieve work-related tension, as can carving out even a few minutes to decompress — without your phone.

But depression is a different story and they recommend:

  • Reach out to a mental health provider
  • If you tell yourself you’re going on a five-minute walk, you’ll probably end up walking for longer than that, Dr. Gold said. “But it’s hard when you’re exhausted and sad to make yourself do anything.”
  • Getting out of the house won’t alleviate all your symptoms, but any kind of movement can help you feel a bit better, she said.
  • You can write down coping mechanisms that have been helpful for you — calling a friend, or going for a quick run — and keep the list on your desk or on your dresser for when you’ll need them.
  • Pay attention to what works for you, Dr. Gold said. “If you don’t like mindfulness, don’t force it,” she said. “Do the things that actually help you feel better in the moments when you feel bad.”

Be sure to read the full article “How Can I Tell if I’m Depressed or Burned Out?” at NYTimes.com.

10 Things the World’s Longest-Living People Do

Recently, researchers Héctor García and Francesc Miralles have expanded their study of the Japanese concept of Ikigai, the rough translation of which is “the happiness of always being busy.” García and Miralles suggest every person has an Ikigai, and that it can be found through patient soul-searching. This generally involves finding balance between your passion, mission, profession, and vocation is the key. While the answer to your Ikigai may take time to uncover, here are 10 general rules to start you on your way:

  1. Stay active and don’t retire. Once García and Miralles arrived in Okinawa, they were shocked to find out how many people simply do not retire — in fact, they even note the lack of a Japanese word for the concept. In order to do what you love for as long as you can, the authors suggest that you make it a priority to stay active in all stages of life.
  2. Take it slow. “When you leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning,” the authors advise. So instead of rushing your daily tasks, try to savor and enjoy them for the sake of your Ikigai. ikigai book cover
  3. Don’t fill your stomach. “Less is more when it comes to a long life. Eat a little less than your hunger demands.” According to García and Miralles, one of the most popular phrases in Japan is “Hara hachi bu,” which means something akin to “fill your belly to 80 percent.”
  4. Surround yourself with good friends. “Friends are the best medicine, there for confiding, sharing stories, getting advice, having fun, dreaming… in other words, living.” Basically, it’s a great excuse to gather your girl squad for drinks more often. Hey, it’s for your health!
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday. “The body you move through life needs a bit of gentle daily maintenance.” While the folks on the Japanese island of Okinawa do not perform rigorous exercise, they do regularly get up and move their muscles. Try setting an alarm on your phone every hour to remind yourself to get out of your office chair and move around.
  6. Smile. “It’s a privilege to be in the here and now — and in a world so full of possibilities,” say García and Miralles. Do your best to stay positive no matter what life throws your way, lady.
  7. Reconnect with nature. “Human beings are made to be part of the natural world. Return to it as often as you can,” the authors say. In other words, do your best to make time in your busy schedule to get back to nature, whether that’s a weekend hike with friends or a summer goal to bike to work once a week.
  8. Give thanks. “Give thanks for everything that brightens your day and makes you feel lucky to be alive.” Whether it’s committing to writing in a gratitude journalor simply being more conscious of voicing your gratefulness to the Starbucks barista who saves your morning, do your best to give more thanks throughout the day. ADVERTISING
  9. Live in the moment. We all have those moments where looking ahead at our busy schedule leaves us feeling mega overwhelmed and stressed. “Today is all we have,” the authors note. “Make it worth remembering.”
  10. Find your Ikigai. “There is a passion inside you, a unique talent, that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end.” You heard it — go get ’em, lady!

2 Minutes to Better Health

A new paper suggests that it takes far less exercise than was previously thought to lower blood sugar after eating. While previous research focused on a 15-minute walking goal, a new meta-analysis from University of Limerick found that light walking after a meal, in increments of as little as two to five minutes, had a significant impact in moderating blood sugar levels. When participants went for a short walk, their blood sugar levels rose and fell more gradually which is a key goal in diabetes management. In a recent interview with the New York times Dr. Kershaw Patel, having review the research, said “Each small thing you do will have benefits, even if it is a small step.” Further proof that our journey through wellness does not need to be marked by successive big achievements, the small ones add up and set us up for success!

You can read the full study at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-022-01649-4

10 Things to Tell Yourself When Going Through a Hard Time

Author Lori Deschene runs the website tinybuddha.com. She shared that her site “is about reflecting on simple wisdom and learning new ways to apply it to our complex lives—complete with responsibilities, struggles, dreams, and relationships.” In one of her most recent posts she offers 10 suggestions on how weather the storms that will invariably come our way. They are as follows, but feel free to visit her post or download them in poster form!

1. You don’t have to feel guilty about feeling sad, bad, anxious, angry, or any other “negative” feeling. You’re not a “negative person.” You’re human.

2. You have a right to feel how you feel even if other people have it worse. Your pain is valid, regardless of what anyone else is going through.

3. You’re doing the best you can based on your life experiences, traumas, conditioning, beliefs, current challenges, and coping skills. As you learn new skills, you’ll cope better, but you may still struggle to apply what you’ve learned, and that’s okay. No one copes perfectly in an imperfect situation.

4. You don’t have to push yourself to be productive. It’s okay to rest or do the bare minimum when you’re struggling. This isn’t being lazy; it’s being kind to yourself—and you deserve it.

5. You’re not “falling behind.” It’s possible that you’re exactly where you need to be to learn, grow, and heal, meaning someday you might look back and consider this chapter a crucial part of your life journey.

6. You don’t have to please or impress anyone else, including yourself. Sometimes it’s enough just to live and make it through the day.

7. You don’t need to have anything figured out right now. You just need to take it one day at a time, trusting that you’ll find answers and solutions if you keep moving forward.

8. You are not alone, and you don’t have to pretend or hide. There are people who care and want to help—and because they’ve struggled too, they understand and would never judge you.

9. You won’t feel this way forever. Just as you’ve survived dark times before, you’ll eventually get past this and maybe even feel proud of yourself for how you made it through.

10. Nothing is guaranteed in the future, but you have the strength to handle whatever might be coming, and the capacity to make the best of it.

The Magic’s in the Music

While music may not be an integral part of everyone’s life there is a growing body of evidence that playing that funky (or soulful, or rocking) music carries with it a number of benefits and can promote overall wellness.

As outlined by Lorrie Kubicek, MT-BC, contributor to the Harvard Health Blog, ongoing research suggests that music boosts our mood and well-being, and music therapy may help during treatments for certain health conditions. Some of these benefits include easing a transition to sleep with a soothing playlist, finding motivation for exercise by listening to upbeat dance music, aiding self-expression of emotions by singing, and connecting to others by attending a live musical performance.

In medicine, certified music therapists have helped patients by combing active and receptive interactions with music to decrease anxiety, shift patient mood, decrease pain perception during cancer or other medical treatment, increase expression and those living with dementia, and increase motivation among other benefits.

You can read the full article, “Can music improve our health and quality of life?” at https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-music-improve-our-health-and-quality-of-life-202207252786

Need some music in your life right now? Check out Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Playlist!

Wellness in the Age of Facebook

A 2019 study by NYU and Stanford has recently resurfaced as companies begin to consider how to impact employee wellness beyond incentivizing and otherwise promoting healthy diet and exercise.

The results of the study suggest some benefit to Facebook use, but also highlights its addictive properties. More to the point, even after a four week “detox,” the participants spent substantial time on Facebook every day and needed to be paid large amounts of money to give up Facebook. The findings overall made clear the diverse ways in which Facebook can improve people’s lives, whether as a source of entertainment, a means to organize a charity or an activist group, or a vital social lifeline for those who are otherwise isolated.

But the results also make clear that the downsides are real. The authors found that the four week detox improved subjective well-being and substantially reduces post-experiment demand, suggesting that forces such as addiction and projection bias may cause people to use Facebook more than they otherwise would. They found that while deactivation makes people less informed, it also makes them less polarized by at least some measures, consistent with the concern that social media have played some role in the recent rise of polarization in the US.

Ready to change your relationship to social media? Try these tips from Michael LaNasa:

Limit Time

Apps like Moment or AppDetox will allow you to track and set alarms for time spent on social apps. Mindfulness and accountability are key to this approach.

When made aware of the time we spend chasing dopamine hits, it’s possible to snap out of the addiction. Coupled with keeping ourselves accountable and we can regain control.

Unfollow

Admit it, you likely follow people you don’t know because of the glamorous lifestyle they showcase. (I still have a few holdouts like this.) Remember, most of the social media is purposeful curation. No shame in it — but know that it’s intended to make you envious. The effect of envy or resentment can be detrimental.

Find some of the people or pages that draw your attention but give you little in return. Turn off notifications. Or unfollow them.

Reflect

This comes down to your own choice after all. Choose to be envious. Choose to let comparison ruin your general happiness and self-worth. But what if these aren’t the only paths?

Psychologist Leon Festinger hypothesized that we make comparisons as a way of evaluating ourselves. Some benefits include positive self-image and self-motivation. The downsides of social comparison are familiar: deep dissatisfaction, guilt, or remorse.

What if you choose to reel in that comparison to others? Recognize that the need for comparison should aim at your previous self, not others. Stop comparing and start competing with the person you once were; aim to be the best version of yourself. Not someone else.

Many people find value in journaling. One huge benefit of that exercise is the ability to reflect upon previous wins. Gratitude compounds and you’re reminded that you’re doing pretty well, in fact. Instead of observing others’ lives, observe your own.