In late June, the third World Congress on Positive Psychology convened leading scientists to explore the keys to a happy and meaningful life. Here are three of the most striking and practical insights from the conference. [Read more…] about Three Insights from the Frontiers of Positive Psychology
(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this article thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Science Center).
A Course Correction for Positive Psychology
A review of Martin Seligman’s latest book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being.
- By Jill Suttie
As president of the American Psychological Association in 1998, Martin Seligman challenged the psychological community to radically change its approach. For too long, he charged, psychology had been preoccupied solely with relieving symptoms of mental illness; instead, he believed it should explore how to thrive in life, not just survive it. He called for a psychology that would uncover what makes people creative, resilient, optimistic, and, ultimately, happy. The “positive psychology” movement was born.
Yet in his latest book, Flourish, Seligman tries to provide something of a course correction for positive psychology. [Read more…] about A Course Correction for Positive Psychology: A Review of Martin Seligman’s Latest Book
(Dear reader: Here you have a little gift to continue the Thanksgiving spirit. Enjoy the interview, and thank you for visiting our site.)
Prof. Robert Emmons studies gratitude for a living as Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and is Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. He has just published Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, an interdisciplinary book that provides a research-based synthesis of the topic as well as practical suggestions.
Alvaro Fernandez: Welcome. Prof. Emmons, could you please provide us an overview of the Positive Psychology field so we understand the context for your research?
Robert Emmons: Sure. Martin Seligman and colleagues launched what was called “positive psychology in the late 90s as an antidote to the traditional nearly exclusive emphasis of “negative psychology” focused on fixing problems like trauma, addiction, and stress. We want to balance our focus and be able to help everyone, including high-functioning individuals. A number of researchers were investigating the field since the late 80s, but Seligman provided a new umbrella, a new category, with credibility, organized networks and funding opportunities for the whole field.
And where does your own research fit into this overall picture?
I have been researching gratitude for almost 10 years. Gratitude is a positive emotion that has traditionally been the realm of humanists and philosophers, and only recently the subject of a more scientific approach. We study gratitude not as a merely academic discipline, but as a practical framework to better functioning in life by taking control of happiness levels and practicing the skill of emotional self-regulation.
What are the 3 key messages that you would like readers to take away from your book?
First, the practice of gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. Second, this is not hard to achieve — a few hours writing a gratitude journal over 3 weeks can create an effect that lasts 6 months if not more. Third, that cultivating gratitude brings other health effects, such as longer and better quality sleep time.
What are some ways to practice gratitude, and what benefits could we expect? Please refer to your 2003 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, where I found fascinating quotes such as that “The ability to notice, appreciate, and savior the elements of one life has been viewed as a crucial element of well-being.
The most common method we use in our research is to ask people to keep a “Gratitude Journal” where you write something you feel grateful for. Doing so 4 times a week, for as little as 3 weeks, is often enough to create a meaningful difference in one level of happiness. Another exercise is to write a “Gratitude Letter” to a person who has exerted a positive influence on one’s life but whom we have not properly thanked in the past, and then to meet that person and read the letter to them face to face.
The benefits seem to be very similar using both methods in terms of enhanced happiness, health and wellbeing. Most of the outcomes are self-reported, but there is an increasing emphasis on measuring objective data such as cortisol and stress levels, heart rate variability, and even brain activation patterns. The work of Richard Davidson is exemplary in that respect, showing how mindfulness practice can rewire some activation patterns in [Read more…] about Enhance Happiness and Health by Cultivating Gratitude: Interview with Robert Emmons
Ellen recently wrote a nice post titled Top Ten Tips for Men Who Lead Women, and asked for volunteers to offer a complementary perspective. I hope you enjoy!
- We men know we are hard to lead, and that can be stressful for you and for us. You should know that stress affects short term memory, so it is important to be able to manage stress well, with meditation or other methods. Check here your level of stress to see how much this point applies to you. Please remember, laughing is good for your brain.
- Don’t think too much-we don’t. If we do, we try to find ways to self-talk us out of that uncomfortable state.
- Please remember our humble origins. We are tool-using animals, which is why we like playing with all kinds of toys, from a car to that blackberry.
- When we are stubborn, you are entitled to remind us that even apes can learn-if you help us see the point. Show us that change is possible at any age. Believe it or not, we can listen.
- Especially if we can find common ground: what about chatting about sports psychology?.
- Please motivate us to listen and be open minded to learn with wise words. If that doesn’t work, please persevere with nice words. Please don’t ever say that we are worse than pink dolphins-if we feel attacked, we’ll just disengage.
- Sometimes we don’t cooperate enough?. Please give us time for our brains to fully evolve, we have been trying for a while!
- You can help us grow. For the next leadership workshop, buy us copies of the Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain book. You may think we don’t need this… but at our core we really want to get better at Gratitude and Altruism. We want to be able to play with the ultimate toy: our genes!
- If that book is sold out, we could also benefit from reading Damasio’s Descartes Error and discover how emotions are important for good decision-making. Or help us improve our ability to read emotional messages. As long as we believe we can somehow benefit from it, we’ll try!
- If you lead someone with Bill Gates-like Frontal Lobes, congratulate him for his brain. If you don’t, encourage him to follow track. Please be patient…
Now, any takers for Top Ten Tips for Women Who Lead Women or Men Who Lead Men?
Very fun interview with Jack and Elaine LaLanne by Dave Bunnell: read it at Meet Fitness Legends Jack and Elaine LaLanne | ELDR.com. See some quotes:
- In 1936, Jack opened AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first health club in Oakland, California, called the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jack LaLanne Physical Culture Studio.Ã¢â‚¬Â
- Through television shows, public appearances, and booksÃ¢â‚¬â€and by selling health-related productsÃ¢â‚¬â€they have been the most vocal and effective evangelists for preventive health the world has ever known.
- Ã¢â‚¬Å“Elaine works out,Ã¢â‚¬Â Jack replies, Ã¢â‚¬Å“but I work out eight days a week. I spend an hour and a half in the gym, and then a half hour in the pool, and I change my routine every 30 days completely.Ã¢â‚¬Â
- Ã¢â‚¬Å“YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to go at it hard and work on different muscles,Ã¢â‚¬Â he continues. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You know how you stay young, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you? You work your butt off. Anything you do in life thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worthwhile, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a price to pay.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Jack recently celebrated his 92nd birthday!
“Everybody knows that exercise is good for your heart, but in recent years we’ve gathered compelling evidence that exercise is also good for your brain,” says Fred Gage, PhD, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. “We now know that exercise helps generate new brain cells, even in the aging brain.”
You can check other tips in [Read more…] about Jack and Elaine LaLanne and Brain Health
Steven Edwards at Wired Blog writes a post titled Yoga Boosts Brain’s GABA Levels, saying that “Participants in the yoga group had a 27% increase in GABA levels, while those in the reading group remained unchanged. Co-authors Chris Streeter from BUSM and Domenic Ciraulo pointed out that this research shows a method of treating low GABA states. Fairly obvious — yes — but this shows a nonpharmacological method for increasing GABA levels that people can act on now, without waiting for a drug to go through FDA approval.”
Having attended last week a conference where neuropharma executives presented all their future drugs against obesity, anxiety, depression…I couldn’t agree more. The rates of serious side effects of these drugs are astounding, yet as a society we seem to prefer to rely on taking drugs when are sick rather than proactively taking charge of our health and lifestyles and do our best (which not always is enough) to protect our fitness and wellness.