Human Cells Respond in Healthy Ways With Certain Kinds of Happiness

FelicidadHuman bodies recognize at the molecular level that not all happiness is created equal, responding in ways that can help or hinder physical health, according to new research led by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The sense of well-being derived from “a noble purpose” may provide cellular health benefits, whereas “simple self-gratification” may have negative effects, despite an overall perceived sense of happiness, researchers found. “A functional genomic perspective on human well-being” was published July 29 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

“Philosophers have long distinguished two basic forms of well-being: a ‘hedonic’ form representing an individual’s pleasurable experiences, and a deeper ‘eudaimonic’ form that results from striving toward meaning and a noble purpose beyond simple self-gratification,” wrote Fredrickson and her colleagues.

It’s the difference, for example, between

Read More

The Alphabet of Happiness: The Letter ‘H’

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-alphabet-letter-h-girl-image897012Originally published in the Huffington Post – July 1, 2013

Even throughout the busy pace of everyday life, happiness is always close at hand. Rather than pursuing it, consider focusing in one place… inside. The good news is that by placing our attention on inner happiness, we train our brain to experience more of it. This week, let’s explore the letter “H” – Hope, Honesty and Health.

Hope:
I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe. – The Dalai Lama

Hope is like a time machine that moves you from one place to another, from one state to something better, from the way it is to the way it can be. Hope is

Read More

Activities to Build Social and Emotional Skills in Elementary Students

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-basic-lessons-happiness-image12635837This year, in partnership with Edutopia.org (The George Lucas Educational Foundation), we released a nine part blog series on Social and Emotional Learning for Elementary Education Students. Starting this week and then every week for the next nine weeks, we are rereleasing this series for everyone to view!

To receive the lesson plans that accompany the blog series, please fill out the Curriculum Request Form for Educators and the lessons will be delivered to you in a PDF format.

Happiness is something we all want, and new research shows that happiness and well-being can be taught! But who has time to teach happiness when there is so much else to cram into a school day? At the university level, we see courses at Harvard and University of Southern California on the Science of Happiness. There are good reasons why those courses are among these schools’ most popular classes. Happier people tend to be healthier, more productive, more generous and kinder to others. They also learn more easily and enjoy life. Who doesn’t want some of that?

On the flipside, bullying is an issue that many deal with, and both anxiety and depression are rapidly on the rise. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second greatest cause of human suffering cross all ages.

The good news: happiness skills are not hard to learn. It just takes time and practice. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson compares learning happiness to

Read More

The Alphabet of Happiness – The Letter ‘F’

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-letter-image12412197Originally published in the Huffington Post – May 14, 2013

Happiness has many entry points. Some are simple, like appreciation, and others, like forgiveness are more complex. By exploring different facets of happiness, you blast open your capacity for greater joy. Even when facing challenging times, you will discover your portals to inner happiness. Today, let’s look at the letter “F” covering fun, focus and forgiveness.

Fun
Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game. — Michael Jordan

In this fast-paced world, with all its responsibilities and challenges, we can forget one important thing

Read More

Good Night’s Sleep Linked to Happiness

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-puppy-dog-sleeping-image13312044The researchers analyzed data from 100 middle-aged participants in a longitudinal study of midlife in the United States that included telephone interviews about participants’ daily experience as well as subjective and objective measures of sleeping habits. The study looked at the overall levels of positive emotion that the participants experienced in their lives – those associated with more stable personality traits, as well as daily fluctuations in positive emotions in reaction to daily events.

The team found that, as expected, having a more positive general outlook on life was associated with improved sleep quality. However, they found that the more reactive or fragile a participant’s positive emotions were in relation to external events, the more their sleep was impaired, especially for individuals high in positivity to begin with.

“Previous research suggests that the experience of joy and happiness may slow down the effects of aging by fortifying health-enhancing behaviors such as restorative sleep,” said first author Anthony Ong, associate professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology. “Our study extends this research by showing that whereas possessing relatively stable high levels of positive emotion may be conducive to improved sleep, unstable highly positive feelings may be associated with poor sleep because such emotions are subject to the vicissitudes of daily influences.” Ong added, “These findings are novel because they point to the complex dynamics associated with fragile happiness and sleep that until now have been largely attributed to unhappy people.”

Ong co-authored the study, “Linking stable and dynamic features of positive affect to sleep,” with Deinera Exner-Cortens and Catherine Riffin, Cornell graduate students; Andrew Steptoe, University of London; Alex Zautra, Arizona State University; and David Almeida, Penn State University.

More information: link.springer.com/… -013-9484-8#
Journal reference: Annals of Behavioral Medicine
Provided by Cornell University
Article appeared originally in MedicalExpress.com

The Best Kept Secret to Happiness: Compassion

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-chacma-baboon-image2038391Marketing executives want us to believe that happiness lies in a product that will taste delicious, magically fill our bank accounts, or transform us into a supermodel that looks not a day past 20. Our social norms promise that happiness will lie in status, accomplishments, relationships, and possessions. We are always on the lookout for the next thing: once we have the perfect mate, we look for the perfect home; once we’ve found the perfect home, we look for a bigger one, or a new car or a bigger bank account; once the perfect job is attained, we look for the next promotion or look forward to retirement or a new job. We seem to be on a constant and futile chase after the promised land of lasting happiness. Dan Gilbert of Harvard University has shown that we are, in fact, terrible at predicting what will lead to happiness. Our norms, for example, would suggest that a winning lottery ticket would make our happiness scores skyrocket while paralysis would make them plummet. Research shows, however, that winning the lottery ticket, though it creates an initial rise in well-being, does not lead to lasting happiness over time nor does becoming paraplegic lead to lasting unhappiness.

A closer look at our own experiences as well as research data suggests that

Read More

The Alphabet of Happiness: ‘C’

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image28641259Originally published in the Huffington Post – February 20, 2013

The Alphabet of Happiness is a reminder of the many ways to access happiness in your life now. Though at times it may appear to be elusive, happiness is all around you — especially if you know where to look! The good news is that the more you focus on happiness, the faster you can activate the neural pathways that bring you more. Here are three ways to explore your own happiness that start with the letter “C.”

Choice

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Victor Frankel

While we cannot choose the challenges that life presents, we can choose

Read More

Authentic Happiness: 3 Simple Steps to Find the Courage to Be Yourself

Originally Posted on the Huffington Post

We all have flashes of inspiration. Sometimes they appear as quiet whispers in the night, as fleeting thoughts in the morning shower or as huge “a-ha!” moments. The question is: Are you giving enough attention to the clues that your inner voice is sending? How can you get more attuned to the inner directives? Here are three ways to get started.

1) Knowledge Is Power

Socrates said it best: “Know Thyself.” This includes understanding what makes you feel alive, what captures your imagination, and also what comes naturally to you. Knowing your strengths is a huge advantage. If you have a great sense of humor, creativity or an ability to communicate easily with people, then you can build on those qualities to create your best life. By focusing on enhancing your strengths rather than trying to make up for your weaknesses, you can move more quickly in your desired direction and have fun in the process. Ask a few friends what they see as your strengths, and do the same for them. You may be surprised! For more clues, check out (read more)

7 DOORS: ONE STUDENT’S JOURNEY TO HAPPINESS – DOOR SEVEN

Last year, students at the University of Southern California piloted a new program from Project Happiness called 7 Doors to Happiness. The program was created as a resource for adults to access their own happiness and to share it with others. One of the USC students, Mecca Moore, blogged about her experience with the 7 Doors to Happiness and asked if she could share it on our site.

This year, this online course is once again being used at the University of Southern California and has expanded to be included in the Science of Happiness courses taught at Stanford University and Tennessee State University. The 7 Doors to Happiness is available to everyone. If you would like to sign up for this online course, please visit http://7doorstohappiness.com.

Yes! The final door. The last step. The big reveal on the 7 Doors to Happiness journey. I must confess, I was very excited to see Door 7. They say you always leave the best for last, right? So I dug into Door 7 to see what awaited at the end of the program.

Door 7 reminded me up-front that happiness is not something to chase, but

Read More

Big Bird and the Halloween Challenge

Photo copyright Sesame Workshop

Originally published on The Huffington Post

Halloween is coming. It’s a time for costumes, masks and trying out new personas. Here’s a challenge. In our everyday lives, we all wear masks to some extent or another — we all play some type of role to ease the way. What if you considered taking off the mask, and having the courage to live as your authentic self?

Sometimes, it’s hard to even keep track of the masks we wear — they can be expressed in so many ways

Read More

7 Doors: One Student’s Journey to Happiness – Door Two

Last year, students at the University of Southern California piloted a new program from Project Happiness called 7 Doors to Happiness. The program was created as a resource for adults to access their own happiness and to share it with others. One of the USC students, Mecca Moore, blogged about her experience with the 7 Doors to Happiness and asked if she could share it on our site.

This year, this online course is once again being used at the University of Southern California and has expanded to be included in the Science of Happiness courses taught at Stanford University and Tennessee State University. The 7 Doors to Happiness is available to everyone. If you would like to sign up for this online course, please visit http://7doorstohappiness.com.

The second door in the 7 Doors to Happiness program dealt with one of my least favorite subjects: obstacles. Like every person in the world, I’ve had my fair share of obstacles to accept and overcome. Right off the bat Door 2 tackled my biggest obstacles: those inside myself, like self-doubt and anxiety.

What I especially liked from the start was its solution-based approach. The information didn’t stew on the pains of being self-conflicted or angry. It focused more on solving how to best approach problems, even when they’re scary and seem insurmountable. It reminded me again that happiness is always a choice, and if old patterns aren’t working it’s time to change them. I admitted to myself then that even though I was a university student, which should have ensured a constantly changing daily routine, I’d gotten caught in unsuccessful patterns I needed to break. Door 2 laid out how to break them by choosing change.

Read More

What Makes You Happy? Students from Berkeley Answer This Question Through Film

I had the wonderful opportunity to judge some great student films from Dacher Keltner’s Course on Human Happiness at Berkeley. Here’s a blogpost about it from Jason Marsh, Editor in Chief, Greater Good Magazine, who put it all together. Check out the films – they will make you smile…RT

What makes you happy?

That was the question more than 400 UC Berkeley students had to consider before they completed Psychology 162 this past spring.

This was no ordinary assignment, and it was no ordinary class. The class, called “Human Happiness,” was taught by Greater Good Science Center Faculty Director Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley. Keltner offered his students an interdisciplinary tour of the new science of happiness, covering topics such as gratitude, awe, humor, and compassion.

Toward the end of the semester, Keltner presented his students with an unusual extra credit assignment: Produce a short video illustrating at least one of the key concepts covered in “Human Happiness.” The videos had to be short (1-3 minutes), draw on the material they covered in class, and answer the question, “What makes you happy?”

Read More

Randy Taran Featured on Microsoft’s Daily Edventures with Anthony Salcito

This week, Project Happiness founder Randy Taran sat down with Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector Education to discuss her work with Project Happiness. The video is part of Anthony’s Daily Edventures, a 365-day look at heroes in education. To learn more about Microsoft’s Daily Edventures, visit www.DailyEdventures.com

Native Cry Outreach

Earlier this year, I learned that my grandmother had been keeping a family secret. Her mother, my great-grandmother, was full Cherokee but she and my great-grandfather had hidden this fact to better fit into the world that they lived in at the time. This information fascinated me, not so much because I felt a burning connection to the Cherokee Nation, but because I was curious how being identified as non-white could have such a stigma attached to it.

I have spent the last few months looking more into the modern history of Native Americans and specifically, the situations that are facing the tribes today. On a daily basis I review statistics on depression and suicide in the U.S. and abroad and they are, in a word, heartbreaking. This is why I almost couldn’t believe it when I saw these stats as they apply to Native youth are exponentially worse. Native American and Alaska Native commit suicide at a higher rate than any other ethnic group in the United States. The suicide rate for Native youth aged 15-24 is 3.3 times higher than the national average and young people make up 40% of all suicides on tribal lands.

After giving it some thought, I realized that because of Project Happiness

Read More

What Do We Do in the Face of Senseless Tragedy?

Last week, in Aurora, Colorado, we witnessed one of the largest tragedies of its kind in U.S. History. 12 people died and 57 were injured, and it leaves us wondering, WHY? What propels an individual to be so tortured to resort to mass murder of innocent people in a public place? And how do we cope with the aftermath – the sorrow, the trauma and the sense that you never know…

In an odd replay of fiction come to life, so many of the characters in the Batman movie are flat out insane – disconnected from their community, their own inner compass and their very hearts. It’s one thing to watch that on the screen and another to see it acted out in real life with real life consequences. But where do we draw the line?

There is no denying that we are all influenced by the people and the emotional atmosphere we are surrounded with, whether positive and uplifting or harmful and toxic. In Aurora, 70 people have suffered because one person was at the point of no return. Let’s be clear that there is NO excuse for harming anyone. The challenge is what can we do as individuals and communities to try to plant new seeds so this tragedy has less of a chance of erupting again. We can point fingers to one young man who was so sick that he became a mass murderer. But that will not solve the core of the problem. The call to action is for each of us to look at our own lives, attitudes, choices and actions. The question is: can we make any internal changes that can help, both for us and the next generation? From this tragedy of lost lives, hopes and dreams, here are 5 ideas worth considering:

Read More

Happiness is Spreading in Bulgaria

I love Bulgaria!

Life happens in curious ways. I never dreamed that I would be visiting Bulgaria, but this weekend, I had the great pleasure of presenting a happiness speech and workshop in the capital city of Sofia. “Days of Happiness” is the first project of its kind in Eastern Europe. Organized by the Credo Bonum Foundation, it brought in speakers from around the world to address the issue of happiness. Why? In April, 2012 a UN Report declared Bulgaria one of the unhappiest countries on the world. Scientists, psychologists, authors, educators and economists all presented different perspectives on what can make a society happier. I have the deepest respect for the visionaries, led by Tzvetelina Borislavova, who are shining a light and actively working towards a positive future for all.

The country offers many attributes that generally are not regularly appreciated by its inhabitants. That can change. Historically, it is quite normal for

Read More

How to Find Happiness

We need to suitably define this thing we call happiness. Too many people are chasing this elusive concept that, in my opinion, they don’t understand. They think happiness is a tangible thing you achieve once you clear away a certain roadblock: “If I just had a boyfriend, if I just made more money, if I just had a bigger house….”

So let’s clear up this myth. Happiness is not a concrete thing. It’s not about what we attain materialistically, what job we have, and or based on genetics. Happiness is a choice we can all make during every moment of every day. Yes, it’s true that some people tend to be more positive than others. However, this is a learned behavior, so anyone can work their way towards living a happier life.

What are some words I use to describe happiness? Joy and contentment are the first ones that come to mind. And I do believe the ability to experience these emotions is related to how people feel about themselves. Too many people are walking around with an internal emptiness that was created in childhood. And you can recognize this emptiness from the way they behave: those who constantly (and subconsciously) fill a void with material things, those who compare themselves to others (and what others have) and feel less than because of it, those who live too much through their children’s lives without paying attention to their own….

Here are some tips on how to

Read More

A Happy World Begins With a Happy YOU

From the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randy-taran/world-happiness-report_b_1449440.html

My son just reminded me that it was Earth Day. This sparked a discussion of what can one person do to make a change? We talked about Al Gore, how recycling has grown and new ideas that could really shift our perspective. For me, the most exciting idea to affect the planet this year has come from a tiny country in the Himalayas, called Bhutan. Their Prime Minister has been waging a campaign to measure human progress not only by how wealthy a country is, but also by the way it impacts the environment and the happiness of its people… a fascinating notion that has made it all the way to the U.N.

Earlier this month, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigme Thinley proposed the meeting to explore the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH), rather than just the conventional economic measure of Gross National Product (GNP). What does that mean? The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, summarized it this way: “Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.” The environment, social well-being and economics together in one soup – now that’s an idea that could be a game changer!

I decided to look deeper. Apparently the U.N. General Assembly mandated

Read More

Happiness According to Yauch – The Project Happiness Interview with Adam Yauch

Adam Yauch, aka MCA, is one of the founding members of the hip hop trio, the Beastie Boys. Inspired by his own extensive travels as well as the his interactions with the Dalai Lama, Adam became publicly passionate about the situation in Tibet and created “The Milarepa Fund” to help promote awareness and generate support around the world. He organized the first “Tibetan Freedom Concert” in San Francisco in 1996, which he followed with years of a similar series in the United States and worldwide. Yauch has influenced an entire generation of human souls to look deep within themselves in search of a greater truth and a peaceful, compassionate understanding of all that surrounds us.

Adam spoke with some of the students participating in Project Happiness to offer his thoughts on lasting happiness. This interview was edited for space and flow.

PROJECT HAPPINESS: I was wondering what your definition of happiness is, and whether it is in the long-term or short-term spectrum?

ADAM YAUCH: It is good that you’re making the distinction between short-term and long-term. I think there is

Read More

3 Keys to Lasting Happiness

From the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randy-taran/the-key-to-happiness_b_1004566.html

If you had to choose three keys to lasting happiness, what would they be? For me, those keys are gratitude, connecting with others and giving. It is not rocket science, although science has proven how these habits can make you live longer, enjoy better health and get more joy out of life.

Gratitude: A simple practice of writing down or otherwise reflecting on a few things you are grateful for has huge benefits. Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough have researched that gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research. The benefits of expressing gratitude range from

Read More

Graduation: 10 Tips To Achieving The Life You Want

I’m just returning from my son’s graduation — a milestone filled with laughter, elation, and tears of joy. But what is the next step? So many graduates haven’t a clue. Herein lies the opportunity.

My son is graduating as a double major in Economics and Asian Studies — he’s lived in India and China, but does he want to do something related to that? Not right now. He wants to get his Screen Actors Guild card and act. As parents, we have the option to be upset and concerned that he is not taking the traditional route. After consideration, we have decided to support his decision wholeheartedly. Today, the average person goes through at least five career changes in the course of a lifetime. It’s not unusual to get a degree in something and discover that working in that field is not only boring – it may suck the very life out of you. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 10 things to consider when planning your happy life.

So dare listen to your inner calling and take the first steps. By keeping your focus and staying nimble, even if you don’t know exactly the destination, your pathway will open up. Happiness resides in the most unexpected places. Be on the lookout and enjoy the journey.

more

How to be Happy: The Magical Lego of Happiness

When our sons were younger, they would often sprawl on the floor for hours playing Legos. In the huge bucket that sat between the two of them, there were thousands of Legos of every shape, color, and size imaginable.

One day, when the boys were about 4 and 6, I peeked into their room to see my younger son working away happily, improvising a whimsical structure. Reaching into the bucket, he grabbed one tiny plastic brick after another, enjoying his creation as it grew and changed from a car to a robot to a space-age vehicle. He turned his creation this way and that, smiled contentedly, and then continued to build.

Our older son, noticing his brother’s happiness, eyed his younger sibling with envy and tried to make his own creation look just like his little brother’s. Carefully observing the elements of his little brother’s structure, he began to rake his fingers desperately through the bucket, trying to find just the Legos that were in the magically morphing creation that was bringing his brother so much joy.

Read More

The Advantages of Adversity

Lance Armstrong survived cancer and went on to win the Tour de France seven consecutive times.

Adversity is critical to growth and happiness for so many reasons. First, adversity provides variety in life. See, from a broader perspective, there really is no bad weather. There may be lots of clouds one day or no clouds at all, the sky may be gray or it may be a brilliant blue, the sun may be shining or it may be raining. But there are pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, good things and bad things about all kinds of weather conditions. The same is true of your life.

Read More

Happiness is everywhere!

img_46683Project Happiness is everywhere BECAUSE happiness itself is everywhere.
I went to the grocery store the other day to buy food and supplies- you know, the weekly stock up. Nothing exciting. Tissues were on my list. Buying tissues isn’t normally a noteworthy experience; it’s just part of the routine that goes along with perpetually bad allergies.
This time was different.
I went to the tissue aisle to grab whichever box had the most pink on it (my usual strategy), but this time one particular box jumped out at me! It was this beautiful, bright-colored box with flowers on it. Bold. Bright. Colors. I loved it because it instantly reminded me of our 7 Doors’ colors! And in that moment I thought, “Wow, Project Happiness is everywhere. Not because we have gotten our message out everywhere (yet), but because happiness itself is everywhere!… or at least you can find it anywhere!”
Each side of the tissue box is a different fun color with a different color flower, so now as I sit at my desk I am staring at the turquoise side. But every day, I rotate the box, getting to see a different color scheme each day. I like to look at it as seeing a different side to happiness each day.
Anyway, who knew buying tissues could be such a happy experience!
Look for it… happiness is everywhere!