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

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5 Reasons to Increase Your Play – Some Serious Reasons to Have More Fun!

Just PlaySubmerged in the responsibilities of life, the seriousness of world affairs, and an ever-growing to-do list, we often forget to PLAY. Animals, on the other hand, continue to play throughout their adult lives! We may believe that play is somehow no longer appropriate or cast it aside as a frivolous waste of time. Research suggests, however, that play is essential to our well-being, creativity, and health.

1. It Boosts Our Creativity Mark Beeman, Ph.D., at Northwestern University found that people have an easier time solving a puzzle after watching a short comedy clip. Having fun, perhaps by easing tension, may be

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Building Social and Emotional Skills in Elementary Students: The Power of Perspective

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-looking-down-smiling-boy-image25368141This 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.

In this post, we’ll explore perspective. Perspective is defined as our individual way of looking at things, events and people. Do your students see a rainy day as gloomy or as a chance to play in the puddles? When they see a glass, is it half empty or half full? How we frame the circumstances in our life has a great deal to do with the happiness we derive from them. According to Shawn Anchor, “90% of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by

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Building Social and Emotional Skills in Elementary Students: Passion and Strengths

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-happy-boy-playing-acoustic-guitar-image28485351This 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.

In this blog, we’ll explore passions and strengths.

Inherent Strength
While the role of education is to give students a broad and foundational knowledge over a wide range of subjects, it is equally important for young people to be aware of and develop their unique strengths. This came to my attention in a personal way when my own daughter was being bullied. As each day became more and more challenging, I went to speak with the school. Even with all best intentions, very little changed. How could my daughter weather the storm when she was being demeaned daily? One thing that worked was helping her become aware of her own strengths and then building on them. It made an enormous difference for her and is a powerful tool that every student should have.

One definition of strength from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “a strong attribute or inherent asset.” Students who know

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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

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When Gratitude Fills Your Heart

Gratitude is a big buzzword these days, and for good reason. Studies are showing that a” conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits” (Emmons and McCullough).

Today I am grateful that I get to work from home on Fridays. Being home today allowed me time with my two godchildren (I live with their family) this morning . While their mother took the toddler to preschool, I danced in the kitchen with the 11-month-old. As we bounced and swayed to the music, he put his head on my shoulder. In a matter of minutes he was sound asleep. I continued dancing with him, feeling gratitude fill my heart for this moment in the kitchen, on a morning when I could work from home.

No sooner had I put him down in the crib when his mother came home with a look of horror on her face. She had just heard on the radio about the shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut. In a moment, the sweet feeling in my heart shifted to one of pain and sadness. As I read the news accounts online, I sobbed for the loss of innocent lives, and the extreme loss of the parents whose children were killed.

Unable to focus on anything else, I went on Facebook and saw post after post responding to the shooting. There was comfort in reading my friends’ pain. I was grateful for this social network and the chance to connect with others in real time. It felt as if we were all in the same room crying together, even though miles apart.

Throughout the day, I kept coming back to this article I had started in my mind as I danced with my godson. Gratitude puts our minds focus on the positive. I began the practice of thinking of what I am grateful for, and felt my heart begin to soften and fill with peace again.

Yes, I am angry about what happened. I am angry that this man had access to guns to kill these innocent children. Yes, I want stricter gun control. And yet I know deep in my heart that the way to change the world is not through more laws. It is through acts of human kindness, generosity, empathy, love, and compassion. It is up to us to change the world.

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

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

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 next door of happiness, Door 6, explores interdependence, or mutual dependence. I take tons of pride in being able to take of myself as a generally independent person, but I also never forget how so much of what I do is thanks in large part to the kindness and generous actions of others, like my friends and family. Door 6 explains that everything we do, our thoughts, our actions, our interaction with others, and even our interaction with the environment, can affect our happiness. In America there’s an old phrase, “No man is an island.” That’s true for everyone, man or woman, and it means we don’t move through life completely alone. Everything and everyone is connected as a link to something or someone else.

Creating a sense of

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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?”

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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

Common Ground Magazine Sings Praises of Project Happiness

When Randy Taran’s eldest daughter was a teenager, she approached her mother with a very serious concern: she was stressed out, and while she wanted to be happy, she didn’t know how. Taran, heartbroken and unsure of how to respond to or guide her daughter, first sought the guidance of experts and soon ended up as a visionary leader in the happiness movement.

Her pain as a bewildered parent ultimately led her to found the Palo-Alto-based nonprofit Project Happiness which, through educational programming, guides students and adults alike on the path toward happiness.

Taran has since dedicated her life to this Herculean task – the pursuit of world happiness – and her journey led her to find a way to communicate how to thrive and be happy not only with her daughter but also with young people throughout the world. Extensive research led to the creation of Project Happiness, one of a growing number of educational programs focused on giving young people the tools they need to first find happiness in their lives ad then to share that happiness with the world around them. Project Happiness programs are now in place in thousands of schools in 48 states and 52 countries.

At the heart of Project Happiness is a simple message:

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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

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Why are Resilient People Usually Happy?: Dr. Brooks on Resilience, Part 4

Here Dr. Brooks and I finally make the connection between resilience and happiness. Some of the key components of resilience — identifying and displaying your strengths, helping others, and solving problems — are also things that bring satisfaction and long-term happiness.

[podcast]http://www.projecthappiness.org/wp-content/uploads/brooksfourthinstallment.mp3[/podcast]

Project Podcast: Take-Aways for Parents and Teachers

After listening to the podcast, fill out our ‘Mentoring Resilience & Happiness’ questionnaire. And keep working on appreciating your gifts and appreciating children’s gifts. Compassion for yourself and the kids in your life can only make you and those around you happier and more resilient.

We All Have “Islands of Competence”: Dr. Brooks on Resilience, Part 3

Swimming for Our Islands of Competence

Swimming for Our Islands of Competence

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In the third installment of our resilience podcast series, Dr. Brooks explains his powerful metaphor, islands of competence (see this article on his site for a powerful story about a parent applying islands of competence in her life). As a strength-based model of psychology was starting to emerge, Dr. Brooks began to think about helping parents and children in terms of leading them out of the “sea of self-perceived inadequacy” onto an “island of competence.”

Dr. Brooks’ Podcast on “Islands of Competence”

Project Podcast: Take-Aways for Teachers and Parents

After listening, ask yourself:

  • What are my islands of competence? How can I change what I’m doing at home/in the classroom to highlight these strengths?
  • What are my kids’/students’ islands of competence? How can I change what I’m doing at home/in the classroom to highlight these strengths?
  • Share your ideas and plans for finding your and your kids’/students’ islands of competence through the “comments” function below and we can all learn from each other