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A Guide to Happiness and Well-Being

What ancient wisdom and modern science 
say about happiness and well-being.

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A Guide to Happiness and Well-Being

  1. 1. Learning to BeWhat Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science say about Happiness and Well-Being
  2. 2. If you feel that despite an increase in material comforts youcould do with more happiness and well-being in your life, thislearning module is for you
  3. 3. We will explore how we can become happier and enhance ourwell-being by understanding what ancient wisdom and modernscience have to say on these issues
  4. 4. First, lets make a distinction between pleasure,which is momentary or lasts for a short duration...
  5. 5. ... and happiness or well-being which is long-term,or could even last life long
  6. 6. We are interested in understanding happiness and well-beingthat has long-term impact and not pursuit of momentarypleasure
  7. 7. Ancient Wisdom onHappiness and Well-Being
  8. 8. Ancient wisdom states that• happiness is a state of mind• happiness is determined by how we perceive our life situation• happiness is not dependent on absolute conditions
  9. 9. What we think, we become Peace comes from within; do not seek it without Buddha
  10. 10. Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient Happiness depends upon ourselves Aristotle
  11. 11. • Happiness comes from fulfillment• Happiness is different from pleasure• Happiness is determined by state of our mind and not by external events• Happiness depends on how satisfied we are with what we have
  12. 12. Thus, according to Ancient WisdomHappiness is a state of mind and our tendency to compare influences our sense of well-being
  13. 13. ... or as H.L. Mencken put it A wealthy man is one who earns a hundred dollars more than his wife’s sister’s husband!
  14. 14. Modern Science onHappiness and Well-Being
  15. 15. In modern science, happiness and well-being havebeen the topics of research for Positive Psychology
  16. 16. Hmmm... and how longI am happily married, have have you been like that? ea great job, lots of friends, no worries... e American psychologist, Martin Seligman, felt that psychology needed to go beyond the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ and laid the foundations of Positive Psychology
  17. 17. In late 1960s Seligman postulated the concept ofLearned Helplessness...
  18. 18. A condition of a human person or an animal in which it haslearned to behave helplessly, even when the opportunity isrestored for it to help itself by avoiding an unpleasant orharmful circumstance to which it had been subjected
  19. 19. I say, she is half dead! q Nah! She is half alive. qSeligman found that not all people who face set-backs become helpless and in 1990s he presentedthe concept of Learned Optimism
  20. 20. Optimists who do notbecome helpless are,• People who consider set- backs as temporary e• People who have the resilience to bounce back• People who think set- backs are controllable and local (e.g. I am bad at math, I am not stupid)
  21. 21. Buddhism Geeta Qur’an BibleSeligman found that optimism is only one of the twodozen strengths that bring about greater well-being
  22. 22. This insight led Seligman to lay the foundations ofPositive Psychology and in his book AuthenticHappiness he writes... e
  23. 23. Positive Psychology takes seriously the brighthope that if you find yourself stuck in theparking lot of life, with few and only ephemeralpleasures, with minimal gratifications, andwithout meaning, there is a road out.This road takes you through the countryside ofpleasure and gratification, up into the highcountry of strength and virtue, and finally to thepeaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose
  24. 24. Milestones on this roadto Authentic Happinessare...
  25. 25. Pleasant Life ns like Pos itive Emotio cstasy, ture, ep leasure, rap mfort warmth, co
  26. 26. G ood Life engths, Posit ive Traits (str s); deep virtues, abilitie nse of r se engagement o you‘flow’ that comes when ths and deplo y your streng hat are talents on pursuits t ough challenging en
  27. 27. lMeaningfu Life gspursuit of thin d that go beyon restyour self-inte
  28. 28. l Meaningfu G ood Life Life tPleasan gs engths, pursuit of thin ive Traits (str d Posit s); deep that go beyon virtues, abilitie nse of Life rest r se your self-inte engagement o you ‘flow’ that comes when ths and like e Emotions asy, deplo y your streng Positiv hat are sure, raptu re, ecst talents on pursuits tplea ough w armth, com fort challenging en Milestones on the road to Authentic Happiness - RECAP
  29. 29. In his more recent book, Flourish Seligman saysthat Well-Being (measured by flourish) is a betterfocus area for positive psychology than happiness Happiness is measured by life satisfaction, which is influenced hugely by how we are feeling at the very moment we are asked e the question and which is often confused with being in a cheerful mood
  30. 30. Fiveelem ents of Well -Being-PE RMA
  31. 31. e(P ) Positiv r oEm otions : e plea sant lif gement: (E) Enga oments o r flow m e (R ) Positiv ips: sh R elation pposite ,o a ltruism nely, lo o f being capac ity to be loved
  32. 32. :(M) Meaning and tobe longing ething m se rving so ieve is el th at you b yourself, big ger than ife mean ingful l t: p lishmen ( A)Accom r s uccess o t in ach ievemen rm and mome ntary fo ieving h maste ry or ac form d life in extende
  33. 33. RECAP Flourish = P - Positive Emotions E - Engagement or Flow R - Positive Relationships M - Meaning A - Accomplishments
  34. 34. Let’s take a Deeper Dive into what Modern Science has tosay on Happiness and Well-Being
  35. 35. Social psychologist,Jonathan Haidt, has putancient wisdom andphilosophy to the test of emodern scienceIn his book The HappinessHypothesis he looks at fewancient ideas through thelens of modern science
  36. 36. According to Haidt, Happiness (H) is a relationship between Individual (I) and Environment (E) H = (I E)
  37. 37. Let’s look at the components of the happinessequation: H = (I E)We start with Individual (I)
  38. 38. eter ine ss M H app ic Ge netHappiness is one of the most genetically inheritedaspects of personalityThe Individual (I) has a Genetic Set Point forHappiness
  39. 39. Congratulations! You have won the Cognitive Lottery! e M eter ss a p pine H etic GenAn individual could win the cognitive lottery (brainis pre-configured to see the good in the world) and have avery high set-point for happiness
  40. 40. Ouch! It’s either Prozac or the couch for you :-( e M eter ss a p pine H etic GenOr, the set-point could be so low that the individualis always depressed (sees only the dark side of life)
  41. 41. American psychiatrist Aaron Beck defines theCognitive Triad of Depression as...
  42. 42. Depressed peopleare convinced in theirhearts of three relatedbeliefs, • I am no good • My world is bleak • My future is hopeless
  43. 43. Haidt suggests that wherever your happinessset-point may be, you can raise it through...
  44. 44. i) Meditation (ancient wisdom), and/or
  45. 45. ii) Cognitive Therapy (modern science), and/or... Cognitive therapy is a type of psychotherapy developed by Aaron Beck It seeks to help the patient overcome difficulties by identifying and changing dysfunctional thinking, behavior, and emotional responses by developing skills for modifying beliefs, identifying distorted thinking, relating to others in different ways, and changing behaviors
  46. 46. iii) Prozac (modern medicine)
  47. 47. Let’s now look at Environment (E) in thehappiness equation: H = (I E)
  48. 48. Environment (E) has two components... E= C+V q q Conditions Voluntary or of your Life Intentional Activities you do
  49. 49. Conditions are Facts About Your Life • Some you cant change (race, sex, age, disability) and some you can (wealth, marital status, where you live) • Conditions are constant over time, or at least during a certain period of your life
  50. 50. Voluntary or Intentional activities arethings that you choose to do Like work, meditation, exercise, learning a new skill or taking a vacation
  51. 51. Let’s take a deeper look at Life Conditions (C)
  52. 52. Research shows that most Life Conditions (C)are subject to: a) Adaptation Principle b) Hedonic Treadmill
  53. 53. a) Adaptation Principle
  54. 54. We are bad at affective forecasting - i.e. predictinghow we will feel in the futureLottery winners or people who become disabled after anaccident, return back to their happiness ‘set-point’ - pleasure ordisconsolation, both are ‘taken for granted’ after a whileHuman mind is sensitive to changes in condition but not sosensitive to absolute levels
  55. 55. if only k k Lottery! if only... kAccording to the Adaptation Principle, webecome habituated to our new reality and thatbecomes are new baseline (e.g. the lottery winner’sexcitement with the new house and new car subsequentlybecomes the new baseline)
  56. 56. if only... k a bigger lotteryWhen this happens we recalibrate and set newtargets - new goals, new hopes, new expectationsand then again feel pleasure and pain in relationto the new targets
  57. 57. b) Hedonic Treadmill
  58. 58. Combining adaptation principle with the genetic set-point for happiness, it seems in the long run it doesnot matter what happens, we will always defaultback to our happiness set-point
  59. 59. This has been called the Hedonic Treadmill of life - you can runas fast as you want and accumulate all the riches you can, yetyou will remain stuck at your natural and usual state ofhappiness, because the riches you gain will simply raise yourexpectations and leave you no better off than you were before
  60. 60. Adversity usually gives you an opportunity to comeoff the Hedonic Treadmill, because it makes youtake a pause, reflect on your life and decide if youwant to hop back on the treadmill or get off it
  61. 61. What I Think Never Happens b Whatever Happens I Start Thinking About That Dialogue from an Indian soap -‘Yeh Jo Hai Jindagi’Meditation offers another way for coming off thehedonic treadmill - meditate to train your mindto stop ‘wanting’ too much, instead start ‘liking’what life has made available to you
  62. 62. Ancient Wisdom proclaims that Conditions ofyour Life (C) need not determine your happiness
  63. 63. Through meditation you can overcome anyadverse life condition and be happy
  64. 64. However, for most of us who are not master meditators,Haidt suggests that it is more practical to change certainlife situations that we don’t get habituated to becausechanging them will increase our happinessThese conditions include...
  65. 65. Noise or air pollution(if you live in such an area it is better tochange your location, if it is possible)Long commute to workLack of control(e.g. if you feel you have no say at work)Shame(things we are adversely self-conscious of)Relationships(you never adapt to interpersonal conflict,like an annoying room mate)
  66. 66. While relationships that are mired with interpersonalconflicts are best changed, modern science has foundthat meaningful social relationships can be veryeffective in facing life conditions and increasing ourhappiness
  67. 67. Robert-Biswas Diener and Ed Dienerʼs research paper, ʻMaking the Best of a Bad Situation: Satisfaction in the Slums of Calcuttaʼ explores how one can be happy despite adverse life conditionsThe paper concludes that, “The slum dwellers of Calcutta generallyexperience a lower sense of life satisfaction than more affluentcomparison groups, but are more satisfied than one might expect. Thiscould be due, in part, to the strong emphasis on social relationships andthe satisfaction derived from them.”
  68. 68. Interpersonal relationships that are characterized byintimacy, growth, and resilience can become a verypositive life condition(the ‘Positive Relationships’ (R) in Seligman’s PERMA of Well-Being)
  69. 69. This is based on John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, wherehe showed that infants need to develop a relationshipwith at least one primary caregiver (secure base) forsocial and emotional development to occur normally
  70. 70. According to Attachment Theory,children can have - Secure Attachment: children stop or reduce their play when their secure base leaves the room Avoidant Attachment: these children don’t care whether secure base comes or goes, they try to distress manage themselves (usually not very well) Resistant Attachment: these children become anxious, clingy or extremely upset when separated from their secure base
  71. 71. Hazan and Shaver’s research extends theAttachment Theory to adult romantic relationshipsThey noticed that interactions between adultromantic partners shared similarities to interactionsbetween children and caregivers
  72. 72. For example, romantic partners desire to be close toone anotherRomantic partners feel comforted when theirpartners are present and anxious or lonely whentheir partners are absent
  73. 73. Romantic relationships serve asa secure base that help partnersface the surprises, opportunities,and challenges life presentsResearch by Pascal Vrticka showsthat avoidantly attached adultsare three times more likely to besolitary at the age of seventy
  74. 74. However, early attachment does not determine alife coursePeople with a resilient temperament can overcomeearly disadvantages
  75. 75. Meaningful socialrelationships are a life I anyway can’tcondition that have a sleep after 4 a.m.significant impact on hyour happinessIf you have someone inyour life who will listento your woes at 4 a.m.you will live longer!
  76. 76. Meaningful is the operative word in socialrelationships that positively impact your happiness
  77. 77. Social relationship can alsohave an adverse impact onyour happinessAlain de Botton explains inhis book Status Anxiety -a school reunion can easilybecome the place thatmakes you most anxiousbecause of the torment ofcomparison with peoplewho were your equals!
  78. 78. A meaningful relationship is one which helps uslearn to be - comfortable in our own skin, saving usfrom anxious comparisons and instead encouragingus to focus on self-improvement
  79. 79. RECAP • Happiness (H) is a relationship between Individual (I) and Environment (E); H = (I E) • Individual (I) has a genetic set-point for happiness • This set-point can be raised through Meditation, Cognitive Therapy, or Prozac • Environment (E) has two components, Life Conditions (C) and Voluntary Activities (V); E = C +V
  80. 80. • Ancient Wisdom maintains that through meditation one can face any life conditions (C)• However, since most of us can’t become master meditators, it is better for us to change some life conditions that adversely impact our happiness like, long commute, polluted surroundings and lack of control• Some social relationships like interpersonal-conflicts or those which trigger unhealthy social comparisons reduce our well-being• But meaningful social relationships that help us focus on self-improvement can significantly increase our happiness and well-being
  81. 81. In the equation (E = C + V) let’s now look atVoluntary or Intentional Activities (V)
  82. 82. Recall that Happiness (H) is a relationship betweenIndividual (I) and Environment (E) H = (I E) q E = C+V q q Conditions Voluntary of your Life Activities you do
  83. 83. We now work 9 to 5 9 a.m. to 5 a.m.Work is perhaps the most important element ofvoluntary or intentional activities for most of us,simply because so many hours are spent at thework place
  84. 84. Work - Job, Career or Calling? • Work is a job when the primary drive is money • Work is a career when it is pursued for advancement, promotion and prestige • Work is a calling when it is intrinsically fulfilling (think of a home maker who finds intrinsic joy and does the work for no other reward)
  85. 85. Story goes... A man came across three masons who were chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait till 5 when I can go home. Oh, what all I have to endure to make a little money”
  86. 86. A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work,was hammering diligently.When the man asked what it was that he was doing heanswered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that itcan be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not badwork, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”
  87. 87. A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, takingtime to stand back and admire his work. He chipped offsmall pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best hecould do.When the man questioned him about his work hestopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I ambuilding a cathedral!”
  88. 88. You maximize your happiness ifyou pursue your calling in life
  89. 89. Ever since I was a kid I knew one day k I would be selling credit cards! Contract T&CBut pursuing a ‘calling in life’ is a tad difficult,especially because even finding what is your callingcan be a challenge!
  90. 90. According to positivepsychologists, a better way isto first find your strengthsand then create goals thatmake use of these strengthsIdeal is if your work allowsyou to pursue your strengthsIf not, then pursue otheractivities that do so
  91. 91. How do you find out if the activities you aredoing will increase your happiness?
  92. 92. If you experience the following in your work,chances are you are deploying your strengthsand your work will lead to enhancement inyour well-being: a) Flow b) Limerence c) Vital Engagement d) Effectance
  93. 93. a) FLOW
  94. 94. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as a state oftotal immersion in a task that is challenging yetclosely matched to one’s abilities
  95. 95. You get into a state of flow when • There is a clear challenge that fully engages your attention, • You have the skills to meet the challenge • You get immediate feedback on each step
  96. 96. b) LIMERENCE
  97. 97. In his book ‘Social Animal’, David Brooks writes Often there’s tension between the inner models and the outer world. So we try to come up with concepts that will help us understand the world, or changes in behaviour that will help us live in harmony with it. When we grasp some situation, or master e some task, there’s a surge of pleasure. Its not living in harmony that produces the surge. If that were so, we’d be happy living on the beach all our lives. It’s the moment some tension is erased. So a happy life has its recurring set of rhythms: difficulty to harmony, difficulty to harmony. And it is all propelled by the desire for limerence, the desire for the moment when the inner and outer patterns mesh.
  99. 99. According to Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi, peopleenjoy longer period of flow as their interest in theflow activity intensifies and their relationship topeople, practices and values in that domain deepens
  100. 100. This they call Vital Engagement - a relationship to the world characterized both by experiences of flow (enjoyed absorption) and by meaning (subjective significance)
  101. 101. d) EFFECTANCE
  102. 102. Effectance MotivationOrganisms have a tendency to explore andinfluence the environment and the masterreinforcer for humans is personal competence(competence is the ability to interact effectively with theenvironment) - Psychologist Robert White
  103. 103. Effectance helps an organism improve itselfPeople like a subject or a game that plays to theirstrengths because it makes them feel competent
  104. 104. In his book ‘Drive - The SurprisingTruth about What Motivates Us’author Daniel Pink suggests thatthe new operating system for the21st century, or Motivation 3.0,has three components: e • Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives • Mastery: the desire to get better and better on something that matters • Purpose: a yearning to do something larger than our self-interest
  105. 105. Progress Principle Joy ’s soulRemember thathappiness comes lie s in thecomes from making doingprogress towards goals - Shakespe arethan from achievingthem
  106. 106. Happiness and Well-Being in Summary • Happiness is a relationship between Individual and Environment • The individual has a genetic set-point for happiness, which can be increased through - meditation, cognitive therapy or prozac • Environment has two components, Life Conditions you face and Voluntary or Intentional Activities you choose to do H=I (C+V)
  107. 107. • To enhance happiness, some life conditions that you can’t get habituated to are best changed• Meaningful social relationships can significantly improve your well-being• Intentional activities, like work, where you can put your strengths to maximum use and experience ‘flow’ are the ones that most improve well-being H=I (C+V)
  108. 108. More referralresources on‘Learning to Be’have beencompiled here -http://www.diigo.com/list/atulpant/Learning-to-Be
  109. 109. For more learningmodules on skillsrelevant for flourishingin the 21st century visitour website -www.TimelessLifeskills.co.uk
  110. 110. Or join the LearningConversationson Facebook -www.facebook.com/lifeskills
  111. 111. Author & Illustrator Atul Pant