The Science of Happiness
I have deliberately posted a series of articles on happiness. I wanted to get your mind off your problems and get it focused on happiness. Why? Isn’t attaining happiness the reason we’re involved in any kind of self improvement? We certainly don’t want to improve because we want to be unhappy, depressed or miserable. Each of us, deep down, wants to be truly happy.
Listen to Boby McFerrin and then read the rest of this article.
I have been reading a book that should be must reading for everyone (seriously, everyone) – perhaps required reading for seniors in high school, freshmen in college and certainly for every one who studies or majors in psychology or psychiatry. The name of the book is What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better authored by Dan Baker, PhD and Cameron Stauth. It is a delightful read – it’s easy on the mind, has good humor, and uncommon common sense.
It is my current “breakfast book” – I usually read something positive, inspiring or spiritual for breakfast to feed my mind and spirit while I feed my body. It’s a long held habit that I want to keep. This is a “meaty” book and goes against the grain of long held beliefs about therapy. It will change they way you view “cynical psychotherapy” – his paraphrase, not mine, but one I find delightful. In my opinion it’s a more accurate description than “clinical psychotherapy.”
It is based on the new approach to psychology called “positive psychology.” Positive psychology is to clinical psychology what holistic medicine is to the practice of allopathic medicine. Both are based on a “wellness model” rather than an “illness model.” Holistic medicine wants to prevent illness and get to the cause rather than just the symptoms by looking at the whole person. Positive psychology wants to find what makes and keeps people happy rather than what makes them mentally and emotionally unbalanced and depressed. At that time when holistic medicine and positive psychology combine it will be as great a combination as chocolate and peanut butter. You know the commercial – “You got peanut butter on my chocolate. Wow. This is good.” It will be ”You got happiness back into my being and, wow, I feel better already.”
The founder of Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman, says of Positive Psychology, “This discipline includes the study of positive emotion, positive character traits, and positive institutions.” Dr. Seligman is now turning his attention to training Positive Psychologists, individuals whose practice will make the world a happier place, parallel to the way clinical psychologists have made the world a less unhappy place. For more information see http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx
Scientists are studying the brain to see the brain activity stimulated by happiness. They are studying the chemicals released as byproducts of happiness. They have linked happiness with enhancement of the immune system, with healing and a feeling of well being. It’s nice that is being explored on a scientific basis. However, it looks again, like scientists are discovering what the mystics have known all along. In this case that happiness is key to physical well being. There is a story about the Avatar, Meher Baba, that after years of silence, he emerged and, when asked what he had learned after all that time, paused, reflected and said, “Don’t worry, be happy.”