Tag: mind

The Science of Happiness explained

The Science of Happiness explained

WHAT IS HAPPINESS?

One of the major problems with doing scientific research on happiness is finding an appropriate definition for happiness. Happiness is generally defined as the state of being happy. That is to say, happiness is a state of mind. However, this definition is too broad and non-specific.

For worldly people, happiness is getting what you want and not getting what you don’t want. Happiness is seen as the fulfillment of our desires (wants).

What about our needs? According to Abraham Maslow, there is a hierarchy of human needs:

  1. Physiological needs – food, clothing, shelter, medicine
  2. Need for safety – not just physical but also emotional, mental and financial security
  3. Social need – to connect with others and to contribute meaningfully to society
  4. Self esteem – the need for a more mature and higher self regard
  5. Self actualization – the need to be the best that we can be as a human being

Surely to be happy, we not only want our desires fulfilled but also our basic needs satisfied. Thus, it would appear that happiness for worldly people means having our needs and wants fulfilled.

Scientists broadly agree that happiness is a combination of how satisfied we are with life and how good we feel on a day-to-day basis.

 

WHAT DETERMINES OUR HAPPINESS?

Internal and External Factors

The factors that determine our happiness vary from person to person, but roughly scientists are of the opinion that both internal and external factors determine our happiness. Only an estimated 10% of our happiness is determined by external factors and circumstances, such as where we are born, what kind of government we have, and even our family environment. A huge portion of our happiness is actually determined by our internal factors, such as the way we think and behave (40%) and our genetic make-up (50%). Thus our happiness is predominantly within our own control and dependent on ourselves.

Adaptation

We have the ability to adapt well to external circumstances. In tough circumstances, we learn to tolerate and bear with the discomfort and stressful environment, and they soon become the new norm. We see this in children living in war-torn countries and people with extreme disabilities. In the same way, in good circumstances, we also quickly learn to tolerate the new comfort, and so demand more or better comfort. That is why we continue to seek greater thrills in extreme sports, better tasting food, higher comfort and so forth.

A Bottomless Pit

The problem with seeking happiness from external and physical things is that there is no end in sight to it. It is like a bottomless pit or a black hole. It cannot be fulfilled. The goal is one of futility. It will only meet with vexation and frustration.

Right Focus

Thus, we should instead be focusing on attaining happiness from our own internal factors, and specifically on cultivating our thoughts (40%).

 

WHAT MAKES US HAPPY?

When scientists study what are the areas in our life that give us happiness, they looked at some of these areas: Happiness and wealth, happiness and health, happiness and relationships, happiness and meaning of life, happiness and spirituality.

  1. Happiness and Wealth

A common belief with regards to wealth and happiness is that the more wealth we have, the happier we are. In other words, many people see their happiness as proportionately related to the amount of wealth they have. Is this belief true?

According to the happiness scientists, this is a false belief. While it is true that we need a certain amount of money or wealth to be happy, it is not true that the more money we have, the happier we will be. We do need money to provide for our basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and medicine. Having these basic necessity met gives us a sense of security that makes us happy or contented. In the USA, scientists have determined that generally a yearly salary of slightly above US75,000 meets this condition for basic needs. Any amount of money above that does not significantly increase our happiness.

This seems to imply that a large part of our happiness comes from having a sense of security. Security here includes not just the fulfilling of basic physiological (physical) needs but also the need for safety in other areas as well, such as emotional, mental, financial and social security.

So, if you feel you need to hoard a lot of money to be happy, it might be worth looking inwardly into your own sense of security, or lack of security. Recognizing and overcoming our own inner sense of insecurity offers us a better and surer attainment of happiness than our external wealth, which can be taken away from us through sickness, theft, government, and natural disasters.

  1. Happiness and Health

A common belief about health and happiness is that having good health makes us happy, and this belief is true. However, what is less well known is that the reverse is also true – happiness itself brings us good health.

Studies have shown that people who are happy are less likely to have chronic illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. They are more likely to have better HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) level, better immunity against infections and live longer.

Happy people are generally less reactive to stressors in life, have lower risk of depression and are generally more resilient.

Happy people are also generally more successful across multiple life domains, such as marriage, relationships, careers, income and work performance.

  1. Happiness and Relationships

Studies have shown that our relationships provide us with meaning and purpose of life, and having a meaningful existence makes us happy.

Some key traits that lead to successful and healthy relationships are kindness and generosity. On the other hand, traits such as contempt and criticism tend to worsen a relationship.

Many people believe that in order to be happy, they need to find the right person in their life. In other words, their happiness is dependent on someone else. The truth of the matter is that only we can give ourselves happiness. Happiness is found within us, not outside of us.

  1. Happiness and Meaning of Life

We have said earlier that a meaningful life is a happy life. One of the ways we find meaning is in our personal achievements. Thus, to find something meaningful or a higher goal to aim for, and to work towards that goal gives us a sense of satisfaction and happiness. The more honest we are working towards such a goal, the happier we are.

There is a common belief that for our success to be meaningful, it has to be big. Perhaps we have to be famous or become the richest man in the country, or we gain some limelight on TV or other media. The truth is that meaningful things come in doing the small things in life with love and compassion. According to Mother Teresa, it is not how much you do but how much love you put in the doing that matters.

So, if you belief you need to be famous or extremely rich to be successful, perhaps you might want to examine your inner need for recognition. Might this be about your ego instead?

  1. Happiness and Spirituality

It is commonly believed that a moral life leads to happiness, and this is verified by science. We have certain built-in traits, such as a conscience, that necessitate us to do what is considered right or good. To do what we know to be wrong is a stress to our conscience, and therefore to our peace of mind, which leads to sufferings.

Qualities such as good moral conduct (virtues), altruism, compassion, kindness, unconditioned love and generosity are universally encouraged by all major religions as conducive to happiness. Such qualities have been studied by science and they truly have strong links to happiness.

In addition, what we have also learned is that the state and attitude of our mind strongly determine our happiness. Gratitude, for example, is an attitude that leads to happiness and contentment. Forgiveness is another good trait that supports happiness.

Generally, studies have shown that people who are more spiritual are happier. Spiritual people here do not refer to those who religiously attend their weekly churches or temples. Rather, what truly matters is the quality of thoughts and sense of connectedness with others and with nature that define our spirituality.

It has been found that spirituality:

  1. Offers psychological comfort related to death and the afterlife
  2. Provides social support
  3. Provides meanings and sense of belonging
  4. Provides a stable foundation of good values for children as well as adults
  5. Encourages the experience of positive emotions

 

THE POWER OF POSITIVE THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS

Positive thoughts and emotions, such as unconditional love, kindness, compassion, gratitude, generosity, forgiveness and altruism, are the true causes of happiness. Happiness is the cause of our successes across multiple domains of life, not the result.

People with positive emotions are more able to thrive and flourish, are more creative and more resourceful. They are better at adapting to change, and are more resilient in times of adversity. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are more successful in life.

Thus, this verifies the truth of this statement: “Mind is the forerunner of all states. Mind is chief. Mind-made are they.” This is a powerful statement of truth and a complete understanding of this truth can lead us to happiness, to success and to good health.

 

HAPPINESS IS A SKILL

Happiness is not a fixed point. You can change your level of happiness. Knowing that your happiness is dependent not really on external circumstances but your own internal environment means your happiness is in your own hands. You are responsible for your own happiness.

You can always cultivate the necessary skill to become happier. The skills you need to cultivate to become a happier person are:

  1. Mindfulness of your own thoughts
  2. Courage to be honest with your thoughts, both positive and negative ones
  3. Letting go of the negative thoughts and increasing the positive thoughts
  4. Constantly repeating the above three steps

Once you have mastered these skills, you will become a happier person.

 

SPIRITUAL HAPPINESS

What we have discussed so far refers only to worldly happiness. Spiritual seekers recognize that there is an even greater happiness than worldly happiness, namely spiritual happiness.

Spiritual happiness is higher and better than worldly happiness because it is found entirely within oneself. It is more permanent and cannot be taken away from you by others or even natural disasters. Thus, it is a more secured form and greater intensity of happiness.

To attain spiritual happiness, one needs to attain the jhanas (intense absorption concentration of the mind), which is achievable through meditation practice.

 

The world is in you

The world is in you

It is said that the ordinary man sees himself in the world but the enlightened man sees the world in himself.

What this means is that the ordinary man is fully engaged and immersed in the material world of senses. He lost himself in it, to the extent that he is not aware that he creates his own world and experiences through his mind. Not being aware, he is trapped. He sees himself a victim, as if his life is left to fate and he has no control over what and how he experiences life.

The enlightened man, on the other hand, is fully aware that he creates his own world and experiences through his mind. He sees the illusory nature of the external world. As such, he is empowered with the knowledge that he determines his world and experiences through his own mental attitudes and perspectives to life. He does not see his life to be fated. Rather, he is the master of his own destiny.

Mind Games: Why everything you thought you knew about yourself is wrong

Mind Games: Why everything you thought you knew about yourself is wrong

The decisions we make and even the memories we hold are based on delusions, according to a new book.

So you remember your wedding day like it was yesterday. You can you spot when something is of high quality. You keep yourself well-informed about current affairs but would be open to debate and discussion, You love your phone because it’s the best, right? Are you sure? David McRaney from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is here to tell you that you don’t know yourself as well as you think. The journalist and self-described psychology nerd’s new book, You Are Not So Smart, consists of 48 short chapters on the assorted ways that we mislead ourselves every day. “The central theme is that you are the unreliable narrator in the story of your life. And this is because you’re unaware of how unaware you are,” says McRaney. “It’s fun to go through legitimate scientific research and pull out all of the examples that show how everyone, no matter how smart or educated or experienced, is radically self-deluded in predictable and quantifiable ways.” Based on the blog of the same name, You Are Not So Smart is not so much a self-help book as a self-hurt book. Here McRaney gives some key examples.

Expectation

The Misconception: Wine is a complicated elixir, full of subtle flavours only an expert can truly distinguish, and experienced tasters are impervious to deception.

The Truth: Wine experts and consumers can be fooled by altering their expectations.

An experiment in 2001 at the University of Bordeaux had wine experts taste a red and white wine, to determine which was the best. They dutifully explained what they liked about each wine but what they didn’t realise was that scientists had just dyed the same white wine red and told them it was red wine. The tasters described the sorts of berries and tannins they could detect in the red wine as if it really was red. Another test had them judge a cheap bottle of wine and an expensive one. They rated the expensive wine much more highly than the cheap, with much more flattering descriptions. It was actually the same wine. It’s not to say wine-tasting is pointless, it’s to show that expectation can radically change experience. Yes, these people were experts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be influenced by the same things as the rest of us, whether it be presentation or advertising or price. This drives home the idea that reality is a construction of the brain. You don’t passively receive the outside world, you actively construct your experience moment by moment.

The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

The Misconception: We take randomness into account when determining cause and effect.

The Truth: We tend to ignore random chance when the results seem meaningful or when we want a random event to have a meaningful cause.

Imagine a cowboy shooting at the side of a barn over and over again with a gun. The side of the barn fills up with holes. If you walk over and paint a bullseye around clusters of holes it will make it look like you have made quite a lot of correct shots. It’s a metaphor for the way the human mind naturally works when trying to make sense out of chaos. The brain is very invested in taking chaos and turning it into order. For example, in America it’s very popular to discuss how similar the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations were. Elected 100 years apart, Lincoln was killed in the Ford theatre; Kennedy was in a Lincoln automobile made by Ford. They were both killed on a Friday, sitting next to their wives, by men with three names. And so on and so on. It’s not spooky. People take hold of the hits but ignore the misses. They are pulled into the things that line up, and are similar or coincidental, but they ignore everything else that’s not. The similarities are merely bullseyes drawn around the many random facts.

Confirmation Bias

The Misconception: Your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis.

The Truth: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information that confirmed what you believed, while ignoring information that challenged your preconceived notions.

Any cognitive bias is a tendency to think in one way and not another whenever your mind is on auto-pilot; whenever you’re going with the flow. Confirmation bias is a tendency to pay attention to evidence that confirms pre-existing beliefs and notions and conclusions about life and to completely ignore other information. This happens so automatically that we don’t even notice. Say you have a flatmate, and you are arguing over who does most of the housework, and both people believe that they do most of the work. What is really happening is that both people are noticing when they do the work and not noticing when they don’t. The way it plays into most of our lives is the media that we choose to put into our brains; the television, news, magazines and books. We tend to only pick out things that line up with our pre-existing beliefs and rarely choose anything that challenges those beliefs. It relays the backfire effect, which is a cognitive bias where if we’re presented with contradictory evidence, we tend to reject it and support our initial belief even more firmly. When people watch a news programme or pundit, they aren’t looking for information so much as confirmation of what they already believe is going in.

Brand Loyalty

The Misconception: We prefer the things we own over the things we don’t because we made rational choices when we bought them.

The Truth: We prefer the things we own because we rationalise our past choices to protect our sense of self.

Why do people argue over Apple vs Android? Or one car company versus another? After all, these are just corporations. Why would you defend a brand as if you are their PR representative? We believe that we prefer the things we own because we made these deep rational evaluations of them before we bought them, but most of the rationalisation takes place after you own the thing. It’s the choosing of one thing over another that leads to narratives about why you did it, which usually tie in to your self-image.

There are at least a dozen psychological effects that play into brand loyalty, the most potent of which is the endowment effect: you feel like the things you own are superior to the things you don’t. When you buy a product you tend to connect the product to your self-image, then once it’s connected to your self-image you will defend it as if you’re defending your own ego or belief structure.

The Misinformation Effect

The Misconception: Memories are played back like recordings.

The Truth: Memories are constructed anew each time from whatever information is currently available, which makes them highly permeable to influences from the present.

You might think your memory is a little fuzzy but not that it’s completely inaccurate. People believe that memory is like a video or files stored in some sort of computer. But it’s not like that at all. Memories are actually constructed anew each time that you remember something.

Each time you take an old activation sequence in your brain and re-construct it; like building a toy airplane out of Lego and then smashing the Lego, putting it back into the box, and building it again. Each time you build it it’s going to be a little bit different based on the context and experience you have had since the last time you created it.

Oddly enough, the least remembered memory is the most accurate. Each time you bring it into your life you edit it a little more. In 1974 Elizabeth Loftus had people watch a film of two cars having a collision and divided them into groups. Asking each group the same question, she used a slightly different description: how fast were the cars going when they contacted, hit, bumped, collided or smashed? The more violent the wording, the higher they estimated the speed. The way in which questions were worded altered the memories subjects reported.

They weren’t looking back to the memory of the film they watched, they were building a new experience based on current information. Memory is actually very malleable and it’s dangerous to think that memory is a perfect recording of a past event.

‘You Are Not So Smart: Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself’ by David McRaney (Oneworld, £8.99)

The Benefits of Generosity

The Benefits of Generosity

Generosity is an act of giving that is associated with a broad range of positive emotions, such as kindness, love, compassion, joy, empathy, hope and awe. The benefits derived from an act of generosity come not from its external actions but more from its internal state of mind.

Studies have consistently showed that an act of generosity that generates good, positive emotions creates the most benefits, not just to the giver but also to the recipient and society.

Here is a list of the benefits of generosity:

1. Benefits the Giver
a. Good for the Mind
i. Enhances mental health – greater sense of self worth, self confidence, happiness and        purpose
ii. Reduces anxiety and depression
iii. Improves Positivity Ratio – mind flourishes under this condition, increases creativity           and productivity, more resourceful

b. Good for the Body
i. Enhances physical health – improves immune system
ii. Reduces cardiac events
iii. Improves longevity

2. Benefits the Recipient
a. Recipient gets what he/she needed
b. Recipient feels good too
c. More importantly, it validates the recipient’s trust in humanity

3. Benefits Society
a. It grows trust in humanity
b. It expands or spread the good feelings, leading to more similar acts of kindness
c. It promotes harmony, peace and joy

Generosity in Marriage

A study done by University of Virginia under the National Marriage Project found that couples who score high in generosity index tend to report greater happiness with their marriage.

In addition, children of parents with higher generosity index tend to grow up having the same kindness towards others, leading to happier relationships and life.

Generosity at Work

“Generous people share information readily, share credit often, and give of their time and expertise easily. What comes across is a strong work ethic, great communication skills, and a willingness and ability to collaborate. Leaders and managers who are generous engender trust, respect and goodwill from their colleagues and employees.” – Jodi Glickman

Inner Dialogue

Inner Dialogue

As you are trying to change your present mindset, you will begin to recognize the presence of an inner dialogue within.

  • Recognize your present inner dialogue. See how it focuses on judging, criticizing, blaming, assuming, personalizing and the importance of doing. See its negatively-focused tendency.
  • Now, recognize that you have a choice to change this. Make that choice to change.
  • Talk back to this old inner dialogue with a new, more positive mindset – one that emphasizes on positive thoughts, growth and well being.

As you change your inner dialogue, your outer experiences will change too.

The Reality Sculptor

The Reality Sculptor

A reality sculptor is one who molds his life according to his will. He achieves this by thoroughly understanding the five fundamental spiritual truths, cultivating his mind and mastering the skills and techniques necessary for the achievement of his goals.

A reality sculptor sees the world in a certain way and his mind is a vibrational match to what he aims to achieve.

Anyone can be a reality sculptor.

 

COMPETENCY

Most people do not live their lives with this awareness that they can affect their own reality and only a handful of those who know actually put in the effort to affect their reality. Of those who do put in the effort, their ability to mold their lives varies.

Igor Ledochowski, a master hypnotist and trainer, classifies reality sculptors into three different levels of competency. They are:

  1. The Mechanic
  2. The Engineer
  3. The Wizard (Magician)

 

THE REALITY SCULPTOR MINDSET

If you choose to become a reality sculptor, your greatest asset is that you can CHOOSE what to FOCUS on. In fact, it is your only FREE WILL.

  1. BELIEF – Believe it and you will see it
  2. INVERTED THINKING – What Is is already done; focus on the job at hand
  3. EMPTY YOUR MIND – Reset, reset, reset to remove, remove, remove resistance
  4. VIBRATIONAL MATCH – Resonance, Magnetize, Attraction, Causal, whatever you call it

 

Change Your Beliefs and You Change Your Life

Change Your Beliefs and You Change Your Life

Our mind is to our body what the software is to the computer. It controls the body. Whatever words and deeds that come out through your mouth or your body must first be conceived in your mind. Our belief system is comparable to the computer’s operating system (OS). It determines…. how we respond or react to the external world and circumstances, and what we attract into our life.

If you look carefully at yourself, you’ll realise that how you respond to a certain situation is largely dependant on your core beliefs. If you believe that the world out there is a dog-eat-dog world, you’ll respond in a certain way. You’ll put on your guard when you deal with people around you, with a greater degree of mistrust and apprehension. This is a common mindset in the business world.

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