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New Year’s resolution – would you like to be happier?

So here's a blast from the past ... that could be fun and useful for a New Year's resolution.  I first came across Michael Fordyce's research year's ago (Fordyce 1977; Fordyce 1983).  It was probably the first serious scientific exploration of how to help people become happier that I'd ever read.  The approach involves a training called the "Fourteen Fundamentals".  These are fourteen characteristics of happy people, extracted from research, that Fordyce argued most people could develop for themselves.  The "Fundamentals" are: 1.) Be more active and keep busy.  2.) Spend more time socializing.  3.) Be productive at meaningful work.  4.) Get better organized and plan things out.  5.) Stop worrying.  6.) Lower your expectations and aspirations.  7.) Develop positive optimistic thinking.  8.) Get present orientated.  9.) WOAHP - work on a healthy personality. 10.) Develop an outgoing, social personality.  11.) Be yourself.  12.) Eliminate negative feelings and problems.  13.) Close relationships are the #1 source of happiness. 14.) VALHAP (value happiness) - the "secret fundamental".

Recent research: four happiness studies on traditional advice, health benefits, and the particular value of safety & contentment

It seemed time to post on recent research involving happiness and wellbeing.  Here are four studies from the current issues of the Journal of Happiness Studies (the September edition is open access with all full articles freely viewable) and the Journal of Positive Psychology.  Ad Bergsma discusses advice on how to be happy given across the ages.  He refers to some of the other articles in this edition of the Journal of Happiness studies, including papers on the happiness advice of Epicurus, Schopenhauer, and the ancient Chinese philosphers.  Maarten Berg looks at the possible value of ‘New Age' suggestions on happiness.  Paul Gilbert and colleagues look, very interestingly, at different types of positive emotion and suggest that it may be what they call "safe/content" feelings that are particulary protective against a variety of unhappy emotional states.  Veenhoven reviews thirty studies on happiness and longevity and argues that, although happiness does not seem to cure illness, it does a good job of reducing the chances of getting ill - with a similar effect size to the benefits of being a non-smoker rather than a smoker.

Savouring, mindfulness & flow

In a post on 27 January I wrote about "savouring" - the appreciation of positive experiences. Savouring is, as it's name suggests, a sort of running the positive experience around in one's mouth, really tasting, valuing and enjoying it - a bit like slow, careful appreciation of a good wine. Bryant and Veroff, authors of the key current text on savouring (see below), draw parallels between the importance of being good at coping with negative life experiences and the importance of being good at savouring positive life experiences. Savouring well increases one's happiness, wellbeing and appreciation of being alive. On the fine Authentic Happiness website, Seligman and colleagues discuss three entwining roads to happiness and what they call "the full life". One of these three roads is maximising and appreciating positive emotions - very much the territory of savouring.

Savouring – initial thoughts

Back in my post of January 5, I mentioned that I was looking at Sonja Lyubomirsky's book "The How of Happiness". On pages 73 to 77 of the book she describes a ‘person-fit' exercise to help readers decide which happiness-boosting activities to work with initially. I came up with a whole load that appealed to me, and that mostly I was somewhat familiar with. There are a couple of activities that focus particularly on being present - on ‘flow' and on ‘savouring' (spelt ‘savoring' in this American book).

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