Saturday, November 18, 2006
The New Happiness Philosophers
Socrates was fascinated with the concept of happiness. For our reporting on the subject we talked with experts who are doing work a lot like his - the "new" happiness philosophers, if you will. Most, but not all, work in a field known as positive psychology.
At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson teaches freshmen how to be happy. Her students learn to savor moments to "extend the goodness" of an experience - for example, not multi-tasking while they're talking on the telephone to people they care about. "Once people learn to appreciate that positive emotions are beneficial to them... it calls us to pay more attention to those moments and not just rush through them," she said.
Dacher Keltner, a positive psychologist with the University of California-Berkeley, says our disposition has an almost "snowball-like" effect on our future. Studies suggest hostile, violent kids often carry their negativity through life, he notes. The same connection applies to happy children.
Barry Kerzin is a doctor but also a monk. Using meditation he can generate positive feelings in his brain by manipulating his thoughts. His good feelings show up in brain scans. I watched him do this for more than three hours inside an MRI machine. He came out tired but blissful. "Meditation is always helpful to calm the mind," he said. He says he's happier now than before he was a monk.
If you're unhappy or depressed, feeling better is a real possibility.
Tune in this Sunday at 10 p.m. Eastern for Dr. Gupta's in-depth report on happiness and its surprising connections to your health.
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.