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.
Happiness? I think I'm happy, but I can't guarantee my brain chemicals are doing an Irish Jig. All I know in this little bird brain of mine is, laughter, empathy, and tolerance has made my happiness grow by leaps and bounds. I can only change me, I can't change anyone else. I do believe you can be a glass half full kind of person and still be engaged in the world and all it's ills. There's no "downside to happiness" if you do that. MRI's may be great to measure a happy brain but when the bill for it arrives..well..Let's just say a HAPPY face doesn't come to mind..Thanks for the Info. I've enjoyed the topics this week. Take Care
In the mother's womb the baby already feels and takes many things from the parents and environment. A big noise, can make babies jump inside the mother's womb. The first thing we do after being born is to cry... perhaps is a fear of life on earth. Once the mother takes the baby on her chest, he/she calms down...feel comfortable, at peace. Some how, in the process of growing in unhealthy environment, alone, without true love, care and understanding a young boy or girl gets easily depressed, upset, resentful, sad, angry... yes, someone at home, taught him,her how to be unhappy or did not do the right job raising children. We are born wired to be happy or makes a difference... still things happens but the numbers will be much lower.
I think there is a lot of truth to what you're saying here and as a foodie I can't help but think of a food related example. How often do Americans rush through a meal, barely registering the flavors, instead of taking a moment to put down the cellphone and enjoy the flavors? We live in such a hectic society that something as simple as savouring the moment (whether food related or otherwise) can make a huge difference.

Loved the segment this morning!

- Ari (Baking and Books)
Back in the 70's the eastern thought was "happiness is not the satisfaction of desire" which seems to hold true today in our world of instant gratification and outer appearances. Any further thoughts on this?
After watching the Laughter Club on Dr. Gupta's program, it reminded me of a couple games we played as kids with laughing and it really did uplift the spirits!! One was to make a circle of the kids and choose one to be in the middle, the object was for the chosen on NOT to laugh, going around the circle, players tried to make him laugh, if you did, then you had to be in the circle, etc.
Amazing what we knew so long ago, now is confirmed!! Thanks Sanjay.
this is interesting but ignores the contribution of genetics, neurochemistry, etc.-- achieving "happiness" may not be as simple as "positive thinking" for many who are depresssed or dysthimic because of genetic neurochemical imbalance
the real question is not whether the smile reflects true happiness, but rather how does one attain true happiness?

the current emphasis on "positive thinking" harkens back to the days of Norman Vincent Peale, and strikes me as an oversimplification. Would that it were as simple as "willing" to be happy.

I fear that the reality is that our mood is often dictated to a large degree by things out of our control, including both genetic influences (and our resultant brain neurochemistry), and early upbringing/environment.

I am concerned that this new emphasis on simplifying happiness could even be dangerous by misleading those needing professional help.
p.m. I am not a psychiatrist or other mental health practitioner trying to drum up business!
Broken bones with open fracture: Laughter IS a powerful pain killer

It happened on Sunday 14 November 2004 at 11:43. I was in my house (it is called "Prashanti Nilayam", meaning: Temple of Peace, in Morro do Chapeu - Belo Horizonte, Brasil.

I was climbing a ladder to get to the roof of my house and somehow missed a step. I knew before I even started to fall from this altitude of 4-meters that it would be tragic.

My right leg and arm fractured on impact, leaving an open fracture and blood everywhere.

What to do? My gardener helped me take off my shoe, put the leg back in its correct position, immobilize and bandage it and call an ambulance that rushed me to hospital, about 50 minutes away.

Even though I had nothing to laugh about on that long and painful drive, I started to simulate laughter. The car driver and his co-driver gave me a strange look, asking me: "Dr., are you well?"

In the hospital, I had to wait for another 4 hours on the corridor until I was attended to take the X-rays. No action was taken to treat me and I had plenty of time to observe the natural (painful!) sensations within my body, from head to feet and hand.

I started a the surface and then went deeper, acknowledging the sensations outside, inside, in every part of the body, especially the broken ones, observing reality as it was. The second I would get tense the pain would overwhelm me. What kind of pain was that?

Knowing theoretically about the benefits of therapeutic laughter as a natural pain killer, the time had come to test it out on myself. As the Founder and President of the first Brasilian Laughter Club, I willingly took the chance of being my own "guinea pig"? and test the healing benefits of Laughter Yoga, especially the pain killing effect.

The hospital stuff circulating next to me started to whisper and look at me with questions in their eyes. They possibly never saw somebody with multiple fractures, waiting patiently during hours for the surgery, laughing silently, and having a constant smile on the face.

The X-rays confirmed in time that the two main bones (tibia, fibula) of the right leg were broken (open fracture), as well as a small rupture on smaller one (talus). The right hand showed also two fractures, one on the radius and an other small bone (piramidal).

I remembered Buddha's teachings. It is proper to doubt and to test whatever is beyond one's experience: do not simply believe whatever you are told, or whatever has been handed down from past generations, or what is common opinion, or whatever the scriptures say. Do not accept something as true merely by deduction or inference, or by considering outward appearances, or by partiality for a certain view, or because of its plausibility, or because your teacher tells you it is so. And when you yourselves directly know "these principles are wholesome, blameless, praised by the wise; when adopted and carried out they lead to welfare and happiness"?, then you should accept and practice them. (Kesamutti Sutta)
Research done in Holland found that Brazilians are under the 25 happiest people around the world.
Well come to visit our web side:
Dr. Ursula L. Kirchner, Ph.D., Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil
Dr. Gupta--just watched the morning half hour segment. One thing I would caution you and colleagues in reporting things that make people happy--how you treat marriage. You point out that we cannot always control some factors, but rarely do I hear any reminders that you need not be married to be happy, that even if you always WANTED marriage but don't have it, happiness is there. Sometimes these shows can deepen a sense of disconnect. Married men would probably predominate your 60-69 year old sample. Men remarry in old age more than women--there are fewer of them. I'd love you to feature happy people who are not married, who have suffered tragedies beyond paralysis, who have little money but do FOR others. THAT is a factor you didn't mention: altruism and involvement in volunteer work.
Wonderful segment and I will watch the show. Perhaps these are things you discuss more in depth.
Our family (i.e. myself, wife and two kids) watched DrGupta's show with interest. A conscise two minute summary would have been an icing in the cake. Ten years ago, I went around temples praying for contentment and happiness. It was a prayer to grant these two items. After a decade of experiences and reading English translations of Indian scriptures called Vedanta, my understanding and experience is that Happiness is the goal but it can be obtained. Because it is within. Brain is like anyother organ in the body is supposed to work for oneself but it seems to dominate one's thoughts, actions and words through its memory and certain way of working (wow). If we wow the way of brain's working by seeing that every thing has a beginning and an end, there is no negative. Thank you for a thought provoking and relevant program.
I think this mainstream report was exactly the kind of thing that the average person needs to hear. Let's not overthink/overanalyze it!

There seems to be a deep-rooted guilt complex in western adult society around having fun, enjoying pleasures (think about religion... often one must deny, obey, serve), and doing what we would love to do , not what we 'should' do. Based on this show, sounds like small episodes of (e.g.) childlike self-indulgence go a long way. I'm not talking about a trip to the bottom of a bottle, I'm talking about unbridled FUN. Ignore the dishes, take the kids to make a snowman. Cancel the conference call, go get a massage!

The report seems to suggest that even 30 minutes a day of having honest-to-goodness fun - each of which are savored- will have immeasureable health & mental benefits. I'm for it, what do we have to lose?!
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