Welcome to our limited series on The Science of Happiness. Introduction: here | Week One: here | Week Two: here | Week Three: here | Week Four: here | Week Five: here | Week Six: here | Week Seven: here | Week Eight: here | Week Nine: here
I hope you’ve enjoyed these nine weeks of “The Science of Happiness.” It’s been a fascinating journey through the mind and the spirit, with scientific research validating much of what the spiritual community has been saying for a long time. Here are a few takeaways the course designers hope you will bring with you.Kindness and compassion are part of our biology.
From birth on, humans and other animals are hard-wired for pro-social behavior. The very makeup of our brains encourages us towards kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and generosity. These behaviors not only reward us through chemical and emotional benefits, they contribute to the survival and evolution of our species by forming social connections and strong communities.
Negative emotions are part of life.
Bad things happen—conflict, loss, natural disasters, disappointments. This is a reality of the world we live in. As a wise woman once told me, for everything to live, something must die. Our happiness doesn’t depend on having a lack of bad events in our lives. Our happiness is determined on how we deal with and recover from the negative events of life.
Our attention is limited.
Our minds are constantly bombarded with sensory input, and we can only focus on so much of it. We connect with certain input and filter out the rest. Research has shown that we are happiest when we are focused on what we are doing, not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Most spiritual disciplines agree and offer various techniques to develop a sense of mindfulness in our lives.
Change is Possible.
The fact is, no matter where you are now, you can change the level of happiness you experience, as well your quality of life. There are proven methods to break bad habits and create new ones that will vastly improve your experience. Change isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
A little follow up from my personal life. On the day I wrote this article, I found out the new schedule I’d be working with at work for the next year. This night owl is scheduled to work 7 am shifts! Prior to taking this course, I would have fumed and fretted the entire day. But almost effortlessly, I found myself searching for hidden benefits of this new schedule. Like we learned in Week Nine, I focused on my personal narrative and decided (by gum!) that I was going to tell a better story for myself. Now I’m under no delusion that this shift change is going to be easy, but I already feel better about the benefits it will offer.
You can teach an old dog new tricks, right? (BTW, I got a 95% on the final!!!)
Thanks for joining us this week. Coming up next week, Kat and I are off to RuPaul’s DragCon 2018 in Los Angeles!
If you’d like to audit The Science of Happiness for free, sign up at the Greater Good Science Center here. You can also listen to the excellent podcast of the same name from Public Radio International.