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Nome Chomsky




The formula for happiness
A PLEASNT kind of MAD ness
The Pleasure Principle
A Recipe for Happiness
Meet the people shaping the future of science
Shiny Happy People

11 Things You Didn't Know about Happiness

Happiness Quotes and Proverbs
 The formula for happiness


If you're happy and you know it,

then it is clearly a result of: P + 5E + 3H.  

Two people who obviously meet the equation

Scientists say they have solved one of the greatest mysteries plaguing mankind - just what is the secret of happiness? The answer, apparently, is nothing as simple as true love, lots of money, or an exciting job. Instead, it can be neatly summarised in the following equation:

 Happiness = P + (5xE) + (3xH)

Questions on which the equation is based

1. Are you outgoing, energetic, flexible and open to change?

2. Do you have a positive outlook, bounce back quickly from setbacks and feel that you are in control of your life?

3. Are your basic life needs met, in relation to personal health, finance, safety, freedom of choice and sense of community?

4. Can you call on the support of people close to you, immerse yourself in what you are doing, meet your expectations and engage in activities that give you a sense of purpose?

See below to work out your score

Working out the answer

The questions should be answered on a scale of one to ten, where one is "not at all" and ten is "to a large extent"

Add the scores for question one and two together to find your P value.

The score for question 3 is the value for E, and question 4 for H

Just to explain, P stands for Personal Characteristics, including outlook on life, adaptability and resilience. E stands for Existence and relates to health, financial stability and friendships. And H represents Higher Order needs, and covers self-esteem, expectations, ambitions and sense of humour.

Sound complicated? Actually, it isn't as difficult as it may seem.

Apparently the formula was worked out by psychologists after interviews with more than 1,000 people. Life coach Pete Cohen, who co-wrote the study, admitted that the equation was not easy for most people to understand. But he said it was based on a series of simple questions (see box).


Each person who completes the questions ends up with a rating out of 100. The higher the score, the more happy they are.

"Most people probably don't know what happiness is, they think happiness is perhaps having lots of money or a big car, or a big house.

"But people who have all these things are not necessarily happier than people who just enjoy their life."

Mr Cohen said the British were expert at making themselves unhappy by focusing on negative things.

"We tend to be very obsessed with what is wrong, what is missing and what we have not got, rather than focusing on what we want and getting it.

"It would be nice to just enjoy your life, because life is a bit short."

Pete Cohen came up with the equation

The researchers found that different factors were important for the different sexes.

Four in ten men said sex made them happy, and three in ten said a victory by a favourite sports team.

For seven in ten women happiness was related to being with family, and one in four said losing weight.

Romance featured higher for men than women. So did a pay rise and a hobby they enjoyed.

Women were more likely to cite sunny weather.

Ingrid Collins, a consultant psychologist at the London Medical Centre, told BBC News Online: "I would be very surprised if people sat down and had to work out whether they were happy or not.

"We can all be happy in a heartbeat if we make the decision to be so."



A PLEASNT kind of MAD ness


by Dr Marc Cohen

What is happiness? Perhaps the only completely desirable psychiatric condition in the world!

It is difficult to study joy and happiness scientifically since it can only be defined by what people say. There is no blood test or imaging technique to detect happiness or joy.

While we can identify the funny bone, a physical substrate for happiness is still elusive and scientific attempts to define it have met with limited success.

Happiness: A psychiatric condition?

One recent attempt to classify happiness scientifically was discussed in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

A paper titled 'A Proposal to Classify Happiness as a Psychiatric Disorder' suggests that happiness fits all requirements to be a psychiatric condition and that it should be listed as a 'Major Affective Disorder (MAD)-Pleasant Type'!

In this somewhat tongue-in-cheek article, the authors argue for classifying happiness as a psychiatric condition because happiness

a) Is statistically abnormal; b) Consists of discrete clusters of symptoms; and c) Is associated with particular affective, cognitive and behavioral components.

The paper identifies happiness as being either reactive, manifesting as an acute episode followed by a rapid remission of symptoms, or endogenous, which is more chronic and less likely to be associated with spontaneous recovery.

The cognitive components of happiness include general satisfaction with specific areas of life such as relationships and work, as well as the happy person's belief in his or her own competence and self-efficacy.

The behavioral components of happiness, while less easily characterized, include particular facial expressions, such as smiling, as well as carefree, impulsive and unpredictable behaviour.

Certain kinds of social behaviour are also identified, including frequent recreational interpersonal contacts and pro-social actions towards others.

Happiness, apparently, is also associated with irrational behavior, including overestimating one's control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject to personal will) and giving unrealistically positive evaluations of personal achievements.

In summary, the authors conclude that happiness fulfils all the criteria for being labeled a psychiatric condition, except the fact that happiness is not undesirable.

However as desirability is a question of ethics and not science, it was decided that this is scientifically irrelevant.

What causes happiness

It seems that western medicine is much more comfortable analyzing pathological conditions than looking at the positive states of health.

In psychiatric literature over the past 30 years, there have been 46,000 articles on depression, 36,000 on anxiety, and only 2,000 on happiness and 400 on joy.

Further, where studies on happiness and joy base the common correlates of these conditions on epidemiological data, they have relatively little to say.

A recent review of the literature on happiness, reported in Scientific American, suggests that happiness is unrelated to the demographics of age, sex, income, country (unless you live in a war-torn or famine-ravaged nation), occupation, or the ownership of consumer goods.

Evidences collected to date suggest that happiness is related more to personality factors, such as high self-esteem, optimism and extroversion, than external factors.

Many people endure the present in anticipation of happiness: 'I'll be happy when I'm rich', or 'I'll be happy when I get a good job', or maybe, 'I'll be happy when I get a nose job'.

This line of thought is not supported by available evidence. If you are happy now, you are likely to be happy later. If you are unhappy now, you need to change your attitude to your circumstances rather than the circumstances.

There's no use waiting for a lottery win. One study, in fact, found that lottery winners tended to be much less happy after winning. Correlates of happiness include a sense of control and the sharing of one's life through close personal relationships, most commonly found in marriage.

Another factor consistently associated with happiness is participation in religious activities with self-reported happiness, doubled in highly religious people.

The various health benefits of being joyous have also been acknowledged since antiquity.

However, serious study of this aspect had to wait until the 1960s, through the work of Norman Cousins, a US-based journalist.

Stricken with ankylosing spondylitis, Cousins received only limited benefit from conventional medical treatments. Yet he overcame much of his pain through comedy and laughter.

In his book Anatomy of an Illness, Cousins chronicles his fight against, and eventual victory over, his ailment, aided by high doses of vitamin C and humor.

The Tao of joy

Unlike its western counterpart, eastern medicine has always defined happiness with ease. Most eastern traditions are based on a concept of perfect bliss, variously called nirvana, satori, enlightenment or 'living according to the Tao'.

This is said to be our natural state and occurs when we are 'at one with the universe', which is achieved by giving up day-to-day worries, desires and attachments. Perfect bliss also suggests a state of ideal health where perceptions flow freely.

To help achieve enlightenment, most eastern traditions have developed sophisticated daily practices that can help induce this state. These practices generally involve yoga, meditation and a particular attitude to daily life.

Meditation attempts to dissolve the barriers between the ego and the outside world by focussing the mind until the object of concentration disappears and the simple state of being is achieved.

It also involves letting go of attachment to daily concerns that may otherwise preoccupy consciousness, for a new, detached observation. While there are different systems and philosophies of meditation, any single-minded endeavor may be considered meditation.

Thus, when you are involved in an activity that absorbs your awareness so much that you seem to 'lose yourself in the moment', you are meditating. You can meditate while pursuing any activity that you 'love' to do: martial arts, gardening, individual sports or creative activities such as painting and music.

The act of 'loving' an activity seems to enhance the ability to lose oneself completely in it, and including such activities in the daily routine enhances the overall experience of life.

Meditation is also associated with predictable and reproducible changes in physiological functioning, including a reduction in the heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen consumption.

There are also distinctive EEG changes that include a greater coherence and synchrony across the brain and a tendency for increased activity in the alpha/theta frequencies (around 8 hertz).

This altered EEG activity results in the brain adapting similar frequencies to the electromagnetic frequencies that occur around the planet called Schumann Resonances.

Tuning into the planet

Schumann Resonances are naturally occurring electromagnetic waves that travel freely around the planet as a result of global lightning. They are named after Professor W.O. Schumann who proposed the existence of such waves and calculated their main frequency.

These resonances occur in the non-conducting spherical cavity created between the ionosphere, which is the upper stratum of the atmosphere above 50 km, and the surface of the earth, which consists mainly of seawater.

The production of Schumann Resonances may be likened to the tone produced when a hammer strikes a bell or piece of metal. The resulting clang contains many different frequencies that dissipate rather quickly.

It is interesting to speculate that during meditation, the brain appears to harmonise with planetary electromagnetic activity. This correlation, however, must be noted merely as an association for it is almost impossible to prove any causal connection between the two.

This association gets more interesting when one realises that a majority of global lightning is concentrated over the three main rainforest areas of the planet-in Southeast Asia, sub-Sahara Africa and the Amazon basin.

These areas maintain a constant level of lightning activity that, in turn, maintains the global Schumann Resonance. It is, therefore, possible that when we meditate, we have a subconscious connection with the greatest life force on the planet-the rainforests.

Moving from the still point

Meditation seems to have a homoeostatic effect on the body and consciousness. After meditating, the mind gains a renewed sense of focus and perspective. Finding the still point in consciousness thus allows for the greatest mental flexibility.

But the idea that the greatest movement comes from a still point is an ancient one. It also finds its expression in physical forms of martial arts, gymnastics and dance where the most powerful movements arise from the 'hara' or 'dantien'.

This is a point below the navel that represents our physical centre of gravity. It is from this point that martial artists are best able to initiate defensive or attacking moves. This is also the point about which a gymnast rotates when executing a somersault.

The principle of acting from a still point can be translated into everyday life by allowing events to unfold naturally and 'going with the flow'.

This is also an ancient concept, expressed by the phrase 'living according to the Tao', and can be extended to the point of enlightenment when it is possible to 'do nothing and achieve everything'.

A condition called Pronoia

'Living according to the Tao' may be likened to the state of 'pronoia', the positive counterpart of paranoia.

Pronoia is the belief that the universe is plotting to make you happy and that there is nothing you can do about it. This state has been discussed in psychiatric literature and, like happiness, is considered to be a pathological condition.

Symptoms of pronoia include "delusions of support and exaggerated attractiveness as well as the delusion that others think well of one and that the products of one's efforts are thought to be well received".

Rather than viewing pronoia as a pathological state, it is possible to view the state as highly desirable. Pronoia, like happiness, is a subjective state of being that may occur irrespective of external circumstances.

By adopting the attitude that whatever happens is for your benefit, you open yourself to the possibility of positive outcomes and thus stop being afraid of change.

You simply assume that any change occurring is for your benefit and that even if circumstances appear negative, there is always a hidden treasure waiting to be uncovered.

This frame of mind gives rise to the belief that you are always in the right place at the right time and by remaining open to positive outcomes, this attitude often ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Just as eastern traditions believe that bliss is our true nature, it may also be true that pronoia is our natural state. Infants and children naturally have pronoia and this seems justified, for in many ways their universe is continually conspiring to make them happy.

Most people however, grow out of this state and some even claim that they never experienced it because they had a difficult upbringing. While this may be the case, it is possible to renew the sense of childhood pronoia in our adult lives.

It is never too late to have a happy childhood! One of the most important childish principles to apply to life is to express your emotions enthusiastically.

The most basic law of emotions is that if you share joy it increases and if you share pain it decreases. A way to practice this is to simply go around smiling at people.

People may consider you a little crazy if you go around smiling indiscriminately. You shouldn't let this bother you-it doesn't seem to bother children.

After practising in traffic, you may like to progress to smiling at strangers in the street and then to beaming smiles at everyone you meet. Some people may think you are crazy. However, your condition is probably just a symptom of 'MAD-Pleasant Type'!

Based in Melbourne, Dr Mark Cohen is the Founding Head of the Department of Complementary Medicine at RMIT University, President of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association and an Hon. Research Fellow with the Monash Institute of Health Services Research.


Life Positive, March 2003


The Pleasure Principle


By Anupama Bhattacharya

Pleasure has many faces and can be found in the simplest things. Life without pleasure and enjoyment would be arid. What are the dynamics of pleasure? How many facets does it have?

The pleasure of pain. Or the pain of pleasure! The two somehow seem irrevocably interlinked in the labyrinth of the human psyche. And perhaps it is this dilution which balances off the intensity of these emotions. Otherwise, the pleasure might be too exquisite to bear, or the pain too enormous to tolerate.

That's one point of view. Grudgingly endorsed by religions and moralists. The other, most often discarded as hedonism, is the enjoyment of pleasure for pleasure's sake, without guilt, without boundaries. Somewhere between the two sits the confused biped, hoping for the latter and rooting for the former. The mind holds back, while the heart rebels. And the random juxtaposition of civilization over the primal has a field day wreaking havoc over whatever passes for sanity.

So, what is the real nature of pleasure? Just another hangover from the cave days that, at best, should be ignored? A temptation from the Prince of Darkness? Or is it something as simple as living, the creation of a neural miracle, that makes life worthwhile?

Pleasure is commonly understood as the positive stimulation of the senses. The Webster's Dictionary defines pleasure as "enjoyment or satisfaction derived from what is to one's liking", closely followed by "sensual gratification". In a more plebeian perspective, pleasure is primarily limited to sex, food and luxury—in that order.

Aristippus of Cyrene, the father of hedonism (hedone: pleasure), however, believed that pleasure is the ultimate object of endeavor. His definition of pleasure included not merely sensual gratification but also mental pleasures, domestic love, friendship, and moral contentment—all that is commonly understood to comprise happiness.

Epicurus, who emphasized the superiority of social and intellectual pleasures over those of the senses, followed Aristippus. Epicurus taught that pain and self-restraint have a hedonistic value; pain is sometimes necessary to health but self-restraint paves the way for long-term pleasure. He further classified sensual pleasure as pleasure in motion; the state of ataraxia, which is pleasing in itself. He discarded transitory stimulation in favor of enduring satiation.

Eventually, the pleasure-pain debate metamorphosed into what Herbert Spencer, British philosopher and sociologist, called his evolutionary theory of ethics. It postulated that the discriminating norm of right and wrong is pleasure and pain. According to this argument, pleasure, in its ultimate sense, defines ethics since that which pleases us and gives us joy, is also beneficial for our survival and evolution.

Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged, the fictionalized acme of her philosophy: "By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself; he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose."

On the face of it, there isn't much difference between Rand's statement and those propounded by followers of self-indulgent hedonism. It is the context that marks the contrast.

The 'father of sadism', French writer Marquis de Sade, averred that nature is inherently destructive, and it is our identification with this primal trait that links pleasure and perversity.

De Sade's philosophy of pleasure is actually a no-holds-barred promotion of a system of ethics, if it can be called that, where the only criterion of judging an action is the amount of pleasure one derives from it. And the pleasure itself is at its greatest when it is at the cost of another's pain. Thus 'sadism'!

James W. Prescott, neuropsychologist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, however, argues that violence and pleasure, neurologically, can never go together. "The deprivation of physical sensory pleasure is the root cause of violence," he claims. "Pleasure and violence have a reciprocal relationship, the presence of one inhibits the other." So, even though people prone to violence may claim to enjoy it, their actual motivation is the insecurity derived from a lack of pleasure and not pleasure itself.

Perhaps the one form of pleasure that has never found open acceptance is sex. Unlike other sensual pleasures such as food or luxury, which are most often ignored or tolerated, sex has been looked upon as the bane of civilization, the original sin. Children's desire to indulge in food or comfort is humored, but their exploration of their own sexuality through questions, masturbation or pornographic movies, is strongly discouraged.

According to Stella Resnick, author of The Pleasure Zone, it is this taboo that leads to repression, guilt, and, as an obvious extension, sex-related problems. Resnick argues that most people are excited by extra-marital sex because the major arousing element here is the knowledge that "it would violate some moral precept or personal pledge."

Prescott claims that societies where pre-marital and extra-marital sex is accepted, and where children are freely allowed to explore their sexuality, violence and abuse is at its least. So, does civilization as a whole need free sex?

Looking at the celebrity status of Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, it would seem a popular choice. Hefner, in his mid-seventies, is today the not-so-secret idol of every man—not just for the magazine, but for his lifestyle of pleasure that includes a luxurious Playboy Mansion where he lives with his four buxom 'playmates'.

Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, who redefined the term sexuality to cover any form of pleasure derived from the body, suggested that human beings are driven from birth to enhance bodily pleasures.

In fact, the mind-boggling popularity of pornography would suggest that next to necessities such as food and shelter, perhaps sexual pleasure is the primary focus of the human psyche. Censorship adds spice to it, while the good old pleasure industry thrives on repression. "Sex, eventually, should be a personal choice," Anita Sood, a Hyderabad-based practising psychiatrist, explains. "So, whether you opt for a multi-partner system or monogamy, it should be a matter of decision limited to you and your partner(s). It is not a moral issue."

Rand's philosophy of pleasure, however, completely negates the sensual, and takes into account only the morality of joy. "Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy—a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction," wrote Rand in her philosophical treatise, The Virtue of Selfishness.

For Rand, the defense of pleasure was not just an ethical choice, but also a reaction against the anti-pleasure stand of religious and moral authorities.

"For centuries," Rand stated in Atlas Shrugged, "the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors; between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it."

Perhaps it is worth a thought. Why is it that almost all modern religions preach the sacrifice of 'earthly pleasures' for the sake of 'higher pleasures', when no one really knows what these higher pleasures are all about?

"A lot of anti-pleasure conditioning goes into our upbringing," says Sood. "As children, we are told not to feel proud of our achievements. As teenagers, our tentative forays into discovering our sexuality are repressed, when we earn money, we are told it is the root of all evil. Name anything you enjoy—sex, food, luxury, achievement, ambition, appreciation-it is all branded with the devil's name!"

No wonder, feelings of pleasure almost always bring up feelings of guilt and shame. And the greater your sacrifice, or self-torture, the higher your stature on the scales of morality. Isn't it time we step back and ask 'why'?

We usually think of charity, compassion, humility, wisdom, mercy, sacrifice and other 'virtues' as morally good and pleasure as, at best, morally neutral. In fact, all the virtues are a classic case of self-denial. Why else should asceticism be considered the height of virtue? Why should human beings be born with the capability of enjoyment, if the goal is to deny them?

The obvious conclusion here would be that pleasure as an end is not only ideal, but ought to be sanctified by ethical and religious codes. So, what stops us?

Let us get back to Epicurus. "The Epicurean brand of hedonism can be surprisingly ascetic in its totality," explains Manuel Goldsmith, a Manchester-based student of philosophy. "In fact, it is pleasure through self-denial. All that pleases you need not necessarily be good. A lot of food that we crave can actually harm our health. Alcohol, tobacco, drugs are all pleasurable but harmful. Free sex can be quite pleasurable, but it can have adverse physical and psychological consequences, and sap you of your capacity for intense love."

The criterion here is long-term pleasure. Or delayed gratification.

Most ascetic religions regard the senses and the passions as traps that cage the soul. In fact, chastity and non-possession are part of the five vows of Jainism. This, however, applies to monks who dedicate their life to religious activities with the aim of transcending the body. The same applies to Buddhist monks and post-Vedic Hindu sages. There are innumerable examples, however, of revered sages in the Vedic period, who often lived with two or three wives.

So, is pleasure compatible with spirituality?

"Organized religions might have their own code of conduct," says Atmara Yogini, a US-based personal growth trainer, "but spirituality does not preach asceticism. What's the point of being human if you cannot take pleasure in the beauty around you?" And how worthwhile would life be if shafts of light breaking through the clouds, a flower blossoming in the wilderness, raindrops caressing your limbs, don't fill you with joy? And why should one be born with a body if one doesn't take pleasure in it? Or have the capacity to feel joy, yet deny it?

Pleasure is as much a part of the human experience as life itself. "By implanting electrodes and taking recordings from the deep-lying areas," explains Dr Robert G. Heath, who first experimented with electrodes in the human brain, "we can localize the brain's pleasure and pain systems." Pleasure and pain are, literally, two parts of the same coin, and cannot exist without the other. Pleasure would not be identified as pleasure in the absence of pain. And pain, perhaps, would lose its sting without the awareness of pleasure. Is that the idea when we deny it?

Probably. Pleasure is a risk. Of letting go. Of drowning in the exquisite sensation of joy. You will have to surface sometime. That's the bargain.

Is it worth it?

Is it a fair bargain to witness each dawn after the darkness of the night? To risk death as the inevitable when you choose life? Think about it!




By Suma Varughese

The quest for happiness has taken mankind on many strange journeys. Many have arrived at destinations never imagined or sought. We lose our way frequently and end up with regrets and sorrow. Is there a sure way to find happiness?


"Don't worry, be happy," carols Bobby McFerrin.
"And the prince and the princess lived happily ever after," say the fairy tales.
"I only want your happiness," croons the lover.
"Every man has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," says the American Constitution.
"Happiness is buying the latest must-have," shout the advertisements.

No matter what the message, mankind is united in conviction that happiness is a very desirable state. Indeed, all of us, consciously or unconsciously, are motivated in all we do by our need for happiness. The housewife strives for a clean and orderly house and well-brought up children so she can be happy with herself. The husband aims to make more money so he can be happy. We chase money, health, growth, fame, power, property and relationships, not for their own sake but for the satisfaction they promise. The creation of empires and civilizations, the discovery of continents, the waging of wars, the whole ebb and flow of history is a graphic portrait of man's ceaseless quest for happiness.

Yet, most of us will acknowledge that we don't always feel happy. Oh, yes, winning that merit scholarship or the coveted promotion, buying a car or losing weight feels great for a while. But we find that our friends are jealous, or that the promotion means longer working hours or that the car guzzles petrol, and that our lives haven't been transformed by losing weight. We are weighed down by a sense of lack. No matter how well life turns out, nothing seems quite enough. Others seem to have more, or desires keep arising. If nothing else, we fear for the future. What if something was to happen to our loved ones or to us?

Many of us are content to accept this mixed bag of happiness and sorrow as the human lot. Within this framework we attempt to maximize our joys and minimize our woes. We excel in whatever skills we have, spend less than we make, save for a house, take care of our health, get our children married and keep money aside for old age. At the end of our lives, we believe that we have lived to the best of our capacity. This is no mean task and deserves to be richly lauded.

But for a few, this unpredictable, fleeting happiness is not enough. They dare to ask if an irrefutable, permanent and absolute happiness is not possible. A happiness they can trust. Perhaps it is this question that moves man towards divinity. For he is attempting to transcend the very framework of the human condition.

Is such a state possible? Yes, say the scriptures and enlightened beings. "The highest happiness comes upon the yogi whose mind is calmed, in whom passion is appeased, who has become Brahman and is free from sin," says the Bhagavad Gita (Vl: 27).

The Upanishads add: "Take the happiness of a man who has everything: he is young, healthy, strong, good, and cultured, with all the wealth that earth can offer; let us take this as one measure of joy. One hundred times that joy is the joy of the gandharvas, but no less joy have those who are illumined."

The Buddha's entire teaching revolves around the question of how to overcome human suffering and attain happiness. The first words of the Dhammapada, a collection of the Buddha's teachings, pinpoints the problem and its cause:

Mind precedes all phenomena,
Mind matters most, everything is mind-made.
If with an impure mind
You speak or act, then suffering follows you,
As the cartwheel follows the foot of the draft animal.

On the other hand, here is the Buddha's recipe for happiness:
If with a pure mind
You speak or act,
Then happiness follows you
As a shadow that never departs.

The very nature of life and our Selves, according to the Upanishads, is joy or bliss. Our true nature is sat (reality), chit (consciousness) and ananda (bliss). Bliss is part of who we are. Bliss is our birthright. "Vedanta says that happiness is you," explains Uday Acharya, a Vedanta teacher. But how on earth do we claim it?

Step l: Prioritize Happiness
Aiming for absolute happiness is serious business. It calls for steady, patient labor for years on end. This means absolute commitment to the goal, no matter what you may have to sacrifice. How does one achieve such a dogged attitude? Usually from plunging into the miseries of life. Eckhart Tolle, a spiritual teacher based in Canada, whose book, The Power of Now, is a masterpiece of spiritual guidance, led a life, he says, of almost continual anxiety interspersed with bouts of suicidal depression. Then he had a spiritual experience that transformed his life forever. Not that he didn't have to work at sustaining it. It just meant that he had something concrete to work towards, for he knew the state he was aiming at from inside.

Perhaps restlessness and an inner quest do motivate you. Eknath Easwaran, the late meditation teacher practicing in California and writer of many popular books on spirituality, reveals in his translation of the Upanishads that he was the quintessential man who had everything. Unsatisfied, he kept looking for that which he himself didn't know until a chance reading of the Upanishads unfolded vistas of joy unimagined thus far. The statement: "There is no joy in the finite; there is joy only in the Infinite," became a lodestar to which he hitched his happiness wagon.

In other words, the quest for happiness comes from within. It arises only when we are ready to engage in the mammoth task of seeking. Which is to say, it is not entirely within our conscious control. Scott L. Peck uses the term 'grace' to explain the mysterious force that nudges us towards further growth: "The paradox that we both choose grace and are chosen by grace is the essence of the phenomenon of serendipity."

You can also begin where you are right now. If by reading this you are inspired to want happiness, that too is a starting point. What matters is the intensity of your desire.
Prioritizing happiness means that you will let go of everything that is inimical to happiness.

In his book, A Dialogue with Death, Easwaran talks of the concepts of preya and shreya. Preya is what is pleasant; shreya, what is beneficial. Preya gives us instant happiness, the happiness of eating a good meal or buying an outfit, or getting a compliment. Shreya also gives us happiness, but in the long run, such as when we embark on a fitness program or kick the smoking habit. Preya and shreya are most often directly opposed to each other, such as when we spend the night carousing and wake up the next day with a heavy head and conscience. Preya's seductive happiness, arising as it does from the satisfaction of the senses, almost inevitably leads to long-term unhappiness. So how do we choose shreya? Simply, by not choosing preya. Our refusal to settle for short-term happiness in itself guarantees long-term happiness.

Prioritizing happiness means a single-minded focus on shreya. Are your eating habits interfering with your health? Change them. Is your anger spewing unhappiness around? Let it go. Are you spending more money than you make? Get financially smart. Are your relationships in trouble? Work at them. Is your yen for fame or power coming in the way of your happiness goal? Off with their heads. Are these easy? Let's face it, they're well-nigh impossible when attempted from the outside. How do you access such superhuman will? This takes us to the next step.

Step ll: Know Thyself
All spiritual masters and texts are united in this one. The answer to the human condition lies in understanding our true Self.

According to Vedanta, our primary error is to mistake ourselves for our body, or even our minds or egos. Our real Self lies beyond these limited factors of identity, and is boundless, infinite, pure reality, consciousness and bliss.

Those who know they are neither body nor mind,
But the immortal Self,
the Divine Principle of existence,
find the source
Of all joy and live in abiding joy.
Katha Upanishad

This knowledge, even if only an intellectual concept to begin with, will give us the perspective to progress further.

Vedanta graphically uses the concept of a chariot to convey the real nature of the Self. In the Katha Upanishad, Yama, lord of death, tells the young seeker Nachiketa,

Know the Self as lord of the chariot,
The body as the chariot itself,
The discriminating intellect as the
And the mind as reins.
The senses, say the wise, are the
Selfish desires are the roads they

When the Self is confused with the body, mind, and senses, they point out, he seems to enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow. In other words, the reason why we choose preya rather than shreya is because our untrained senses gallop after a drink or espying a pretty girl, leaving our charioteer toppled on one side with the reins hanging loose. The Self, meanwhile, deep inside the carriage, can't make itself heard. The nature of the senses is to run after objects of desire, and only a well-trained mind controlled by a discriminating intellect, which takes its guidance from the sequestered Self, can rein them in. This then is the task before us: to train the senses, discipline the mind, and strengthen the intellect to awaken the Self.

The Buddha said the same thing when he observed that attachment created suffering. Attachment arises out of our reactions of like and dislike, which are a result of the contact of the senses and the mind with the world. These, in turn, are part of universal mind and matter, which arise out of undifferentiated consciousness. The Buddhist approach to ultimate happiness is the abolishment of the entire structure of consciousness by focusing on reaction. The cessation of reaction would cause the cessation of like and dislike, which would cause the cessation of contact between the senses and the world, eventually leading to the collapse of consciousness. While Vedanta moves you towards a positive identity, Buddhism unshackles the construct of all identity. Each, however, forces us to confront the very depth of our nature.

In her book, Spiritual Intelligence, Danah Zohar draws upon the latest discoveries in quantum physics to substantiate her claim that we are made of the same stuff as God. Says she: "The quantum vacuum is the still silent 'ocean' on which existence appears as 'waves'. The first thing to emerge from the vacuum is an energy field known as the Higgs Field. This is filled with very fast, coherent energy oscillations that are the origin of all fields and fundamental particles in the universe. If proto-consciousness is a fundamental property, then there is proto-consciousness in the Higgs Field. And the quantum vacuum becomes very like what mystics have called the 'immanent God'. In that case, the 40 H2 neural oscillation that result in our human consciousness and our spiritual intelligence have their root in nothing less than 'God'. 'God' is the true center of the self. And meaning has its origin in the ultimate meaning of all existence."

There we have it. Even science acknowledges that we are divine stuff, children of immortality, amrutasya putraha, to quote the Upanishads.

Identifying with the body or the mind traps us within the sensory world. Preya becomes our only concept of pleasure so that happiness becomes purely a question of how much money we have, how beautiful we are, how many houses and cars we own and whether we belong to the A list of socialites. Says Eckhart Tolle: "Identification with your mind creates an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgments and definitions that block true relationship. It comes between you and yourself, between you and your fellow man and woman, between you and nature, between you and God. It is this screen of thought that creates the illusion of separateness, the illusion that there is you and a totally separate 'other'."

So how do we start the process of de-identification? Move to the next step.

Step lll: Enhance Your Self-Esteem
Before we get to the actual task of discarding our false self, we need to take certain preparatory steps. We are about to embark on a long and arduous journey (which the Upanishads call walking the razor's edge) and we must have enough rations to see us through. The most crucial of these is robust self-esteem. The task of confronting yourself and coming to terms with every aspect of you, essential aspects of de-identification, can only commence if you are capable of containing and accepting the less than flattering truth. Renouncing the ego can only be successfully accomplished by those who have a healthy one to begin with.

Nathaniel Brandon, virtually the guru of self-esteem, defines it thus: "To trust one's mind and to know that one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem." He stipulates six pillars that comprise self-esteem. These are:

• Living consciously: The ability to be active rather than passive, to be in the moment, and to have a commitment for growth.

• Self-acceptance: The ability to be on one's side, to accept all feelings, thoughts and acts and to be compassionate with oneself.

• Self-responsibility: To take responsibility for the achievement of desires, one's behavior with others, and for one's happiness.

• Self-assertive: To know that we have the right to be who we are and that we do not have to live up to others' expectations.

• Purposeful living: To use our internal power for the attainment of our goals, including happiness, by taking responsibility for it, identifying the actions necessary to achieve it, monitoring our behavior to check if it is in alignment and so on.

• Personal integrity: When our behavior is congruent with our professed values, and ideals and practice match.

Brandon's prescription to enhance self-esteem is through sentence completion. Sit down every day, morning and evening, and give five different completions to the following sentence stem: "When I reflect on how I would feel if I lived more consciously…"
At the end of the week, go through all that you have written and give six different endings to this sentence: "If any of what I wrote this week is true, it would be helpful if I…"

Do this with the other pillars too and you will find that the very fact of thinking and writing about these will help you move towards these states of mind. In her book, The 12 Secrets of Health and Happiness, Louise Samways suggests that a good way of achieving self-acceptance is not to surrender to labels about ourselves created by others or us. Stick to facts, she says. Thus, when you botch up a presentation, you say to yourself, "I didn't do this well', rather than: "I'm a lousy salesperson." Says she: "Self-acceptance allows you to be comfortable with all aspects of yourself, good and bad. You feel confident that you can change if you want. You can be yourself; you don't need to hide behind a role."

The other way of accessing self-esteem is through the knowledge of who we are. If we are divine, an aspect of God, then surely that is reason for self-esteem? Self-esteem is innate; an aspect of our true nature and what stops us from experiencing it is our ignorance and conditioning.

Count down slowly from 20 to 0 until you find yourself feeling peaceful inside. Tell yourself with as much intensity and conviction as you can manage: "I am whole, perfect and complete." Soon, depending on the strength of your conditioning, this knowledge will manifest within you not as an intellectual concept, but as a part of you.

Why does this work? We'll discuss this in the next step.

Step lV: Go Within
You don't need to have perfect self-esteem before entering into this step. It is enough that you started working on it and have reached a basic level of inner stability. It is time now to go within. This is the key to the whole enterprise. If you can direct your mind inwards with unshakable commitment and steady application until you have seen through it, you are home and dry. What you must do is direct your attention to the uncharted inner regions: the zones of thoughts, feelings, reactions and actions. You are going to take the measure of your mind. Remember what the Buddha said, that we live in a mind-made world? That our thoughts create our reality? Are these thoughts supportive of happiness or not? Let us explore.

The first thing we learn is that we have very little control over our mind. And that we are never in the present. Thoughts zoom in and invade our mind. We zigzag between the past and the future in a medley of regrets, despair, anger, worry, fear and so on. Our past failures haunt us and fill us with apprehension for the future. We have certain ideas of the world and people based on our past and we view the whole of life through that prism.

We also become aware of how much we are controlled by circumstances and other people. Any stranger on the street can abuse us and spoil our day. We live in fear of what our boss will do or say, and we base our life goals on making our parents proud of us. From stepping into a muddy puddle to being rejected by our 'true' love, our reactions are based on external events. And we have very little control over ourselves. We decide that we are going to concentrate on a project and the next thing we know we have awoken from a daydream about a holiday in Mauritius. We vow to lose weight, but when a colleague passes chocolates around, we can't resist it. We try to curb our temper, but each time there's a provocation, we lose it. In other words, not only do others and circumstances control us but we have no control over ourselves. We are enslaved to our feelings, thoughts, actions and reactions.

Why is this? Vedanta and Buddhism have a word for these conditioned thoughts, words and deeds: samskaras.

create the personality. It is in understanding the process that creates it that we can become free and transform ourselves. Our mind is composed of two parts, the conscious and the subconscious. The subconscious is at the root of many of our thoughts and behavior. We cannot control these consciously, which explains why we have difficulty losing weight or kicking the cigarette habit, but we can learn to master them if we understand how they come into being.

The subconscious is fully influenced by our thoughts. If we think repeatedly that we are good, worthwhile and likable, the subconscious gets the message and automatically operates from that assumption, giving rise to behavior that is open, spontaneous and non-manipulative. This in turn makes other people like us, transmit messages to say that we are good and worthwhile, to further entrench our original impression. This is how we create our personality, from beliefs and assumptions about ourselves, much of it arising from our infancy. A thought repeated a thousand times gives rise to words repeated a thousand times leading to deeds repeated thousands of times.

In The 12 Secrets of Health and Happiness, Samways talks of the chain linking speech, feelings and actions. According to her, our perceptions of events in our lives, such as being scolded by parents, lead to beliefs that create the thoughts we have about ourselves (self-talk), which give rise to feelings and finally to behavior or deeds. Each link in the chain reinforces the others so that the chain becomes increasingly stronger.

This is also the essence of karma, which implies that everything we think, say and do has a consequence. The consequence not only occurs in the outside world, but also within, by shaping our personality. All this is fine, as long as the samskaras are positive and life-enhancing. But when they cramp our style, limit our potential and make us unhappy, they create problems. Says Samways: "An optimistic style of self-talk has been found to be the single most important predictor of who is successful in life."

Samskaras then are a process, created by our thoughts, words, and deeds. This has two implications, both vital to our pursuit of happiness. The first is that what we have made we can unmake. The second is that we can also create fresh positive conditioning. In Step III you were advised to repeat the words that you were whole and perfect. You were, in effect, reconditioning yourself positively. All spiritual and mind improvement techniques focus on these two processes, undoing negative conditioning and feeding in positive ones.

How Do You Undo?

There are many methods, the most popular being meditation. Whether through chanting, watching your breath and sensations as in vipassana, your mind is automatically drawn to its own wayward movement. By patiently bringing it back to the subject on hand and allowing our thoughts to be, we finally begin to move towards stillness and inner balance. The momentum of thoughts declines, and we experience a modicum of choice. There are those like J. Krishnamurti, who advocate tackling the mind directly, by a choice-less awareness of all that arises. The task consists of being ruthlessly aware of the content of our consciousness; the presence of jealousy when it exists, of indifference or hate-without resisting or rationalizing it, in other words, nonjudgmental acceptance helps transform it. Awareness and acceptance by themselves can transform us.

Eckhart echoes Krishnamurti in suggesting that we watch the thinker. If we can watch the thoughts without identifying with them or reacting to them, then there is a gap between the thought and us. This is the beginning of going beyond the mind. He also suggests being in the now, what the Buddhists call mindful living. Here, we buttress ourselves in the moment with all the intensity at our command. We experience the process of walking, breathing, talking, eating, sitting, standing, as thoroughly as we can by being present to every nuance.

Easwaran suggests using the power inherent in desire to go against the conditioned might of the samskaras. We can tap into the flow of prana to take us towards happiness if we just redirect our desire for sensory objects. Jaya Row, a teacher of Vedanta, agrees when she says that the trick is to shift our focus from the lower desires to higher desires, such as the quest for happiness and self-realization.

How do we do this? By strengthening the will. Says Easwaran: "The power of desire is the power of will. Every desire carries with it the will to bring that desire to fruition." How do we strengthen our will? By going against all conditioned self-centered desire. If you feel like sleeping when you still have not completed your homework, resist it. When your fingers itch to grab that last gulab jamun, stick your hands into your pockets instead.

Easwaran says: "If the will is unified from top to bottom, the moment anger surfaces you can transform it into compassion. The moment disloyalty arises you can transform it into love. Every negative samskara can be transformed in this manner, which means that personality can be remade completely in the image of your highest ideal."


How easy is this? Not too difficult, provided you have one crucial attribute-discipline. Says psychiatrist Scott L. Peck, in his book, The Road Less Traveled: "Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life's problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline, we can only save some problems. With total discipline, we can solve all problems." According to Peck, there are four aspects to discipline-delaying gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing. The ability to delay gratification arises from a sense of self-worth and security, which is to say, self-esteem. Says Samway: One of the strongest predictors of who feels happy is the degree to which an individual feels in personal control of their life." She adds: "Happy people also take control of their time. They make manageable plans and commitments. They are busy, purposeful and punctual." She says: "It is very important to remember that as a human being you have been designed to cope with a great many unhappy and sad things-'the roughage of life'-as well as the good things of life."

When we incorporate discipline within us, we will have begun to live masterfully, using all problems as challenges and opportunities for our growth. The will becomes powerful, and desires have no power to move us from the goal of happiness. We learn to go beyond our natural human selfishness that instinctively serves the cause of survival. We choose the burnt toast and let others have the well done ones. We endure inconvenience in order to do others a favor. We surrender our bus seat to a senior citizen. Gradually, we are learning not to put ourselves first, a feat the Buddha called as difficult and unnatural as water going upstream. Says Easwaran: "The surest mark of grace is marvelous, almost unimaginable: the desire to go against all selfish desires. Until this begins to happen, you cannot believe it is possible…If only we knew what daring is required to face and conquer a selfish desire! Every cell in the body stands for an ovation."

Fine, our human condition has been explored and the solution approached. But, what of the road ahead?

Step V: Transcend Happiness

When the will becomes powerful enough to take on desire, the discriminating intellect (the charioteer, remember?) awakens. Buddhi, as it is referred to in Vedanta, is the center of discrimination. It views the situation on the whole and helps us to arrive at balanced and wise decisions that benefit the larger good instead of our selfish purposes.

The intellect in turn helps us to move beyond duality. We become increasingly aware that our mind vacillates between likes and dislikes, pain and pleasure. For the Buddha, this was the root of the problem of suffering. The mind reacts to events either favorably or unfavorably, pushing away what we don't like and holding on to what we do. Craving and aversion result, and through this we distort the very nature of life. Instead of accepting its essential impermanence, we strive to perpetuate the pleasant, and be rid of the unpleasant.

To transcend this duality, we need to let go of our need for happiness. We cannot afford to like something because we will dislike its opposite. Like cool, breezy days? Beware, you will dislike hot sultry days. Like mild-mannered, polite people? Whatever are you going to do when confronted with aggression or rudeness? To free ourselves from this entire edifice of reactions, we must destroy the whole structure. Yes, indeed, the secret of happiness is to let go of our need for it. When we do this, we trade the ephemeral satisfactions of the ego for the permanent peace of being. Established in equanimity, we become witnesses to the ebb and flow of events in our lives, resisting nothing, holding on to nothing.

Step Vl : Recognize the Other
Only when we have finally relinquished our ego-centered perspective based on likes and dislikes do we really become conscious of the other as existing in their own right and not as instruments of our need. Free of all need, we see them as they truly are for the first time. Says Easwaran: "We feel towards all the way we feel towards ourselves. No one likes to be snubbed or made fun of… You understand where people are coming from. You do not judge, romanticize or close your eyes."

You do more. You actively begin to care for their welfare. Happy yourself, you seek to make the other happy. You acknowledge them, appreciate their good points and point out their potential. You empathize with their misery and strive to support them through it. Free of need, you become a selfless repository for others' needs. And you discover that they are a potent source of happiness too. Participating in the joys of others fulfills us as much as our own joy. By focusing on their happiness we transcend all conflicts both within and without us. Nothing they say or do or even think can affect us any more. We live now for the universe and not merely for ourselves.

Bertrand Russel says in his book, The Conquest of Happiness: "A man who has once perceived, however temporarily and however briefly, what makes greatness of soul, can no longer be happy if he allows himself to be petty, self-seeking, troubled by trivial misfortunes, dreading what fate may have in store for him. The man capable of greatness of soul will open wide the windows of his mind, letting the winds blow freely upon it from every portion of the universe."

You no longer require people to be polite, courteous, loving or unselfish. You can allow them the space to be themselves and take on the responsibility of the relationship on yourself. When this happens, you are cutting off all the cords that tied you to others and to circumstances. Awesomely enough, you are now free. The long journey you embarked upon is drawing to a close. You are your own master. No circumstance in life has the power to ruffle your equanimity, or your commitment to happiness.


Step Vll: Be in the Moment
When the content of our consciousness is emptied, when we have accepted every minuscule bit of ourselves, when we have freed ourselves of all conditioning, when the past and the future are closed chapters, then the present unfolds like an endless song. Still as a lake, our mind is poised in the moment, alert, joyous and free. With no identity to fetter us, no needs to tie us down, we surrender ourselves fully to life, experiencing, enjoying and letting go. We are home, free.

When all desires that surge in the heart
Are renounced, the mortal becomes immortal.
When all knots that strangle the heart
Are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal.
This sums up the teachings of the scriptures.
Katha Upanishads
What can one say to this but
Om shanti.

Life Positive, September 2001

source : 

A Recipe for Happiness


German researchers have finally concluded their 15 year long research aimed at examining spouses' happiness levels. They were able to determine that marriage does not really improve one's life. It has been noted that on a scale from 1 to 10 "marriage" has acquired only 0,1% of the total score. 
So it has been officially noted that marriage improves life only on 0,1%. Does it mean therefore that people should not unite their destinies in a sacred matrimony? Of course not. Majority of people have already been happy before marrying. Such fact allowed them to build happy family. One should clearly understand that marriage is not a good way to resolve his/her personal problems. It is a couple's creative collaboration. The outcome depends totally on the positive mood of both husband and wife. 

There are exist 10 rules of happiness:
1. A person is born tired and spends his entire life resting.  
2. Love your bed as you do yourself.
3. Try to rest during the day so that it will be possible to sleep at night.
4. If you notice someone resting-help him.
5. Work is exhausting.
6. Postpone your today's work till tomorrow and you will have two additional days off.
7. If some type of work makes you tired,

let someone else do it for you.
8. Nobody has ever died from excessive relaxation.
9. If you have sudden urge to work? wait a while, it should go away.
10. Rest is good, laziness is happiness.

Seriously, everybody dreams of true happiness in love. We want our romantic relations to lead to something greater. It is obvious therefore that not a single one of us makes conscious choice to find an incompatible second half. We wholeheartedly believe in a positive outcome of any beginning relationship. For better or for worse, people tend to make mistakes. 
An old proverb states, "only a person's unconscious is strong." It is always easier to look back and spot something which has been unnoticeable before. It is easier to be wise looking back at our previous mistakes instead of realizing those current ones. Still, I have always believed that there is no such thing as a "mistake".There only exist a room for further development. Such possibility to learn from one' own mistakes simply adds a meaning to our sufferings.

source :


Meet the people shaping the future of science


Everyone wants to be happy, right? Wrong, says Ed Diener, a psychologist in the emerging field of "subjective well-being"-- a professor of happiness in all but name--at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He's found that happiness is more than just a warm glow, it's firmly rooted in culture. And guess what? Money really does make you happier--but for maximum gain you have to be poor to begin with. Michael Bond asks Diener how science goes about adding to what philosophers and artists have told us about happiness over the centuries

Overall, Scandinavian countries seem to be the happiest. Income is very important to happiness up to a point, and it correlates with democracy, human rights, infrastructure, longevity and other things. But once you allow for that, cultural factors that have little to do with income seem to make a big difference. If you take income out of the equation--if you level the playing field, in other words--the happiest people are Hispanic.


Hispanic people tend to look at what's going to go right. They ask: "What can I do that's fun, what can I do that's interesting?" Americans are like this, and Britons to an extent. They worry more about what good things they can get rather than the bad things.

The other big question is, obviously, who are the unhappiest?

Some of the former communist countries and the very poor countries consistently show up as the unhappiest. But allowing for income, the Pacific Rim countries are much less happy than you'd expect. People from Japan, China and Korea tend to see the glass half-empty. When you ask them how satisfied they are with their lives, they look at what has gone wrong. If nothing big has gone wrong, then they're satisfied. They are a little more tense because they have to be on guard, they have to be careful to avoid making errors and pay the right respect to people.

Why is it harder for Asians to be happy?

In the West the individualistic culture means that your mood matters much more than it does in the East. When assessing life satisfaction, Japanese and Koreans count what their parents think about how they're living their lives more highly than their own moods.

How does that work?

Take love. In the US, if you asked someone why they divorced their wife and they said they didn't love her any more, you might say: "That's too bad." In Korea, you'd say: "Are you crazy?" Your personal feelings are much less important and not a justification for your actions. Certainly the biggest cultural differences are to do with pride and guilt. Hispanics report much more pride and Asians much less pride, because of the stress on humility in their culture. Asians report more of all the negative emotions, such as anger and sadness. With guilt they report even more, and Hispanics report even less.

Happiness is supposed to be everyone's goal. Have you found that to be true?

Actually, no. We believe that people have all kinds of values, and the value of being in a good mood, of having fun and feeling joyful--that's just one value among many. It's not everybody's ultimate value. Now, you might say satisfaction is a higher goal because people would have that if they achieved something they valued. We have found that Asian-Americans are more willing to give up fun and enjoyment more frequently than white Americans to reach some other goal.

So are Asians, or any others, worse off for being less happy?

Asian cultures obviously work pretty well, and they've been around a long time. The important thing is that all of us need all the emotions. The dysfunctional thing is not only the inability to feel happiness, but also the inability to feel some of the negative emotions when they turn up. Those emotions do things for us. At the same time, while you need to feel anger and fear when it's appropriate, you don't want to be feeling those too much of the time because it's unpleasant.

Happiness can mean different things to different people. How do you know that people take what you say the same way?

This can be a problem. The word "happy" doesn't have an exact equivalent in some languages. In English, happiness has a number of different meanings. It depends on the context. It might mean "satisfied", it might mean "joyful", it might mean a longer-term happiness. We try to break down what people mean by using a bunch of different words describing emotions, including words from their own language. We use these words in various different tests of happiness.

How do you do that?

For example, we ask people how happy they are in general. Then we do "experience sampling", where we contact them at random moments over a period of time and ask them how they feel at that moment, and then add up those scores. Finally, we do retrospective recall, where we ask people how happy they were at a particular time. We use all these so we know what we're asking them and to pick up any biases. The only measures we haven't yet used are biological, such as cortisol and immune response. We could use these to look at stress and tension. People's reports of their feelings are crucial, but I don't believe they should take priority over their physiology or facial expressions.

What advantages does happiness bring?

In the West, if you're a cheerful, happy person, your marriage is more likely to last, and you're more likely to make more money and be successful at your job. Whether that's true because everybody likes happy people in Western societies, so you get rewarded more, we don't know. On average, happy people have stronger immune systems, and there is some evidence that they live longer.

You've found that people have a remarkable capacity to adapt emotionally to a terminal illness or debilitating injury. Why is this?

I don't want to make the case that health problems don't matter. People with multiple, severe problems do report lower levels of happiness. For others, when they realise they can't be on the basketball team any more, for example, they see there are new things open to them. They realise there are positive things in their lives, such as social support and love of family, that they hadn't noticed very much before. But there are some things in life that knock you down from which you don't come back fully. One of those is unemployment. Unemployed people show a big negative drop. They come back, but not to where they were before. Widows and widowers come back, but it takes them quite a few years.

So does winning the lottery really make you happy?

This does push up your happiness level, as does marriage, but it doesn't last forever. It can last for a year or two.

Does it help to be well-off?

Every study that's ever been done on this has always found that happiness increases with income, but in the West the effect is always a small one. Elsewhere, among slum dwellers in India, for example, the effect is much more substantial. There's quite a difference between making $1 and $5 a day--for one thing, it dictates whether you get to eat that day. In the US, too, it's much more likely that a poor person will be unhappy. We studied people from the Forbes list who were worth more than $100 million. Most were slightly happier than the average American.

Can science really add anything to our understanding of happiness, beyond the analyses of philosophers?

Bertrand Russell, certainly a great intellect, wrote a book about happiness in which he stated that having children was one of the most important keys to gaining happiness. But research has shown that this is simply not true. People with and without children are about equally satisfied with their lives. We find that people become more satisfied with life when they have a baby, but then drop back to their previous levels after a year or two, and perhaps even go a bit lower than their previous baseline. So as smart as Russell was, pure thought is not always a match for careful empirical study.

Are there any gurus who have got it right?

There are certain things the Dalai Lama says about not stressing yourself out and approaching life with a good mental attitude that I think are probably true. I do agree with a lot of common-sense recipes. The Stoics of ancient Greece said a lot of things that were sensible, such as the need for calm.

How do you explain the explosion in the market for self-help books?

Part of it is the realisation that you're responsible for your own happiness. You're not going to learn about it at school. There they teach you how to add up, but they tell you very little about how to live your life. So there's a vacuum. But it's also because people's expectations are higher.


People think they should be living on the edge of joyfulness all the time. You get people who are actually happy, but they think happiness is so important that they strive to be even happier. Yet we're not built to be joyful. We're built to be positive, but not to be stuck in a kind of euphoria. We should be in that mid-range so that when something good happens, we can go up. This desire to be always euphoric is a product of medicine, of standards of living, but also of individualism, where the emphasis is on you individually, your emotions and feeling good.

Why did you decide to study happiness--or subjective well-being, as you call it?

Around 1980, I had just finished a study on aggression and crowd behaviour and was looking for a new area. I thought, happiness is a wide-open field, not much has been done in it apart from a few sociological studies, and it's what people are worried about. People are not just worried about getting rid of depression, they're worried about living a happy, fulfilled life. So it's a big issue. And it's positive, it's interesting. I had wanted to do a study on happiness when I was an undergraduate, but my professor wouldn't let me. He said it was too fuzzy.

Do you want to increase the sum of people's happiness?

I would like other people to take on that mission. I see myself as a more basic scientist, where my major concern is to define the components of subjective well-being and see if we can measure them reliably. As a scientist, those measurements are crucial. That's a pretty big undertaking by itself. People ask me if I feel bad about the fact that I'm not actually doing anything to make people happier, but it's like a physicist studying basic particles: they're not doing anything to make energy. Some people have to do the basic stuff and that's what I'm doing. The intellectual questions are really exciting.

Do you think it's possible for everyone to be happy?

I think it's possible for most people to be happy most of the time. I also believe that there's a small proportion of society who are so predisposed to depression that drugs are necessary to prevent it. But we find that the majority of people in the West are mostly happy, certainly above neutral. I find it interesting that reporters, especially those from New York City, cannot believe that. I don't know whether reporters from that city are particularly unhappy, but they find it fantastic when I tell them that most people are, on average, happy.




By Marina Krakovsky --

Choosing between a new sweater and a pair of concert tickets? Buy the tickets, suggests a new study on whether our spending habits are likely to make us happy.

Summary: Why we find material goods less fulfilling. /Publication Date: Nov/Dec 2003

Choosing between a new sweater and a pair of concert tickets? Buy the tickets, suggests a new study on whether our spending habits are likely to make us happy.

Philosophers since Aristotle have claimed that experiences fulfill us more than material goods. To test this claim, a pair of psychology professors examined discretionary spending on material purchases (such as jewelry or clothing) and experiential ones (such as vacations or tickets to a concert). In a nationwide phone survey of 1,279 adults, respondents were much more likely to claim that a prior experiential purchase made them happier than a material one—57 percent versus 34 percent—even after accounting for differences in price.

Of course, some items—such as books or sports gear—are both material and experiential. And one person’s splurge may be another’s must-have. So the researchers simply asked respondents to think of purchases they’d made “with the intention of advancing their own happiness.”

The researchers, Leaf Van Boven of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University, found some demographic differences in strength of preference: A higher percentage of women, for example, were happier with experiences than were men. Individuals with higher incomes and more education especially tended to prefer experiential spending—perhaps because the less discretionary income you have, the more any purchase will improve your quality of life. Even so, not a single segment reported being happier with their material buys.

Unlike possessions, our experiences get better with time. “We redefine and reconstrue them as we retell them, and they continue to be a part of who we are,” says Van Boven.


Shiny Happy People


Can We Cultivate Our Own Happiness?

 If you want to be happy, forget about winning the lottery, getting a nose job, or securing a raise.

In his new book,  Authentic Happiness, psychologist Martin Seligman argues that overall lifetime happiness is not the result of good genes, money, or even luck.

Instead, he says we can boost our own happiness by capitalizing on the strengths and traits that we already have, including kindness, originality, humor, optimism, and generosity. He has christened the discipline "Positive Psychology," arguing that we would be better off building on our own strengths rather than bemoaning, and, hence, trying to repair, our weaknesses.

By frequently calling upon their strengths, people can build up natural buffers against misfortune and negative emotions, he said.

An Epidemic of Depression?

Seligman is leading the charge in what might be called Happiness Revolution in psychology.

Since World War II, psychologists have focused on fixing what is broken — repairing psychosis, and neurosis. Research has piled up steadily when it comes to looking at patients who are neurotic or dysfunctional, while the happy or joyful people among us have received little scientific scrutiny.

When Seligman did a search to find academic articles about such "positive psychology" he found only 800 out of 70,000.

"Psychologists tend to be concerned with taking a negative 8 person, and helping him get to negative 2," said Seligman, a University of Pennsylvania psychology professor. "My aim is to take a plus 2 person and boost him to a plus 6."

In the last 50 years, statistics have show that we are less happy as a people.

"While our quality of life has increased dramatically over that time, and we've become richer, we're in an epidemic of depression," Seligman said. "Depression is 10 times more common now, and life satisfaction rates are down as well."

Seligman argues that the new science he writes about is shifting psychology's paradigm away from its narrow-minded focus on pathology, victimology, and mental illness towards positive emotion, virtue and strength, and positive institutions that increase people's happiness quotient.

Three Roads to Happiness

Science has shown that there are three distinct roads to being a happy person — though happy might not mean what you think. Material goods — even simple ones like ice cream cones, and massages — are only stimuli, things that fleetingly give people a boost.

Research found that lottery winners are no happier years after their windfall than they had been before, and that paraplegics tended to be no less happy in the years after their misfortune than they were before.

"We used to think that a happy person was just someone who giggled a lot," Seligman said. "But if you define it solely by how much you laugh, you confine yourself to one category."

Here are the three happy people categories that Seligman has set forth in the book:

   The Good Life: Some happy people are low on pleasure, but high on "absorption and immersion," meaning they take great pleasure in the things that they do.

"Think of these people as hobbyists who become so immersed in their work that time ceases to exist," Seligman said. "A person who enjoys gardening discovers that the day has gone by without notice, for example."

   The Pleasant Life: This is someone who laughs a lot, and thrives on pleasures, such as eating good food. These are people who seem surrounded with contentment, pleasure and hope.

   The Meaningful Life: Those who apply their highest strengths and virtues for the greater good, as through charities and volunteer work, religion or politics.

There are vast benefits to leading a happier life, Seligman said. A study of cloistered nuns found that those scoring high on happiness tests at age 20 lived the longest. (Cloistered nuns make for good research subjects, since variables such as environment and financial status are the same for all.)

To cultivate happiness, you must first identify which of the aforementioned happiness categories you fall into, then ascertain your individual strengths and virtues. Next, apply the qualities in such a way as to enhance your happiness-generating category.

For example a student of Seligman's who fell into the "good life" category was a grocery bagger and did not like it. Further testing identified that one of his key strengths was excelling in social interaction. So Seligman advised the student to try to make the check-out process the social highlight of each of his customers' day.

(Go to  to take happiness quizzes.)


11 Things You Didn't Know about Happiness


  1. Smiling can improve your mood. When you smile, you draw more air through your nose and restrict blood vessels in your face. This cools the sinuses, which cools the blood flowing through the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls emotions. Scientists believe the smile may have evolved from early primates who grinned as a sign of submission or to tell predators, "I'm harmless."
  2. Research with twins has shown that unhappiness may be hereditary. But you can apparently make yourself happier. A study at USC found that people who introduced novel activities to their lives were happier than those who just plodded along.
  3. The Irish consistently report themselves as the world's happiest people.
  4. There is a link between mood and the day of the week. According to one study, people feel happier on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays than they do on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. (Wednesday is neutral).
  5. Most Americans consider December the happiest month of the year, followed by July. February is the most miserable. December is also the least popular month for suicides (the most popular: April), and mental hospital admissions peak in summer rather than winter.
  6. Happy Birthday to You, the four-line ditty written in 1893 by two sisters, generates $1 million in annual royalties for Warner-Chappell Music, which owns the rights. You don't need permission to sing it at a party, since private use is OK. And you can always hum it since only the lyrics are protected.
  7. Studies have found that communities where everyone earns about the same are happier than those where some people make more.
  8. Most couples report a high degree of happiness in their first years of marriage, a steep decline between the third and fifth years, then a slight rebound between the sixth and eighth years. After low points before the second decade and 25th anniversary, there's a happy ending: after 40 years couples report being as happy as the newlyweds.
  9. While pessimists regard bad events as internal ("it's all my fault"), stable ("it'll last forever") and global ("it'll affect all I do"), optimists explain them as outside their control ("it's the job market"), unstable ("things will get better") and limited ("everything else is great").
  10. Robert Frost believed "happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length." But research indicates that frequency is better than intensity. Psychologist Ed Diener says that many people who feel infrequent but intense joy often suffer through heavy downers. Happiness, like everything, is best in moderation.
  11. Research on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) confirms the depressing effect that short, dark or cloudy days have on people. But a researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Germany found that the happiest people don't pay attention to the weather.

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Happiness Quotes and Proverbs


Democritus, (460?-370? BC)

Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold, the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul.

To live happily is an inward power of the soul.

Sharon Salzberg
It doesn't matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn't matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years - we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.

John Templeton
Happiness comes from spiritual wealth, not material wealth... Happiness comes from giving, not getting. If we try hard to bring happiness to others, we cannot stop it from coming to us also. To get joy, we must give it, and to keep joy, we must scatter it. .

Ursula K. LeGuin
I certainly wasn't happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can't earn, and can't keep, and often don't even recognize at the time; I mean joy.

Mary Baker Eddy
Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.

Take care of yourself. Good health is everyone's major source of wealth. Without it, happiness is almost impossible.

Martha Washington
The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go.

Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have.

Lord Byron
All who would win joy, must share it; happiness was born a twin.

Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
The world of those who are happy is different from the world of those who are not.

Alice Meynell
Happiness is not a matter of events; it depends upon the tides of the mind.

The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour.

Diogenes Laertius, Zeno
One ought to seek out virtue for its own sake, without being influenced by fear or hope, or by any external influence. Moreover, that in that does happiness consist.

Victor Hugo
The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved — loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.

Everything exists in limited quantity - especially happiness.

Victor Hugo
The greatest happiness of life it the conviction that we are loved - loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.

Margaret Lee Runbeck
Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.

John B. Sheerin
Happiness is not in our circumstance but in ourselves. It is not something we see, like a rainbow, or feel, like the heat of a fire. Happiness is something we are.

Anne Frank
Think of all the beauty thats still left in and around you and be happy!

Allan K. Chalmers
The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to
hope for.

Happiness is enhanced by others but does not depend upon others.

Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.

Scottish Proverb
Be happy while you're living, for you're a long time dead.

Robert Anthony
Most people would rather be certain they're miserable, than risk being happy.

Jim Thomson
I can only think of one thing greater than being happy and that is to help another to be happy, too.

...happiness is the highest good, being a realization and perfect practice of virtue, which some can attain, while others have little or none of it...

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost.

Edith Wharton
They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods.

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one's own in the midst of abundance.

Allan K. Chalmers
The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.

Benjamin Disraeli
Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.

Anne Frank
We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.

Aristotle, In Philosophy
Happiness is something final and complete in itself, as being the aim and end of all practical activities whatever .... Happiness then we define as the active exercise of the mind in conformity with perfect goodness or virtue.

Primo Levi
Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable.

Different men seek after happiness in different ways and by different means, and so make for themselves different modes of life and forms of government.

Happiness depends upon ourselves.

St. Augustine
Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.

Albert Camus
You are forgiven for your happiness and your successes only if you generously consent to share them.

Charles Caleb Colton
Happiness, that grand mistress of the ceremonies in the dance of life, impels us through all its mazes and meanderings, but leads none of us by the same route.

Luckier than one's neighbor, but still not happy.

A great obstacle to happiness is to anticipate too great a happiness.

Sigmund Freud
What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree.

Thomas Fuller
No man can be happy without a friend, nor be sure of his friend till he is unhappy.

Samuel Johnson
We are long before we are convinced that happiness is never to be found, and each believes it possessed by others, to keep alive the hope of obtaining it for himself.

Mark Twain
There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one—keep from telling their happiness to the unhappy.

Charles Schulz
Happiness is a warm puppy.
Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
When I meet people from other cultures I know that they too want happiness and do not want suffering, this allows me to see them as brothers and sisters.

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