The Secret to Happiness Is Helping Others

The Secret to Happiness Is Helping Others


Jenny Santi
Aug 04, 2017
There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others.
For it is in giving that we receive — Saint Francis of Assisi
The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity — Leo Tolstoy
We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give — Winston Churchill
Making money is a happiness; making other people happy is a superhappiness — Nobel Peace Prize receipient Muhammad Yunus
Giving back is as good for you as it is for those you are helping, because giving gives you purpose. When you have a purpose-driven life, you’re a happier person — Goldie Hawn
And so we learn early: It is better to give than to receive. The venerable aphorism is drummed into our heads from our first slice of a shared birthday cake. But is there a deeper truth behind the truism?
The resounding answer is yes. Scientific research provides compelling data to support the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. Through fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. Experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain—and it’s pleasurable. Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful.
But it’s important to remember that giving doesn’t always feel great. The opposite could very well be true: Giving can make us feel depleted and taken advantage of. Here are some tips to that will help you give not until it hurts, but until it feels great:
1. Find your passion
Our passion should be the foundation for our giving. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving. It’s only natural that we will care about this and not so much about that, and that’s OK. It should not be simply a matter of choosing the right thing, but also a matter of choosing what is right for us.

2. Give your time
The gift of time is often more valuable to the receiver and more satisfying for the giver than the gift of money. We don’t all have the same amount of money, but we all do have time on our hands, and can give some of this time to help others—whether that means we devote our lifetimes to service, or just give a few hours each day or a few days a year.
3. Give to organizations with transparent aims and results
According to Harvard scientist Michael Norton, “Giving to a cause that specifies what they’re going to do with your money leads to more happiness than giving to an umbrella cause where you’re not so sure where your money is going.”
4. Find ways to integrate your interests and skills with the needs of others
“Selfless giving, in the absence of self-preservation instincts, easily becomes overwhelming,” says Adam Grant, author of Give & Take. It is important to be “otherish,” which he defines as being willing to give more than you receive, but still keeping your own interests in sight.
5. Be proactive, not reactive
We have all felt the dread that comes from being cajoled into giving, such as when friends ask us to donate to their fundraisers. In these cases, we are more likely to give to avoid humiliation rather than out of generosity and concern. This type of giving doesn’t lead to a warm glow feeling; more likely it will lead to resentment. Instead we should set aside time, think about our options, and find the best charity for our values.
6. Don’t be guilt-tripped into giving
I don’t want to discourage people from giving to good causes just because that doesn’t always cheer us up. If we gave only to get something back each time we gave, what a dreadful, opportunistic world this would be! Yet if we are feeling guilt-tripped into giving, chances are we will not be very committed over time to the cause.
The key is to find the approach that fits us. When we do, then the more we give, the more we stand to gain purpose, meaning and happiness—all of the things that we look for in life but are so hard to find.Jenny Santi is a philanthropy advisor and author of The Giving Way to Happiness: Stories & Science Behind the Life-Changing Power of Giving


Can Mindfulness Make you Happier?

Can Mindfulness Make you Happier?


This week’s edition of Psych Wednesdays was written by Sarah Roberts and was originally published on Psych Your Mind on November 14, 2012.

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are hot trends in clinical psychology right now. What’s all the buzz about?

Mindfulness refers to a state of mind characterized by awareness and attention in the present moment, and by an accepting, curious, and non-judgmental attitude. A Buddhist concept now integrated into secular psychology and medicine, mindfulness is being cultivated by everyone from chronic pain patients to stressed out executives, often through courses in mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

The idea behind modern mindfulness training is that we can decrease stress and increase well-being by changing our relationship to our experience. Mindfulness means being present no matter what we’re doing, and being aware and curious about what’s going on inside and around us–without judgement. It means accepting experience, even when we don’t like it, and it means knowing that, often, everything is truly okay—right this minute—and doesn’t need to change. The application of these concepts in everyday life helps limit some of our most ubiquitous mental health scourges, including sleep-walking through our days without really connecting with anyone or anything; the rote pursuit of questionable habits or routines; distracting categorization of every situation or experience as good or bad; and focusing on the past or the future at the expense of the present.

Mindfulness is often cultivated through mindfulness meditation, a practice characterized by compassionate, aware, and non-reactive engagement with immediate experience. This type of mediation usually involves periods of sitting or lying down and paying attention to the breath, physical sensations, sounds in the immediate environment, or other anchors for attention. When distractions arise (e.g., an itch, a distracting thought), we observe and accept them—without any effort to change them—and return our attention to the anchor. This practice of present-moment focus and awareness, openness, and curiosity allows mindfulness practitioners to develop equanimity (i.e., composure, level-headedness, serenity). Over time, the attitude of equanimity emerges in everyday stressful or difficult situations.

Many people who begin practicing mindfulness meditation report improvements in mood, stress level, and overall quality of life. It seems that practicing mindfulness can improve our quality of life and make us feel happier.

How does it work?

Some of the ways that mindfulness can improve quality of life or increase happiness are relatively easy to guess: It’s pleasant to actually feel the steaming water on your back during your morning shower; it’s rewarding to actually listen as your child describes his day, rather than tabbing through your mental to-do list. Further, increased focus on the present moment prevents us from spending all our time in the past, ruminating and regretting, or in the future, inventing hypothetical anxiety-provoking scenarios.

Where acceptance and non-judgment are concerned, acceptance may decrease stress by helping us let go of control and accept the facts. So, for example, when the doctor confirms that we’ve sustained a sports injury, we accept that our body needs rest and rehabilitation, rather than injuring ourselves further through denial and continued activity. Non-judgment may make us happier by cutting out secondary emotions (e.g., getting angry because we’re anxious; feeling guilty because we’re depressed) and the stories we tell ourselves about certain experiences. So if, for example, you get a less-than-stellar evaluation at work, it’s not necessarily “awful” and doesn’t mean that you’ll probably be fired soon; it simply means exactly what happened: you got a less-than-stellar evaluation this time around. Seeing unpleasant or difficult situations for exactly what they are—without getting wrapped up in our stories about the situations—allows us to use them as opportunities for growth.

Researchers who study mindfulness are interested in identifying the precise processes through which mindfulness improves mental health and increases happiness, and several researchers have explored the role of the self-discrepancy gap. Self-discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987)states that we all compare ourselves to internalized standards called “self-guides.” Each of us has several self-guides; the ones that are relevant here are the actual self (our view of our current self and current attributes), and the ideal self (our image of the person we wish to be, the attributes we wish to possess, and our hopes and aspirations for ourselves). These two conceptualizations of the self can be contradictory, and the contradiction can create sadness and discouragement.

In self-discrepancy theory, the self-discrepancy gap refers to the distance between our actual self and our ideal self; the model suggests that we are all motivated to reduce the gap so that our self-guides will match up, alleviating psychological discomfort. Where mindfulness is concerned, the hypothesis is that closing the self-discrepancy gap makes us happy, and that mindfulness meditation helps close the gap.

This hypothesis enjoys some research support: Crane and colleagues (2008) investigated the impact on the self-discrepancy gap of an 8-week mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression relapse prevention. They found that the participants who received the mindfulness intervention demonstrated smaller discrepancies between their current and ideal selves than did the control group. That is, after mindfulness training, participants’ self-discrepancy gap decreased. Itzvan and colleagues (2011) measured the discrepancy between current self and ideal self in participants before and after a weekend meditation workshop, and also found that the self-discrepancy gap decreased significantly following the intervention.

It seems that mindfulness may indeed decrease the self-discrepancy gap—but how? There are a few possible mechanisms:

a) Part of the psychological distress generated by the self-discrepancy gap is created by negative judgment of our current self. The self-compassion and acceptance inherent to mindfulness may allow practitioners to assess their current self more positively. That is, we evaluate our current self as closer to our ideal self, which narrows the gap and makes us happier.

b) Another part of the psychological distress generated by the self-discrepancy gap is created by striving to meet unrealistic standards for the ideal self. The awareness and non-judgment characteristic of mindfulness may help practitioners conclude that they don’t need, for example, to fit into size two jeans or be a perfect parent in order to be acceptable. That is, we decrease the gap by adjusting unrealistic standards for our ideal self; this adjustment narrows the gap and makes us happier.

Finally, part of the psychological distress generated by the self-discrepancy gap is created by excessive focus on the gap. Mindfulness meditation is designed to cultivate present-moment attention and awareness; being in the present moment deflects our attention from possible self-discrepancies, reducing the amount of time we spend unhappily comparing our current self with our ideal self. That is, rather than becoming happier by decreasing the self-discrepancy gap, we may become happier by focusing our attention elsewhere.

Anecdotally, clinically, and empirically, there is ample evidence that mindfulness improves well-being and can increase happiness. Multiple (non-mutually exclusive) mechanisms have been proposed: greater appreciation of life via increased present-moment awareness; greater productivity as a result of improved attention; the joy and ease generated by acceptance and non-judgment; and a decrease in the self-discrepancy gap.

One of the reasons for the mindfulness buzz is that mindfulness is accessible: anyone can learn about it and anyone can practice it. Interested readers can read Wherever You Go, There You Are by renowned mindfulness teacher Jon-Kabat Zinn.


Crane, C., Barnhofer, T., Duggan, D. S., Hepburn, S., Fennell, M. V., & Williams, J. M. G. (2008). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Self-Discrepancy in Recovered Depressed Patients with a History of Depression and Suicidality, Cognitive Therapy Research, 32, 775–787.

Ivtzan, I., Gardner, H. E., & Smailova, Z., (2011). Mindfulness meditation and curiosity: The contributing factors to wellbeing and the process of closing the self-discrepancy gap. International Journal of Wellbeing,1(3), 316-326.

Higgins, E. (1987). Self-discrepancy: A theory relating self and affect.Psychological Review, 94 (3), 319-340 DOI: 10.1037//0033-295X.94.3.319


New Research Shows That Mindfulness Is the Secret to Happiness

New Research Shows That Mindfulness Is the Secret to Happiness


New research is shedding light on the pursuit of happiness—and most of us have been looking in all the wrong places. It turns out, happiness is not found in external things at all, but is a power we hold within ourselves.
Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth created an app in attempts to answer the question “what makes us happy?” once and for all, and the results have been an eye-opener. According to Mr. Killingworth’s data, we’re happiest when we are mindful of the moment, and we’re least happy when the mind is wandering.
This study took a large sampling of 15,000 individuals. The sampling was diverse—it included people across the socio-economic stratosphere, of varying levels of education, age, occupation, incomes, marital status and across 80 countries.
The premise was simple: throughout the day, at random times, participants were contacted through their phones and asked to rate their current happiness level, what activity they were involved in when the call came, and whether or not their mind was wandering from the activity.
As it turned out, what made people happy had far less to do with what they were doing and significantly more to do with whether their attention was fully present in the moment.
People who focused on their present moment experience (in other words, people who were being ‘mindful’) were significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the moment.
You might assume that people who let their minds wander to happy thoughts would have been happy right?—and it is true that people whose minds wandered to happy thoughts were slightly better off than those whose minds wandered to worries or regrets. But people letting their minds wander to pleasant things were still not as happy as people who kept their minds in the moment.
Even if the activity at hand was deemed unpleasant, people were still happier when they engaged their attention fully in the now.
There is plenty of previous research that supports Killingsworth’s findings. We know for instance, that money doesn’t make us happy. Studies have shown that as long as basic needs, such as food and shelter are met, additional wealth and material goods have little bearing on happiness (1).
Dr. Mihaly Chentmihalyi, leading authority on positive psychology, studied happiness extensively in the 1960’s and came up with the same results as Killingsworth. He spoke of the peak state of human beings being a state he called ‘flow’.
According to Killingsworth, the average persons mind is wandering around 47% of our day—and when the mind wanders we don’t feel happy. Spending so much time with the mind wandering makes us vulnerable to depression, stress, anxiety and other negative emotions.
As many people continue to seek external gratification as a source of happiness, their wandering minds are overlooked as the source of their discontent.
This great study by Killingsworth supports the growing body of research on the powerful effects of mindfulness. The data shows us what wisdom traditions have long taught – that the keys to happiness – to true well-being and fulfilment – depend not on the external circumstances of our lives, but on the state of our minds and the quality of our consciousness.
Want to know how to enter ‘flow'(aka mindfulness) anytime in 4 simple steps? Check this blog post on exactly that!
Would you like to be part of Matt’s research and find out first hand what really makes you happy? Join ‘Track my Happiness’ here
Do you have comments, questions or tips on this juicy topic? Jot them in the comments section below.
Love, Melli


4 Ways Mindfulness Can Enhance Your Happiness

4 Ways Mindfulness Can Enhance Your Happiness


By Dr. Elise Bialylew

“It is the mind that translates good and bad circumstances into happiness or misery. So happiness comes with the purging of mental toxins, such as hatred, compulsive desire, arrogance and jealousy, which literally poison the mind. It also requires that one cease to distort reality and that one cultivate wisdom.” Matthieu Ricard
Mindfulness is an effective mental technique, originating from the 2,500-year-old Buddhist contemplative practices and adapted to suit non-religious contexts, including board rooms, corporations, hospitals, schools and sports teams.

It is a practice that supports the capacity to stay focussed on what you are doing as you are doing it, a powerful antidote to the distractible nature of the mind and the information overload in our digital world. When practiced regularly, it can bring more calm and effectiveness into everyday life, reducing stress and enhancing mental capacity.

Here are four ways mindfulness can make you happier:

1. It can help you get out of negative thought loops

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” — William James
So often what gets in the way of our happiness is the tendency of the mind to fall into unhelpful loops of negative thinking. This can propel us into a downward spiral and affect our lives in many unhelpful ways. Mindfulness meditation is a form of rigorous training of the mind which helps us to become more familiar with the nature of the mind and more skillful in noticing when our minds are getting caught up in these unhelpful patterns of thought. When we learn to observe this, we can actually choose to disengage and move our attention in ways that support us rather than pull us down. Whether it’s loops of worry, planning into the future, replaying events from the past, or caught up in self-judgment — when we develop the skill of mindfulness and bring this quality of awareness to the working of our own mind, we open up a whole new possibility toward greater happiness. We begin to have the power to be the master rather than the slave of our mind.

Next time you catch yourself in a negative thought loop, see it for what it is, the mind caught up in a wheel of thinking, and realize that at any moment you can simply disengage from that pattern of thinking and move your attention to something else. Try redirecting your attention to the body by engaging in some kind of physical activity. This may short circuit negative thinking and ground you back to the here and now.

2. It can make you feel more connected to others

The greatest gift you can give someone is your attention.” — Jim Rohn
We are social animals that have evolved to be in relationship. From a very young age the healthy development of our own brain requires interactions. Loneliness has now been suggested to be a risk factor for diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s. In order to flourish we need to feel connected to others. Mindfulness can deepen and enrich our relationships as we bring a quality of present moment attention to the people around us.

3. It can connect you to a sense of inner contentment

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you — Lao Tzu
Many of us can get caught up in the hedonic treadmill, constantly needing stimulus from the outside world to give us a hit of happiness and pleasure. Whether it is money, relationships, approval, or success, this kind of happiness is dependent on external factors which are transient and over which we have no control.There is another form of wellbeing and happiness, eudaimonic happiness, first explored by Aristotle. This type of happiness and flourishing is not dependent on external circumstances but rather emerges from an inner sense of wellbeing and a living in alignment with ones values. Mindfulness is a practice which can help us cultivate a sense of inner wellbeing which allows us to feel content and well without needing to obtain anything from the outside world. It’s a rare feeling in this age of consumerism but it is available to all of us at any moment.

4. It can enhance your gratitude.

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance — Eckhart Tolle
The practice of mindfulness helps us to slow down even if just for a few moments and reconnect with what is happening from moment to moment. This slowing down enables us to notice more of what is present both in our environment and within ourselves. As we notice more of what is happening around us and within us, wonder and gratitude can spontaneously emerge. Whether it’s being more present to the tastes of a home-cooked meal, or connecting with something as simple and miraculous as the breath — mindfulness can infuse our lives with gratitude and enhance our appreciation of the ordinary things which can so often pass by unnoticed.

Learn the skills of mindfulness by registering online for Mindful in May the 31-day global mindfulness challenge. You’ll receive a one month mindfulness meditation training program including weekly audio meditations and video interviews with global leaders in the field of mindfulness, neuroscience and wellbeing. Register before April 30 to join thousands of people from around the world whilst raising money to bring clean, safe drinking water to the developing world. Try out a sample meditation to get a taste of Mindful in May.

Follow Dr. Elise Bialylew on Twitter:


The Psychology of Happiness

The Psychology of Happiness


What makes you happy?
This question is not as easy as it might seem.
According to Shawn Achor in the Happiness Advantage, most Americans find free time harder to enjoy than work. Yes, you read that right. It’s easier for most of us to be successful than to be happy.
Why do we have a hard time enjoying free time?
Guilt. Fear. Pressure. In today’s age of achievement, we put a tremendous emphasis on success and very little importance on happiness.
We are trained to be effective and successful, but we are not given skills to be happy. click to tweet
And this is a huge problem. Shawn Achor calls this the happiness myth:
The Happiness Myth:
If we work hard and become successful, we will be happy.
From a young age, most of us are taught that if we work hard, then we will be successful; and once we are successful, we will be happy. I am completely guilty of this myth. I used to live by what I call the ‘when-then’ mindset.
When I get an ‘A’, then I’ll be happy.
When I get this house, then I’ll be happy.
When I finish this program, then I’ll be happy.

We have this mindset all wrong. In fact, our ideas about happiness are completely backwards! More than 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people found that people who start off happy are more likely to succeed; people who start off unhappy are more likely to fail. Here is the happiness truth:
The Happiness Truth:
If we are happy, we are more successful
Happiness helps our productivity, our immune system, our creativity, our income and our effectiveness.
Happiness gives us a huge competitive advantage–and it has great side-effects.
One study followed college freshmen for 19 years after graduation. The researchers found that those students who were happier in college had a higher income than their unhappy classmates 19 years later.
I chose the Happiness Advantage for our March Science of People Club and I couldn’t be happier = ) because the tips and science in this book are phenomenal.
Here is what you need to know about happiness right now:
1. Happiness Baseline
Research has found that all of us have a kind of happiness baseline–that we have a typical amount of happiness during our lives. However, with the right effort we can INCREASE our happiness baseline:
“It’s more than a little comforting to know that people can become happier, that pessimists can become optimists, and that stressed and negative brains can be trained to see more possibility.” – Shawn Achor
No matter who you are, what your experiences are or how you think, you can learn how to be happy–and it is absolutely a learned skillset.
Change Your Mindset: Happiness doesn’t just happen to you. Happiness is a lifestyle.
2. Your Mental Fulcrum
How can you change your mindset? How can you learn to be happier? Achor calls this the Fulcrum and the Lever principle.
You change your performance by changing your mindset.
Greek mathematician Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
Your mindset is the fulcrum and the length of the lever is your potential power. If you move your mindset to be more positive, the lever of possibility lengthens, which leads, as empirical studies have shown conclusively, to eventual success.
3. Happiness Habits
“Each activity listed below not only gives us a quick boost of positive emotions, improving our performance and focus in the moment; but if performed habitually over time, each has been shown to help permanently raise our happiness baseline.” -Shawn Achor
Write a thank you email to an employee or friend.
When you meditate, even just five minutes a day, it rewires your brain to “raise our levels of happiness, lower stress, and improve immune function.”
Set up something to look forward to–it can be as small as a chocolate after lunch or seeing a friend this weekend. Knowing you have this coming up releases dopamine in your brain as if you are actually doing it. In other words, you benefit from the reward before actually getting the reward.
Commit conscious acts of kindness by doing one nice thing for someone every day. Buy coffee for the person behind you in the drive through or help someone else bag their groceries at checkout.
Make your environment inspiring. How can you infuse positivity into your surroundings? A beautiful pen? A nice walk mid-day? A better ringtone? Make an effort to surround yourself with things that make you smile.
Exercise whenever you can–I know we have heard this one before. But even small walks a few times a week results in significant improvements in mental health.
Spend on experiences. Research shows that spending money on experiences and activities rather than on material purchases makes us happier in the moment and over time. Look at your credit card statement over the past month- what did you spend more on?
See #9 below, which is the most important happiness habit.

4. Find Your Thing
My favorite part of the book was actually a rather small section called “Signature Strengths.” Researchers told people to focus on a signature strength and focus on exercising it every day. This is more than just “pursuing your passion.” It’s the daily practice of utilizing your natural born strengths. This can be anything from organizing to cracking jokes to making small talk.
Happiness Quiz:
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, most of us have no idea what makes us happy. Here in our lab, we find this fact amazing and we want to do some research on it.
Will you help us?

5. The Tetris Effect
The Tetris Effect found that our brains love to find patterns. In one study, participants who had to play tetris for 3 hours a day began to dream in tetris patterns and see tetris shapes in their mind all day long. We do this pattern finding with many things in our life. For example, IRS employees are trained to look for mistakes 8 hours a day on forms. When they leave work, they can’t help but keep looking for mistakes and errors. You need to train your brain to recognize positive patterns. Here’s how:
Whenever you have a positive experience put a star next to the event or time in your calendar.
Journal about positive experiences at the end of every day.
Talk about the highlight of your day over dinner.
Think of three positive things in your life before you check your email.
In this way, you can retrain your brain to spot patterns of positivity rather than patterns of failure.
6. Falling Up
I learned a new phrase in this chapter:
Post-Traumatic Growth
When you learn from failure and train yourself to capture growth after an apparent failure.
Michael Jordan was cut from his High School Basketball team. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for not being creative enough. The Beatles were turned away by a record executive who said that guitar groups were on their way out. They didn’t let failure stop them. Why should you?
Don’t bounce back, bounce forward. click to tweet
“Things do not necessarily happen for the best, but some people are able to make the best out of the things that happen.” –Tal Ben-Shahar
Study after study shows that if we are able to conceive of a failure as an opportunity for growth, we are all the more likely to experience that growth.
Don’t define yourself by what happens to you, define yourself by what you make out of what happens to you.

7. The Zorro Circle
In the classic movie Zorro, the main character has to master everything in a small circle during his training. As he gets better, his circle gets bigger and bigger. Achor argues that in the face of overwhelming odds, we can regain control by beginning with small manageable goals. In other words, we should find small circles of control in our life and focus on making those small areas as good as they can be. Control brings us happiness and fixing small problems helps us fix bigger ones.
As humans, we crave the feeling that we are in control because it helps us see ourselves as masters of our own fate. Whether this is in social or professional spaces, it is one of the strongest drivers of both happiness and performance.
Interestingly, happiness has less to do with how much control we actually have and more with how much control we think we have. Hence the importance of small circles of control that we pick and work on purposefully.
8. The 20-Second Rule
Happiness has barriers. The 20-second rule is all about how to minimize the blockers of happiness by turning bad habits into good ones. It’s about lowering activation energy for good habits and making it really hard for yourself to engage in bad ones. Right now think of the things that cause you moments of frustration or minimize your productivity. These can be both big and small:

Now think of ways that you could prevent these blockers from coming up and put the better habit in a path of least resistance. For example, I want to improve my mile time. Snacking is a huge barrier to me and I mindlessly eat. I got rid of all the snacks in my kitchen that do not require assembly. I only kept the healthy ones (carrots, grapes) that are grab-able. I also realized I would get anxious whenever I saw a push notification from my email so I turned it off and put it in a folder in my phone so it is harder to open mindlessly. But, I moved my meditation app to the home screen. I also leave my workout clothes out next to my desk so I can change easily.
9. Make Social Investments
This chapter made me the most excited. This is the principle that stumped me for the longest time and when I finally figured it out, it completely changed my life:

Our happiness is directly connected to the strength of our social connections and support network.

Achor says that investing in social relationships is the most important of all the happiness principles. click to tweet
We typically think about investing in our stock portfolio or our savings account, I want you to think about investing in your social capital or your friend account. Strong relationships help our immune function, our happiness and our work success.

I thought that the chapter was a little skimpy on how to do this because social intelligence is not an easy thing to grasp. My favorite tip on building your social IQ is to embrace the idea of:

Abandon boring social scripts. Chatter, meaningless conversations and small talk breed shallow, unfulfilling relationships. If you really want to connect with someone try asking them real questions and giving them unscripted, uncanned answers.

10. The Ripple Effect
The tips in the Happiness Advantage don’t just benefit you, they benefit everyone in your life. Our emotions are contagious. When we have a more positive mindset, increase our happiness and invest in our joy, it runs off on others.
Increase your happiness and bring more joy to the world.

Did you like this book? Then you’ll LOVE Captivate!

Book Description:captivate, captivate book, vanessa van edwards

Do you wish you could decode people? Do you want a formula for charisma? Do you want to know exactly what to say to your boss, your date or your networking partner? You need to know how people work.
As a human behavior investigator, Vanessa Van Edwards studies the hidden forces that drive our behavior patterns in her lab—and she’s cracked the code. In Captivate she shares a wealth of valuable shortcuts, systems and behavior hacks for taking charge of their interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school. This is the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on human behavior and a completely new approach to building connections.


Mindfulness Meditation May Ease Anxiety, Mental Stress

Mindfulness Meditation May Ease Anxiety, Mental Stress


POSTED JANUARY 08, 2014, 1:05 PM , UPDATED DECEMBER 14, 2016, 2:58 PM
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
mindful meditation using a zen rock garden
My mom began meditating decades ago, long before the mind-calming practice had entered the wider public consciousness. Today, at age 81, she still goes to a weekly meditation group and quotes Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk known for his practice of mindful meditation, or “present-focused awareness.”

Although meditation still isn’t exactly mainstream, many people practice it, hoping to stave off stress and stress-related health problems. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, has become more popular in recent years. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. (Or, as my mom would say, “Don’t rehearse tragedies. Don’t borrow trouble.”)

But, as is true for a number of other alternative therapies, much of the evidence to support meditation’s effectiveness in promoting mental or physical health isn’t quite up to snuff. Why? First, many studies don’t include a good control treatment to compare with mindful meditation. Second, the people most likely to volunteer for a meditation study are often already sold on meditation’s benefits and so are more likely to report positive effects.

But when researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies, they found 47 trials that addressed those issues and met their criteria for well-designed studies. Their findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.

Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”

“If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Hoge, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” says Dr. Hoge.

One of her recent studies (which was included in the JAMA Internal Medicine review) found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability. People in the control group—who also improved, but not as much as those in the meditation group—were taught general stress management techniques. All the participants received similar amounts of time, attention, and group interaction.

To get a sense of mindfulness meditation, you can try one of the guided recordings by Dr. Ronald Siegel, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. They are available for free at

Some people find that learning mindfulness techniques and practicing them with a group is especially helpful, says Dr. Hoge. Mindfulness-based stress reduction training, developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA, is now widely available in cities throughout the United States.

My mom would point you to Thich Nhat Hahn, who offers this short mindful meditation in his book Being Peace: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”


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