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Positive Psychology and the Science of Happiness

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  1. "Reported well-being of one's identical twin, either now or 10 years earlier, is a far better predictor of one's self rated happiness than one's own educational achievement, income, or status. This held not only for identical twins raised together but for those brought up apart, while for fraternal twins raised in the same household, the likelihood that one's sense of well-being matched one's twin was, stratistically speaking, not much greater than chance." NYRB 4/3/2208
  2. "... a year or so after an accident, people with paralyzing spinal cord injuries tend to be, on average, no more or less happy than anyone else." (ibid)
  3. David Llykken and his collaborator Auke Tellegen, ... found that over time the nonnegotiable biological aspects of temperament increased to the point where "it may be that trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller and therefore is counterproductive." (ibid)
  4. '"I made a dumb statement in the original article," he tells TIME. "It's clear that we can change our happiness levels widely—up or down." Lykken's revisionist thinking coincides with the view of the positive-psychology movement, which has put a premium on research showing you can raise your level of happiness. For Seligman and like-minded researchers, that involves working on the three components of happiness—getting more pleasure out of life (which can be done by savoring sensory experiences, although, he warns, "you're never going to make a curmudgeon into a giggly person"), becoming more engaged in what you do and finding ways of making your life feel more meaningful.' Time: The New Science of Happiness
  5. "The researchers also know from their surveys that the happiest of happy Americans are Republicans, social butterflies, and bigots." NYRB 4/3/2008
  6. "Careful studies of how women feel as they go about their daily activities show that they are less happy when taking care of children than when eating, exercising, shopping, napping or watching television." (ibid)
  7. "People often bristle at the suggestion that human behavior is merely an attempt to attain happiness. They offer two objections. First (they say), people care about many things other than happiness — for example, truth, justice, and the American way — and thus there is more to life than happiness. Second (they add), there are different kinds of happiness — for example, the deep, moral happiness I feel when I save starving orphans isn't the cheap, bovine happiness I feel when I save money. Both objections are wrong." Daniel Gilbert
  8. "We are often quite poor at predicting what will make us happy in the future for two reasons. First, we have been given a lot of disinformation about happiness by two sources: Genes and culture. Both genes and cultures are self-perpetuating entities that need us to do things for them so that they can survive. Because we are interested in our own happiness and not theirs, both entities fool us into believing that's what is good for them is also good for us. We believe that having children will make us happy, that consuming goods and services will make us happy. But the data show that money has minor and rapidly diminishing effects on happiness, and that parents are generally happier watching TV or doing housework than interacting with their children." (ibid)
  9. "You may think that it would be good to feel happy at all times, but we have a word for animals that never feel distress, anxiety, fear, and pain: That word is dinner. Negative emotions have important roles to play in our lives because when people think about how terribly wrong things might go and find themselves feeling angry or afraid, they take actions to make sure that things go terribly right instead. Just as we manipulate our children and our employees by threatening them with dire consequences, so too do we manipulate ourselves by imagining dire consequences. ... Anxiety and fear are what keep us from touching hot stoves, committing adultery, and sending our children to play on the freeway. If someone offered you a pill that would make you permanently happy, you would be well advised to run fast and run far. " (ibid)
  10. "We're all told that variety is the spice of life. But variety is not just over-rated, it may actually have a cost. Research shows that people do tend to seek more variety than they should. We all think we should try a different doughnut every time we go to the shop, but the fact is that people are measurably happier when they have their favorite on every visit — provided the visits are sufficiently separated in time." (ibid)
  11. "The five most positive activities for these women were (in descending order) sex, socializing, relaxing, praying or meditating, and eating. Exercising and watching TV were not far behind. But way down the list was "taking care of my children," which ranked below cooking and only slightly above housework." Time: The New Science of Happiness
  12. "Lykken ... came to the conclusion that about 50% of one's satisfaction with life comes from genetic programming. (Genes influence such traits as having a sunny, easygoing personality; dealing well with stress; and feeling low levels of anxiety and depression.) Lykken found that circumstantial factors like income, marital status, religion and education contribute only about 8% to one's overall well-being. He attributes the remaining percentage to "life's slings and arrows."" Time: The New Science of Happiness
  13. "Edward Diener has found two life events that seem to knock people lastingly below their happiness set point: loss of a spouse and loss of a job. It takes five to eight years for a widow to regain her previous sense of well-being. Similarly, the effects of a job loss linger long after the individual has returned to the work force. Time: The New Science of Happiness
  14. "As a professor, I don't like this," Seligman says, "but the cerebral virtues—curiosity, love of learning—are less strongly tied to happiness than interpersonal virtues like kindness, gratitude and capacity for love." (ibid)

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