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Does Wisdom Bring Happiness (or Vice Versa)?:Robert Wright

Does Wisdom Bring Happiness (or Vice Versa)?:Robert Wright | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

"The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts," said Marcus Aurelius. If he's right, the path to well-being is straightforward: Avoid low-quality thoughts!

 

Sadly, it's far from clear that he's right. Decades of research into the relationship between reasoning ability and well-being have failed to find a clear link. But now comes a ray of hope for high-quality thinkers--a study suggesting that Marcus Aurelius is right so long as you define "quality of thought" carefully. And the study comes with a good pedigree--it will be published in the prestigious Journal of Experimental Psychology and features the eminent psychologist Richard Nisbett among its co-authors.

 

What's correlated with well-being, say Nisbett, Igor Grossman, and three other authors, isn't reasoning ability in the abstract but rather "wise reasoning"--reasoning that is "pragmatic," helping us "navigate important challenges in social life."

 

So, for starters, how did the researchers measure wise reasoning? Subjects in this study read a series of accounts of social conflicts and Dear-Abby-like dilemmas and then, in oral interviews, were invited to discuss how the stories might unfold in the future. Their responses were rated along such dimensions as "considering the perspectives of people involved in the conflict," "recognizing uncertainty and the limits of knowledge," and "recognizing the importance of ... compromise between opposing viewpoints." These ratings were the basis for a "wise reasoning" score.

 

For each of the subjects a second score was calculated that was intended to measure well-being. Its components included reported satisfaction with their lives and with their social relationships and a tendency toward positive expression.

 

It turned out that the two scores were correlated: the wiser people were, the higher their well-being.

 

Three interesting wrinkles:

[1] The older you get, the stronger the correlation. Wise young adults didn't exhibit much higher well-being than unwise young adults, but wise senior citizens had considerably higher well-being than their unwise peers. (Compare the slopes of the lines in the graph above.) So if you're young, cultivating wisdom is mainly a long-term investment. (That's probably a weak sales pitch for wisdom, since young people aren't known for thinking long term. I'm tempted to say they lack the wisdom to seek wisdom, but that would mean departing from this study's definition of wisdom, so never mind.)

 

[2] A second age-related issue: Well-being increases with age, and so does wise reasoning. Is it possible that getting older increases well-being and wisdom independently--that the wisdom itself has no effect on well-being? After all, gray hair increases with age and so does joint stiffness, but gray hair doesn't cause joint stiffness.

Through a statistical technique that I don't claim to grasp, the authors conclude that the answer is mixed. Part of the increase in well-being associated with age is caused by growing wisdom, but part of the increase happens for some other reason. That is, wisdom, is a "partially mediating" variable between age and well-being.

 

[3] Another causality question: Leaving aside the age issue, how should we interpret the general correlation between wise reasoning and well-being? Assuming a causal link between these two variables, does the wisdom lead to the well-being or does the well-being lead to the wisdom?

 

The latter is certainly plausible. When I'm in a good mood, it's easier to consider the perspectives of other people, and easier to focus on compromise--two components of wisdom as defined here. And presumably if I were in a good mood more often--if I had an enduringly high sense of well-being--my ability to thus exercise wisdom would remain pretty high.

 

The authors consider this question and offer grounds for doubting that it's the well-being that causes the wisdom, but they concede that the issue isn't completely settled.

 

I'm guessing the answer is a little of both: Wisdom leads to well-being, and well-being paves the way for wisdom--and, in particular, for wise action, not just a capacity for wise reasoning.

 

If that's true, then you can imagine getting swept up in a virtuous circle: Acting wisely reduces conflict in your life and strengthens your social relationships, and this fosters a sense of well-being that makes it easier to act wisely, and so on. But there's also the vicious circle scenario--a downward spiral featuring growing unhappiness, commensurately unwise action, deeper unhappiness, and so on.

 

The virtuous circle scenario is certainly more appealing. And it sounds like it wouldn't be that hard. But I'm old enough to know better.

 

 

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Scientists can now block heroin, morphine addiction: Science News

Scientists can now block heroin, morphine addiction: Science News | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
In a major breakthrough, an international team of scientists has proven that addiction to morphine and heroin can be blocked, while at the same time increasing pain relief.

 

The team from the University of Adelaide and University of Colorado has discovered the key mechanism in the body's immune system that amplifies addiction to opioid drugs.


Laboratory studies have shown that the drug (+)-naloxone (pronounced: PLUS nal-OX-own) will selectively block the immune-addiction response.


The results -- which could eventually lead to new co-formulated drugs that assist patients with severe pain, as well as helping heroin users to kick the habit -- will be published August 16 in the Journal of Neuroscience.


"Our studies have shown conclusively that we can block addiction via the immune system of the brain, without targeting the brain's wiring," says the lead author of the study, Dr Mark Hutchinson, ARC Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide's School of Medical Sciences.

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The psychology of spending: Patrick Commins

The psychology of spending: Patrick Commins | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Think you need that new iPad? Reckon you like more expensive wine? The range of marketing strategies you face can have a profound influence on your purchasing decisions.

 

Slouching your way to work through the grey city streets, you spy one of the many urban oases more commonly known as a cafe. As you step up to the counter you notice something a bit different: in addition to the normal two size options there is a third, bigger one. And it's brought with it a new hierarchy: the coffee formerly known as "regular" is now "small"; "large" is now "regular"; while the biggest cup assumes the title of "large".

 

Previously, a large coffee seemed extravagant, but the presence of the new outsized option makes it seem less so. And then there's the name, "regular". Before you know it, you've coughed up the extra money for more coffee than you knew you wanted.


Yes, you've been upsized.

 

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/money/planning/the-psychology-of-spending-20120818-24fet.html#ixzz247GpYKXo

 

 

 

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Building Character Strengths – The Road to Wellbeing? | Meena Kumar

Building Character Strengths – The Road to Wellbeing? | Meena Kumar | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

When we describe a friend or acquaintance, we often assess their personality disposition, describing him or her as introverted, easygoing, or friendly. These personality traits are usually stable over time and result in specific behaviors in an individual. Character strengths are the positive traits that underlie good behavior and are displayed through one’s emotions, cognitions, and behavior. As opposed to the personality trait of extroversion that describes an individual who is social, outgoing, and assertive, the character strength of leadership describes an individual who effectively organizes activities and makes sure that tasks are completed. Furthermore, character strengths, unlike personality traits, only include positive behavior traits of the individual. For example, an extroverted person may be aggressive or critical of others while an individual possessing the leadership strength is appropriately assertive and encouraging of others despite their setbacks.

 

The 24 character strengths are divided into temperance strengths, defined as the ability to control one’s behavior and attain goals (e.g. prudence, perseverance), intellectual or cognitive strengths that are related to an interest and enthusiasm for learning (e.g. curiosity, open-mindedness), transcendence strengths that are future and other-oriented (e.g. hope, love), and other-directed strengths which primarily foster good relationships within a community (e.g. kindness, teamwork).

 

Character strengths are found to be related to subjective well-being, which includes positive emotions and life satisfaction, which is how you perceive your life is going. In a cross-sectional study, hope, zest, love, and gratitude as one of the top five character strengths in Caucasian adults was associated with life satisfaction across analyses. With hope, adults can happily perceive a good future; with gratitude, a good past; with love, enjoyable reciprocal relationships; and with zest and curiosity, an enjoyable present. Adults with modesty and intellectual strengths (appreciation of beauty, creativity, judgment, and love of learning) as one of their top five character strengths were consistently associated with lower life satisfaction. While a passion and interest for learning is important for school and occupational success, it may not hold the key to life satisfaction in general.

 

Aristotle believed that virtues can be taught and developed through practice. The next step is to find ways to teach character strengths and learn how to build on them in everyday life. You need not be a super hero to possess strengths. For example, for the “three good things” exercise, instructions are to write three positive events that happened during the day before bed and then how these events occurred. This can foster gratitude. If you write down that you devoured a delicious cake because your sister baked it for your birthday, then you will begin to feel grateful for her. While reducing psychopathology is important, simply the removal of anxiety or depression may not instill happiness or well-being. Focusing on character strengths as an adjunct to other interventions may aid in our goals of attaining the good life.

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;The Science of Honesty: Lying Less Improves Health and Relationships STEVEN HANDEL

;The Science of Honesty: Lying Less Improves Health and Relationships STEVEN HANDEL | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Lying less may be associated with significant benefits to both our physical and mental health, according to a recent study presented at the American Psychological Association's 120th Annual Conference.

 

During the conference, researchers from the University of Notre Dame presented an “honesty experiment” which measured whether or not telling lies could have adverse effects on our health. The study lasted 10 weeks and included 110 participants. Half of the group was instructed to avoid telling any major or white lies throughout the 10 week time frame. The other half of the group received no special instructions.

 

Each participant came in every week to complete health and relationship measurements, as well as use a polygraph to assess how many lies were told throughout the week.

It was discovered in both groups that individuals who reported less lying showed fewer mental health complaints (such as anxiety or sadness) and also fewer physical health complaints (such as sore throats or headaches).

 

This effect was particularly strong in the “no lie” group, who were overall more truthful than the control group.

In addition, researchers found that individuals who were more honest reported improvements in their close personal relationships and that their overall social interactions went more smoothly that week.

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At what annual salary does money stop making us happier? - Barking up the wrong tree

At what annual salary does money stop making us happier? - Barking up the wrong tree | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

Around $75,000 a year.

"...money might bring you some happiness, but beyond that magic point, any additional income isn't going to make you happier," said Scollon. That magic point has, apparently, been deduced as approximately 75,000 USD a year, she added, citing a recent study by two Princeton University researchers who looked at the data of approximately 450,000 Americans. What they found was that as income increased, emotional well-being also went up, but the line flattened out from the $75,000 mark.

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The Positive Power of Negative Thinking

The Positive Power of Negative Thinking | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
What if we’re trying too hard to think positive and might do better to reconsider our relationship to “negative” emotions and situations?
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Forgive - Wellness, Disease Prevention, And Stress Reduction Information

First, it has two distinct meanings: 1) To give up resentment or anger 2) To pardon an offense; to stop seeking punishment or recompense.
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The Fall of Jonah Lehrer : Sam Harris

The Fall of Jonah Lehrer : Sam Harris | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The Moral Landscape.

Note from Jim: I include this article primarily for the link to Sam's essay on Lying that I enjoyed reading. I imagine it may be stimulating for you as well.

Also, you may have noticed a drop in my postings lately. I've been traveling and teaching in Korea, and have found it challenging to maintain my "normal" habits.

Back to Maui in a bout a week! Then I will look for another excuse. ;)
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Would your life be dramatically improved if you were utterly deluded? - Barking up the wrong tree

Would your life be dramatically improved if you were utterly deluded? - Barking up the wrong tree | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

Via Jonathan Haidt's The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom:

 

...evidence shows that people who hold pervasive positive illusions about themselves, their abilities, and their future prospects are mentally healthier, happier and better liked than people who lack such illusions.

 

I've posted before about the multitude of benefits delusion can offer:

People with positive illusions about their relationship are more satisfied, score higher on love and trust and have fewer problems.


Overconfidence increases producitivity and improves teamwork.
"Self-deception has been associated with stress reduction, a positive self-bias, and increased pain tolerance, all of which could enhance motivation and performance during competitive tasks."

 

Only one problem here: you already are deluded. It's pretty much our natural state:

Human beings are overconfidence machines. Paul J. H. Schoemaker and J. Edward Russo gave questionnaires to more than two thousand executives in order to measure how much they knew about their industries. Managers in the advertising industry gave answers that they were ninety-per-cent confident were correct. In fact, their answers were wrong sixty-one per cent of the time. People in the computer industry gave answers they thought had a ninety-five per cent chance of being right; in fact, eighty per cent of them were wrong. Ninety-nine per cent of the respondents overestimated their success.

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Psychologist Carol Ryff on Wellbeing and Aging: The FPR Interview | Neuroanthropology

Psychologist Carol Ryff on Wellbeing and Aging: The FPR Interview | Neuroanthropology | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Karen Frenkel interviews Carolyn Ryff on well-being and aging.

Six components of well-being include:
1. Self-acceptance
2. Positive relationships
3. Purpose in Life
4. Personal growth
5. Autonomy
6. Environmental mastery
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» The Power of Lovingkindness: An Interview with Sharon Salzberg - Mindfulness and Psychotherapy

» The Power of Lovingkindness: An Interview with Sharon Salzberg - Mindfulness and Psychotherapy | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
What does one of the leaders of Lovingkindness in the West have to say about its effects in our daily life?
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A New Superpower -- An 'Earth Voice' Movement

A New Superpower -- An 'Earth Voice' Movement | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
The emergence of social movements such as the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement demonstrates to ordinary citizens that their collective voice can have a powerful impact, particularly when expressed with the maturity and dignity of non-violence.
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Futurity.org – Why we can’t really ‘live in the moment’

Futurity.org – Why we can’t really ‘live in the moment’ | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

Advice telling us to “live in the moment” may ask the impossible, say neuroscientists.

 

The researchers have pinpointed a brain area responsible for using past decisions and outcomes to guide future behavior.
Their study, based on research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and published today in the journal Neuron, is the first of its kind to analyze signals associated with metacognition—a person’s ability to monitor and control cognition—also described by researchers as “thinking about thinking.”


“The brain has to keep track of decisions and the outcomes they produce,” says Marc Sommer, who did his research for the study as a University of Pittsburgh neuroscience faculty member and is now on the faculty at Duke University.


“You need that continuity of thought,” Sommer continues. “We are constantly keeping decisions in mind as we move through life, thinking about other things. We guessed it was analogous to working memory, which would point toward the prefrontal cortex.”

 

“Why aren’t our thoughts independent of each other? Why don’t we just live in the moment? For a healthy person, it’s impossible to live in the moment. It’s a nice thing to say in terms of seizing the day and enjoying life, but our inner lives and experiences are much richer than that, ”Sommer says.

 

So far, patients with mental disorders have not been tested on these tasks, but Sommer is interested to see how SEF and other brain areas might be disrupted in these disorders.


“With schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, there is a fracturing of the thought process. It is constantly disrupted, and despite trying to keep a thought going, one is distracted very easily,” Sommer says. “Patients with these disorders have trouble sustaining a memory of past decisions to guide later behavior, suggesting a problem with metacognition.”

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Mindfulness meditation prevents feelings of loneliness

Many elderly people spend their last years alone. Spouses pass and children scatter. But being lonely is much more than a silent house and a lack of companionship.

 

Over time, loneliness not only takes a toll on the psyche but can have a serious physical impact as well.

 

Feeling lonely has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, depression and even premature death. Developing effective treatments to reduce loneliness in older adults is essential, but previous treatment efforts have had limited success.

 

What to do? Researchers at UCLA now report that a simple

meditation program lasting just eight weeks reduced loneliness in older adults. Further, knowing that loneliness is associated with an increase in the activity of inflammation-related genes that can promote a variety of diseases, the researchers examined gene expression and found that this same form of meditation significantly reduced expression of inflammatory genes.

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The Progress-Focused Approach: Can we keep on making progress into old age?

The Progress-Focused Approach: Can we keep on making progress into old age? | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

Is it conceivable that our entire life may be an upward trajectory until the day we die? While it is undeniably true that some functions will start to decline from a certain age some other functions may get stronger well into old age. For instance, as we age, most of us get better at emotion regulation and we tend to get a more positive and optimistic outlook on life. Also it appears that we become better at pattern recognition and at making better judgments due to our tacit knowledge (more about this). In addition to this, there is another point which seems to allow for a continued progress mindset. Even though some capacities may have become weaker this does not necessarily keep us from making further progress. We still may proceed, perhaps at a slower speed, but still.

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How a Squirt of Oxytocin Could Ease Marital Spats and Boost Social Sensitivity | Healthland | TIME.com

How a Squirt of Oxytocin Could Ease Marital Spats and Boost Social Sensitivity | Healthland | TIME.com | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Want to make those inevitable fights with your partner less troublesome? A spritz of the “love hormone” oxytocin could help, by encouraging cooperation in men and making women behave more approachably, a new study suggests.

 

The hormone may also help people read social cues more accurately, according to a second study in the same journal, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. That suggests oxytocin may not only ease social interaction, but that the hormone could also someday help people with socially impairing conditions like autism interact with others.

 

Oxytocin is a complicated character. It’s commonly called the “cuddle chemical” — the brain chemical is involved in orgasm, social bonding, pregnancy and breast-feeding — but in other circumstances, it has the opposite effect, increasing aggression against outsiders or spurring distrust and rejection rather than affection in some people who have had difficult childhoods.

 

The two new studies illuminate the nuanced effects of the hormone: in the first study, researchers found that oxytocin had opposing, but complementary effects on men and women in romantic relationships, who were given a dose of the drug before discussing a contentious point in their relationship. When both people got oxytocin, their conflict resolution improved.

 

The authors suggest that the variation corresponds to the different ways men and women tend to respond to stress. Men are more likely to go into fight-or-flight mode, which raises arousal and makes them prone to approach, while women typically engage in a tend-or-befriend” strategy with calmer physiology, which makes them more approachable. In its role in facilitating bonding between couples, therefore, oxytocin may tune the stress system to generate the best response from each gender in order to reduce conflict. The authors write that oxytocin “may have driven quiescence in women and…‘approach’ behavior in men.”

 

 

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/08/14/how-a-squirt-of-oxytocin-could-ease-marital-spats-and-boost-social-sensitivity/#ixzz23eFufQzx

 

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Imaging Conflict Resolution | Rebecca Saxe| Edge.org

Imaging Conflict Resolution | Rebecca Saxe| Edge.org | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it


The advantage of neuroscience is being able to look under the hood and see the mechanisms that actually create the thoughts and the behaviors that create and perpetuate conflict. Seems like it ought to be useful. That's the question that I'm asking myself right now, can science in general, or neuroscience in particular, be used to understand what drives conflict, what prevents reconciliation, why some interventions work for some people some of the time, and how to make and evaluate better ones.

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Empathy and Compassion: History & Research [p. 1] | The Center for Collaborative Communication: Communication Training

Empathy and Compassion: History & Research [p. 1] | The Center for Collaborative Communication: Communication Training | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

If you know about compassionate communication, you’re likely familiar with the ways that being mindful of each other, asking questions, and actively searching for ways to implement authentic connections can improve your life. Perhaps you celebrate the differences that using empathy and compassion has made in your experiences… so, what’s the difference between the two?

 

Empathy is a mental identification with the thoughts, feelings, or state of another person; it is the capacity to truly understand another person’s point of view. Compassion is a mental and somatic awareness of the suffering of another — coupled with the wish to relieve it. Empathy is understanding and compassion is a call to action – and both are the subject of increasing study and research. The terms are often seen together, though empathy receives much more research time.

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You Are (Probably) Wrong About You

You Are (Probably) Wrong About You | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
If you want to be more successful — at anything — than you are right now, you need to know yourself and your skills. And when you fall short of your goals, you need to know why. This should be no problem; after all, who knows you better than you do?
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Sometimes expressing anger can help a relationship in the long-term

Sometimes expressing anger can help a relationship in the long-term | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
It is not always best to forgive and forget in marriage, according to new research.
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Is a notebook the key to lasting self-improvement? - Barking up the wrong tree

Lifehacker offers a simple but solid solution to making sure we don't repeat mistakes and are always improving our lives.

 

Keep a notebook and record what has and and hasn't worked for you, over time creating a "Personal Handbook."

 

Study your behavior, keep track of what helps you out, and write it all down in a personal handbook that you can reference in the future.

 

Consider a bad day from the past and the problems that came up. Motivation was probably an issue. Did sleep help? Did you feel better after eating something? Perhaps the solution was more unique than that. If you're unmotivated to work, consider it an opportunity to do something else and take note of the effects. It may do nothing at all, but eventually you'll come across an answer. When you do, make a note in your handbook so next time you feel that way, you can look up possible solutions and give them a try.

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Is underindulgence the key to happiness? - Barking up the wrong tree

Is underindulgence the key to happiness? - Barking up the wrong tree | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

 

Taking in less of the things you love makes you enjoy them more.

Via NYT:

In a recent study conducted by our student Jordi Quoidbach, chocolate lovers ate a piece of this confection — and then pledged to abstain from chocolate for one week. Another group pledged to eat as much chocolate as they comfortably could and were even given a mammoth two-pound bag of chocolate to help them meet this “goal.”

If you love chocolate, you might think that the students who absconded with the chocolaty loot had it made. But they paid a price. When they returned the next week for another chocolate tasting, they enjoyed that chocolate much less than they had the week before. The only people who enjoyed the chocolate as much the second week as they had the first? Those who had given it up in between. Underindulging — temporarily giving up chocolate, even when we have the cash to buy all we want — can renew our enjoyment of the things we love.

And what's an even more powerful happiness-booster than underindulging? Spending money on others:

When we follow up with people who receive cash from us, those whom we told to spend on others report greater happiness than those told to spend on themselves. And in countries from Canada to India to South Africa, we find that people are happier when they spend money on others rather than on themselves.

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Being in awe can expand time and enhance well-being

Being in awe can expand time and enhance well-being | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
It doesn't matter what we've experienced -- whether it's the breathtaking scope of the Grand Canyon, the ethereal beauty of the Aurora Borealis, or the exhilarating view from the top of the Eiffel Tower -- at some point in our lives we've all had the feeling of being in a complete and overwhelming sense of awe.
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Scientists Invent Glass That’ll Make You Happier

Scientists Invent Glass That’ll Make You Happier | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research in Germany have invented a new type of window that is conceived to improve concentration, regulate sleep, and even make you happier.
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