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.
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.
Happiness doesn't just make us feel good; it can also objectively improve our lives:
A recent and comprehensive meta-analysis revealed a wide variety of benefits that accrue from positive emotion and well-being, including greater career success, better relationship functioning, increased creativity, enhanced physical health, and even longer life expectancy (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005).
Source: "Is It Possible to Become Happier? (And If So, How?)" from Social and Personality Psychology Compass 1/1 (2007): 129–145
Are wealthier people happier?
The answer is ‘yes, but not as much as you’d think’. In one meta- analysis of 85 studies, the correlation between income and SWB was only .17 (Haring, Stock, & Okun, 1984). Furthermore, this association typically has a curvilinear component, such that variations in income make the most difference at low levels of income; beyond a certain point of basic sufficiency, income has a smaller effect (Argyle, 1999; Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2002; Diener & Diener, 1995). Indeed, very well-off individuals are only slighter happier than the blue-collar workers they employ (Diener, Horwitz, & Emmons, 1985).
In fact, overall, life circumstances only account for ~10% of happiness:
Indeed, these life-circumstantial factors may account for less than 10% of the variance in happiness (Andrews & Withey, 1976), although Diener (1984) suggested that the figure may be as high as 15%.
What's most important? Genetics. It accounts for 50% of happiness:
Perhaps the single most important determinant of SWB is genetics (Lykken & Tellegen, 1996; Tellegen et al., 1988). Simply put, some people arrive in this world with a predisposition to cheerfulness, optimism, and joy, whereas others are born with a predilection toward fearfulness, pessimism, and depression. Studies of twins separated at birth have yielded heritability estimates for SWB ranging from .40 to .70, with the most common figure around .50.
Does this mean we might as well just give up trying to be happier? No. 40% is still largely under our control and happiness does vary due to the choices we make.
So what can we realistically do to be happier? Endeavor to experience lots of little positive and novel experiences, even if they're minor -- quantity matters more than quality:
As these examples illustrate, our model is quite consistent with ‘bottom-up’ theories of SWB, which argue that it is the cumulative sum of small experiences that matters (Diener, 1984), because people judge their happiness by consulting (i.e., integrating over) memories of their lives. The more positive and novel the recent experiences one can recall, the higher one will rate one’s happiness; in contrast, positive but taken-for- granted experiences do not contribute as much to the judgment, and recalled negative experiences not surprisingly detract from it. As one example of a bottom-up research approach, Sheldon and Elliot (1999) showed that the semester-long accumulation of small satisfying experi- ences in undergraduates (involving feeling autonomous, competent, and related in one’s daily activities) predicted enhanced global SWB at the end of the semester. Simply put, the more positive and meaningful experiences one has along the way, the greater one’s ultimate judgments of well-being.
And make sure to be grateful for the good things that happen to you:
Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade (2005) asked participants to think about five things for which they were grateful (i.e., a healthy body, my parents) either once a week or three times a week. Relative to controls, participants who expressed gratitude indicated greater SWB 6 weeks later...
1. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps reduce anxiety and stress for everyone. Consider a way to practice mindfulness everyday that is easy to remember. Maybe mindfully brush your teeth or mindfully drink your coffee. Consider using a bracelet or a sticky note to remind yourself.
2: Play. If possible, find a way to laugh today. Be silly. Giggle. Dance, watch a comedy, run in the park, buy a balloon, dabble with paints, gather friends for games or play games designed for one player. Just for a few minutes. Enjoy a simple pleasure and focus completely on the activity – not on your concerns.
3. Practice gratitude. Each evening go through your day and list three things you are grateful for. Be specific. Then focus on those three experiences or interactions or things. Savor the positive
4: Nurture relationships. Friends will likely always make you angry or upset, but having friendships is one of the keys to contentment. When you spend time with friends, focus on what you like, what energizes you. Review the positive experiences in your mind to equal out the natural inclination to go over and over painful experiences.
Bonnie Ware worked in palliative care for many years, tending to people during the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. A handful of themes cropped up in the things they regretted during their final days:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
To them, these were regrets. For us, maybe the above can be a checklist of what not to do.
Managers often worry about conflict in their teams, afraid that any sign of trouble will undermine performance. A typical response to conflict is to ignore it — to avoid getting to the root of the problem and hope that it will somehow go away. In our MBA program we call these "cappuccino teams": Every time conflict rears its ugly head, people break for coffee, presumably in the hope that it will help restore harmony. It may be a nice way to handle conflict, but it isn't particularly effective. Instead, managers need to know how to create teams that feel psychologically safe enough for conflicting opinions to be aired and the benefits of diversity exploited.
What few people seem to realize is that even the most effective teams will feel conflict-prone at times. And there are good reasons for this. Teams composed of high-performing individuals are naturally subject to contradictory tensions, like cooperation and rivalry, trust and vigilance. These tensions should not be managed away — they are productive and can help teams perform better.
For instance, rivalry within a team helps weed out inefficiencies and — however uncomfortable it may feel at times — also keeps people at the top of their game. Besides, high performers are naturally competitive and to not allow them to express their competitive nature is to deny them something that is very much part of who they are. And this can make the team feel psychologically unsafe.
So here are three ways to become more comfortable with team conflict.
First, be careful not to confuse what things feel like with what they really are like. What feels dysfunctional may, for all practical purposes, be perfectly effective. Remember that any conflict feels awkward — "healthy" conflict feels no less uncomfortable for being "healthy". Contrary to popular belief, harmony in teams is far more likely to be the consequence — and not the cause — of performance. In fact, the best way to bond team members may well be to set them a challenge — to give them something to feel good about collectively.
Second, be creative. Take the example of Colonel Stas Preczewski, in charge of a dysfunctional US Army rowing team at West Point. He was faced with an ineffective and conflict-ridden crew. Figuring that the root of the conflict was lack of trust, he had his rowers line up and wrestle each other in pairs. The exercise, albeit very risky in that it could have caused serious injury, made each teammate realize just how physically strong and how competitive they all were. When it came to their next big race, they performed far better than they ever had in practice. The conflict the Colonel faced was potentially corrosive. Conflict that can be generative is based on differences of opinion.
And this brings me to my third piece of advice. Remind your team that these differences of opinion are both inevitable and useful. Invariably, when you put together a team you force people to work with others who will annoy them from time to time. Conflicting opinions are important not only because they smoke out assumptions and enlarge the pool of available information, but because they reveal what matters most to those involved. So explain that any annoyances are likely to be a natural consequence of diversity, and that diversity is precisely what's required for the team to succeed.
Finally, if only organizations would spend as much time and effort on making their teams feel "psychologically safe" as they currently do on instructing people to be "team players", they would likely be far better off as a result. In workplaces where people self-censor for fear of being perceived as negative or incompetent or "not a team player", collaboration will not come as naturally. Human beings are social animals. And so our priorities may have been wrong all along. We must focus on creating safe spaces for people to express themselves and take risks. If we do this well, teamwork will be a no-brainer by comparison.
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.
Taking in less of the things you love makes you enjoy them more.
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.
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.
In the developed world, we are used to the idea that we created the model of industrial and economic progress which other countries must follow. Many of our big ideas about development rest on the assumption that the West cracked the formula for economic progress sometime in the 19th century, and what we need now is for the developing world to ‘catch up’. Even the language we use encapsulates this idea, in the division between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’. But new innovations are challenging the idea that development requires handing ideas down from developed to developing. In banking and finance, the big ideas in cashless transfers and mobile, flexible exchanges are not to be found in Geneva or London or New York. A revolution in mobile money transfer has occurred, but not in these financial centres. Instead, it’s happened in Kenya, with m-Pesa.
On June 28th in Chicago, Nikki Bardoulas attended the Work & Well-Being Conference put on by APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. A variety of engaging speakers, each with unique expertise, offered different perspectives on this broad but increasingly relevant topic. Discussions went from the macro level down to the micro level, ranging from an examination of wellness programs implemented by organizations across the nation to recommendations for individuals to deal successfully with stress. Follow the link for Nikki's full report!
As each day passes, the pace of life seems to accelerate – demands on productivity continue ever upward and there is hardly ever a moment when we aren’t, in some way, in touch with our family, friends, or coworkers. While moments for reflection may be hard to come by, a new article suggests that the long-lost art of introspection —even daydreaming — may be an increasingly valuable part of life.