Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cute video of a friendship between an orangutan and a hound dog

Friday, January 29, 2010

Happiness from the perspective of Evolutionary Psychology

Just came across an interesting paper in the Journal of Happiness Studies, called Happiness from the perspective of Evolutionary Psychology. The author is Bjorne Grinde and you can download the paper here. Here are some of the points it makes that I found interesting:
  • The human capacity for positive and negative feelings is shaped by the forces of evolution
  • Happiness, in the present meaning, appears to be not so much a feature shaped explicitly by the evolutionary process, but rather an indirect consequence of human nature (For the record, I disagree with this, as I believe happiness is built into us by evolution as one of the mechanisms for ensuring survival of our species and life in general on our planet)
  • The brain is designed to induce us to take some chances, otherwise we would never have laid down a large prey or ventured into uncharted land; but it is also designed to stop us from causing harm to ourselves, that is, to avoid hazards. (Reminds me of the car analogy of human beings -- we have both a gas pedal as well as a brake pedal)
  • Engaging the mind and body in tasks for which they are designed is expected to promote happiness by instigating positive feelings (for example that's why we feel good when we move, which is why regular exercise is such a good idea :-)
  • There are, for example, data indicating that humans thrive better, and improve in cognitive tasks, in the presence of plants (I can personally confirm this one! :-)
The paper also touches on an aspect that I have already discussed a little bit in the post on the Continuum Concept as well as PBSP -- when babies are born, they have innate expectations regarding needs that they need to have met. And when these needs are not met, problems arise later in adulthood, such as various neuroses, negative tendencies, pessimism, etc. According to the paper, possible examples of such needs include the amount of skin to skin contact, the large number of strangers we interact with, restrictions on play behaviour (particularly on ‘rough-and-tumble’ play), and sleep patterns associated with shift work.

Well, this was just a very brief overwiew of a most interesting paper. For those interested in reading more about happiness from the point of view of evolution, I highly recommend downloading it (it's free!) and giving it a thorough read.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Just came across a funny "client - psychiatrist" skit that definitely has a great deal of truth to it.

So is there anything in your life that if you stopped doing it you would be a lot happier?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are you happy?

Sometimes things can be really simple. I don't think much needs to be added to this:

PS: If anyone knows who should get credit for this picture, please let me know...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why I am against "goal setting"; and my personal "general direction" statement

One of the recommendations that keeps appearing in success, happiness, motivation... self-help liturature is to set goals. Well I have to say that after seven years of studying happiness I have come to the conclusion that goal setting is counter-productive to living a life with more happiness and joy. Does nature set goals? I make this point about nature because

In all the studies of happiness, the planet’s happiest people always turn out to be the people living in the way closest to that of wild ancestral humans - modern day hunter-gatherers, living contented lives on islands, fishing and lounging about. The most miserable people on Earth appear to be the Japanese, and it is surely no coincidence that their way of life is the furthest removed from nature.

I paradoxically took this quote from an essay called "Why we can't find lasting happiness", which you can read here. (And yes, even though it is a very interesting essay, I do disagree with its main claims :-)

But returning to why I am against goal-setting. In my opinion goal-setting leads to too much focus on the goals themselves, judging success based on whether the goal is attained or not, and missing other opportunities that arise -- but we don't see -- while we're pursuing the set goals. In short, goal-setting takes us away from "flowing along with the natural tides of life, actively adapting where necessary or creating where we want to...", which I find to be the best way to live (if we make the conscious decision to live a happier life with more joy...).

Instead of goals, I prefer having a "general direction" or "general directions" in life. For example, one of my general directions is to "inspire people in western civilization to do less and enjoy more", or, to borrow from Jon Kabat Zinn, "inspire people to actually be more like human 'beings', instead of human 'doings'". I will write more about this at some point in 2010...

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's Friday, so it's time for a... Positive Pause

I came across this site about ten years ago and I still occassionaly go there if I need to take a five minute relaxation break:


Monday, January 4, 2010

Allowing human nature to work successfully - Jean Liedloff and The Continuum Concept

During the holidays I finally had a chance to slowly read two articles about Jean Liedloff and her Continuum Concept that I had been meaning to read for a  long time. For those that do not know her work, Jean spent a lot of time with indigenous people in South America and based on her observations developed fascinating theories about human nature and raising of children, which she summarized in her book "the Continuum Concept".

After reading both of the articles about five times, I have to say that I have rarely come across words with which I have agreed so completely. It's like she's explaining things about happiness that I have intuited for a long time, yet couldn't express. So I highly, highly recommend everybody to read the articles, which are available here and here. But for those that would like a little sneak peak before heading over to the Continuum Concept website, here are a few highlights:
  • We use the word normal as though it were a synonym for natural, which it is not.
  • We act as though human nature were something to be afraid of, to constrain, modify or fight...
  • We mistrust human nature itself
  • Learning occurs naturally, but teaching isn't natural at all.
  • And much, much more fascinating stuff
In addition to the "my gosh, she's hitting the nail right on the head" feeling I had as I was reading the articles, I also noticed an amazing consistency of what she was saying with Albert Pesso's and Diane Boyden's PBSP theory and method (about which I have written here a couple of times already). Two of the most striking similarities, IMHO, are these:
  • a root cause of unhappiness (and other problems) is frequently "positive experiences that we expected as small children but did not get" (these can include touches, looks, reactions, words, and many others). PBSP works with the concept of five needs (place, nurture, support, protection, limits) that each baby expects it will have met.
  • another root cause of unhappiness is that sometimes children grow up subconsciously believing that their role is to provide their parents with emotional support (yet no matter how hard they try to fulfill their parent's needs, they always fail). PBSP calls this "holes in roles".
I firmly believef that anyone interested in living a happier and more satisfying life would benefit tremendously from doing some work on these two issues. And perhaps reading the two articles linked above would be a good start.

I wish everyone a most natural 2010!