Harvard Agrees with The Buddha: The Revolution in Happiness Research

Harvard Agrees with The Buddha: The Revolution in Happiness Research

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Story by John Considine | Photo by Jeff Lilly

Remember way back when your pubescent gene triggered and you were suddenly attracted to someone in a way you’d never before imagined? When you came suddenly alive whenever a good-looking she or he ambled into view? One date led to more and then to lovers and more lovers…. and you just knew you’d be so happy when you finally found “The One?” Well, you dated numerous “The Ones” and each one was a promise that after awhile sort of withered? Then, at long last (hallelujah!) you found The Real One and you knew she or he would never “wither” and that you’d really be happy when the two of you finally got married?

Ahhh, remember those blissful honeymoon years (months/weeks/days) when for a certain time, marriage was just great? But then…later it wasn’t so great and then everything did, in fact, wither. Then statistically two-thirds of us decided that we’d really be happy when we finally got divorced. Then the cycle, of course, began again. Most of us have experienced that same cycle, if not with love, with career, new jobs, new homes and on and on.

A New Copernican-Style Revolution

There’s a huge revolution going on in the field of happiness research. It was previously thought that happiness was the result of suc- cess. “Now, we are learning that the opposite is true” says Shawn Achor of the Harvard School of Positive Psychology in his book The Happiness Advantage. “When we are happy – when our mindset and mood are positive – we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and suc- cess revolves around it,” rather than the other way around.

The Buddha, who famously said, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way,” would be pleased that Harvard agrees with him. Finally.

Happiness is like pornography. In a famous ruling, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart had lawyers everywhere guffawing when he declined to actually define pornography, saying, “Perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so, but I know it when I see it.”

Similarly, scientists struggle with a definition of happiness and interchange terms like positive emotions, positivity and happiness. Achor himself calls happiness “the joy we feel striving after our potential.”

As Pharrell Williams Might Say…

There have been studies which show that you and I can get our jobs done better and more successfully when we’re happy. That’s why Google encourages employees to bring in their dogs, provides scooters in the hallways and video games in the break room. Many companies nowadays have foosball tables, massage breaks and the like, in the middle of the workspace. Studies have shown that happy salesman sell more and better, and happy doctors actually make more accurate diagnoses! The studies concur with my experience and the experience of many, that we actually can control whether or not we’re happy.

Three Ways to Get Yourself Happy

• Do something physical which you consider fun each day, and do it with the intention of getting happier. Tennis, jogging, dancing…anything yu enjoy for FUN… not that treadmill you loathe but you go to lose weight – it has to be something you do for FUN.

• Meditation. As a meditation teacher I was thrilled to reach in Achor’s book that “neuroscientists have found that monks who spend year meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy” and that even just five or ten minute per day increases the risk of happiness actually rewiring the brain “to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, even improve immune function.”

• The Doubler: Think of the most meaningful or delightful thing that has happened to you over the past 24 hours and for two minutes each day write down every detail you can remember. Do this every day for 21 days using a different memory each time.

As Tevye would saying Fiddle, L’Chaim, To Lie! Enjoy.

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John Considine is spiritual leader at Spiritual Life Center in Ferndale www.SpiritualFerndale.com. He is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives, political and project consultant and practicing attorney. Contact John at RevJohnConsidine@gmail.com

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