10 Propositions regarding (Positive) Emotions, especially Happiness

Good_AdviceBy now, I have written +400 blog posts on Positive Psychology and given +30 talks and presentations for different audiences, mostly in the realm of business. While I receive a lot of positive feedback (referring to the PP content; I´m not talking about my presentation style here), quite obviously, I also get some pushback once in a while. Over time, I´ve come to notice that most of the counterarguments I hear are based on a rather small set of “shared (mis-)conceptions”. I guess, a lot of these arise over time due to the fact that – for the sake of brevity – speeches and news articles on Positive Psychology have to simplify and overgeneralize their messages in order to get their points across. In order to structure my own thoughts vis-à-vis this situation – but also for discussion – in the following, you´ll find…

10 Propositions regarding (Positive) Emotions, especially Happiness

1) I feel, therefore I am. Emotions are among the very few constants in life. Where´s the consciousness, there´s emotion. They may not always be strong, and we may not always be aware – but they are there.

2) All emotions are valid and adaptive, depending on context and dose.

3) In excess, every emotion can and probably will have detrimental side effects.

4) Different emotions will have different consequences (e.g., for our overall health or the perception of “meaning in life”), especially in high doses and in the long-term.

5) Feelings are contagious and therefore, (almost) always “social”: What we do unto ourselves, we do unto others (to some degree). With that, there comes a responsibility.

6) Happiness is mostly used as an umbrella term, it comes in many different forms and sizes (e.g. serenity, exhilaration, relaxation).

7) Feeling happy is not a (or the) goal in life itself, it’s a “positive side effect” of certain behavior patterns and thinking styles.

8) Feeling happy is not shallow. At least, it´s not shallower than experiencing sadness, anger, or any other kind of emotion.

9) Feeling mostly happy requires effort, at least more work than feeling mostly unhappy (especially with regard to people displaying certain unfavorable genetic predispositions).

10) We seldom feel pure emotions. In most situations, we have several feelings at the same time. Quite often, they display a somewhat antagonistic structure (e.g., experiencing a bittersweet moment; or feeling proud of having been humble).

 

Picture via Gratisography

Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 7/16

My favorite pieces covering Positive Psychology and adjacent from (roughly) the last seven days:

Inc: 11 Signs You Have the Grit You Need to Succeed by Travis Bradberry


Forbes: The Surprising Power Of Appreciation At Work by Chris Cancialosi


Greater Good Science Center: Can Helping Others Help You Find Meaning in Life? by Elizabeth Hopper


New Yorker: How People Learn to Become Resilient by Maria Konnikova


Wall Street Journal: ‘Resilience’ skills help you remain positive and productive under stress by Laura Landro


Forbes: Amy Cuddy: How Leaders Can Be More Present In The Workplace by Dan Schawbel


Boston Globe: How nice bosses get ahead by Emma Seppälä


Washington Post: What people around the world mean when they say they’re happy by Ana Swanson


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Infographic: Carol Dweck and the Growth Mindset

Now, I´m aware that this infographic (created by Nigel Holmes) has been around for a while – but then, there´s probably some 6,999,000,000 people on this planet who have not seen it as of yet – so I´m doing an important job here. 😉

The Growth Mindset – based on Carol Dweck

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U.S. Researchers are lucky – as the top-tier Universities are very strong Brands

This is a little off-topic – but over the last days, I came to realize how much easier it appears to be for top (psychology) researchers in the U.S. to “create buzz” around their research and/or book publications compared to their German colleagues.

Over the last weeks, a couple of researchers in the field of Positive Psychology and adjacent whom I am loosely acquainted with (e.g., Adam Grant, Scott Barry Kaufman, and Emma Seppälä) or whom I would like to be loosely acquainted with (e.g., Amy Cuddy – we´re following each other on Twitter; I guess that doesn´t count…) have published new books (Congratulations to all of you!):

Because a) these are all fabulous books; b) they all probably have more than decent PR agents; and c) I follow a heck of a lot of Positive Psychology people on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn my timelines are bursting with posts about their books (reviews, excerpts, and interviews). Now here´s the interesting thing – look at these headlines:

This is a random sample. Even though – from my perspective – Adam Grant has become a sort of personal brand, and Amy Cuddy is well on her way to becoming one (there´s not too many social psychologists who get air time on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert), very often the research is marketed via the university they are affiliated with.

So, it´s clear that these institutions over time have managed to become strong brands. Their names validate and even amplify the messages publicized by their faculties. That’s a really cool thing!

Now, if you are from the U.S. you might say: Duh, tell me something new. But seen from a German perspective, this is really remarkable – because (currently) this would never work over here. You just won’t see a headline along the lines of “A Humboldt University of Berlin Researcher says X” – because the names of the universities do not really add any credibility to the message (at least not in the realm of psychology; with, e.g., engineering, it might be a slightly different story).

As a side note: I have not seen that many headlines featuring my MAPP alma mater, UPenn (with Wharton Business School being the exception). Maybe, it’s time for some more brand-building here?

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10 more Blogs on Positive Psychology and adjacent You Need to Know

IMG_2317A while ago, I posted a list of 10 blogs on Positive Psychology and adjacent I frequently visit. Back then, I already said it was hard to limit the selection to only 10 sites. Therefore, here´s another curated list of cool Positive Psychology blogs. Share and enjoy!

Eric Barker writes Barking Up The Wrong Tree. He brings you science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life. His content has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired Magazine and Time Magazine.

The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley (co-founded by Professor Dacher Keltner) “studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society”. They frequently publish articles by their own staff as well as guest articles by eminent researchers.

In their own words, The Creativity Post (co-founded by Scott Barry Kaufman) is “a non-profit web platform committed to sharing the very best content on creativity, in all of its forms: from scientific discovery to philosophical debate, from entrepreneurial ventures to educational reform, from artistic expression to technological innovation – in short, to all the varieties of the human experience that creativity brings to life.”

The Center for Positive Organizations (staff includes Professors Jane Dutton, Kim Cameron, Robert Quinn, and Gretchen Spreitzer) based at the Ross School of Business (University of Michigan) seeks to “inspire and enable leaders to build high-performing organizations that bring out the best in people. We are a catalyst for the creation and growth of positive organizations.” They regularly publish articles by the aforementioned researchers and scholars in Positive Organizational Scholarship.

Paula Davis-Laack is a fellow Penn MAPP alum and writes a regular column called Pressure Proof about “strategies and stories for busy, complicated lives” on Psychology Today.

In their own words, The Pursuit of Happiness is a “group of psychologists, philosophers, educators, and web professionals dedicated to the advancement of scientific knowledge about happiness and depression prevention. We provide science-based information on life skills and habits needed to enhance well-being, build resilience against depression and anxiety, and pursue a meaningful life.” Professor Todd Kashdan is one of the contributors.

Happiness by Design is a column on Psychology Today by London School of Economics´ Professor Paul Dolan. It doesn’t update very often by the posts are cool to read.

Action for Happiness is a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. We want to see a fundamentally different way of life – where people care less about what they can get just for themselves and more about the happiness of others. Sir Richard Layard is among the founders. They publish compelling pieces by top-tier Positive Psychology researchers and experts in their news section.

To my mind, Michael Tomoff is one of the few people who write stuff worth reading on Positive Psychology in German. His blog is called Was wäre wenn? (What if?).

The last one is a sort of honorable mention. The late Professor Christopher Peterson published an immensely insightful and oftentimes very funny Positive Psychology blog via Psychology Today called The Good Life. Even though it has not been updated ever since 2012 (for obvious reasons), I revisit it frequently for inspiration.