3 Questions for Emma Seppälä, Author of “The Happiness Track”

Emma_SeppäläEmma Seppälä, Ph.D is Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and author of the recently published book The Happiness Track. She is a frequent contributor to Harvard Business ReviewPsychology TodayHuffington Post, and Scientific American Mind.

Emma, if you had to describe your book in a short analogy (“We’re the Uber for x…” or something like that): What would it be?

The hack for success without stress.

I’m a manager and reaaaaally busy. If I had time to read only one chapter: Which one would you recommend – and why?

Read the second chapter on how to build your resilience. We believe we need high levels of adrenaline to get things done – so we over-caffeinate, over-schedule ourselves, and wait until the last minute to get things done. The result is not productivity, it’s burnout which is why we’re seeing 50% burnout across industries, 80% of doctor’s visits due to stress, and 75% of the American workforce disengaged. You can’t talk yourself out of stress but there is something you can do at the physiological way that will help you manage your energy, be more productive and emotionally intelligent, and be resilient in the face of the pressure and demands coming your way – cultivating physiological resilience. 

In all these years of studying Positive Psychology: What is the one scientific finding that intrigued you the most?

The finding that has intrigued – and inspired – me the most is that the best kept secret to happiness is to give it away. By uplifting others, supporting them, helping them and living a more compassionate life, not only will you be making everyone else happier, you will be happier, healthier and live a longer life too. It’s win-win!

Thank you very much and best of luck with The Happiness Track!

New Book: 10 Keys to Happier Living (by Action for Happiness)

IMG_8218Last year, I shared with you information on UK-based non-for-profit organization Action for Happiness. Now fellow MAPP alum and AFH board member Vanessa King has authored a book which draws on AFH’s GREAT DREAM acronym: 10 Keys to Happier Living. Congrats, Vanessa!

From the book cover:

In this book, Vanessa King of Action for Happiness has drawn on the latest scientific studies to create a set of evidence-based practical actions that have been shown to increase happiness and wellbeing – at home, at work and in the world around you.

It will help you connect with people, nurture your relationships and find purpose. You’ll get ideas for taking care of your body, making the most of what’s good and finding new ways to stimulate your mind.


Explaining Character Strengths to Children: Meet the Dynamos

One of the cornerstones of Positive Psychology is a scientifically validated set of 24 character strengths, first published in the tome Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification by the late Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman himself. If you want to know what your top strengths are, you can take a free test offered by the VIA Institute on Character.

If you have children and are keen to discover their character strengths, you can find a free test adapted for children on Seligman´s website at the University of Pennsylvania. But how do you talk to your children about the results – or the value and use of character strengths in general?

One fantastic (but not completely free…) opportunity is offered by my fellow MAPP alum Renee Jain. Meet the Dynamos – via an amazing workbook! In the words of their creators:

Dynamos are tiny and powerful beings from the planet Dynamis. Each Dynamo comes into the universe possessing a unique Dynamic or character strength as well as a Supertool to amplify their strength. Children will enjoy learning about character strengths by getting to know the Dynamos and their Supertools.

Kids can read each story in this workbook and then decide which Dynamo (representing a character strength) could be used to effectively solve the problem presented. This workbook is ideal if you’re teaching character education at school or at home.

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12227661_10153619125437752_7503175795841036175_nFind and out about and purchase the workbook via GoZen!

Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 9/16

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

Evening Standard: Older people are ‘happier in their late 60s’ by Hannah Al-Othman


PsyBlog: How To Naturally Boost The Brain Chemicals Sapped By Depression by Jeremy Dean


Quartz: Neuroscience says these five rituals will help your brain stay in peak condition by Vivian Giang


Positive Psychology News Daily: Workplace Positivity? What’s the Right Amount? And Why? by Donna Hemmert


Inc: Want to Be Truly Happy? Harvard Researchers Say This Is the One Thing You Need by Bill Murphy Jr.


Wharton Knowledge: The New Success Track: Happiness by Emma Seppälä


Huffington Post UK: It is Time to Embrace Stress as a Mental Wellbeing Issue by Simon Stevens


Greater Good Science Center: How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative by Jill Suttie


Fast Company: 7 ways turn your current job into your dream Job by Stephanie Vozza


New York Times: Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills by Kate Zernike

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Make Donald Drumpf again – or: Why I´ve just reread Harry Frankfurt´s Essay “On Bullshit”

I’m well aware that this is off-topic. And I´m also aware of the fact that some people will think or even say “Shut up! Being German, this none of your business…” But living in a globalized world, and seeing crisis situations such as in Syria or the South China Sea, I definitely do care who will be the Commander-In-Chief of the most powerful army in the world – even when our nations are on friendly terms.

I´m pretty sure Donald Trump (if he gets to be the GOP nominee) will lose against Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or even Michael Bloomberg, for that matter. But then, you never know…

Here´s the thing that scares me the most. The following is an excerpt from an article on politico.com – where a scientist analyzed the demographics and attitudes of Trump´s supporters:

If I asked you what most defines Donald Trump supporters, what would you say? They’re white? They’re poor? They’re uneducated? You’d be wrong. In fact, I’ve found a single statistically significant variable predicts whether a voter supports Trump—and it’s not race, income or education levels: It’s authoritarianism.

Here´s how the author explains the concept of authoritarianism:

While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to “make America great again” by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.

With my German heritage, I’m especially wary when I read stuff like that. :-/

I readily admit that The Donald can be entertaining and funny at times. I´d probably even tune in once in a while – if we were the host of a talk show or something like that. But he´s not trying to become that. He´s trying to become the POTUS.

A lot of people have wondered and written about the following question:

How does he do it?

How does he pull off the stunt of gathering all those supporters behind him – while being a blatant liar (frequently), ignorant (very frequently ) and outright mean and ostracizing (practically at all times)? One intriguing answer – that also fits with the analysis of his supporters´ attitudes stated above –  is given in this Forbes article. The author links Trump´s ongoing success to his skillful use of dominant behavior, especially body language:

What Trump does prove is the observation of evolutionary psychologists that humans worship the projection of authority in much the way that animals do.

BullshitPersonally, I always wonder how somebody can portray such a high level of confidence while making bogus arguments (if you want to call it arguments at all) nearly 100% of the time. Then, I remembered philosopher Harry Frankfurt´s fabulous essay On Bullshit. Here´s the important part:

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

In light of this, I probably have to correct myself: Trump is not a liar, but rather the biggest (and unfortunately: best) bullshit artist currently living on this planet. Literally, my only hope is that, on the day when he is elected to be the nominee for the GOP, he walks up to the lectern, shows one of his awkward smiles, and says something like: “Sorry folks, this was meant to be a joke. It´s all bullshit. Actually, I just wanted to show the world what a pathetic bunch of bigots most of you are.”

In the meantime, if you´re unsure who to vote for, you might want to watch this hilarious excerpt from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Let´s make Donald Drumpf again!