Welcome to Emma Elaria…

Cherished reader,

there won’t be any updates on Mappalicious for a couple of days. The reason is simple and very beautiful. Today, my wife has given birth to a very special kind of update to this world. 

The Little Guru is a big brother now. Please say hello to Emma Elaria Rose…

Emma Elaria Rose  
Emma Elaria Rose 

Crying for Joy on Father´s Day (Little Guru series)

Nico - Little GuruI have to admit: I weep easily. But then, I mostly cry for joy. Very frequently, my heart just overflows with love or gratitude – and my eyes seem to be the only outlet.

Today is a bank holiday in Germany, so unlike most workdays, I sat down to have an unhurried breakfast with my wife and the Little Guru. Towards the end, they played my wife´s favorite song on the radio, so she got up, went from the dining room into the living room and started to dance playfully. Of course, the Little Guru wanted to join in.

Ten seconds later, they were holding hands and jumping around in circles, laughing and shouting boisterously. All of that time, the bright morning sun entered the room through our large garden windows, lighting up their faces, giving them an almost angelic complexion.

I watched them for a minute or so – and that´s when I cried again. I am lucky.

Happy Father´s Day to all of you!

The Little Guru wishes you a HAPPY Day!

The P in Marty Seligman´s PERMA framework of Positive Psychology stands for Positive Emotions. According to Barbara Fredrickson´s Broaden-and-Build theory of positive emotions, regularly experiencing sentiments such as happiness, joy, and anticipation is a sign of psychological well-being, and potentially even a pathway to creativity, success across different areas of life, and overall health.

So here´s a friendly reminder from my son, the Little Guru, to stay HAPPY! Have a great day!

Does having a Child make us Happier or Unhappier? Or is that the wrong Question?

I´m pretty sure that all the parents among my readers will join into a roaring “HAPPIER!” when answering the first question in this post´s headline. Yet, it turns out that an unanimous scientific answer to that question is rather hard to find – as there´s a lot conflicting data out there.

There are papers that show well-being drops for both men and women when a first child comes into the house – and it typically does not rise that much until the children leave for college. Other researchers found that a first child markedly increases happiness, especially with the fathers, and the more so when it´s a boy. Then, there are papers that give the classic answer for lawyers (and psychologists as well): It depends. Or rather, there are upsides and downsides. E.g., mother are more stressed – but less depressed.

When there´s a lot conflicting research on a certain topic, it´s always a good thing to carry out a meta-analysis, which is a weighted integration of many studies on one area of inquiry. Such a meta-analysis has been done in 2004. Here´s the summary:

This meta-analysis finds that parents report lower marital satisfaction compared with nonparents (d=−.19, r=−.10). There is also a significant negative correlation between marital satisfaction and number of children (d=−.13, r=−.06). The difference in marital satisfaction is most pronounced among mothers of infants (38% of mothers of infants have high marital satisfaction, compared with 62% of childless women). For men, the effect remains similar across ages of children. The effect of parenthood on marital satisfaction is more negative among high socioeconomic groups, younger birth cohorts, and in more recent years. The data suggest that marital satisfaction decreases after the birth of a child due to role conflicts and restriction of freedom.

What they say is: On average, marital satisfaction drops slightly when a first child is born. The effect is stronger for women than for men, and the younger and richer the parents are. Parents struggle with stress due to role conflicts and a decrease in self-determination.

Are Children supposed to make us Happier?

Eudaimonia - HedoniaBut maybe, asking about satisfaction and happiness is not the right question after all. Is it really the “job” of our children to make us happier and more satisfied as a parent? I don´t think so. When a child comes into your life, you lose tons of money, you lose tons of sleep (and that´s due to dirty diapers, not dirty sex…), and you have to carry out planning and preparations on a regular basis that in their complexity can be likened to the Normandy landing – just for going to the movies on a Friday night.

Having children does not make us happy all the time. Period.

Yet, we get something else, research suggests: Purpose. Meaning. Unconditional love (especially when you have some sort of food, that is…). Asking for satisfaction is looking at the wrong axis of the Eudaimonia-Hedonia-Grid depicted above.

Being a parent is not a “fun” job at times – especially for the mothers (given a more traditional role-taking). Remember that viral video about the toughest job in the world?

But then: it definitely can be a blast. When researchers see a lot of conflicting data, they sometimes turn to what in science lingo is called “anecdotal evidence”. They tell a story. Here´s a story about my family having fun in the park (Photos taken by Tina Halfmann).

Enjoy!

Family Rose

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Rose Family

Family Rose

What is “Awe”? See Pharrell Williams being overwhelmed by the very own Happiness he brought to this World

Somewhere in an outlying district of our emotional continuum lies the emotion of awe. In one of the rare academic papers on that subject, researchers Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt write: “Two appraisals are present in all clear cases of awe: perceived vastness and a need for accommodation, defined as an inability to assimilate an experience into current mental structures”.

I repeat: perceived vastness and the inability to assimilate an experience in to current mental structures.

I´m pretty sure this is just what happened to singer/producer Pharrell Williams when Oprah Winfrey showed him a montage of videos from all over the world that portrays people dancing to his tune – and just being happy.

Pharrell Crying Happy

Isn´t that great? Being touched by realizing how you´ve been able to touch millions and millions of lives? To quote my hero Esa Saarinen: Good job, Pharrell!

By the way: If you´re interested to see how the Little Guru grooves to Pharrell – here you go:

Micro-Moments of Love: A short Story on Meaning in Life

The MAPP program is a fulltime program – but combines onsite classes with long-distance learning periods. Part of the distance learning comprises a lot of reading (Who would have thought of that…) and writing essays about a wide array of positive psychology topics. I´ve decided to post some of those essays here on Mappalicious. Surely, they´re not the be-all and end-all of academic writing. But then again, it would also be a pity to bury them in the depths of my laptop…

Introduction

Positive psychology stresses the importance of close relationships, be it friendship, romantic love, family, or the support of a larger social entity (Reis & Gable, 2003). When asked to give a definition of positive psychology, the late Christopher Peterson used to say: “Other people matter.” (2006, p. 249). Fredrickson (2013) complements this remark by asserting that love (and its benefits) cannot be a matter of one person, but can only exist in pairs or groups of people. For authors like Vaillant (2008) and Seligman (2011), relationships are of uttermost importance as well. They are embodied by the letter “R” in the acronym PERMA, which represents Seligman´s framework of human flourishing. Additionally, it is hypothesized that close relationships can serve as a major source of meaning in life (Steger, 2009). This should hold true especially if one of the person´s top character strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) is the “capacity to love and to be loved” – which for me is the case. Therefore, this story focuses on love between father and son as an “active ingredient” in the creation of meaning.

Micro-Moments of Love: A short Story on Meaning in Life

On 30th October 2013, my son Mika turned one year old. This year as a young father has been the most transformative experience of my life. It is said that having a child turns the “M” in “Me” upside down, converting it into “We”. By now I know this is absolutely true.

Having a child turns the M in Me upside down.
It is transformed into a We.

When I had to leave Germany for the U.S.A. on 3rd September 2013 to attend the so-called immersion week of the 2013/14 Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at University of Pennsylvania, I was deeply worried. My job as a manager at Bertelsmann, Europe´s largest media company, requires me to travel a lot. But until that day, I had never been away from my boy for more than two nights in a row – and even that could be heartbreaking. Yet, back then I had to leave for a whole week. For whatever reason, one of my greatest fears was that Mika would forget me and “turn cold” in the meantime. Happily, I can say this notion was utter foolishness on my part.

Nico - Mika - FunMika is a wild boy. We have this little ritual: When I return home from work on weekdays, my wife will wait at the door, holding him in her arms. When he spots me, you can see in his eyes that it takes him a little while to realize that his daddy is home. He will look at me with a blank expression. In my head, I start counting the seconds: twenty-one … twenty-two … twenty- … and then his whole face will transmute into the acme of joy. He will squeak with glee and hold up his arms, meaning: Daddy, grab and hug me! He will be really wild in his excitement, hit me on the cheek, kick my belly, and bite my nose. After seven seconds or so, he will beckon me to let him down on the floor again – and he will turn his attention to whatever toy is in reach at that moment.

But when I came home from Philadelphia in the early afternoon of 9th September, it was different. Really different. Mika had just woken up from his afternoon nap. He was standing upright, holding on to the guardrail of his crib, the lights still turned down low. I slowly entered his room and walked to the window, opening up the roller blind just a little bit so the afternoon sun could sneak into the room. Then, I stepped to the side of his bed and looked at him. And Mika looked back with that blank expression on his face. And in my head, I started to count the seconds again: twenty-one … twenty-two … twenty-three … twenty-four … twenty-five – and then I felt he really had forgotten about me.

But at last, he lifted up his arms. Calm. Not smiling. And I picked him up and he hugged me. And he laid down his head on my chest and for the eternity of about thirty seconds it stayed there. He then looked up, gazing at my face. Calm. Not smiling. After about five seconds, he rested his head again for another fleeting eon. Finally, he looked up again. And his whole face transformed into the acme of joy. And he squeaked with glee, and he hit me on the cheek, and he kicked my belly, and bit my nose. And after seven seconds or so, he made me let him down on the floor and went to play. And I cried.

References

Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York: Hudson Street Press.
Peterson, C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Reis, H. T., & Gable, S. L. (2003). Toward a positive psychology of relationships. In C. L. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: The positive person and the good life (pp. 129-159). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Free Press.
Steger, M. F. (2009). Meaning in life. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 679-687). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Vaillant, G. (2008). Spiritual evolution: How we are wired for faith, hope, and love. New York: Broadway Books.