I´m a big fan of the non-profit Action for Happiness and have written on their work multiple times in the past. Today, I´d like to share with you another of their awesome tools, helping to bring Positive Psychology to the general public. Enjoy!
My favorite news and blog articles covering Positive Psychology and adjacent Topics from (roughly) the last seven days.
Fast Company: Your Positive Work Culture Might Be Making Your Team Less Productive by Belle Cooper
New York Times: You’re Too Focused on What You’re Focused On by Erica Boothby
Huffington Post: Civil Actions: Creating A Culture of Kindness at Work by Kimberly Connor
New York Magazine: A New Theory on Why People Who Exercise Lots Are So Damn Happy All the Time by Melissa Dahl
Forbes: ROK (Return On Kindness): It’s More Than Just Being Nice by Roger Dean Duncan
Washington Post: Prioritizing these three things will improve your life — and maybe even save it by Colby Itkowitz
Fast Company: You May Soon Be Able To Take A Drug To Prevent Depression by Adele Peters
New York Magazine: How Should We Talk About Amy Cuddy, Death Threats, and the Replication Crisis? by Jesse Singal
New York Magazine: Become More Resilient by Learning to Take Joy Seriously by Brad Stulberg
Guardian: Google’s Mo Gawdat: ‘Happiness is like keeping fit. You have to work out’ by Ian Tucker
Heleo: What to Do When Bad Things Happen and We Don’t Know How We Should Respond (Interview with Monica Worline), no author
For several decades, developing self-esteem in children and adults has been the holy grail of fostering healthy attitudes towards the self. Yet, starting in the early 1990s, criticism arose, pointing towards the absence of positive consequences of having high self-esteem, and highlighting several negative consequences, such as dismissing negative feedback or taking less responsibility for harmful actions. In an influential review article from 2003 titled Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?, Roy Baumeister and colleagues conclude:
We have not found evidence that boosting self-esteem (by therapeutic interventions or school programs) causes benefits. Our findings do not support continued widespread efforts to boost self-esteem in the hope that it will by itself foster improved outcomes.
In the same year, Kristin Neff from the University of Texas at Austin introduced a different kind of healthy attitude towards the self – which may be especially helpful in times of suffering, or when facing adversity: Self-compassion, rooted in the ancient Buddhist traditions of mindfulness and compassion, and Western adaptations such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). In the words of Neff:
[…] When faced with experiences of suffering or personal failure, self-compassion entails three basic components: (a) self-kindness — extending kindness and understanding to oneself rather than harsh judgment and self-criticism, (b) common humanity — seeing one’s experiences as part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as separating and isolating, and (c) mindfulness — holding one’s painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than over-identifying with them.
[…] Self-compassion may entail many of the psychological benefits that have been associated with self-esteem, but with fewer of its pitfalls. Self-compassion represents a positive emotional stance towards oneself, in that one extends feelings of kindness and caring toward oneself. It helps to motivate productive behavior and protect against the debilitating effects of self-judgment such as depression and anxiety. Self-compassion, however, is not based on the performance evaluations of self and others, or on congruence with ideal standards. In fact, self-compassion takes the entire self-evaluation process out of the picture […].
In the meantime, self-compassion has shown to be a valuable tool for personal development and fighting symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Long-form and short-form scales for measuring self-compassion have been developed, an effective training program has been devised, and a recent meta-analysis finds that fostering self-compassion effectively helps to alleviate several psychopathologies (please see links to research papers below. You can find out more about self-compassion (e.g., free exercises and training opportunities) via Kristin Neff´s homepage.
We all know the warm feeling of gratitude in our hearts when we’ve been the beneficiary of an act of kindness. And the really good thing is: in return, we typically want to be kind(er) to others, too. E.g., a recent study by the name of The Social Contagion of Generosity finds that receiving help from strangers prompts us to be kind to other strangers, thereby creating a ripple effect of gratitude and kindness.
This mechanism is beautifully depicted in the following short film from Turkey. Enjoy!
This beautiful image was created by the beautiful people at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. And no, our brain doesn´t look like that. But we all have the capacity to develop more of the qualities and entities depicted above. If you´d like to have more input, please watch Emma Seppälä´s (Stanford CCARE) TED talk on the “Science of Social Connection”:
Strings a chord with me…
No time for writing today. But I´d like to share a video with you that powerfully transports the upsides (and to a much lesser extent: the downsides…) of being a “Giver” in the spirit of Adam Grant.
It´s a commercial, alright. But it´s still beautiful…
If you are like most people, willpower and self-regulation may not exactly be among your top strengths. E.g., for most of us, self-regulation is located pretty close to the bottom of the list when filling in the VIA questionnaire on 24 character strengths – which is based on Seligman´s and Peterson´s book Character Strengths and Virtues.
But then, breaking or making habits is one of the most important tasks when trying to succeed at a personal change project. So lo and behold! There´s help on the way. In earlier days, people would tie a knot in their handkerchiefs to help them remember things. These days, people don´t use handkerchiefs that much – but most of us do have a smartphone (or two…). And of course, there´s lots of apps around that strive on the fact that our spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
On New Year´s Eve, I´ve decided I´d like to become a “nicer” person this year. It´s not that I´m an asshole right now – I just thought I could put a little extra effort in it. Probably a “side effect” of being in the MAPP program…
OK. The Good Habit Maker is a nice little (free) app that does only one thing: at pre-selected intervals over the day, it’ll push one sentence to your smartphone´s screen, e.g. your personal change mantra. Helps a lot to bring your mind back to what you want to achieve during busy schedules.
The app Balanced is a little more refined, it´s a sort of task manager. You can enter specific tasks that you want to accomplish, and the quantities/intervals you intend to fulfill (e.g., “watch a TED talk once a week”). The app will then continuously remind you to complete those tasks until they are done. It also keeps track of you levels of completion and timeliness. There´s a demo version that is limited to a small number of tasks – the full version comes at $ 2.99.
And finally, the Grid Diary: as the name suggests, it´s a nice and clean diary app. The useful twist: you can pre-select (or enter your own…) specific questions. So instead of having to think about what to write each and every evening, the app will make you respond to the prompts that you specifically chose to be given. By way of example, I use it as a gratitude journal, which is one of the pre-eminent interventions in Positive Psychology. It´s free but offers some in-app purchases.
Enjoy! Keep it going! And for some extra energy, power up your Sisu!