The Most Important Part of the Good Life | Jamie Gruman 

The good life. We all want it. We all want to know the secret formula for attaining it. But the simplistic, often misleading prescriptions for the good life that are tossed around in the popular media, books, and online, can push the good life further out of our reach. Psychologist, and Founding Chair of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association, Jamie Gruman, explains how a balanced viewpoint helps us properly understand the good life and make it a reality.

In his TEDx talk, Gruman describes the good life as a result of leading a balanced life, specifically, four different kinds of balance: Balance as a) mid-range, b) synthesis, c) tempered view, and d) sensitivity to context.

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Hacking your brain for happiness | James Doty | TEDx

James Doty explains the neurological benefits of compassion.

“Project Compassion” has now turned into a leading research and educational institution and the only institution solely focused on the study of Compassion, Altruism and Empathy. Compassion improves the world; yet the world around us seems ever in need of greater feats of compassion.

How, then, can we create more compassion and inspire compassionate acts? And how is it that the brain and the heart work together to create compassion in the first place?
James Robert Doty, M.D., tackles these tough questions, examining the neural, mental, and social bases of compassion. He serves as Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and Founder and Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) – of which the Dalai Lama is the founding benefactor.

He serves as Chairman of the Dalai Lama Foundation and as a member of the International Advisory Board of the Council of the Parliament of the World’s Religion.

Finally, it´s here: Adam Grant´s TED talk on Creativity and Innovation

How do creative people come up with great ideas? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant (here´s an interview he recently gave for Mappalicious…) studies “originals”: thinkers who dream up new ideas and take action to put them into the world. In this talk, learn three unexpected habits of originals — including embracing failure. “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,” Grant says. “You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”

While this is Adam´s first TED talk, he´s given two TEDx talks in the past:

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How to Find and Live Your Calling (TEDx)

Bryan J. Dik, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Psychology at Colorado State University. He has published widely on topics related to work as a calling; meaning and purpose in career development; measurement of vocational interests; and career counseling interventions. Bryan is co-author of Make Your Job a Calling: How the Psychology of Vocation Can Change Your Life at Work, and co-editor of two other books: Psychology of Religion and Workplace Spirituality and Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace.

He´s a colleague of Prof. Michael F. Steger who´s  work I´ve covered before here.

Planting Seeds Of Happiness The Danish Way [TEDx]

Our northermost neighbors, the Danes, frequently take the number one spot when researchers try to find the happiest country on earth. While this finding has to be treated with some caution (please see What people around the world mean when they say they’re happy) they probably one or two things about the good life. 

Here’s what former corporate executive and nowadays writer Malene Rydahl has to say on the topic.  

The brand new, 2,400-years-old Science of fighting Depression

A couple of days a go, I stumbled upon two TEDx talks by clinical neuroscientist Stephen Ilardi (University of Kansas). He shares how we can “naturally” (without taking antidepressants) fight depression. The talks are instructive and entertaining, yet pretty similar to each other – so if you´re short on time, it´s probably sufficient to watch only one of them. Here´s the summary:

We were never designed for the sedentary, indoor, sleep-deprived, socially-isolated, fast-food-laden, frenetic pace of modern life.

Accordingly, among the most potent remedies for depression are:

  • going outside (daylight);
  • moderate exercise;
  • eating healthy food;
  • getting enough sleep;
  • and spending time with the people you love.

And while I´m happy and impressed that these recommendations are now being backed by “hard science”, I guess we should have known all along. Here are some quotes by Greek physician and “father of Western medicine” Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC).

If you are in a bad mood go for a walk.

To do nothing is also a good remedy.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Loneliness is a Killer! A TEDx Talk and the Story of my Life

One of the central tenets of Positive Psychology is Other People Matter, coined by the late Prof. Christopher Peterson. If you want to learn just how much they matter to your happiness and your health, you might want to watch this TED talk by Prof. John Cacioppo from University of Chicago.

My Story

Now, I perfectly know from my own life what Prof. Cacioppo is talking about. When I was 16, I went to the USA for a year to attend high school and improve my English skills. I left my family and friends behind – platforms such as Skype and Facebook weren’t available (in fact, Mark Zuckerberg probably was entering middle school at that time). I agreed to have a phone call with my parents only every other Sunday – in order not to abet homesickness. Bad idea, most likely…

For reasons which are to complex and difficult to explain (if it can be explained at all – because every person will have a very different vantage point…), this was by far the loneliest year of my life. I found it hard to connect to my guest families and the larger part of my schoolmates.* For most of the time, m closest social connections consisted of other exchange students (during school hours) and the folks I encountered during basketball pick-up games (in the afternoon). Other than that, for most of the year, I felt utterly alone and devoid of warm social connections, let alone love.

I am now perfectly aware what a situation like this does to your body and your soul. When I came to the U.S., I was a healthy and (ordinarily) happy teenager. By the time I went home, I had developed allergy-based asthma, suffered from recurring panic attacks, and was – according to what I´ve learned during my psychology studies later in life –  more than mildly depressed (including, at times, suicidal thoughts). It took me several years to shake all of this off – but I did.

Full Circle

To end this post on a high note (or rather: two high notes), I have to add that even though this was probably the worst year of my life, that doesn´t mean it hasn’t been a valuable experience. On the one hand, it´s a classic case of “What doesn´t kill me makes me stronger“. On the other hand – and that may be a strangely wonderful twist of fate – this year gave my life a whole new direction. The high school I attended offered psychology as an elective course. These two hours or so every week always were among the regular lights at the end of my tunnel. And I think my psychology teacher is the reason why I chose to pursue that profession later on in my life.

And then, there´s this other – equally beautiful and strange – twist of fate. Mappalicious exists as a blog because I was part of the ninth cohort of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania – it started as a kind of diary. So, 19 years after what I´ve described above, I spent another year in the U.S. (more precisely, several days per months as travelled back and forth between Germany and Philly). Actually, it all happened only about a hundred miles from where I went to school.

And boy, what a difference it has been. It´s been a year full of human bonding, a time of joy, and caring, and yes: love. And, in the light of my past, it´s been a year of healing. Full circle.

Nico Rose - MAPP - Penn Graduation

* I´m not blaming anybody, because it´s actually nobody´s fault. Let´s just say that U.S. high schools can be a pretty tough environment when you´re not exactly part of the in-crowd…