"Positive psychology is a movement in social psychology which attempts to change the way that we think about humans," explains positive psychology expert Shawn Achor. "Instead of focusing merely on the average, which is what we normally do in traditional psychology—we would find out what the average person is like, or how the average person responds—instead, what we look at are people who are up above the curve for some given dimension. Maybe that means that they are extremely energetic, that they are very happy, they’re very productive. And our goal is to find out why that is."
In his Big Think interview, Achor, the author of "The Happiness Advantage," tells us that, unlike regular psychology, which focuses on the average or below average, he studies people who are in some way exceptional, with the hopes of applying that knowledge to the greater population.
We can actually reprogram our brains to be happier, says Achor. "The brain is like a single processor in a computer." Someone who is chronically negative or pessimistic is merely scanning first for the stresses and the hassles of life. And because the brain has finite resources, it cannot also scan for the positive elements. As a result, that person continuously reinforces his own negativity, causing himself to feel unhappy. The key to positive psychology is training the mind to divert its resources in a different way, finding ways to be optimistic and reasons to be grateful. After a period of about 21 days, the pattern of positive thinking can be retrained permanently in the brain, something Achor calls the Tetris Effect. And he tells us five ways that we can be happier by harnessing this Tetris Effect.
And you can not only change your own outlook but also influence that of the people around you, something that has always been known but never fully understood. It has to do with something called "mirror neurons" in your brain. "These mirror neurons are the reason why a yawn spreads at board meetings," Achor explains. "Your brian, when you see something in your visual field, raises the likelihood of your experiencing that as well." The same goes for positivity—as well as negativity—which is why leaders can have such a profound effect in business. "You can have one person on the room that is very expressive of their negativity and stress and it can spread to the entire team," Achor says. He also gives several other pieces of advice about leveraging the happiness advantage in the business world.
Ultimately, Achor wants people to understand that happiness should not be kept on our cognitive horizons; it is not something that will magically appear after reaching a certain level in a company or a school. "Happiness is a work ethic," Achor says. "It's something that requires our brains to train just like an athlete has to train."
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
BASE particle physicists have discovered a very precise way to examine antimatter.
Thank your lucky stars you’re alive. It’s truly a miracle of nature. This has nothing to do with spirituality or religion and everything to do with science. Life itself may not be the miracle. Although we haven’t found it elsewhere yet, our galaxy alone is so replete with Earth-like planets that, mathematically speaking, one of them must hold life, even if it’s just the microbial variety. Intelligent life may be another matter.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.