The latest research in the science of well-being for maintaining the good life.

Finding Happiness in Health

Happier people tend to engage in healthier behaviors, thus contributing to a longer life; it is hard to have one without the other. We are staying on top of the latest research into the science of happiness to bring to you the best practices to keep your mind and body happy and healthy. Rest Easy According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three Americans lacks adequate sleep on a regular basis, and that’s not good news for our health. Lack of proper sleep can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and mental fatigue. But, new research suggests we may be getting better at it. A study published in the journal Sleep shows that sleep durations have been improving on weekdays and weekends for more than a 14-year period. A few reasons for the uptick in ZZZs are that people are watching less TV and reading less before bed. Plus, banking, shopping and working online frees up more time the hit the hay early. Life Unplugged In a recent study published in the journal Emotion, the psychological well-being in America’s youth decreased after 2012. What is creating all this sadness? One answer is technology. Teens who spent more time with their devices and less time on device-free activity (sports, studies and face-to-face social interaction) felt a decline in their personal happiness. The solution to this problem isn’t necessarily quitting cold turkey. Researchers find that the happiest teens use their devices less than one hour a day. More than an hour of use increases unhappiness. Pay Attention It’s no secret that exercise can stave off physical decline as we age. The same is true for exercising our minds. Recent brain studies uncovered a few ways for us to practice keeping our minds sharp and focused. According to researchers from the University of Exeter, people who do daily crossword puzzles can strengthen their cognitive functions such as memory, reasoning and attention. For a less challenging approach, a longitudinal study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement shows that regular meditation rituals also improve attention span, focus and can fight off cognitive decline later in life. Gotta Have Faith In a study that scoured obituaries nationwide, researchers from the psychology department at Ohio State University found that people with more religion in their lives lived almost four years longer than people who did not. While the exact reasons for lengthier lives is not known, the study suggests many people who practice religion stay socially active, refrain from riskier behaviors, such as drinking and smoking, practice stress reducing rituals such as prayer or meditation and volunteered more, which are all activities that lead to happier and healthier lives.
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Two young women laughing and drinking coffee.

Happiness is Contagious … Literally!

Most of us, at some point in the past few years, have found ourselves a little bit more attuned to the sound of a cough. Our alarm bells go off, and this can be summed up into one word - "cough, cough"  coronavirus. Yes, I know, not another story about corona and your mental health! Well luckily, that’s not what this story is about. But it is about something else that turns out to be contagious: moods. Yes, just like catching corona (or any other sickness you may be trying to avoid) you can also catch someone else's mood - and it’s backed by science. Researchers found that through a process called ‘social contagion’ moods can spread from one person to the next in various ways. No doubt most of us have experienced how others’ bad moods can affect us negatively. We easily feel down, or sad, or angry when others around us emote those same feelings - especially those we are closer to. But what about positive emotions, can they be contagious? And if so, to what degree? Research by Nicholas Christakis from Harvard University suggests that happiness, like the flu, can spread from person to person. When people close to us, in terms of relationships, or even physical proximity become happier, we do too. For example, when a person who lives within a mile of a good friend becomes happier, the probability that this person’s good friend will also become happier increases by 15%. An even more striking finding in this study suggests that the effect can go beyond direct links and reach a third degree of separation: When a friend of a friend becomes happier, we become happier, even when we don’t know that third person directly! Perhaps this is just another small reminder of why your mom was right when she told you to ”choose your friends carefully!” Interestingly, the concept of ‘social contagion” also explains why the old notion of trying to become happier by comparing yourself to the less fortunate (i.e. those who have more troubled relationships, less money, worse health, etc…) does not often work. You see, if you compare yourself to those who suffer more, and thus have more negative moods, you expose yourself to the negative moods as well. And, if you accept that moods are contagious, then comparing yourself to the less fortunate can actually affect you more negatively than uplift your spirits. Moods thus are not just contagious, they’re very contagious. In a world where depression is the leading cause of disability, and it’s estimated that 5% of adults globally suffer from it (according to 2021 World Health Organization data), a little boost in happiness can go a lot further than you think. The key takeaway is that if you work on your own happiness while also surrounding yourself with happier people, it’s not only good for your well-being, it will make others around you happier, and those who are close to them happier as well!  This is the powerful ripple effect of happiness. I hope you choose it when you can! Dr. Tal Leead has more than 25 years of clinical experience and runs her own private practice in California primarily focused on positive psychology. Her first best-selling book Happier Being: Your Path to Optimizing Habits, Health & Happiness has already sold thousands of copies and received praise from world-renowned meditation expert Sharon Salzberg, amongst many others. She has also been published in magazines such as Thrive Global and Psychreg.
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2023 World Happiness Report

Finland Remains the Happiest Place on Earth

Finland was named the Happiest Country in the world for the sixth consecutive year in this year’s World Happiness Report. The report, published annually by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranks countries according to national happiness and reports on specific areas of happiness and well-being. The report was released today in conjunction with the International Day of Happiness. As has happened throughout the 11 years of publishing the report, Nordic countries ranked high when it comes to happiness, with five of them landing in the top 10. The 10 happiest countries, according to this year’s report, are: Finland Denmark Iceland Israel Netherlands Sweden Norway Switzerland Luxembourg New Zealand The United States fared slightly better than it had in 2022, moving up one spot to No. 15, and Canada regained some of its footing, climbing from No. 15 last year to No. 13. However, the United Kingdom dropped two spots from No. 17 in 2022 to No. 19 this year. Both Ukraine and Russia again landed at the lower end of the rankings, with Ukraine at No. 92 and Russia at No. 70. Report authors noted that Ukraine’s well-being suffered less in 2022 than it did in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. Professor Jan-Emmanuel DeNeve, director of the Wellbeing Research Center at the University of Oxford, notes that while Ukraine has taken a hit in terms of happiness in the wake of the Russian invasion, it has fared better “thanks in part to the extraordinary rise in fellow feelings across Ukraine,” which has been evidenced by the help from strangers and the amount of donations the country has received. “The Russian invasion has forged Ukraine into a nation,” he observes. Once again, Lebanon and Afghanistan ranked lowest in terms of happiness. Measuring Happiness The World Happiness Report relies on six key factors to evaluate happiness: social support, income, health, freedom, generosity and absence of corruption. One significant finding from this year’s report is that levels of life satisfaction around the world have returned to where they were in pre-pandemic years. “Average happiness and our country rankings, for emotions as well as life evaluations, have been remarkably stable during the three COVID-19 years,” says John F. Helliwell, a professor at the University of British Columbia and editor of the report. “Even during these difficult years, positive emotions have remained twice as prevalent as negative ones, and feelings of positive social support [are] twice as strong as those of loneliness.” Perhaps related to that widespread return of positive emotions is the report’s findings that, for a second year in a row, acts of everyday kindness have exceeded pre-pandemic levels. That includes such things as helping strangers, donating to charities and volunteering.  And that’s significant, according to Professor Lara Aknin, director of the Helping and Happiness Lab of Simon Fraser University. “Acts of kindness have been shown to both lead to and stem from greater happiness,” she says.
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Depressed woman

The Pebbles Can Pummel You

Determining whether a person is clinically depressed is not an arbitrary decision. Psychiatrists follow strict guidelines specified by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and look for at least five of the following nine symptoms lasting at least two weeks: Feels depressed most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by subjective report (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful) Feels markedly diminished levels of interest or pleasure when engaging in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by subjective account or observation) Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain or decrease, or increase in appetite Sleep disturbance Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down) Fatigue or loss of energy Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide I include these criteria not only because I want readers to know that depression can manifest in many ways but also to underscore the importance of seeking professional help if they apply to you or a loved one. Over the years I have diagnosed, hospitalized, and treated many patients with the full range of the symptoms described above. But there are also many who qualify for an “almost diagnosis”—not mentally ill by clinical standards but lacking positive mental health. When I first opened my private practice, most of the new patients I took on were at an inflection point. They sought help to assess a life-changing decision or to understand a relationship, or they were in the midst of a significant transition, often following a loss. The chronic issues in their daily lives did not take center stage. Today more and more patients come to see me because of the ups and downs in their daily lives. They are feeling worn out and worn down by the daily grind. Women seem to feel it the most. Almost half of the women surveyed said they frequently experience daily stress, and more than 40 percent said they feel as if they don’t have enough time. Their lives are nonstop, with a to-do list that seems bottomless. Often a lack of vitality only amplifies their stress. Patients often just give up and sigh, “I guess that’s just life.” The hassles of day-to-day living— the annoying, anxiety-provoking, and frustrating experiences that are embedded into everyday life— are a significant source of stress. Seemingly minor occurrences—an argument with a child or partner, an unexpected work deadline, arriving late for an appointment, missing a train, or dealing with a malfunctioning computer—all contribute. One study’s results indicated that watching the news and losing your cell phone are among the top ten daily events that stress people out. Even a long line at your local coffee shop or not having hot water for your morning shower can be enough to put you in a terrible mood. We know it’s absurd to allow something minor to ruin a minute let alone a day. We try to dismiss these daily irritations as irrelevant or as the “first- world problems” they are. We tell ourselves that they don’t matter in the long run. But they do. Many assume that major life events like divorce, the death of a spouse, and the loss of a job are the most virulent causes of stress, but a University of California, Berkeley study confirmed that so-called microstressors are the ones we need to watch out for: “[T]hese kinds of stressors have been taken for granted and considered to be less important than more dramatic stressors. Clinical and research data indicate that these ‘micro- stressors’ acting cumulatively, and in the relative absence of compensatory positive experience, can be potent sources of stress.” The impact of challenges that occur during everyday living on both a person’s physical and mental health cannot be underestimated and are, in fact, better predictors of health than major life events. This excerpt is from Everyday Vitality by Samantha Boardman, published by Penguin Life, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Samantha Boardman.  Dr. Samantha Boardman is a Positive Psychiatrist with a private practice in Manhattan. She is a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry and Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College. She received her B.A. from Harvard University and a Medical Degree from Cornell University Medical College, where she was awarded the Oskar Diethelm Prize for Excellence in Psychiatry. 
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Young women on college campus holding textbook

Which Bachelor’s Degree Will Make You Happiest?

Money doesn’t buy happiness — but the right college degree program can. Research into the mental health of students in different degree fields has uncovered that certain programs are almost certain to make you feel happier and more relaxed than other fields, and not just during a student’s time at school. If you are eager to invest in a degree that continues to improve your mood for the rest of your life, you might enroll in one of the following bachelor degree programs: Humanities Though humanities majors are often confronted with the irksome question, “What will you do for work?” it seems that students focused on humanities degrees are some of the happiest on campus. Humanities degrees encompass a variety of studies of the human world, from English language and literature to history and geography, philosophy and religion, law, archaeology and anthropology, arts, modern languages and more. Many humanities studies confront questions about what it means to be happy and how true happiness is achieved, which is perhaps why this degree field is the one most likely to bring joy to students now and into the future. Sports and Exercise Science The human body needs regular movement for proper regulation. In fact, one of the first and best treatments for mental disease is an exercise regimen. Thus, it makes sense that students committed to understanding the physical needs of the human body are often quite contended on college campuses. Certain exercises allow the body to release endorphins that elevate the mood immediately and improve emotional outlook in the long term. Students who are so committed to sports and exercise science that they pursue a degree in the field will likely maintain healthy physical habits, thus all but guaranteeing themselves happiness. Engineering Perhaps a surprising degree on this list, engineering consistently ranks among the happiest degrees — primarily for the job security and high salary awaiting students after graduation. There are all sorts of engineering disciplines for students to explore to find a field that they feel passionate about and capable in. Though engineering programs can be competitive and require exceedingly complex knowledge and skill, students who are committed to engineering are able to find happiness while they pursue their degrees and for decades after. Natural Sciences The natural sciences are a field of study focused on understanding phenomena of the natural world. Some examples of natural sciences include chemistry, physics, biology and geology, though each of these can be further divided into myriad disciplines and specializations. Often, students study the natural sciences because they already feel passionately about them, which means every course offers them more opportunities to explore their passion and refine a skill they know and enjoy. Like the humanities, there are not always clear career pathways for students in the natural sciences, but that does not stop them from experiencing happiness in their studies. Psychology It makes sense that one of the most popular degree programs is also among the most fascinating. A bachelor’s degree in psychology provides students with unique insight into the workings of the human mind, which remains one of the most powerful and mysterious organic tools in the universe. Psychology is a relatively young field, which means there is still plenty of opportunity for students to experiment and innovate new theories to explain human thought, emotion and behavior. When it comes to achieving happiness, psychology students have decades of research to utilize as blueprints, so they are more likely to develop healthy mental and emotional patterns during and after their degree program. Arts and Design Humans have been creating art for far longer than we have been practicing math, pursuing scientific inquiry or writing down histories and laws. There are many theories regarding humankind engages in artistic endeavors, but many art students have a clear and easy answer: joy. Making art involves expressing oneself, and that act can bring balance that leads to a profound and lasting happiness. What’s more, because creativity is often lacking in more career-oriented degree fields, there are plenty of opportunities for success in arts and design after graduation. Plenty of students in degree programs outside of these six experience happiness — just not to the extent of students pursuing degrees in the above fields. If you don’t know what you want to do but you do know you want to be happy, enrolling in one of the above degree programs is a safe choice.
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Does Trying to Be Happier Make You Less Happy?

I am a happiness junkie. Positive psychology? Yes please. Gratitude journals? Done. Top five happiness boosters? I’m there. But then I saw a series of studies suggesting that trying to be happy might actually make you less happy. This stopped me in my tracks. Was it time to question my whole happiness philosophy? First, let’s take a look at the research: One study by McGuirk and colleagues found that subjects who felt an expectation to be happy were more stressed about their perceived failures, which led to more self-critical thoughts and feelings, and less actual happiness. Another study by Mauss and colleagues found that focusing on happiness (inherently a personal rather than collective gain) can actually pull people away from others and damage relationships, ultimately resulting in increased loneliness (which is basically anti-happiness). A third study by Diener, Sandvik and Pavot found that experiencing euphoric highs can actually increase the intensity of negative emotions and dull our ability to experience more prolonged levels of satisfaction. This all seems like bad news for a happiness-seeker like me. But that’s why it’s important to take a closer look. When you actually dissect these studies, you find it’s not seeking happiness that’s the problem, it’s the way you go about it, i.e. buying into the myth that we should be happy even in hard times, pulling away from others, and seeking increasingly extreme highs to the detriment of simpler and longer lasting satisfaction. If you find yourself falling into one of these traps, it’s probably time to switch tactics. Don’t chase happiness, instead, focus on the practices most likely to bring you true joy. The Path to True Joy There’s been a great deal of research done on what does (and what does not) bring happiness. Fortunately, a few tried and true practices always arise: Nurture your mental health by calming the mind, savoring the moment, and allowing yourself to enjoy the simple things in life. Nourish your body with movement, nutrients, time in natural spaces, and quality sleep. Feed your spirit by spending as much time as possible with friends and family, and doing things that give you a deeper feeling of purpose, meaning and fulfillment. Understand that happiness comes more from within than without. Everyone thinks that external things will make them happier (more money, a bigger house, less debt, a new car) but after a short time, those things lose their effect. In fact, studies have shown that even winning the lottery will not buy you more happiness in the long run. Each of us is a living laboratory. Experiment with these ideas and find out what works for you. What I Know For Sure I know one thing for sure: The tools I’ve gained from trying to be happier are the ones I use time and time again. For example, my family recently received some potentially devastating news. I was angry. I was sad. I was frustrated. None of those feelings changed the reality of the situation, but it was important to feel them nonetheless. That’s life, as they say. But then those feelings decided to set up camp… and they really overstayed their welcome. And they invited their old friends hopelessness and misery to join the party (insomnia stopped by too). When it became evident that these freeloaders weren’t helping me actually change anything – and weren’t going anywhere on their own, I reached into my old happiness toolkit. Out came the gratitude journal and visualization boards. Out came the affirmations (my current favorite is “What if this all works out?”). I put my ruminating thoughts in time-out. I focused on savoring the moment and the simple things. I moved my body as much and as often as possible. And, just like every time before, it worked; not all at once, but it worked nonetheless. Trying to be happier hasn’t made me less happy. It hasn’t made me immune to anger or sadness either. It has simply given me the tools I need to move forward when the time is right. Thanks to my happiness journey, I can navigate the sea of emotion and steer my ship where I want it to go. And it’s made all the feelings that surface along the way a little less scary, which is half the battle anyway. So continue on happiness seekers. After all, true joy is always in the journey. Read more from Andrea Culletto at ExploryTales.com.
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Live Happy Impact on Adult Bullying Children's Brain Development

The Impact of Adult Bullying on Children’s Developing Brains

We prefer to talk about child-to-child bullying. Even though it’s a horrendous and serious crisis, it’s still a comfortable topic. However, we become quickly uncomfortable when anyone raises the issue of adult bullying. Advances in brain science have provided us with new understanding that can give us the courage to talk about adults who bully children. Not long ago, we did not believe a concussion was a problem. In fact, we saw it as a badge of honor for an athlete to go back into competition and show his team and coach what he was made of. We now know that concussions are actually serious brain injuries and must be recovered and repaired before an athlete returns to play. Likewise, we now know that all forms of bullying and abuse can do serious harm to the brain. This includes: neglecting, ignoring, refusing feedback, walking out on someone, ghosting, excluding, shaming, blaming, using put downs, humiliating, berating, threatening, yelling, swearing, assaulting and all forms of cyber, sexual, and physical abuse. Extensive, replicated, consensus-building research documents on brain scans how these kinds of bullying behaviors harm the brain. We cannot see the injuries with the naked eye, just like we cannot see the blackening of lungs when individuals smoke. We need a brain scan to make visible the harm to the brain and we need an x-ray to make visible the harm to the lungs. Now that non-invasive technology has revealed to us just how deadly all bullying behaviors are to our brains, we need to change how we conduct ourselves. Adults — especially those in positions of trust and power over children, such as parents, teachers, and coaches — need to lead the charge. Children’s brains are developing and vulnerable. They are extremely sensitive due to their developmental stages especially from 0 to 5 and from 13 to 25 years. A teen or twenty-something may look like an adult, but their brains are not yet mature and they have heightened sensitivity to their environment and peer relationships. In a positive, psychologically and physically safe, caring environment, adolescent brains will flourish. In a toxic, psychologically or physically dangerous, bullying environment, their brains will struggle and may suffer damage. It can be difficult for adults to recognize that they are bullying children and youth. It is challenging because we’ve been raised in a society that normalizes adult bullying while telling children not to do it. When adults bully, we do rarely hold them accountable. In fact, we are more likely to change our terms when adults bully. We say what they are doing is “motivating, giving tough love, rejecting political correctness, being passionate, refusing to be a wuss, toughening kids up for a tough world, breaking down the victim to build them back up better,” and so on. As a society, on a deep level, we still believe the myth that bullying and abuse are a necessary evil to attain greatness, power, and prestige. Perhaps this is why political leaders in society do not feel compelled to coverup blatant bullying behaviors in public or documented on social media. The myth that bullying is necessary to attain greatness is a myth in the sense that there is no research to back it up. None. In contrast, there is extensive research spanning decades that provides evidence for the long lasting, serious harm to the brain by all forms of bullying and abuse. A quick way for adults to identify if they are bullying children is to compare how they treat kids to how they treat adults in positions of power over them. Do the parents speak and act the same way with their bosses as they do with their children? Does the coach act and speak to the Athletic Director the same way he does to his child athletes? Does the teacher act and speak the same way to the principal as she does to her students? If not, why not? Do children not deserve the same kind of respect and care? Surely they deserve more because they are sensitive and vulnerable and in a massive power imbalance with the adults in their lives. Science has informed us that all forms of bullying and abuse harm brains. Now it’s up to us to take this empowering, inspiring knowledge and change our conduct. We can work together to role-model empathy, thoughtfulness, and compassion so that our child populations learn a new way of being in the world, a far healthier, happier, and more high-performing way, grounded in brain science and advanced through the adults concerned by the normalized bullying in society
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Live Happy's Tips for Preventing Decision Fatigue

Do You Have Decision Fatigue? Here’s What It Is and How to Prevent It

Standing in the grocery store at the end of a long day, it’s not usual for me to feel irritated and indecisive. The question that puts me over the edge: “What’s for dinner?”   I’ll do anything I can to divert that monumental question to my husband.  Ask him to run to the store, or text to see what he’s in the mood to eat, or what I should grab.  Anything so that I don’t have to face a decision that doesn’t just impact me, but everyone in the family (who all have their own strong opinions on what should or should not be served).   Why is it that I can function all day, juggling work, kids, and home, but some days the thought of dinner feels like too much?   The answer is decision fatigue, and if you’ve ever found yourself stressed, frozen, irritable, or just plain exhausted at the thought of making a decision, you’ve faced it too.    What is Decision Fatigue? Decision fatigue is defined as “difficulty in making a good decision experienced as a result of the number of decisions one needs to make.”  The more decisions you make in a day, the harder it can be to make those decisions.  Your brain has a limit and if you surpass that limit you can begin to feel the effects.   We make a crazy amount of decisions each day. It is estimated that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions in a day, according to Dr. Joel Hoomans, an Assistant Professor of Management and Leadership Studies at Roberts Wesleyan College.  From the mundane—what should I wear or eat for breakfast, to the complex—planning a work project, or deciding where to enroll your child for school next year.   What makes understanding decision fatigue difficult is the limit of decisions you can handle in a day is not set and can vary.  Factors that can influence your rate of decision fatigue include how rested you are, the food you’ve eaten, the amount of stress you are facing, and how much you are trying to handle on any given day (while multi-tasking may feel necessary at times, it is can be very draining for your brain).  Individuals struggling with ADHD, depression, or anxiety can also experience heightened levels of decision fatigue.   Making a decision involves multiple networks in your brain working together.  The networks involved in making a decision are the same ones that contribute to your executive functions.  These functions are the high-level brain functions that dictate your ability to sustain focus, override impulses, think, learn, plan, and make decisions.  High-level functions of the brain also require high amounts of fuel to support their actions.  This means the more you’ve done in a day involving your mental capacities, the less fuel you’ll have remaining to support thinking and making decisions.   If you struggle with challenges related to ADHD, anxiety, or depression you may be more likely to find yourself facing decision fatigue. Here's How to Prevent Decision Fatigue Next time you find yourself stuck when facing a decision, remember this—decision fatigue is your brain’s way of communicating with you.  Your brain is telling you that you’ve reached your limit.  To push past this limit successfully your brain needs extra support!  If you’re able to, press pause on your decision and take time to implement one of the following energizing strategies first: Rest - a quick nap, mindfulness meditation, or a good night’s sleep can go a long way in providing your brain a chance to recharge Eat - a high protein snack that includes healthy fats such as avocado is a quick way to provide more fuel to your brain Exercise - 20-30 minutes of exercise that engages your muscles and spikes your heart rate can help to increase your ability to focus after exercising Switch gears - if something is causing you stress, taking time to set it aside to engage in something enjoyable, like time spent outside, can help you come back to face the challenge feeling more refreshed Connect with a friend or family member.  Taking a few extra minutes out of your day to connect with someone you care about can help to recharge your mood and energy! Thoughtful planning can help to reduce your frequency of decision fatigue: Use the weekend to plan outfits and meals for the week, to reduce the number of decisions you need to make during your work week Make your biggest decisions first thing in the day, when you are rested and fresh Create habits and routines whenever possible to minimize the little decisions (do your grocery shopping first thing Saturday morning so you don’t need to decide that week when to go) Create to-do lists that include days and deadlines to minimize procrastination (which creates more decision fatigue due to stress and a backlog of decisions!) Don't Make Decision Fatigue a Family Habit If you’re a parent, keep in mind that decision fatigue is just as real for our kids as it is for us!  Our kids also face days full of demands and stressful decisions.  Next time your child melts down when you ask what they want for dinner, know their brain is showing you they’ve had enough for one day!  Implementing the same strategies that help you, can help support your child’s needs as well. We can’t make the stresses and challenges in life go away, but we can work to be better prepared.  Knowing how to identify your threshold for decision fatigue and what to do when the moment strikes will hopefully set you up for success in your 35,000 decisions tomorrow. Weekends are a great time to address decisions such as meals and outfits for the week, reducing the number of decisions you make during your work days. Save the big decisions for times when you are fresh and focused - first thing in the morning, or after you've eaten or exercised are great times to tackle the more challenging decisions, or longer lists! Dr. Rebecca Jackson is currently the VP of Programs and Outcomes for Brain Balance, where she designs and implements programs focused on strengthening the brain to optimize human performance for a variety of ages and abilities. She has been featured on national media outlets, including ABC’s The Doctors Show, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Forbes, Business Insider, TODAY, Huffington Post and more.
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Portrait Scandinavian woman holds the flag of Finland in the background on the premises of the cafe.

Finland Named the World’s Happiest Country — Again

Despite a year of pain, suffering and uncertainty, annual World Happiness Report shows a growth in kindness. Finland is still the happiest country in the world. That’s according to the 2022 World Happiness Report, which is released each year by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. This is the fifth consecutive year that Finland has taken the top spot in the report, which ranks countries according to national happiness in addition to reporting on specific areas of happiness and well-being. Once again, Nordic countries fared well, with five landing in the top 10: Finland Denmark Iceland Switzerland The Netherlands Luxembourg Sweden Norway Israel New Zealand Closer to home, the U.S. moved up from its No. 19 position last year to the No. 16 spot this year, while Canada dropped to 15th place — a substantial fall, the report authors noted, from its No. 5 position in 2012. Two countries that have been top of mind around the world recently — Russia and Ukraine — both landed in the bottom half of the world happiness rankings, at No. 80 and 98, respectively. The rankings were compiled before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the analysts will follow how the situation affects not only those two countries but disrupts the global level of happiness. Of the least happy countries, Zimbabwe, Lebanon and Afghanistan ranked last. A 10-Year Retrospective This is the 10th anniversary of the report, and its authors used this as an opportunity to look at how public interest in happiness has evolved over the past decade. However, during the report’s release on Friday, Jon Clifton of Gallup noted that they have been compiling data on happiness for 17 years. “Experts have figured out how to count everything, but nobody was tracking how people feel,” he said. “So, we set out to quantify how much anger they feel. How much sadness. How much stress people feel.” The findings over the years have been both useful and eye-opening. Clifton noted that this year’s data indicates that stress, sadness, anger, and worry have reached a record high. “All five of those have been rising for 10 straight years,” he said. “So, as we celebrate the International Day of Happiness, don’t forget the people who are unhappy.” Prosocial Behaviors Prevail One of the most positive findings of the report was that prosocial behavior increased globally from 2020 to 2021. Using donations, volunteering, and helping strangers as metrics, researchers found that around the world, we became more willing to help one another. Although this prosocial behavior occurred at different levels or in different ways, depending on the region, every region showed some sort of increase — often at “remarkable rates not seen for any of the variables we have tracked before and during the pandemic,” report authors noted. John Helliwell of the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia and one of the authors of the report, said that areas where people had a greater feeling of trust in their government officials and in their communities were better able to weather the negative effects of the pandemic. That’s consistent with findings of studies that have shown communities with high levels of trust tend to show more resilience during such crises as tsunamis, earthquakes, accidents, and storms. “The places where trust was high fared better during COVID. It was people who were reaching out, and who were seeing others reach out,” Helliwell said, emphasizing the role this played in offsetting the drumbeat of bad news played out through the news media. “Life evaluations continue to be strikingly resilient in the face of COVID-19, and the pandemic of benevolence was one of the supporting factors.”
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Cute portrayal of a range of different emotions

Make Your Happiness Last Longer by Embodying All Emotions

To embody an emotion is to expand the experience of an emotion to as much of the body as possible. When we do that, we are able to tolerate and stay with the emotional experience for much longer; and our thinking and behavior in relation to the emotion improve. The practice of embodying emotion is of value to both unpleasant emotions such as sadness and pleasant emotions such as happiness. The strategy of embodying emotions is based on the latest research findings in affective neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and body psychotherapy. How can embodying the emotion of happiness improve a person’s well-being? When we expand the experience of happiness to as much of the body as possible, we are able to increase, stay with, and enjoy our happiness for a much longer period. Our thinking and behavior will improve to support that we remain happy longer, by making our thinking and behavior more positive to enhance and support our happiness or by exposing and resolving our thinking and feeling that do not support our happiness. And, because unpleasant emotions are associated with states of increasing stress and dysregulation and pleasant emotions with states of decreasing stress and increasing regulation in the brain and body physiology, embodying pleasant emotions such as happiness can improve our health and energy as well as make us more resilient in the face of life’s challenges, consistent with the findings in positive psychology that people who are happier tend to be healthier and more resilient, physically and psychologically. How we can enhance the practice Positive Psychology through the Practice of Embodying Emotions Positive psychology emphasizes the important role positive cognitions, emotions, and behaviors can play in increasing our wellbeing any therapeutic process. Just as there are any number of positive cognitions and behaviors, there are also any number of positive emotions. However, most if not all psychotherapy approaches work with only a limited number of pleasant and unpleasant emotions, influenced by the academic research on emotions that usually focuses only on a limited number and vocabulary of emotions. Integral Somatic Psychology (ISP) in its primary clinical strategy of the practice of embodying emotions works creatively with a large range of emotions including the always-present and often-overlooked sensorimotor emotions, psychologically meaningful body states such as  feeling good or feeling as though each cell in the body were eating chocolate, for example. We often have more access to such positive sensorimotor emotions and are able to embody them with greater ease than the basic emotion of happiness. At times, expanding positive emotional experiences in a body is made difficult by the body shutting down due to its inability to tolerate an unpleasant emotion. When the chest is constricted against the experience of grief, it is hard to feel joy there let alone expand it from there to other places in the body. In such instances, practitioners of positive psychology can work to free the body for the experience and expansion of positive emotions in an efficient manner by having the unpleasant emotion of grief embodied first, as expanding unpleasant emotions has been shown to be quite effective in increasing one’s ability to tolerate them and in freeing the body from defenses against emotions. RAJA SELVAM, Ph.D., is the developer of Integral Somatic Psychology, an approach based on the paradigm of embodied cognition, emotion, and behavior in cognitive and affective neuroscience. He is the author of The Practice of Embodying Emotions: A Guide to Improving Cognitive, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes.
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