Is Happiness Up to Me? – Happiness & Its Causes 2013

Where does happiness come from?
Here’s what the panel has to say: Diener felt that even though there is a genetic component, we are still in control of our happiness. Fisher explained that happiness has an evolutionary basis when we look at research of animals and brain studies. HonorĂ© quoted John Lennon that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Rechter said that happiness also involved the social aspect, the happiness of others around us.

How much impact do external factors such as work and relationships have on our wellbeing and happiness?
Diener emphasised that social respect and trust are important to our happiness, to which Rechter concurred. Strong social connections can definitely help. Fisher pointed out the pain and suffering from being rejected in love indicates the importance of relationships to our happiness. Honoré talked about the different levels of social relationship, from individual, family and friends to the bigger community, all of which require us to slow down in order to nourish these different relationships.

How does the pace of life affect happiness?
Slow is the answer. (They are too fast for me.)

Are altruism and compassion the secret ingredients to a good life?
If we only think of happiness as our goal, we might just rush into taking drugs etc. Instead, we need to develop skills for sustainable happiness, which includes social skills like compassion and altruism. Fisher talked about different forms of altruism. A heroic altruism is linked to testosterone system while a nurturing one is related to estrogen system. Maybe we need all these different forms. Rechter illustrated this by referring to bystanders who stepped forward to say no to racist behaviour. This makes oneself happy and also makes others happy.

Take-home messages:

  • Slow down. Take a few deep breaths as a quick fix of slow. A speed audit by stopping and checking in at our pace of doing things.
  • Smile and enhance our connection to the arts.
  • Be more positive to others actively. Express gratitude, appreciation, and compliments.
  • Marry the right person.

Jerril Rechter, CEO, VicHealth
Professor Ed Diener, world’s foremost expert on the science of happiness and life satisfaction, Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Univeristy of Illinois, United States
Dr Helen Fisher, anthropologist and expert on romantic love, Research Professor, Rutgers University, United States
Carl Honoré, leading proponent of the Slow Movement, award winning journalist and best-selling author In Praise of Slow, Under Pressure and The Slow Fix, United Kingdom

Moderator: Lynne Malcolm, Presenter, All in the Minds, ABC Radio National

Live from the Happiness & Its Causes Conference 2013


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