Monday, December 02, 2013

Relax, Socialize and Be Happy (#'s 8 & 9 of a thousand ways to have a happy life)


"Tea Party" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
What I like most about searching out 1,000 ways to have a happy life is that I'm starting to realize what a complicated concept happiness really is... and how interesting... and it feels good to know that our happiness is really within our reach, that we really can have a happy life.

One of the big sources of unhappiness and discomfort in our lives is stress.  Our sympathetic nervous system gets all in an uproar and our cortisol production goes up.  We tend to feel like stuff is out of control.  And of course then as we try harder to assert control on things, we get even more stressed.  But there are things we can do.   #'s 8 and 9 of a thousand ways to have a happy life follow.

#8.  Over on ApartmentTherapy.com they have some interesting research by "sound therapists," rating songs in terms of how relaxing they are and they've posted ten of the most relaxing songs, with Marconi Union's "Weightless", coming out on top.  They have the whole song for you to listen to,   with its continuous rhythm of 60 BPM, which they say is an ideal tempo for synchronization with the heart and brainwaves.  I gave it a listen, and I'm thinking I need to look into the album for my further study in having a happy life.

#9. Then there's neuro-scientist Matthew Lieberman, who has this great TedTalk about our social brain and it's superpowers.  If you watch it, I guarantee you will feel happy and hopeful!  He talks about the importance of building on our social intuition, how we can actually make ourselves smarter, happier, and more productive.  He describes groundbreaking research in social neuroscience that reveals that our need to connect with others is even more fundamental than our need for food or shelter.  Pretty basic, and it has to do with our long period of dependency on caretakers.

He also also talked about the fact that the social pain and pleasure we experience has just as much impact as physical pain and pleasure.  (In fact he can't tell the difference between MRI's of social pain or physical pain, suggesting we could take a Tylenol if we are suffering from social pain.) 

He points out that we learn better if we are learning in order to share with others, as apposed to learning in order to pass a test.  The social part of the brain is actually better at retaining information than the analytical part of the brain. 

He ends his talk with the importance of social connections as a predictor of future happiness that our happiness and well being is actually based on our social connections.  Although our culture values material goods and money over social connections, research and personal experience teaches us the truth, that our happiness is connected to our ability to connect. 

Here's a nice little happy social brain stimulating video.

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