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NYU / OTHER / CAMS 110001 / science of happiness nyu

science of happiness nyu

science of happiness nyu


School: New York University
Department: OTHER
Course: The Science of Happiness
Professor: Alan schlechter
Term: Spring 2017
Cost: 50
Name: Final Study Guide: Science of Happiness
Description: Science of Happiness final study guide
Uploaded: 12/09/2017
10 Pages 15 Views 25 Unlocks

The Science of Happiness

Who is William James in science?

Final Study Guide


• Martin Seligman

o Father of Positive Psychology

o Psychology is “half-baked”: we have only baked mental illness

o If you can teach helplessness, you can teach hopefulness

o Created idea of character strengths

o Focused on what makes us excel in life

• William James

o Great Grandfather of Positive Psychology

o You can change what you don’t like

• Abraham Maslow

o Grandfather of positive psychology

o First to use the term

o Grew up with cruel parents, became interested in healing himself and living  normal life

o Obsessed with Self Actualization; created Maslow Hierarchy

• Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi

o State of “flow”: highest level of engagement Don't forget about the age old question of tcu train horn

• Aaron Beck

o Endorsed CBT

o Identification of cognitive errors

What is PERMA?

o Practicing a new style of thinking via imagery or role playing

• Roy Baumeister

o Studied willpower

o If we are annoying and hungry we may not have willpower to hold our tongue o Chocolate vs radish experiment  

• Pavlov

o Classical conditioning (Pavlov’s dogs)

• Carol Dweck

o Fixed and Growth mindsets

• Barbara Fredrickson

o Broaden and build, snowball effect, undoing effect (see more under topics) o Let kids get stressed before they had to “give a speech” then showed them a  video, those who saw happy video had quicker recovery time

• Doidge

o Neuroplasticity

• Ericsson And Charness

o 10 years of daily deliberate practice makes excellence

o Excellence is worked for, not genetic



• Until 1940, psychology mainly focused on 3 things (3 Pillars of Psych) o Curing mental illness

What is choice paralysis?

o Understanding and developing high potential

o Exploring how to foster more fulfilling and productive lives We also discuss several other topics like accounting 201 final exam


The Science of Wellbeing-Positive Emotions

• The Hedonic treadmill (AKA hedonic adaptation)

o Humans return to a stable level of happiness regardless of how positive or  negative the life event is

o Hedonism does NOT create a never ending upward trend in happiness but rather  a sort of happiness set point


o Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishments o Each property must have three properties according to Seligman

▪ It contributes to wellbeing

▪ People pursue it for its own sake

▪ It is defined and measured independently from the others

• The Circumplex model  

o Emotion is not either/or  

• Narrow and constrict, broaden and build  

o Narrow and constrict - people tend to retreat to make themselves feel better  (picture spiraling arrow going down) If you want to learn more check out econ 206

▪ This happens when bad things occur → depression

o Broaden and build - positive emotions are built through celebration and sharing  (picture spiraling arrow going up)  

o Fredrickson’s experiment

▪ Subjects were told they were going to speak in front of hundreds of  

people, then were told they weren't; then were showed 1 of 3 films (sad,  neutral, happy) 

▪ The people who saw the happy video recovered from their stress level  faster 

▪ If you want to do your best, recovering your stress is shorter/easier when  you're around positive emotions 

• Oxytocin

o Essential for relationships (and life)  We also discuss several other topics like jmu tv guide

o Oxytocin surges…

▪ During pregnancy

▪ When mothers bond w/ their young

▪ For couples

▪ Help increase levels of trust

▪ Encourage generosity  

▪ Reduce social vigilance

▪ Make people pay attention to other people’s eyes  

o Evolutionary basis - cooperative eye hypothesis states that we want our eyes to  express what we’re feeling  

• Friendship

o Positive relationships:

▪ Distinguish the happiest 10% of people

▪ Diminish physical reactions to stressful situations

▪ Increase resilience, health, neurological functioning, and longevity

o Lack of social contact → wild increase in blood sugar  

o Personality, habits, and traits are viral! ...including heart disease, depression,  smoking, drinking, and happiness  If you want to learn more check out nsg 2050

o Face to face interactions are key  

Choice & Willpower

• Willpower

o Willpower can be depleted - it is not an unlimited resource!  

o Think of it as a muscle

▪ The more you exercise it the more fatigued it becomes

▪ You can conserve it and rest it for later strength

▪ The more you exercise it the stronger it gets  

o Willpower is drained by

▪ Temptations you wish to avoid (saying no)

▪ Initiatives you wish to take (saying yes)  

▪ Physical depletion (sources = making decisions, taking initiatives, multi tasking, restraining, sleep deprivation, substances, low blood sugar)

• Choice paralysis

o “The state of over-thinking about a decision to the point that the choice never  gets made, thereby creating inaction”

o A person faces this when s/he…

▪ Is overwhelmed by available options

▪ Over-complicates the decision  

▪ Feels compelled to pick the “right” choice, delaying action due to research  ▪ Fears making the wrong move We also discuss several other topics like define pareidolia

• Maximizers and satisficers

o Maximizers seek and accept only the best - focus on price, quality, fit, etc. o Satisficers settle for something that is good enough (“merely excellent”) - focus  on criteria, monitoring  

o Maximizers ultimately engage in more comparison before and after, take longer  to decide, compare decisions to others, experience regret, and are less satisfied  w/ the purchase whereas satisficers are fine w/ it!  


• Therapeutic tasks

o Secure base, exploration, relationship w/ therapist, connecting past and present,  and imagining alternatives  

• Common factors of therapy  

o 40% you (the client), 30% the relationship (we are working together; rapport),  15% positive expectancy, 15% therapist  

Optimism and pessimism

Optimism = hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of  something

• Benefits

o Experience less anxiety in adjusting to new life tasks (changes in school, job,  location, challenges)

o Better quality relationships  

o More likely to confront obstacles that stand in the way of goals

o Persist longer due to belief in eventual success  

• Downfalls

o Less likely to think through possible outcomes or prepare for potential issues o More likely to engage in risky behavior  

o Process poor performance poorly  

Pessimism = a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe the worst will happen; a  lack of hope/confidence in the future  

• Benefits

o Helps process poor performance → learn and improve

o Better prepares one for challenges  

o Decreases levels of anxiety  

o Can improve performance  

• Cultivating realistic optimism (ability to maintain positive outlook w/out ignoring reality) =  key!

Adversity, Belief, Consequence, and Disputation (challenging the former three)  • Explanatory styles: The difference between resilience and helplessness  o Pessimistic  

▪ Internal: the problem is with me, not w/ outside factors (ME)

▪ Stable: causes are remnant and unlikely to change (ALWAYS)  

▪ Global: every aspect of my life is affected (EVERYTHING)  

o Optimistic is opposite - external, unstable, and specific  


• Positive Relationship Enhancement Program (like a vaccine for the relationship)  o 4 main points (refer to manual)

o Risk factors

o Ratio of positive to negative comments back and forth must be no less than 5:1  (positive:negative)  

o Communication danger signs

▪ Escalation - responding back and forth negatively w/ each other (the most  dangerous)

▪ Invalidation - putting down the thoughts, opinions, or character of the  other

▪ Negative interpretations - making a negative and unfair assumption about  what your partner was thinking

▪ Avoidance and withdrawal - unwillingness to get into or stay w/ important  discussions  

o Forgiveness

▪ A cancelled debt, giving up perceived right to get even, and giving up  attitude of “you owe me”  

• Forgiveness is NOT trust

• Forgiveness is NOT reconciliation  

• Reconciliation = forgiveness + trust  

Character strengths and virtues

• Signature strengths  

o An individual’s most notable strengths of character

o Positive strengths that a person can own, celebrate, and frequently exercise o Most adults can identify 3-7

• “The exercise of signature strengths is particularly fulfilling”

o More likely to take personal initiative  

o More motivated to learn  

o Increase in performance and harmonious passion

o More likely to lead directly into passionate work

o More likely to be engaged in job (motivation, accomplishment, energy, flow) • Strength vs. talent

o Strength = moral, more buildable, not squandered, willable

o Talent = neutral, more fixed, squandered, not willable

• What do you do with your strengths?  

o Awareness

▪ What are my strengths?  

▪ Familiarity w/ strengths language

▪ Clarity around self-attribution  

o Exploration

▪ Connection to strengths

▪ Journaling

▪ Interpersonal discussion

▪ You at your best and most resilient

▪ Mentor and exemplars

• Application

▪ Using your strengths in new ways  

▪ Mutual validation/reinforcement

▪ Track recurring themes

▪ Specific activities and goals

▪ Lifestyle changes

• Strengths in excess

o Creativity → eccentricity

o Love of learning → “know it all”

o Judgement → cynicism

o Social intelligence → psycho-babbling

o Gratitude → ingratiation  

o Humor → buffoonery  

o Spirituality → fanaticism  

• Flow = highest level of involvement (be able to draw chart)


• Active Constructive Responding

o Asking questions

o Maintaining eye contact/engagement

o Empathy

• How to Know How to Treat Others?

o MyersBriggs

o Extraversion vs Introversion

o Sensing vs Intuition

o Thinking vs Feeling

o Judging vs Perceiving


• We are sleeping two hours less than we were a hundred years ago - why? o Sleep machismo

o 24/7 society

o Unlimited artificial lighting

o 24 hr internet access

o Poor societal education about sleep  

• Most disastrous nuclear and oil disasters due to lack of sleep

• 7hrs of sleep per night yields sleep deprivation

• College students most sleep-deprived group

• Sleep Hygiene

o Avoid exercise 2-3 hours before bed

o Avoid long naps that cut through REM cycle

o Stick to a bedtime routine to set internal clock

o Relax before bed

o Avoid electronics, arousing activities before bed



o Brain derived neurotrophic factor

o Supports existing neurons and encourages growth  

o Synaptic plasticity

o Increase in long term memory

• Physical exercise and particularly anaerobic exercise have to do w/ mastery and control o PTSD patients and surfing (control and normalcy)  

o Exercise → telomeres (repeated codes that get a little smaller every time a  chromosome; exercise slows decay)

• Benefits of exercise

o Elevates your mood through release of neurotransmitters

o Can be made into social activity

o Form of mastery/control

o Includes flow

o Serves as a distraction  


• Stress eating and comfort food

o Comfort food takes advantage of memory (ah, I love eating mac and cheese with  my grandma), all 5 senses (this satisfies every part of me), and dopamine  (pleasure)

o Stress eating = a cycle

▪ Bad day (roommate issue, bad test) → feel down, stressed, worried,  anxious → eat to feel better (blocks awareness of bad feelings) → feel  

bad about mindlessly eating, set self up for another bad day  


• Utilizing thoughts, feelings and behaviors with the help of a therapist; short sessions  usually just 12-16 sessions; promotes independence; involves cognitive restructuring o Cognitive Restructuring

▪ Identification of cognitive errors

▪ Examining the evidence

▪ Listing rational alternatives

▪ Thought journals

▪ Cognitive rehearsal

• Operant conditioning - to understand behavior is to look at the causes of an action and  its consequences

o Reinforcement - increasing behavior

▪ Positive - adding something to increase behavior (ex: parents say good  job)

• Most effective way of increasing behavior

▪ Negative - increasing a behavior by taking away a stimulus (ex: ringing  when you don’t put a seatbelt on)

o Punishment - reducing behavior

▪ Positive - adding something (a shock, chores)

▪ Negative - taking something away to reduce a behavior (most effective) • Intermittent reinforcement = most effective way of maintaining behavior  

Mindfulness & Meditation

• Mindlessness: characterized by an absence of active conscious information processing  and reliance on cues that have been built over time or have been appropriated from  another source without new interpretation

1. Past over determines present

2. We are trapped in single perspective  

3. We are insensitive to context

4. Rule and routine govern

5. Often in error but rarely in doubt

• Mindfulness: active distinction making, a process in which new stimuli are perceived as  having continually emerging meanings (“paying attention”)

1. Being situated in the present

2. Sensitive to context and perspective

3. Rule and routine guided

4. The experience of engagement

5. Novelty revealing uncertainty

• Meditation: defined as a family of techniques which have in common a conscious  attempt to focus attention in a non-analytical way, and an attempt not to dwell on  discursive, ruminating thought

o One form of achieving mindfulness but not the only way

o Practice practice practice

o Helps control vagal tone to not stimulate fight or flight response in non life  threatening moments

Stress & Resilience

• Stress: a perceived threat to one's mental, physical, emotional or spiritual well-being,  resulting in a series of psychological responses and adaptation

o Occurs when something we care about is at stake

• Mismatch theory

• The Challenge Response: in the face of challenge, stress can improve your performance  and ability to handle stress

• Post-traumatic Growth

o Positive psychological growth coming from an experience of adversity or other  challenges

Positive Excellence

• Expertise and Excellence

o Expertise: a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or  skill in a particular area

o Excellence: the quality of being astounding or extremely good

• Deliberate Practice

o How you get from good to great  

o 10,000 hours of  

▪ setting goals

▪ Role of parents, teachers, mentors, and educational institution

▪ Immediate feedback

▪ Access to training facilities and materials  

▪ Length of deliberate practice (5hrs a day max)

▪ Ideal times for practice

▪ Technique rather than full pieces

• Passion: an intense desire or enthusiasm for something  

Harmonious Passion

• You do it because you love it • Part of your life

• You do it to learn not just to win • You are in control

Obsessive Passion

• You do it for others, status, glory • Your whole life

• You are the best or nothing • It controls you

• More negative emotions

• You are happier and more fulfilled • You enjoy better relationships • More focused in all areas • More energetic and productive

• Feel guiltier and show more  destructive behavior

• Struggle to stay on task  

• Far more likely to burn out

• Equal likelihood of mastery for harmonious and obsessive

• Strong correlation between harmonious passion and deliberate practice and subjective  well being  


• Meaning: our lives matter, our lives make sense, our purpose, springboard for our  aspirations and pursuits in life

• During tough times, meaning acts as a life preserver, keeps us afloat Theories

• Set point theory (refer to hedonic treadmill)

o Wellbeing is a relatively stable construct of behavior, genetics, and environment  o Shifted by filling PERMA “buckets”  

• Self-Concordance Theory

o Having personal goals that are selected for autonomous reasons increases goal directed effort and thereby increases goal progress. Goal progress leads to an  increase in subjective well-being and adjustment

• Mismatch Theory

o Kelly McGonigal

o Today, our fight or flight response activates during times that are not life  threatening

o Creates dissonance

• Equity Theory

o People calculate the costs and benefits involved in interacting with one another,  equitable relationships last and inequitable ones break up

o Limitations: people act for a variety of reasons, not always to receive something  in exchange, relationships are pursued for their own sake and contribute to well  being


• The Nun Study  

o Only positive feelings predicted longevity!  

o 90% of 85 year olds and 54% of 95 year olds who had been in the “cheerful”  quartile were still alive

• Strange Situation Test

o Showed three different patterns of attachment behavior

▪ Securely attached infants (70%) = sad to see parent leave, comforted  when s/he returns

• Supportive and affectionate parent → securely attached child

▪ Avoidant (20%) = not upset by parent leaving and/or returning

• Emotionally unavailable parent → avoidant child

▪ Ambivalent (10%) = show distress even before parent leaves, difficult to  comfort

• Critical/rejecting parent → ambivalent child  

o Applicable to adulthood  

• The Marshmallow Study

o Kids can get one marshmallow now, two if they wait 15 minutes  

o Demonstrates willpower and is indicative of many long term benefits such as… ▪ Within 15 years

• More self control in frustrating situations

• Less distractible  

• More self reliant and confident

• Ability to plan ahead

• Higher SAT scores  

▪ By adulthood

• Better able to pursue long term goals

• Less substance abuse

• Better relationships

• Higher levels of education

• Lower BMI

• Higher salaries

• Lower rates of divorce, felony, misdemeanor

• The Fiji Study

o Investigated specific psychological and social mechanisms mediating adverse  effects of media on youth  

o Found that media leads to obsession w/ weight  

• Duke  

o focused on exercise in the treatment of mild to moderate depression in 202  adults

• The Undoing Effect

o Positive emotions can undo the cardiovascular aftereffects of negative emotions o Group was told that they were to speak in front of 100s of people with only30  seconds to prepare. Those who watched happy films after recovered faster • Pittsburgh Common Cold Study

o Measured positivity and negativity of people when injected with a rhinovirus,  people with positive affect had less of a cold for less time than those with a  negative effect, although negative emotions did not worsen the patient's cold

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