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    Lessons From the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness | Dr. Robert Waldinger

    enJanuary 23, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Prioritizing Relationships for Long-term HappinessThe Harvard Study of Adult Development shows that relationships are crucial for our happiness and well-being. Tips include social fitness, work friends, and the Wiser Model for emotional situations.

      The Harvard Study of Adult Development, world's longest scientific study of happiness, sheds light on what actually works when it comes to human happiness. One clear headline from the study is that we need to prioritize relationships over material possessions or external accomplishments. The study shows that our culture militates against this, but it is important to our long-term happiness and well-being. Practical tips from Dr. Robert Waldinger, director of the study, include the concept of social fitness, having work friends to increase productivity, and the Wiser Model for reacting to emotionally challenging situations. The study, which started in 1938, follows a group of teenagers into old age and includes their spouses and children, providing valuable insights into human development.

    • The Importance of Warm Connections, Sublimation, and Adaptation in Health and LongevityCultivating warm relationships, channeling energy into positive outlets, and adapting well to life are crucial factors for a healthy, happy, and long life.

      The Harvard Study of Adult Development finds that the people who were not just happiest but stayed healthiest and lived longer were the people who had warmer connections with other people. Relationships are emotion regulators that can calm down our body, returning to equilibrium. Sublimation is channeling energy that might be a problem socially into socially acceptable outlets. The point is that folks who adapted well to life sublimated any difficult or challenging energies into something positive or at least express the energies in socially acceptable ways.

    • The Importance of Social Connection and Managing Stress for HealthHuman beings are social creatures and need meaningful connections with others to thrive. Chronic isolation can lead to chronic stress and inflammation, leading to health issues. Managing stress and fostering warm relationships is essential for our well-being and long-term health.

      Human beings evolved to be social and thrive in groups. Chronic isolation can lead to chronic stress, inflammation and other health issues. While stress may not be the sole cause of cancer, managing stress is always a good thing. Warm relationships can help us navigate life's ups and downs more effectively and contribute to resilience in the face of health challenges. Exile was the most terrible punishment in ancient societies, as it increased the risk of death. Loneliness is a real danger to our health, and a physiological reaction to isolation is our body's way of protecting us. Overall, managing stress and fostering meaningful connections with others is essential for our momentary well-being and long-term health.

    • The Negative Effects of Materialism and Social Media on Relationships and Well-beingPrioritize genuine connections over material possessions and limit social media use to improve mental and physical well-being. Avoid comparing yourself to others online and be aware of the negative effects of social comparison.

      Relationships are crucial for mental and physical well-being, but people often overlook them in their pursuit of material possessions. Social media exacerbates this issue by promoting social comparison and the constant desire for validation. This behavior can lead to depression, anxiety, and a feeling of missing out. Studies show that the more often people compare themselves to others, the less happy they are. To improve our well-being, we need to prioritize our relationships and seek genuine connections instead of material possessions. We should also limit our social media use, be aware of its negative effects, and not compare ourselves to others on it.

    • Practicing Proactivity in Maintaining RelationshipsMaking small, consistent efforts in reaching out to loved ones and spending quality time with them can have a huge impact on our overall happiness and prevent future regret.

      Maintaining social relationships is an ongoing practice and is as important as physical fitness for our wellbeing. Small choices made day-to-day, week to week, can help in maintaining relationships. People tend to drift away from friendships not because of conflicts, but due to life circumstances. Proactivity in reaching out to friends and spending time with loved ones is crucial for long-term happiness. Making small choices like spending time with our families instead of working during the most productive hours can have a significant impact on our lives. We must actively maintain our relationships, as regretting not spending enough time with loved ones on their deathbed is a common occurrence.

    • The Power of Microinteractions and Relationships in Our HappinessTalking to strangers and navigating relationships are crucial to our happiness. Build healthy relationships and seek perspective when faced with difficulties. Toxic relationships should be avoided, and problems in healthy relationships can make them stronger.

      The micro interactions we have throughout the day with people, even fleeting ones, can up our happiness. Research has shown that talking to a stranger can make us happier than keeping to ourselves. While relationships are generally good for us, it takes discernment to navigate the difficulties that arise. It's important to have other relationships to talk to and get perspective on problematic ones. Working out problems in relationships can make them stronger, but toxic relationships should be stepped away from. Never worry alone, talk to somebody to gain perspective on troubling relationships.

    • The Healing Power of Social Support and Empathetic Accuracy.Cultivating supportive relationships and practicing empathetic accuracy can help diminish stress and improve personal and work relationships. Curiosity is important, but it should be balanced with discretion.

      Having supportive friends and loved ones can diminish our perception of hardship, making us perceive adverse events as less stressful than we might otherwise see them. Friends can also diminish the impact and duration of extreme stress. Studies have shown that having someone there with us during a painful or anxiety-provoking event- even a stranger- diminishes pain and anxiety. This can be cultivated by checking in with others to practice empathetic accuracy, which can help cultivate emotional intelligence and improve personal and work relationships. Curiosity is the first step to learning and getting better at reading someone's signals, but it should be deployed with discretion to avoid coming across as anxious or self-absorbed.

    • Techniques to improve Empathic AccuracyTo improve empathic accuracy, one can use techniques like sending gentle feelers, observing visual cues, and practicing reflective listening. Being curious about others can help us understand them better and broaden our perspective.

      Developing empathic accuracy involves sending out gentle feelers with some people and learning more about someone else's behavior. This includes filing away both visual cues and reports someone might give you about how they are feeling. Reflective listening is also a technique that can help with empathic accuracy, as it involves listening carefully and repeating the bones of the person's message back to them briefly in your own language, illustrating that you understand. To get outside of the self-centered 'me,' it is important to be curious about others, which can be energizing to them and help us escape our own 'skull size kingdoms.'

    • The Wiser Model: A step-by-step guide to handle challenging situationsTake a deep breath, slow down, and gather data before making any decisions. Choose from multiple options, reflect on past experiences and engage in a positive manner to improve social fitness.

      The Wiser model (Wash, Interpret, Select, Engage, Reflect) is a helpful acronym to better deal with challenging situations and make more informed decisions. It teaches us to slow down and collect data before filling in the blanks in our minds and making up negative stories. By assessing the situation and selecting from multiple options, we can make better decisions and engage with the situation. Reflection is crucial to learn from our past experiences, especially when we don't handle it well. The first step is to slow down and avoid dwelling in our stories. We should practice this model often to improve our social fitness and deal with puzzling situations better.

    • Importance of Buying Time and Counseling in Conflict ResolutionTake time to evaluate situations, seek counseling when needed, and aim to grow together in relationships. Change is constant, and goodwill must be maintained for healthy relationships.

      Buying time can be a useful strategy in responding to emails or conflict . It allows one to avoid making a rash decision and provides an opportunity to evaluate the situation with more clarity. In romantic relationships, it's important to have reasonable expectations and to remember that change is constant. Couples counseling can be a helpful tactic when conflict becomes persistent and goodwill erodes. It provides an opportunity to have a third party perspective and help navigate the ups and downs of a relationship in a more supple fashion. The aim is to grow together and not to grow apart.

    • Cultivating Curiosity and Compassion in Relationships through Zen PracticeTo enhance bonds, develop inquisitiveness and adaptability, and embrace the impermanence of all things. Meditation can cultivate empathy and curb self-centeredness, while the Zen approach encourages attentiveness and openness to new experiences.

      To improve our relationships, we must bring curiosity, flexibility, and remember that change is inevitable. Meditation can help in bringing compassion towards ourselves and others, making us kinder and less prone to believe our own stories. We need to continuously look closely at our loved ones and be open to them showing up differently than they did in the past. Zen emphasizes freshness, spontaneity, and beginner's mind to avoid getting stuck in pattern recognition and being able to see what's actually present in the moment.

    • The Importance of Workplace Friendships and Late-Life HappinessBuilding strong workplace friendships can boost productivity and reduce turnover rates. Leaders should encourage open sharing opportunities among employees to combat loneliness. Don't give up on happiness, it's never too late to turn your life around.

      Having a best friend at work can increase productivity and engagement, and reduce the likelihood of leaving a job. Loneliness at work is not just a personal problem, but also an economic problem. Leaders cannot take responsibility for employees' interior lives, but can create structures for people to share more. It is possible to create little places where we get to know each other. Additionally, it's never too late to be happy, as proven by data and real-life stories of individuals whose lives turned around in their sixties or seventies.

    • Never Too Late for Social Engagement and Happiness in Old AgeAge is a reminder of limited time, which drives us to savor moments and do more of what we care about. Being socially engaged as wise elders can offer broader perspectives and unconditional love that helps societies thrive.

      It's never too late to become socially engaged and happier, as proven by the stories of a man who found community in his sixties and two individuals in their eighties. As we get older, we tend to become happier, possibly due to the realization of limited time, leading us to savor the moment and do more of what we care about. Furthermore, there may be a wise elder role that works well for societies, where grandparents can offer broader perspectives and unconditional love to grandkids. The evolution of this tendency is unclear, but societies with such wise elders can thrive more. So, it's never too late to spread upbeat wisdom and thrive as a society.

    • The Importance of Investing in Relationships for Well-beingAchievements bring satisfaction, but emotional connections are vital for a fulfilling life. 40% of our happiness depends on us. Overcoming loneliness is possible with therapy and helping others.

      Investing in relationships is the best long-term investment for our well-being. Achievements can provide satisfaction, but cannot substitute for emotional connections and the feeling of giving and receiving love. Only 40% of our happiness is under our control, but this is a lot and can make a significant impact. Loneliness can make it difficult to connect with others, but therapy and working with lonely people can help overcome this hurdle. If we offer our help and skills to those in need, it can provide an opportunity to connect with others and combat loneliness.

    • Giving Back Beyond Self for Happiness and Wellbeing.Investing in volunteer work and purpose beyond oneself has proven to have significant benefits for psychological and physiological wellbeing. Building meaningful relationships and engaging in joyful activities is essential for overall wellbeing.

      Investing in things beyond the self, such as service volunteer work and having a purpose beyond the self, has huge psychological and physiological benefits for wellbeing. Giving of oneself to others also results in getting back. However, it is important to note that no one is happy all the time, and introverts need one or two close relationships to feel energized. It is essential to check in and see what is energizing and what is draining for oneself. Being a party animal is not the key to happiness. Building meaningful relationships and engaging in activities that bring joy and purpose is what matters for overall wellbeing.

    • The Power of Reaching Out and Generosity in Connecting with OthersTaking the initiative to connect with someone through a note or message can positively impact both you and the recipient. Practice generosity in relationships and experience the valuable ripple effect in your life. The Good Life by Robert Waldinger and Mark Schultz can guide you towards more meaningful connections.

      Reaching out to someone, even if it's just with a note, can create meaningful ripples and a form of generosity to yourself and that person. Don't second guess your willingness to connect with someone. It's worth it to try and see what you get back. This can be an unexpected boost in your day. The Good Life by Robert Waldinger and Mark Schultz can encourage more active involvement in making your relationships better. Try this practice of generosity and see the value it holds for you and others in your life.

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    Jennifer Senior On: Grief, Happiness, Friendship Breakups, and Why We Feel Younger Than Our Actual Age

    Jennifer Senior On: Grief, Happiness, Friendship Breakups, and Why We Feel Younger Than Our Actual Age

    It’s likely uncontroversial to assert that Jennifer Senior is one of our finest living journalists. She’s currently a staff writer at The Atlantic and before that she spent many years at the New York Times and New York magazine. Jennifer’s written on a vast array of topics, but she has a special knack for writing articles about the human condition that go massively, massively, viral. One such hit was a lengthy and extremely moving piece for The Atlantic that won a Pulitzer Prize. It was about a young man who died on 9/11, and the wildly varying ways in which his loved ones experienced grief. That article, called “What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind,” has now been turned into a book called, On Grief: Love, Loss, Memory.


    In this interview, we spend a lot of time talking about this truly fascinating yarn, but we also talk about her other articles: one about an eminent happiness researcher who died by suicide, another about why friendships often break up, and a truly delightful recent piece about the puzzling gap between how old we are and how old we think we are. Jennifer has also written a book about parenting, called All Joy and No Fun which we also reference a few times throughout.


    In this episode we talk about:

    • Jennifer’s perspective on the Bobby McIlvaine story 
    • Lesser known theories of grieving from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
    • The work involved in finding meaning in loss
    • Why – from an evolutionary standpoint – we hurt so badly when we lose someone we love
    • Commitment and sacrifice
    • The puzzling gap between how old you are and how old you think you are
    • The power and perils of friendship
    • Why Jennifer has chosen to focus so much of her writing on relationships


    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/jennifer-senior-583

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    The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness | Part 1

    The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness | Part 1

    Dan flies to Dharamsala, India to spend two weeks in the orbit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This is the first installment of a five-part audio documentary series, something we’ve never done before now. Over the course of the episodes, we talk to His Holiness about practical strategies for thorny dilemmas, including: how to get along with difficult people; whether compassion can cut it in an often brutal world; why there is a self-interested case for not being a jerk; and how to create social connection in an era of disconnection. We also get rare insights from the Dalai Lama into everything from the mechanics of reincarnation to His Holiness’s own personal mediation practice. 


    In this first installment, Dan watches as a young activist directly challenges His Holiness: In a world plagued by climate change, terrorism, and other existential threats, is the Dalia Lama’s message of compassion practical — or even relevant? 


    Full Show Notes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/dalai-lama-guide-538


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    Wise Selfishness | Part 3 of The Dalai Lama's Guide to Happiness

    Wise Selfishness | Part 3 of The Dalai Lama's Guide to Happiness

    How can we get better at selfishness? That’s one of many fascinating topics we cover in this episode, in which we play snippets from Dan’s one-on-one interview with His Holiness, and then unpack it all with Dr. Richard Davidson, neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds. We talk to His Holiness about “wise selfishness,” how to handle our enemies, and whether he ever gets angry. Then Richie recounts a time when His Holiness exhibited a rare flash of anger— towards him, in fact.


    Want more of The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness? Download the Ten Percent Happier app wherever you get your apps.


    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/dalai-lama-guide-540


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    The Buddha’s Eight Part Recipe for Happiness | DaRa Williams

    The Buddha’s Eight Part Recipe for Happiness | DaRa Williams

    This episode kicks off our series on the Eightfold Path which will continue on Wednesdays for the next two weeks with Eugene Cash and Joseph Goldstein.


    DaRa Williams is a trainer, meditation teacher and psychotherapist and has been a meditator for the past 25 years. She is a practitioner of both Vipassana and Ascension meditation and is a graduate of the Spirit Rock/Insight Meditation Society Teacher Training Program and is an IMS Emeritus Guiding Teacher. 


    In this episode we talk about:


    • The first two components of the Eightfold Path: Right View and Right Thinking
    • How the Eightfold Path has played out in DaRa’s life 
    • The notions of Intuition, Clear Seeing, and Openness 
    • And the very tricky skills of renunciation and fostering non-attachment to outcomes


    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/dara-williams-592

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