V.O. Complete. Tal Ben Sahar; The science of happiness
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V.O. Complete. Tal Ben Sahar; The science of happiness

[Music] so that thank you so much for being here it’s a pleasure to have you to speak about a topic happiness that I think is the holy grail of every single person how to live a happy life where happiness has become such a hot topic of conversation yes so you know happiness is a very hot topic of conversation today though anyway it’s been that way for thousands of years so Aristotle one of the fathers of Western philosophy talked about happiness as human beings highest and Confucius Lao Tzu talked about it religion speaks about it happiness in this world in the afterlife but but you’re writing that today there’s more conversation whether it’s in newspapers whether it’s in bars and and just about everywhere and the question is why and and I think the main answer is that today for the first time we have a science of happiness you know so it’s one thing philosophizing about happiness it’s one thing talking about how religion is related to happiness in this or or the afterlife but when you have a science of happiness that that actually provides you real tools that you can use that you can apply whether it’s your own life whether it’s to your kids life whether it’s in your organization now that’s different and people are interested in that so there is one p.m. and I’m happy that you introduced the concept and the idea of the science of happiness when we think about happiness when people think about happiness they usually equate that estate to a achieving a goal or to experiencing pleasure now at present but is this the correct definition for happiness or we should join it in a different way yeah no I think most people have a misunderstanding of what leads to happiness so most people will tell yes if I’m successful I’ll be happy you know whether it’s rich whether it’s famous whether I achieve a certain goal at work at home if I if this woman or man says yes to me if if my objectives are fulfilled unfortunately that’s not the case which is why you very often see very successful very wealthy very accomplished individuals who are very unhappy because everyone is told them and they believe that if you achieve a certain goal if you get to this milestone then you’ll be happy they get to that milestone they achieve that goal they make that amount of money and they’re still not happy and now not only are they not happy they’re also lost because they’re disillusioned until now at least they have the illusion that when they get to its particular point they’ll be happy they got there they are not happy they don’t even have that illusion to sustain them achieving a goal doesn’t make us happy certainly not for the long-term yes we experienced a high spike in our levels of well-being but it’s short-lived and you know there’s research showing that lottery winners know people who just made millions of dollars it’s their life’s dream come true that they will be a thing they’ll be happy for the rest of their lives within three months they’re back to where they were before only more disillusioned you find it with professors their whole lives they’ve been striving to become tenured they finally get tenured they think they’ll be happy for the rest of their lives well that will last you know in a month or six at most getting to a particular point leads to temporary well-being not to a permanent rise in happiness so tell what does what does the science of happiness say about what makes us happy yes you know the science of happiness tells us a lot of common-sense things you know things that many of them my grandmother told me but should we have the scientific vacuum for it so for instance relationships are the most important components of the happy life you see it on an individual level so there was research by the founder of positive psychology Marty Seligman his colleagues on the happiest people in the world what’s unique about them and what they found was that one of the two things that are unique about them is that they have strong intimate relationships and that could mean of course romantic relationships but it could also mean friendships family relationships not perfect relationships because in the most intimate relation chips we disagree we fight we have conflict but they have those relationships and they make them a priority in their lives you know in today’s world with you know technology all around us and you know soon within us the relationships real relationships that is on virtual ones have taken a backseat and that is unfortunately taken away from people’s happiness so relationships is where are very important for happiness something else it’s key to happiness is gratitude appreciation um you know Oprah talked about it back in 1999 there was no science behind it then today there is showing that people who express gratitude on a regular basis in other words don’t take for granted what they have they don’t ignore what the problems the issues that they don’t have at the same time they don’t ignore what they do have these people are not just happier more optimistic they’re also more successful more likely to achieve their goals and there are physically healthier so it actually and strengthens our immune system when we when we focus on what what is working in our life what we are grateful for you know my favorite word in English is the word appreciate and appreciate means to say thank you for something but there’s another meaning to the word appreciate and that is to grow in value so you know you put money in the bank hopefully it appreciates you have more of it and the two couldn’t the two meanings of the word appreciate are connected because when you appreciate the good in your life the good in your life appreciates you have more of it and once again this is not just an etymological language connection there is actually scientific evidence showing that when I appreciate my partner when I appreciate my children when I appreciate my work my life the good things in my life actually appreciate and I have more often tell there is speaking about friendship but I will say human relationships in general that it’s a very beautiful idea that you mentioned and they would like you to elaborate a bit more and it’s the concept of the beautiful enemies so the phrase beautiful enemy comes from the writing of raw Waldo Emerson who is a North American philosopher from the 19th century and what he wrote in his essay on friendship is that in a friend he’s not looking for a mush of concessions a person who will agree with everything that he says rather what he’s looking for is a person who will challenge him who will push him who will be a beautiful enemy and help him in his apprenticeship to the truth and if you think about it what are you looking for in a friend are you looking for a yes man or a yes woman a person who will agree with everything no yes sometimes we need a pat on our back someone who will say yes we’re great no matter what but in the long term we’re looking for someone who’s real who will tell us when they disagree who’ll challenge us who will help us in our apprenticeship to the truth in becoming a better person and coming more successful in becoming a happier and it’s that person who’s a true friend to us not a person who just blindly agrees with with everything that we say this also relates to relationships there’s a lot of research on them on romantic relationships and what it shows is that in the long term to sustain happiness in in a relationship you must have conflicts as well so you you if you agree about everything I’m not talking about the honeymoon phase were you know everything is great and our partner is perfect when they stop being perfect when we stop being perfect that’s when you need a beautiful enemy and conflicts actually help bring the relationship to a higher level as well as bring the individual to a higher level there’s a wonderful writer by the name David snark who in his book passionate marriage talks about how marriage or any long term relationship for that matter is a people growing machine and the way we grow is through the conflict through the disagreement through having a beautiful enemy because it’s not enough just to be an enemy just to have conflict needless to say you also need to have fun together you need to have experienced joy together but it’s having the both the beautiful and the enemy that leads to the most long term happiness so apart from the conflict there is this idea that having this let’s say negative emotions let’s say sadness let’s say angriness that keeps us away from happiness and one of your ideas is that in fact those feelings help us on the road of happiness and it will like you to explain what’s the role of feeling but let’s say in achieving a more fulfilling more happier life good I’m glad you brought that up because there is such an important part of a happy life so when I first started teaching this course at Harvard I had eight students in my class two of them dropped out which left me with with six and a bit of a broken bruised ego and but I remember one day I went for lunch and a student who wasn’t in my class came over and and said to me at home I join you for lunch and I said sure so he came in and he set with me and he said I hear you’re teaching a class on happiness and I said yeah auditive psychology and he said you know my roommates are taking your class they were two of the six students and then he said to me but you know Tom now that you’re teaching you’re your class on happiness you’ve got to be careful and I said why he said tell you’ve got to watch out and I said how come he said because if I see you unhappy I’ll tell my roommates and I actually use that in class the following day and I said to my students of all six of them I said you know the last thing in the world that I want you two to think is that I’m always happy or that you by the end of this year this was a year-long class that you will experience a constant high in fact there are only two kinds of people who don’t experience painful emotions such as anger or sadness or or anxiety or disappointment or envy or fear two kinds of people who don’t experience painful emotions the first kind are the psychopaths they do not really experience painful emotions the second kind of people who do not experience painful in oceans are dead so even a few experience painful emotions it’s actually a good sign means you’re not a psychopath and you’re alive you know we can build on that but the problem today and it really is a serious problem is that people believe as you said that to be happy you have to be happy all the time that if once in a while you experience sadness or anxiety or envy towards your best friend or or or fear it means it’s something’s wrong with you there’s everything right with you there’d be something wrong with you if you didn’t experience these emotions and when we reject these emotions here’s the paradox they actually get stronger they intensifying whereas if we allow these emotions to flow through us to flow through us means by shedding tears it means by speaking to our best friend about it it means by writing a journal and expressing our emotions by allowing these emotions to flow through us they’re actually more likely to go away and were more likely to to open ourselves up to the pleasurable joyful emotions I always have this feeling that we are living in an age of emotional perfectionism that we always have to be happy we will resort to feel-good smile and it’s so artificial yeah you know you’re absolutely right so about just over ten years ago in one semester I had two students Ryder or one year I had two students write a thesis with me one of them wrote about physical perfectionism and the other wrote about emotional perfectionism and I found it interesting and I and I connected it then thanks to the students how related they are so the the one who wrote about physical perfectionism wrote about what are the covers of magazines doing to us you know the picture is the Photoshop pictures what are they doing to mostly women but increasingly more and more men about what they need to look like in in the eyes of the outside world and the other student wrote about what do all these smiles whether it was you know that was the beginning of Facebook but in face before do you see see everyone smiling everyone’s doing great well but except for me because I’m sad sometimes and I’m not doing well but I’m not gonna put that picture on my facebook because reveal my shortcoming and we’re getting to the stage where we think that the norm is everything is great you know everyone is living happily ever after except for me and the kind of pressure that it’s putting on people is leading to so much unhappiness and that’s why we’re reading I mean just yesterday a new study came out turning about the the rising levels of depression among teenagers we see these studies coming out all the time unprecedented rates of unhappiness of depression of anxiety so much of it is because we do not give ourselves but I’ve come to called the permission to be human the permission to experience painful emotions because there are natural part of any life even a happy or especially a happy life when there is a feeling here is a huge topic because especially with ten years that are the generation that has most of them have born and rise with the internet and the smartphones so they live like this I would call it digital bubble of happiness and these lead us to a topic that it also been very controversial and is how technology that it’s so important in our lives in our everyday lives is helping us really to be happier or not I mean what’s the role between relationship between technology and happiness yes oh you know the analogy that I would use to understand the role of Technology or the the value judgement that we assigned to technology is of electricity you know is electricity good or bad well it depends if I use electricity to bring light and to to help someone on on a life supporting machine then electricity is good but if I use electricity to electrocute an innocent person then it’s not good so it’s the same with technology technology in and of itself is is a power it’s a force it can be used for good or ill so now recently was contacted by Sean who was my best friend when I was between the age of 10 and 12 we hadn’t been in touch since we went to different countries but he wasn’t thanks to technology we’re in touch now a wonderful thing you know my sister married a wonderful man they met through technology at the same time technology we know is also leading to much unhappiness for example there’s research on that the more hours people spend at neh on the internet social networks the more lonely they are loneliness is the number one predictor of depression so when you do too much of technology and you forego other important things such as real relationships such as regular movement physical exercise you pay a very high price in terms of happiness so as in many things in life it’s all a question of moderation and by moderation of work for us and you know I have with three kids so for our kids they’re limited in terms of the technology but in terms of the content but also no less important in terms of the quantity not just quality but also quantity of time that they spent in front of the screen and we limit ourselves to for instance when we get home in the evening and we get together for a family there’s no technology phones are off TVs or computers off were present tell you have traveled the world speaking about happiness what’s the main reserved unhappiness that you have found in people yes so there are a few reasons to unhappiness one of them is that false expectations of what it is that will lead to happiness or what happiness looks like in terms of what it is that will lead to happiness people expect that it will be goals achievements that will make them happier in terms of their expectations of what a happy life looks like it’s in terms of a life that is devoid of painful emotions so these two things are barriers to happiness in addition technology technology in that he takes away people from the real the real connection I’ll share with you a study that points this out so this was done by Daniel Kahneman these are Nobel Prize winner in economics but a psychologist who did a lot of research on well-being and what Daniel Kahneman research was and he wanted to understand what is the emotional landscape of a professional woman’s life the emotional landscape of a professional woman’s life and he looked at North America as well as Europe and what so what do you want to understand was how are these women feeling when they’re at work when they’re with their partner when they are with their kids when they’re shopping when they were having lunch whatever they’re doing how do they feel and by the way the results of this study applied to men as much as it does to women but the most interesting finding in that study was that these women whether it was in Europe or in the US did not particularly enjoy spending time with their kids now this was a surprising result because when he delved deeper it wasn’t that they didn’t love their kids for most of these women you know the kids were probably the most important part of their life what was it then it was that when these women were with their children that were not really with their children meaning they were physically there but at the same time they were on the phone or or texting or doing work or thinking about what they did in the past or what they have to do in the future they weren’t present and when all these things came together they may have been you know really happy just being with their kids or just being on the phone with a friend or just working but when all these things came together it was too much of a good thing in quantity of activities affected quality of experience and this is what’s happening to us in our in our modern world where more and more people are not present or not mindful in their day to day in what they’re doing and you see it in the u.s. you see it in Europe you see it in China you see it in Australia and and and people are not able to enjoy the the wealth of of potentially happiness generating activities in their lives because there present ciao I’m sure that they have asked you this question thousands of times can’t happiness me learned kind of personal learn to be happy to leave a more happy life good I hope so now from tell my students that I’m I’m the right person to teach happiness why because there I wasn’t born with happy genes you know I got into this whole field of the study of happiness because of my own unhappiness otherwise I probably you know I started off as a computer scientist probably be you know coding today rather than reading academic journals so yesterday the answer is we can absolutely change our levels of happiness it’s not easy also some of it is genetic however a lot of it is about the choices that we make in life and when I say choices I don’t just mean the grandiose you know large choices such as you know who do I choose to spend my life with or what kind of work do I find how do I spend in a my way it’s the small decision such as right now do I decide to be grateful for for being where I am I am grateful thank you so or or or do I choose to God for for a run or for a walk do I when I’m with my best friend switch off the phone and I’m just with my best friend you know these are small decisions and they add up because you know there’s one step in another step in another step and that adds up to the path of your life but you have this beautiful idea of the rituals and how important through rituals are to help us have a happy life and we would like you to explain never in a big moral idea yeah so you know when it comes to bring about change it turns out that philosophy had it wrong and religion had it right and and and I’ll explain so 2500 years ago Socrates the father of Western philosophy said that to know the good is to do the good in other words when I know that something is is good it’s right is Jar is moral then I will I will do it automatically unfortunately though Socrates was a very smart man unfortunately in this case he was wrong because if to know the good was enough to do the good we’ll all be eating only healthy food we’ll all would always be you know calm and and lovely and nice to everyone around us and and we would just do the right the right thing but we don’t always do the right thing and we often do things that we later regret because to know the good is not necessarily to do the good religion on the other hand had it right religion understood that in order to bring about change it’s not enough just to know something conceptually cognitively then what do we need to do is practice it over and over and over again to say it over and over and over again this is why prayer you say the same prayer whether it’s thanking God for your daily bread or for being alive you do it on a daily basis or at least once a week because repetition is key ritualizing is key and today there is research showing and and you know I think your lodgings didn’t have that research but maybe you know God knows everything so he knew that research thousands of years ago and that is that um when you repeat something over and over again it actually changes you in neural pathways I’ll give you the example of one of the first studies that were done in this area this was done in London so a new taxi drivers in London had to memorize the the map of London now memorizing the map of London is a lot more difficult than memorizing the map of New York map of New York you need to be able to count essentially and then you know it in London you know it’s an old city or an older city and and the streets are intricate and complex and it’s like a maze so for months this is you know pre GPS days for months taxi drivers had to memorize every street of London and what they found was that within this period the part of the brain associated with visualisation the visual cortex actually became bigger why because they repeated they studied over and over and over again day in and day out and the part of the brain the neural pathways became thicker so our brain changes as a result this is what it means for something to become second nature no rafael nadal how many four hands did he have to hit hit before it became second nature now he doesn’t need to think about the ball coming and him taking the hand out and hitting he just doesn’t why because he’s been doing it over and over and over again and it’s the same with any habit now there’s a there’s a French / Tibetan a monk Michiru Ricard who asks the following question he says when he taught when he tries to get people to meditate on a regular basis and we know that meditation helps he says people tell me that they don’t have time but can you become a can you can you play Mozart Sonata without practicing hundreds and thousands of times you know sometimes for years to get to a high level you cannot why do you hope that to be happy to form habits of happiness why do people think that you just need to understand what it’s about and then do it you know you can’t swim just by learning the theory you have to practice and it’s the same with with psychological change if you want to become a more grateful you have to practice on a regular basis greater ritual such as every night or at least once a week to express gratitude for the things in your life over time those neural pathways associated with gratitude with looking to appreciate the world they will strengthen and it will become second nature to you just as it may be right now second nature to you to focus on the things that you don’t have and the things that are missing in your life so we in a sense we sculpt our brain through rituals and we sculpt it if we repeat positive action in a positive direction tell what rituals or what and what has worked for you on building your own world of happiness right so I’ll give you a few examples one example is we know that regular physical exercise as little as thirty minutes three times a week not that much of aerobic exercise or interval training high intensity interval training but there three times a week doesn’t just make us healthier it actually makes us happier in fact it’s the equivalent of our most powerful psychiatric medication physical exercise works in the same way as psychiatric medication it release releases norepinephrine serotonin and dopamine in your brain so I have a ritual were three times a week no matter what I exercise even if I travel I exercise even if I’m exhausted I exercise another ritual is every night before I go to sleep I express gratitude you know I write things for which for which I’m grateful another ritual is I have a weekly date with my wife now many many people many of our friends they just come on a weekly date a ritual that’s so unromantic what about spontaneity and I say to them really spontaneity we have three little kids and both of us working spontaneity we’d go on a date once a year maybe right so so we have a ritual around around our relationship we have rituals as a family and when we get together for dinners on a regular basis and and and and these are so important I have a negative ritual as well you know in the past every morning when I woke up I used to check the news because I’m a news junkie and the problem is that before I knew it an hour and a half had gone and I was still reading the news where is my best time to write is in the morning so I created a negative ritual did not open the news in the morning right and putting a positive ritual do your writing in the morning and I get to the news in the afternoon and if overnight while I was asleep the world had come to an end someone will let me know about it so it’s okay to miss the news that very moment we now agree both agree that happiness come we learn and then we can incorporate rituals to help us have a happier life why schools don’t teach this for students yeah that’s a very good question and it’s something that I that I think about a lot and and in fact we have created a program that we’re introducing in schools but it’s only a you know a drop in the sea in a Marty Seligman whom I mentioned earlier the father of the positive psychology network of scholars and often teach talks to parents and teachers and he asks them two questions he asked them first question and what would you like for your children what’s most important for you for your children and parents say well we want our children to be happy and you want our children to have good relationships and we want them to be resilient and be able to overcome difficulties in hardships and we want them to find joy and meaning in life and and all these wonderful things and he makes a list of all the things that the parents write that they want for their children then he said okay listen number one is over let’s move on to list number two question number two what do your children learn in school math writing geography history and there is almost no overlap between the two lists now it’s not that list number two is not important it’s very important to learn mathematics and science and and in history and and to learn how to write of course these things are important by but why are schools almost entirely ignoring the first list especially today given that we have a science of happiness now I could understand you know 50 years ago or 100 years ago where schools would have been reluctant to introduce a particular person’s idea of what is happiness because you know who knows if it will work today we have science we can test and what we’re doing actually right now as we speak we’re testing all these interventions in schools and what we’re finding are remarkable remarkable effects and in fact right now we are as we speak we’re in schools testing the impact of a positive psychological intervention and what we’re finding is is quite interesting because what we’re finding is yes the students are becoming happier and more resilient they’re enjoying better relationships we’re finding that a conflict and violence in schools is going down as a result of this intervention and interestingly their grades are improving so we don’t just become happier we also become smarter when we focus on that first list it’s positively affecting the second list as well tell a teacher that wants to help a student in achieving this more meaningful a happier life in order to do this thus he needs to change they would fill the curriculum I mean do we need to rethink school education in order to incorporate this um ideally yes well I think we should rethink what what schools are about what they provide students because we already know that the world of tomorrow or even the worlds of five minutes from now is going to be very different from the world of now so no teaching in in the way that historically was taught just becomes obsolete very very quickly and what we need to do is we need to teach the the timeless technique so it’s it’s always been important for people as I mentioned you know since Aristotle and and and Confucius it’s been important for people to to pursue happiness let’s talk about that relationships have always been important they’ll also be important 2,000 years from now so we need to we need to focus on that creativity innovation is becoming more and more important by the day it will be important ten years from now and probably a thousand years from now how do we help people become more innovative and and we know that there are tools and techniques by the way one of them is if we increase positive emotions if we increase people’s experience of happiness they become more creative they’re more likely to think outside the box so all these things need to be taught ideally in politicians and educators need to get together and we think what modern education looks like incorporating that first list of relationships meaning happiness resilience and and and so on however even in a classroom in a traditional classroom a teacher can bring about a great deal of change and the first thing to do is to lead by example no Mahatma Gandhi said be the change you want to see in the world first of all if a teacher if my teacher pursues something that is meaningful for her for him I’m more likely to also look for something that is meaningful for me if my teacher gives herself himself the permission to be human and talks about their their failures their disappointments then that’s leading by example that’s teaching by example I’m more likely to give myself the permission to be human so this is the first the first rule of great teachings the first rule of great leadership is a great rule of great parenting be the change you want to see in those around you this is what you use to do what you’re a Harvard class because you have a very successful Harvard class on positive psychology what kind of techniques you use to teach to your children what kind of activities good so it’s a few things um first of all it’s all based on research so it was an academic class it wasn’t a you know a self-help seminar and so they would be exposed to the latest and greatest so to speak research in the area of psychology in general that that’s one second I example meaning everything that I taught I also tried myself so if I taught about gratitude I would share my gratitude journal with the students if I spoke about physical exercise they knew that I was in the gym and they often saw me in the in the gym and if I talked about journaling then obviously I told him that I journal and sometimes I shared the things that I felt comfortable sharing from my journal so everything was bought by example and third it was through stories I’m a great believer in stories so you need you need the research you need the science but then find a story to to to tell so you know for example you know when when I tell the story of the permission to be human I would tell a difficult experience that I went through yesterday last night that you know I had a you know was disappointed that I was turned down I submitted a an article to a paper and how disappointed and said I was so I would give examples and I would give stories of myself as well as of others and finally it was all about action about ritualizing what they learned so you know the gyms became a great deal busier when when I was teaching my class I know that many of the students still till today years later keep a journal so it was a real emphasis on on action so it was all scientific it was about personal example it was about stories and it was about ritualizing what they learned I want to go back a little bit when you were explaining these research marketing selling them Seligman Dave asking to our parents what they want their children to be and as you said probably the first answer is they won’t make kids to be happy mm-hmm but as you know because you are a parent of three a father of three you know that not always I mean what is best for your kids is what makes them happy so parents have to always deal with the extension so when how can they deal with this tension and also rise happy kids yes you know the first thing that is important for parents for all of us to understand is what is happiness you know happiness is not when you’re smiling all the time or when everything is tension less in fact when we try and make things too easy for our kids because we want them to be happy and we really do want them to be happy but when we make it too easy for our kids we’re not helping them certainly not in the long term think about this analogy let’s say you go to the gym because you want to develop muscle and you look at the you know the lightest weight which is actually a feather and you go like this that’s not gonna make you stronger it’s not gonna get you anywhere it’s the same in life if things aren’t too easy you don’t get strong you don’t build resilience and resilience we know is critical for for for life in general certainly for for children so trying to make things too easy in the short term is often along a bad long-term investment and what parents need to do is find the right balance between on the one hand allowing kids to cope to deal with difficulties and hardships and at the same time not put them in in a place where they’re not able to cope with with something in there and they collapse or or break down and it’s it’s it’s a fine line this is why the child psychologist Donald Winnicott talks about the good enough mother doesn’t talk about the perfect mother there is no perfect mother there is no perfect father the good enough good enough is about making mistakes as a parent and that’s okay but always moving between too easy and too hard and trying to find that fine line that exists which develops the child while supporting the child now it’s also important for parents to understand that happiness is not just about pleasurable emotions happiness is also about meaning and sometimes to do something that is meaningful requires hard work and dedication and sacrifice and that’s okay that’s an important that’s an important characteristic hard work to model as a parent and also to require happiness is about cultivating relationships which is why it’s important for for for parents to model relationships whether it’s among the parents whether it’s with with the children whether it’s with friends and to model a real relationships so when parents understand happiness in school context they realize that they can provide their children a original fulfilling life not just by gratifying their immediate needs which actually will hurt them more than it will help them so you know when I see parents who buy their kids everything that they want who go and deal with all the kids problems in school for them that’s not healthy for the children the children need to learn how to stand on their two feet just like literally when when a child walks the parent is not always there holding them they let them fall as well that’s how kids learn they need to also learn allow them to deal with difficulties in hardships in their life search out and what three advices chips would you give to parents um the first advice that I would give is advice it comes from the Italian educator Maria Montessori and her idea basically was that we should not do for the kids what they can do for themselves in other words if a kid is struggling with you know tying their shoes obviously we can do it faster and sometimes when we’re late for work we need to do it for them but if we have the time and we can just let them do it for themselves if the kid is really struggling you know putting something together or opening something let them struggle it’s okay so that’s the first thing that I would say allow them to struggle if they can do something by themselves let them do it and err on the side of them doing too much rather than too little or rather err on the side of you doing too little rather than too much hands-off parenting as much as possible second thing is unconditional love now this is a very very much misunderstood concept of unconditional love unconditional love doesn’t mean that the kid is always right and they get whatever they want and no it means that we accept their emotions unconditionally but we put very clear boundaries on their behavior so for example a kid can feel can feel anything they can feel hatred toward their little brother or little sister because they took their you know attention from them and that’s legitimate and they can feel anger towards you and that’s legitimate however there are very clear boundaries on their behaviors they cannot hit their little brother or little sister and they cannot throw tantrums and prevent you from having dinner at night they can do that but in the room so there are clear boundaries on behaviors but unconditional acceptance for their emotions give them the permission to be human and finally the the third day is its once again lead by example so you know when I come home I often share with my kids my experiences and I share with them both my wonderful experiences and my painful experiences kids do not need a perfect mark role model we need a human being as a role model and and they look up to us as as parents and what we do very often matters a great deal more than what we say we have talked a lot about the importance of relationships in a happiness but there is an idea that you mentioned a lot but also it’s very important in these say having that this fulfilling life and it’s a finding a project that resonates with us finding that work that we love doing and in fact if one of your books happier you introduce this process the MPS process and then I want you to explain briefly what’s that MPAs process about and then yeah yeah you know so finding something that is meaningful for us to do you know ideally our our work will all be in a meaningful and enjoyable at for us but even if we experience just an hour or two a day or even two hours a week of doing something that is meaningful to us that can go a long way and I introduced the MPS process the M stands for meaning the P stands for pleasure the S stands for strengths and and I ask people to make a list of all the things in the world that are meaningful to them so it’s meaningful for me to talk to people to help people it’s meaningful for me to do mathematics it’s meaningful for me to to write whatever it is to spend time with with kids to to walk on the beach what’s meaningful to you and then they make a list and then I ask them to make a list of all the things that are pleasurable that are enjoyable to them so yeah I enjoy solving equations and and I enjoy chatting with people I enjoy being by myself what do I enjoy what gives me pleasure and finally what am I good at what are my strengths maybe mathematics maybe writing maybe speaking in front of an audience whatever it is make a list of my strengths and then I asked I asked them to find the overlap among these three circles what’s meaningful to me what’s pleasurable to me and what are my strengths and when I find the overlap that overlap is where I can find the most happiness in my life so you know if I can give you a personal example so um doing research is is really a strength of mine so I’m I do I do research and I’ve done good research in my life it’s also very meaningful to me research I think it’s it makes a difference in the world it can make the world a better place but it doesn’t give me pleasure to do the research which is why I chose to focus less on research as as I continued in academia music provides me a great deal of me of meaning in my life a great deal of pleasure but you don’t want to hear me sing it’s not my strength which is why I didn’t choose a career in in music and on the other hand teaching very pleasurable to me I love it it’s also very very meaningful to me and I’m also good at it which is why this is what I chose to do with my life to focus my time on on on teaching and doing this exercise whether it’s for the macro decisions in our life such as it’s my career or even the micro decisions such as you know how do I want to spend my vacation asking these three questions can be very helpful in terms of raising levels of awareness about where we want to be and what will provide us the most happiness now that we are more like seeing the work environment I would like also to talk to with you about the importance of incorporating failure and the the role of failing in increasing our resilience increasing our self-esteem increasing our happiness yes so there’s a lot of research on failure and basically what it’s showing is that the most successful people whether it’s in business whether it’s in art whether it’s in science are also the people who have failed the most times so for example you see it with the top artists you know the Michelangelo’s the da Vinci’s in the world as well as the top scientists the the Marie Curie’s of the Thomas Edison’s of of the world there are also the artists and the scientists who have failed the most times no Thomas Edison once said I failed my way to success so you see it there you also see it with leaders so when you study the biographies of leaders the most successful leaders today are those who have experienced the most failure yesterday whether it’s as kids whether it’s in the workplace I’m just reading the lovely biography of Amazon or Jeff Bezos called the the everything store and there’s a story in there about a group of three executives in Jeff Bezos of Amazon just after the internet bubble exploded so Amazon stock went down significantly and they weren’t doing well and they were actually talking about you know should we stay on this boat on this ship and they got into a room and they made a list on the board of all the successes the Jeff Bezos had in all the failures and the list of the failures was far far longer than the list of of successes and yet today we know where Amazon is one of the the mantras that I repeat over and over again to myself and my students is learn to fail or fail to learn because there is no other way to learn that’s how we learn how to walk by falling down that’s how we learn how to write by by scribbling that’s how we learn how to eat by making a mess that’s how we learn how to shoot a basket by by missing that’s how we learn how to become better leaders or better partners or better parents learn to fail or fail to learn so we sit on an individual level also in an organizational level the most successful organizations today are ones that provide what Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School calls psychological safety psychological safety is the feeling that that team members have that it’s okay to fail but it’s okay to make mistakes but it’s okay to admit you know I heard that you learned from it as as an individual as a group as an organization and in organizations that allow for the psychological safety become learning organizations they continue to grow to learn and ultimately to to succeed and there is a topic you have already mentioned that it’s the relationship between meditation and Happiness because if we live in this age of emotional perfectionism we also live in an age where I mean mindfulness it’s now on it’s one of the hot topics so I know that you practice I don’t know you still do I know that you practice Transcendental Meditation and I would like to know what’s the connection between meditation and mindfulness and Happiness and how can we incorporate that into our lives to make our lives more happy I don’t know how to work for you yes so meditation is an important component of happiness and meditation essentially is about being present now the thing is that we can practice meditation sitting down you know with our you know back straight or ice clothes you know our hands in this position or sitting you know crossing our legs and and that’s great that’s important however we can also practice meditation in in a more general context for example when I’m speaking with someone if I’m present I’m practicing a form of meditation if I’m at work and I experienced what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow me I’m in the moment and suddenly I noticed that three hours have gone by that’s a form of meditation so learning to be present whether in the formal way or in an informal way that contributes a great deal to happiness you know as you mentioned we live in an age of distraction when we’re constantly pulled in in in different directions and and and that prevents us from enjoying the here and now so Tara Bennett Goleman writes in a wonderful book on emotional alchemy she talks about how we can have everything we can have all the money in the world we can have the perfect lover we can have the perfect work and yet not enjoy any of it at the same time we may have a you know a nice a piece of bread and we may be next to our friend and be fully present to the experience and be very joyful and happy so it’s the presence of mind and heart that is a key component of happiness without it it’s very difficult to be happy and just like with physical muscles we can practice our concentration muscles by practicing meditation by putting time aside whether it’s a half hour or if we have five minutes then we do the five minutes of meditation you know personally what I mostly practice today is yoga that I’ve found is also good for body and and for mind and it is one of the activities that I introduced into my life that has positively transformed my experience for the better tell to put a man now yes true to this conversation and to sum up all the ideas that we have talked about what three ideas three advice tips would you like to share so with your permission more than three but they’ll be brief so first relationships the number one predictor of happiness and we talk about relationships it’s not virtual relationships it’s real face-to-face intimate deep relationships SEC the importance of simplifying or lie and we’re so distracted so it’s simplifying whether it’s by sitting down for meditation or by spending a quality time with with a friend or by by reading by but just doing one thing so single tasking to some extent rather than multi tasking these times during the day I call them islands of sanity and it’s very important to have these islands of sanity in our crazy busy world physical exercise is critical for for happiness and it’s not that much three times a week 30 minutes each time of aerobic or high-intensity interval training is is is is enough give ourselves the permission to be human so allow the painful emotions to flow through us whether it’s by talking to someone about it whether it’s by shedding a tear whether it’s by by keeping a journal express gratitude appreciate what you have you know we we think we live one life but actually we live an infinite number of lives because at every moment there are infinite choices and if we make the choice to be grateful our life will most likely take a more positive path we’re choosing gratitude we’re choosing to be happy so express gratitude whether it’s in by keeping a journal whether it’s by sharing it with our family around the dinner table once a week and finally find as many activities as we can that provide us both meaning and pleasure so even an hour at the end of a long day of doing something that is meaningful and pleasurable to us engaging in our hobbies spending time with someone that can go a long way in creating a happier day and as day follows day also a happier life thank you so much definitely having this time with us been who you have made my day happier thank you you

8 thoughts on “V.O. Complete. Tal Ben Sahar; The science of happiness

  1. Muy interesante la entrevista, pero por favor, manden a la periodista a un curso de pronunciación. Me sangran los oídos…

  2. Tal great information as always. I love when you said, the only people who don't feel negative emotions are psychopaths and the dead.

  3. gracias por las dos versiones. Tengo amigos que no hablan inglés y pueden acceder a esta valiosa información.

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