Monday, November 30, 2015

The Science of Happiness: Making the Most of Your Friendships

10/26/15: Are Some Social Ties Better Than Others?
English: me and my friend
English: me and my friend (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So this article was posted to the Greater Good website in March of 2014, and was written by Juliana Breines.  Go read it and then we'll chat.

So, we're both more connected than we've ever been, and lonelier than we've ever been, at the same time.  That sounds about right, don't you think?

Online communication does help us feel connected, and can give us a chance to help people. It offers these opportunities especially to introverts, who don't necessarily have it in them to do these things face-to-face. Still, it's not the same as seeing someone's expression, or hearing someone's voice, or getting a hug. So understand your network's limitations, and strive to be actively engaged.

Professional networks and other acquaintances aren't deep friendships, but they're a wide and diverse pool that can help you find a job, or a doctor, or a closer friend. It's good to deepen these relationships, even a little -- even if they don't become true friends, they;ll be better, more friendly acquaintances.

Close friends are, well, close friends. We belong.  We feel known. We become more empathetic. We can even become less racist! However, if a very close friend succeeds in an area we care about, we can get pretty threatened; I wonder if this is related on a psychological level to sibling rivalry? In any event, we should work on that, because our friends need our support in the good times just as mmuch as in the bad.

Significant others... we kind of discussed already, but they fall under the "friendship" umbrella as well. It's important not to be too insular with our SO's, or to put too much on them -- we need other friends, if only to spread the burden around.

(Did I just call being friends with me to a burden? ...I might have.)

And it goes both ways. Our partners need friends, too, and those friends aren't a threat to us.

Both week ties and strong ties are important, and we have to be careful not to overdo it -- or to overcompensate and cut off all ties when we need the support the most.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Life Reimagined: Reimagine Your Career, Part 1

So recently I talked about the Job Hunting Calling Cards, but the site is constantly adding new exercises, and it seems that one is so old it fell off the menu.
A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum London
A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But that's OK, because they offer a similar activity.

So the first part is to identify work from your past that you still enjoy. I think this would be a lot easier for me if I had signed up using LinkedIn rather than Facebook, but oh, well. So I dug up an old copy of my resume (which I really need to update) and plugged in some choice terms.

Then I have to describe some dreams jobs, which is always fun.

OK, now it asks me:
Imagine walking into a party with six types of people there. Which group would you want to join first?
I'm skeptical, but as I read the descriptions, the types are more about what kinds of jobs those people do. OK, then.  I then pick my second and third choices. I choose Artistic, Investigative, and Conventional.

Ah! The cards I've been waiting for.   There are 33 choices of fields, and I have to choose at least four.  I choose, to absolutely no one's surprise:
If you picked more than four, you have to narrow them down, but since I picked exactly four, I'm good.

I guess the computer shuffles them, because I'm asked to pick one over another to gauge my preferences. Looks like Fine Arts is getting the boot.

Now it's asking me what skills I like to use.  This really is starting to sound like the cards activity.  I picked:
  • Repair
  • Construct
  • Imagine
  • Perceive Patterns
  • Shape, model, sculpt
  • Set up, assemble
  • Convey warmth and empathy
  • Speak
  • Follow through, get things done
  • Serve, care for, follow instructions faithfully
  • Help people link up or connect
  • Communicate well, in writing
  • Divert, amuse, entertain, perform, act
  • Pay attention to details
  • Design, use artistic abilities, be original
  • Use my brain
  • Research

Before you laugh, these are the one I enjoy, not the ones I'm good at.

Now I prioritize again, leaving me my top three favorite skills, again to no one's surprise, of Imagine, Communicate well, in writing, and Use my brain.

What skills do you enjoy using, even if they're not your strongest?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Makes You Happy? #55

While visiting friends in Boston [link to 9/18 friday review], we took some time in the late afternoon to walk along the water.  It was a lovely day, just cool enough to need a light sweater when the breeze came up off the wharf.
Wharf derby wharf salem massachussets
Wharf derby wharf salem massachussets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For about ten minutes or so, it was just quiet and peaceful. The sounds of the water and the birds, the feel of the fresh air and setting sun. Sitting on the beach for hours sounds like the most boring thing, but give me a destination and I will take the route that goes along the water.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Science of Happiness: How Does Parenting Relate to Happiness?

10/26/15: What Makes a Happy Parent?

So this article was published to the Greater Good website by Emily Nauman in August of 2014. Go ahead and read it.

Young couple with baby.
Young couple with baby. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It looks like the sort answer to the question "Does parenthood make you happy?" is "It depends."  The marginally less-short answer is "It depends on the individual parents and the individual children."

Well. OK.  Let's see if we can be any more specific at all.

Older parents tend to be happier than younger parents. Dads tend to be happier than moms.  Parenting style seems to have an effect, but it's tough to say what it is.  And parents with secure attachment styles before they have kids are better at maintaining their non-kid relationships upon becoming parent.

Chill kids have happier parents, while kids with serious problems can add a lot of stress to their parents' lives.

Age makes a difference.  Parents of welcomed fetuses and brand-new newborns are really happy -- but their happiness plummets soon after, and doesn't pick up until the kid is 5, or 7... or moving out, depending which study you look at.  The happiest parents?  Grandparents.  No pressure, right, Mom and Dad?

Social support makes parents happier.  Employment is a mixed blessing: less financial stress, more time stress. And if you have goals of personal achievement other than having children, children aren't going to feel like as much of an achievement.  Which... makes sense.

Married parents tend to be happier than single parents, and custodial parents tend to be happier than non-custodial parents.

Biological attachment to the children may or may not affect the parent's happiness.

Parents?  How much of this rings true?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Newtown Literary Contributor: Laura Grow-Nyberg

So, yeah, this is shameless self-promotion, and I really don't care! In October of this year, I was interviewed (full disclosure: I'm the blog editor, so I pretty much interviewed myself...) for the Newtown Literary Journal's blog. Why? Because a piece I wrote appeared in Issue #5, which you can still buy!  So go read the interview, then if you want to buy the journal, that would be awesome, too!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Science of Happiness: Cross-Group Friendships

10/27/15: Why Cross-Group Relationships Matter for Happiness

This section is about how important it is to be friends with people who are different than you.

So, not only are things like racism and homophobia bad for our society, they're actually bad for our health, because if we're prejudiced against a group, we stress the eff out when we deal with people who are members of that group.  And I don't know about you, but living in Queens, there's a good chance any given day that I could run into a member of literally any group.

But the more friends we have from outside our little bubbles, the less stressed out we are when faced with differences and novelty, and the more we actually seek it out. Diversity begets diversity begets healthier, happier lives.

So that's cool.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Science of Happiness: Are Married People Happier?

10/23/15: Are Married People Happier?

This article was published by Stacey Kennelly to the Greater Good website in June of 2012. Go ahead and read it now.

English: Happy couple Noel and Norma Hawke on ...
English: Happy couple Noel and Norma Hawke on their wedding day, Brisbane, May 1940. You marry between watches when you're in the Navy. Leading Seaman Noel Hawke and Miss Norma Brooke have made two attempts to get married in the last three weeks. They succeeded at the second attempt. (Description taken from: Courier Mail, 4 May 1940). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So what it comes down to is that most sigificant life changes will affect your happiness, for good or ill, in the short term, but in most cases -- with the exception of widowhood -- you bounce back to you prior happiness level.

The difference is, people who are unmarried tend to have a gradual decline in happiness as they age.  People who are married do not.

So being married doesn't make you happy, but it an buffer you from a measure of unhappiness.

Does this ring true to you?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Science of Happiness: Friendship Matters

10/26/15: How Friendships Matter for Happiness

So we've talked about marriage and children [links]. Now, let's talk about friends.  There's a video!

This is not that video, but I'm leaving it here anyway:

The actual video points out that we're wired to make friends when we're in new situations (doesn't mean we're necessarily that good at it, but I'm not good at a lot of these things, am I?). But even our non-human primate relatives find value in "non-kin alliances", which are shown to increase oxtocin and decrease cortisol. When we have friends, we know we have support, so we don't stress out as much.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Science of Happiness: Are Parents Happier?

10/23/15: Parenting and Happiness

Here's a video about whether parents are happy.  I've read some pretty contradictory stuff about this; let's learn!

So... yeah, pretty contradictory, all right! People tend to like doing the work of raising their children slightly more than they like housework; if that's not damning with faint praise...

US Navy 100423-N-0641S-143 Mara MacDonald demo...
US Navy 100423-N-0641S-143 Mara MacDonald demonstrates different massage techniques to a group of new mothers and their babies in an infant massage class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Also, the birth of a firstborn brings greatest happiness (yeah, that's right!), with the level of happiness declining with each subsequent child.

BUT! Having a large family contributes to happiness a little later in life.

So far, what I'm getting is, the more kids you're currently raising, the worse off you are, but the more kids you've finished raising, the better off you are.  Parents, can you weight in?

Another study shows that what it comes down to is how wanted the child is, which doesn't really surprise me. People who actively want to be parents are happier being parents. Which, duh, right?

Finally, it comes down to this: parents have more daily joy, which increases happiness, and more daily stress, which decreases happiness  so...

Sort of?

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Science of Happiness: Hands-On Research: The Science of Touch

10/20/15: Hands-On Research: The Science of Touch

English: "Touch Me not" flower
English: "Touch Me not" flower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So here's an article that discusses the facts about touch from the video the other day [link to 10/29]. Dacher Keltner published it the the Greater Good website in September of 2010. Go ahead and read it now.

This article breaks down what was said in the video I linked to above, so let me just pull a quote from what I said then:

Look, I believe the science. But it just seems like, over and over, the science is telling me I have a  choice: be unhappy, or get happier by doing things that make me unhappy. And if I'm going to be malcontent either way, shouldn't I at least save my effort and choose the easier path to malcontentedness?
 Now that you're caught up on the science, let me know what you think.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday Mega-Review #59

I want to say that doing these every other week isn't going to be a habit, but looking at the next several Fridays coming up, it'll probably get worse before it gets better.

English: Cheesesteak with Provolone Cheese - e...
English: Cheesesteak with Provolone Cheese - extra cheese on top - Amorosso roll (cheesesteak from Larry's Steaks) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Two weeks ago, we were planning on meeting some people and going to a hockey game, but it fell through. We decided to check out a local bar that was supposed to be pretty good for watching sports, and watch the game there, but it was kind of disappointing.

Saturday, we went further out on Long Island than we usually do because we heard there was a new sandwich shop that did its homework to specialize in authentic Philly cheesesteaks.  Now, if you're out there anyway and want a sandwich, yes, I recommend them; they're very good.  But if you're from Philly and are homesick and want a real cheesesteak... it's very good, but it's not quite authentic.

We then went to Bluepoint Brewery, which is always nice.  They have good stuff and a nice outdoor area.  As usual, I enjoyed the live music but it was way too loud. We're here to hang out, not to attend a concert. Turn it down a  notch.  We bowled a bit before heading home.

Tuesday was volunteering, and Thursday we decide to take another crack at a hockey game, since Thursday game are way cheaper than Friday games. Friday was a friend's birthday, so we went out for that.

Saturday for Halloween, we met up with friends for an early dinner. One guy mentioned that his roommate had just told him the day before that they were throwing a party, and did any of us want to come by, so Chris and I did.  We figured we;d jsut stay for a bit.  Next thing we know, it's 2 a.m. for the second time and missed our extra hour of sleep.  I needed it, too, because I was starting to come down with a cold.

Sunday, a friend ran the marathon, so we cheered her on, then went back to her place so she could collapse while we all ate takeout.

Monday was a really successful fundraiser for the literary magazine I work with (and have been published in, btw!).

Tuesday and Wednesday I made homemade soup, because this cold was wearing me out.

Thursday, some friends who moved out of town were back for a few days, so we met up with them for drinks and then barbecue.

And that bring us to today, which looks like it's going to be the beginning of a weekend of cleaning and errands, but I'll update you on that... well, eventually.

As of this writing, I'm at 5343 words for nanowrimo.  2000 a day going forward will have me winning it early, so I'm not concerned yet.

No knitting these weeks.

I finished Howl's Moving Castle and picked at The How of Happiness.

How've you been?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Science of Happiness: Romantic Relationships, Family, and Friendships.

10/23/15: Friends, Family and Happiness

Dear courserunners: please be consistent in your use of the serial comma.  I can accept it if you never use, but don't just randomly switch it up like that.

Ahem.  Another section! Still in Week 2, but getting close to the end. 

A panegyric on the happiness and "Pleasur...
A panegyric on the happiness and "Pleasures of the Married State", published in London ca. 1780. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So anyway, we've talked so far about how being socially connected is good for us, but now we're breaking it down into specific types of relationships. Up first: a video about marriage.

So, basically, humans are generally wired to pair bond. And people who are married tend to be happier than people who are not, but there's a bit of correlation-is-not-causation here. 

The video also points out behaviors that can either sink or strengthen a marriage.  On the bad side:
  • Contempt
  • Criticism
  • Stonewalling
  • Defensiveness
On the positive side:
  • Humor
  • Appreciation
  • Forgiveness
  • Openness to emotional disclosures.
I think we can all agree that these are both fairly obvious and also not that freaking easy.

Next up is an article, so we'll deal with that later.