research browsing by tag


Eight ways gratitude boosts happiness

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Popular how-to book on happiness by leading researcherDoes cultivating gratitude increase happiness? Not very many studies have tackled this question directly, but the evidence so far from psychology research is pretty clear: Yes.

In her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses eight ways gratitude boosts happiness.

1. Gratitude promotes savoring positive life experiences.

2. Gratitude may increase a sense of confidence and self-worth, by encouraging you to consider what you value about your current life.

3. Gratitude helps you cope with difficulties.

4. Gratitude encourages kindness and other moral behavior.

5. Gratitude helps strengthen relationships.

6. Gratitude inhibits envy.

7. Gratitude helps undermine negative emotions.

8. Gratitude keeps us from taking the good things for granted.

Here’s what she had to say in more detail, interspersed with my comments:

First, grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences. By relishing and taking pleasure in some of the gifts of your life, you will be able to extract the maximum possible satisfaction and enjoyment from your current circumstances. When my first child was only a few months old, an older woman approached me while I was struggling with the stroller. “Your baby is so beautiful,: she said. “appreciate this age; it goes by so fast!” At the time I was feeling overwhelmed an sleep-deprived and, to be honest, didn’t much appreciate her glib intrusion, Click to continue »

Conservative and liberal morality: five foundations

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Jonathan Haidt is a research psychologist at the University of Virginia. One of his main research interests is morality. Recently I ran across this quotation from him:

…the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats “just don’t get it,” this is the “it” to which they refer.

Haidt is not a conservative himself. But he seems to want to understand both liberal and conservative views of morality on their own terms, and he seems completely genuine in this effort. I was already familiar with his other research on happiness and related topics, which I thought was among the most interesting and compelling work anywhere in psychology.

Some conservatives are likely to cite him, saying something like: “See – conservative morality has more depth and completeness according to this research psychologist.” But intelligent and insightful conservative (and liberal) observers will go beyond this, and see the breadth of mind involved in each side genuinely trying to understand the other side on its own terms. I’ve known about Haidt’s outstanding research for years, but after seeing this new line of research I was even more impressed with him. The video below is a full presentation (not a 5-minute video), but well worth the time; I highly recommend it. It also is as timely as ever, with the presidential election coming up very soon.

According to research, people tend to accept information more easily that agrees with what they already think, and tend to screen more skeptically information that tends to challenge their beliefs. It can be a useful exercise to make extra effort to be open to the best arguments that a contrary view has to offer, and to question whether every part of a particular position you believe in is really as airtight as you thought.

A psychologist I know who does life coaching, Ben Dean, told a group at a conference I attended that some of his clients (and others he knew) were depressed after Kerry lost to Bush. I think it would be healthy for each side to consider the world from the perspective of the other side. It’s also helpful to realize that life won’t be much worse if their own guy doesn’t win the election.

Video: “The five foundations of morality, and why liberals often fail to get their message across”

Blog about positive psychology, happiness research, and how to apply it

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

I wanted to pause and tell you a little more about what I have in mind for this site. I might expand on this plan, but right now my idea is to create several kinds of pages as described below. You can already see that my blog entries are really more like short articles on particular topics than they are like typical blog entries (that most bloggers tend not to spend much time carefully creating). The vast majority of these will deal with some issue in positive psychology.

1. I’ll tell you, in plain English, about interesting things coming out of research on happiness; satisfaction with life, work, and leisure; meaning in life and activities; being fully engaged in what you’re doing (flow); relationships; building on your strengths; and related issues.

2. I’ll give you ideas for how you can apply this to your own life. Some will be my own ideas, and some will be my explanations of how other positive psychologists apply what they’ve learned in their investigations. I hope this stuff will be really helpful to you.

3. Sometimes the main theme of an article / blog post will be a bit off the topic of positive psychology, but will share something I think you might find interesting. In these cases I’ll usually relate it to something in positive psychology, and to happiness. I tried this for the first time with my last article, “How to be rich and happy.” By the way, there’s obviously much more to say about this topic, for example, Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener‘s concept of “psychological wealth.”

4. I’m not going to promise I might not occasionally add a blog entry on some random topic I find entertaining, funny, or interesting. I want to make the blog more personal. And I might add things just because they make me smile.


Here’s an example of an off-topic tip that’s timely. Today I ran across Google’s voter tools ( If you’re reading this soon after I wrote it, and if you haven’t already received voter information in the mail, be sure to check deadlines (they’re soon!), see if you’re still registered, learn how to register, find out where your polling place is, etc. with Google’s convenient tools. Google always seems to be coming up with something cool.