Christian Long

Nancy Etcoff: Surpising Science of Happiness

In TED Talks on May 22, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Reflection by ANGELA W.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Nancy Etcoff:  Surpising Science of Happiness

For some reason, today’s society is becoming more and more depressed. This is odd to me, since we have new technological advances and health cures. There are now more suicides in the world than there are homicides. In Nancy Etcoff’s talk she says that in the next 50 years, depression will be the second cause of death.

We try to make ourselves happier by using medical prescriptions but when we decide not to take the anti-depressants anymore, we experience withdraws and relapses. Although more people around the world are happier than depressed, it should not be this way.

We tend to detect bitter things easier than we detect sweet things. In Nancy’s talk, she presents statistics that every five sweet remarks make up for one negative remark. Humans tend to dwell on the negative things in life rather than focusing on all of the positive things. We are born as hedonists, or pleasure seekers. Babies always like to taste sweet things rather than bitter and they would much rather touch something soft than rough. This means we are usually above average in happiness, causing us to be sensitive to the negative.

A little while ago, we began to think as happiness and misery as two different things that do not affect each other. For example we say that when you become less miserable, you do not become happier, you become less miserable. We think of them as two different parallels. Once we have been miserable for a long period of time we forget what it is like to have the feeling of happiness. This is due to emotion. We think emotion is a feeling but it is something that controls our memory.

Science shows that people are happier when they are absorbed, not in themselves, but other people, sports, discovering, learning, or a loved one. The people that are less happy are the ones that sit in front of the mirror and point out everything thing they do not like about themselves and everything in their life. Self focusing tends to bring the mood down.

In order to attempt to be happy people must stop dwelling on the negative and pay more attention to the positive while becoming engaged in many other activities, not including themselves.

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