Category Archives: Happiness

Those “The Software Is Ignoring Me” Blues

ThoseSo how socially wired are humans, anyway?

Apparently, so much so that we become angry and distressed when we get rejected . . . by software.

One of our fundamental human needs, the need for relatedness is so strong that we feel depressed and anxious even when we know the people excluding us are actually just computer programs. Continue reading Those “The Software Is Ignoring Me” Blues

January Happiness: Remove What Drains Your Energy

JanuaryThe new year is supposed to be a time of renewal and motivation, but I’ve always struggled with it. I hate the cold, and early sunsets, and having my workouts impeded by all of the resolution runners. It’s not a good head space for me to make positive changes.

In her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin designated January as the month of improving her energy. Continue reading January Happiness: Remove What Drains Your Energy

Healthier Body, Happier Mind: The Many Benefits of Volunteer Work

Healthier Body Happier MindIt should come as no surprise that giving of yourself to help others is a good thing, not just for the people who receive your help, but even more so for you. In fact, Stephanie Brown and colleagues found that in terms of the health and happiness benefits, you’re better off being the one extending help than receiving it. That’s pretty cool: You can do a ton of good for yourself when you do good for others.

But, not so fast: Your motive matters. People who volunteer because they truly want to help others enjoy enhanced health and happiness much more than people with self-serving motives for volunteering. Continue reading Healthier Body, Happier Mind: The Many Benefits of Volunteer Work

‘Tis the Season: Other People Matter

'Tis the SeasonChris Peterson, psychologist and a mentor of mine from my time at the University of Michigan, passed away unexpectedly in 2012. A collection of his essays on positive psychology was posthumously published (it had been planned prior to his death) and for me, serves as a reminder of his presence now that he can’t do so himself. As the year end approaches, his work on character, virtue, and happiness seems especially important.

Chris wrote,

Other people matter. But few of them are mind readers. Let them know that they matter. They might benefit. And you certainly will.

Something to think about.

The Perils of Social Norms

The Perils of Social NormsAs little kids, it’s drilled into us to be polite. Please, thank you, and excuse me are training mantras for the young. As adults, behaving politely becomes almost automatic for most of us. Being otherwise feels deeply uncomfortable. But what if our well-intentioned attempts to create norms of kindness are actually placing people in danger?

Social norms–the way we “should” behave according to our culture and society–can help guide us through new situations. Looking to the world around us for clues is one of the core ways humans figure out what to do; it’s no accident that Albert Bandura’s social learning theory is still taught in every intro psychology course. Continue reading The Perils of Social Norms

Fingers Crossed: How Lies Break Social Bonds

fingers crossedOne of the key tenets of self-determination theory is that people are motivated when their need for relatedness is fulfilled. What this means is that we are social creatures who like to feel connected to others. We like to feel valued, and seen as individuals.

One way in which this need is undermined in daily life is through lies. Continue reading Fingers Crossed: How Lies Break Social Bonds

The New Social Networking: High Quality Connections, Firefighters, and Loving Work

This post is adapted from a talk I gave at TEDxJNJ in February 2014.

The New Social Networking- High QualityI grew up in a firefighting family.

My dad and my uncle were both firefighters in the same town. I remember being a little girl, and only vaguely understanding what it was my dad did. As I grew older and better understood the danger he willingly faced every time he went to work, it shaped the way I thought about why people do what they do. People like me sit at a desk all day and talk and type, while other people risk their lives at work. Why? Continue reading The New Social Networking: High Quality Connections, Firefighters, and Loving Work

Think Before Choosing Heroes: Comparison Standards, Contentment, and Performance

Think Before Choosing Heroes- ComparisonWhether you think of yourself as a pack animal or a lone wolf, chances are you are constantly looking to the people around you as models of how to behave and succeed. From the time we’re babies, we use other people as examples to learn from. This is captured in Albert Bandura’s social learning theory. I would argue that other people, much like our own baseline behavior from tracking activity or eating, provides a metric to gauge competence.

That said, looking to other people for examples can have negative consequences, especially when we pick the best and brightest examplars to model ourselves on. Continue reading Think Before Choosing Heroes: Comparison Standards, Contentment, and Performance

Three Reasons to Keep Separate Work and Personal Email Addresses

Three ReasonsYes, I know: I already recommended keeping separate work and personal email addresses as a way to maintain work-life balance. But I feel so strongly about this particular issue that I felt it deserved its own post. If you don’t already keep separate accounts for work and for your personal email, start now.

Here’s why:

1. It helps you avoid embarrassing mistakes.

The two email clients I use–Outlook and Gmail–both autopopulate email addresses based on the first few letters I type. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of typing just the first few letters of someone’s address and not double-checking that the right recipient is selected. So easy. (I assume this is why my colleague whose name is also Amy B and I get so many of each other’s emails.) Continue reading Three Reasons to Keep Separate Work and Personal Email Addresses