Becoming Happier & Less Anxious
Focusing on loving kindness helped students participating in the research feel happier, more connected, empathetic and less anxious. Researchers instructed a group of students to spend 12 minutes walking around a building and silently wish happiness for the people they encountered. Results showed that extending unspoken loving-kindness promoted positive changes in the students’ mind-set independent of their baseline personality. A second group of students were asked to look at the people they saw, think about how they are connected to each other and focus on feelings or experiences they may share. Afterward, these students felt more connected but did not gain the other benefits that the students who extended loving kindness gained, such as more happiness and less anxiety. Those in a third group were instructed to look at others and think about how they themselves may be better off than the people they encountered. No benefits were seen among those in this group.
My take? While these new findings are interesting, it would be useful to know how long lasting the effects were. In my book Spontaneous Happiness, published in 2011, I discussed the American cultural insistence on being – or, at least, acting – happy all the time and introduced a Swedish word and concept that describe a more realistic goal. The Swedish term lagom doesn’t have an equivalent English term but means something like “just right” or “exactly enough.” I think that contentment, serenity, comfort, balance and resilience together constitute a lagom version of positive emotionality that can be cultivated until it becomes our default emotional state.
Douglas A. Gentile et al, “Caring for Others Cares for the Self: An Experimental Test of Brief Downward Social Comparison, Loving-Kindness, and Interconnectedness Contemplations.” Journal of Happiness Studies, March 21, 2019 DOI: 10.1007/s10902-019-00100-2
Also in this week’s bulletin:
- How Coffee Really Affects You
- Yoga At Work Can Ease Stress
- Recipe: True Food Kitchen’s Good Earth Kale Cobb