Happiness is a process and it’s fun (not dull?).
Dr Vaillant used a longitudinal method of research to conduct a great study. He followed 268 students from Harvard to understand how to live well.
I am so grateful for all the people who worked on that study for more than 60 years because it is as good as a good soap opera, only it’s not fantasy and you get to really learn from it.
The analysis is punctuated by a few biographies that make it very lively.
After reading the article I have this feeling of walking on a thread. Before, it was misty and I couldn’t see it. Now that I am experiencing a happy flow, I can feel the power it gives me but also its fragility. Visualizing all those life was like looking at boat captains. Enigmatic, grandiose, free to wreck it boat captains.
Here are a few samples I found particularly interesting from “What makes us happy?”:
o A little anecdote that really made me laugh and says much about happiness:
“Yet, even as he takes pleasure in poking holes in an innocent idealism, Vaillant says his hopeful temperament is best summed up by the story of a father who on Christmas Eve puts into one son’s stocking a fine gold watch, and into another son’s, a pile of horse manure. The next morning, the first boy comes to his father and says glumly, “Dad, I just don’t know what I’ll do with this watch. It’s so fragile. It could break.” The other boy runs to him and says, “Daddy! Daddy! Santa left me a pony, if only I can just find it!”
o And that’s what they have identified as being healthy characteristics:
“The healthiest, or “mature,” adaptations include altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship).”
“Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight.”
o About positive and negative emotions:
“In fact, Vaillant went on, positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they’re future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs—protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak.”