Sunday, August 19, 2012

Of The Happiness Advantage, Phoebe's Bicycle, And Precious Item to be Rescued from Fire...

Hmmm...Long time no see...

This week was a very interesting one and a hectic one as well. Had orientation the entire week and met all the classmates. On the first day, it was like a culture shock. People from such diverse backgrounds..more than 70% of the class is married. These Americans marry quite early! People are from such diverse professions..there is a gymnast from Brazil, a 40-year old professor who taught artificial vasculature and now wants to shift fields, a guy who used to manage casinos, a teacher from Jamaica, and a lot more others. Interesting to know about such people..everyone has their own fascinating story..

Anyways, this week I saw an amazing video on Shwan Achor, a psychologist who has written a book called The Happiness Advantage, talks about how we can find happiness in our lives. He talks about how success can never lead to happiness, instead what we require are positive influences in our lives that help rewire our brain to find happiness.

He says, 

First, every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better school, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we're going to change your sales target. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. What we've done is we've pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society. And that's because we think we have to be successful, then we'll be happier.

But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. 
If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we're able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.

What we need to be able to do is to reverse this formula so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of. Because dopamine, which floods into your system when you're positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.

We've found that there are ways that you can train your brain to be able to become more positive. In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully. We've done these things in research now in every single company that I've worked with, getting them to write down three new things that they're grateful for for 21 days in a row, three new things each day. And at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world, not for the negative, but for the positive first.

Journaling about one positive experience you've had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters. We find that meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we've been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand. And finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness. We get people, when they open up their inbox, to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their social support network.

It's fascinating no? Our mind is a gift to us..what all it can do!! Heard of the placebo effect? Isn't it amazing how just by thinking can cure one of a some condition. I love it. I always wanted to learn and study psychology. Psychologists are terrific observers and analysts. I wish I could learn it. But what Shawn says is very true. I guess I will try the four things he says. We all want to be happy in life no? What is the harm in trying? I remember there was a chapter in Class 12 English book: The Future is Now: A Zest for Living. In that story, the author, Dr. Walter F. Stromer, who was blind, said that happiness is subjective (I love this phrase and use it as a talisman till date).

He wrote:

Let me illustrate how disabled people can be happy in their ignorance. Sometimes during a long Iowa winter I walk to class in the morning and decide it's a nice day because I can feel the sun warming my back. Then some sighted person comes along and says, "It's such a dull, depressing day/' To him it is dull because the sun is under the clouds. That doesn't really destroy my happiness, and I do need to be aware that other people perceive the world in ways other than I do. I need to recognise that, just as I need to turn on lights in a room for the benefit of others even though I don't need them. So I will continue to be happy about the warm sun while my friend is depressed by the gray clouds. And, on other days, I will be depressed by the cold while he enjoys the bright, but cold, sunshine. We can each find happiness in our own way.

Happiness is totally subjective, so stop judging. If you find happiness by reading Fifty Shades of Grey, so be it ;)

Oh! When I searched for the above text, I see he has mentioned Iowa. I only remembered the example which he gave about the weather. When I searched for the above passage, I read Iowa and I am in Iowa. Isn't it so funny and creepy? :) Co-incidence? or Destiny ;-) I miss Class 12 English. Everybody used to think chapters were boring but I loved all of them. Machines and Emotions continues to be my all time favorite. I have written about it before here :) Do read the full text of The Future is Now: A Zest for Living here.

We will find happiness no? As I wrote before..nahi dhoondoge to nahi milegi...

This week, I built a bike. It was one of the team-building activities that we had to do. 

I was remembering Phoebe all the time. In that episode, Phoebe said she never had a bike, so Ross brings a bike for her. Isn't he awesome? That was such a touching gesture. Phoebe is so funny, that she used supporters. Haha! Each of the Friends character is simply amazing. Many people do not like Ross but I think he was awesome. Used to try very hard but never gave up..and he got Rachel. Remember the episode where Rachel is still not over Ross and he is getting married to Emily, so Phoebe devises a method to make her forget Ross. She takes a picture of Ross and puts it in front of Rachel and asks her to think of his bad things. Rachel says one or two but starts saying good things and runs off to London (Remember the line Phoebe says, "Why am I always pregnant when she does that."). That is how shows should be no?...the characters :)  

After about four weeks, I took out time to watch an episode of Modern Family. I spent half on hour for finding a website to stream the episodes. I am never ever disappointed by it. I wish I could watch it all my life. It makes me laugh and cry at the same time. During the episode, one of the family in the neighborhood lost everything due to burning down of their house. So, everyone helps them out and in the end, they all say what is that one thing that they will take it with them if their house was on fire and they said:

And if you could only rescue one thing from his house if it was on fire, what would that be?

JAY: Probably my first set of golf clubs. My old man gave them to me.
GLORIA: The engagement ring that Jay gave me that changed my life.
MITCHELL: Lily's adoption papers.
CAMERON: I was going to say Lily's adoption papers! OK, in that case, my mom's recipe book.
PHIL: All our family photos. Which I keep on my iPad, so I guess my iPad.
CLAIRE: As long as I had my family, I wouldn't need anything else.

After the episode ended, I started thinking about the same question. The first thing that came to my mind was my certificates. I know it is very shallow but I would take all my degrees, certificates, and other papers (passport, et al). And when I started thinking deeply about that one thing I would take, I couldn't come up with anything. Most of my personal things are saved in my email. The most personal thing for me is my blog. I do not know what will happen if I lose it. So I thought what could I take? I felt so terrible that I am such a passion-less person (which I am) :( Before coming to the US, I was looking at my almirah and I was amazed to see the things that I had kept with me. I had saved each of my exam question papers (unit tests, mid terms, end terms) from Class 6th to the final semester of college. I had all answer sheets from Class 9th to Class 12th when they started giving them. The silly friendship bands that we got when were so excited to celebrate Friendship Day (how cheap it sounds these days), the school photographs, the school pics, the school library cards, the school ID card pics (when I saw them, I was ewwww...I hated myself), the slam books, the gifts, a card by someone very special, the small notes that people wrote :). So many things and mom was like throw these things but I was like no..let them be..I think I will take a bag where I have kept these old items...memories..I am so stuck in the past...perhaps that is why I cannot look ahead to the future :( I will find that precious item soon...So what is that one item that you will take it with out if you house is on fire? Would be interesting to know :)

I watched another equally fascinating video on Ted. I guess I will write about it later. I do not know how much time will be there from next week :( Hoping for the best...

Dialogue(s) of the Day:

"There are dreamers and there are realists in this world. You’d think the dreamers would find the dreamers and the realists would find the realists, but more often than not, the opposite is true. You see the dreamers need the realists from keeping them from soaring too close to the sun… And the realists? Well without the dreamers, they might never get off the ground.”
- Cameron, Modern Family
"मन का हो तो अच्छा और न हो तो और भी अच्छा because that means God has other plans for you and will take care of you." - Amitabh Bachchan on The Front Row (Loved the interview)
तेरी हदों में मेरी बसर है ..अब तुझे भी, जाना किधर है..
जहाँ रहे तू..मैं वो जहाँ हु..जिसे जिए तू, मैं वो समां हूँ..
तेरी वजह से नया नया हूँ..पहले कहा न मैंने अब ये तुमसे कहने लगा हूँ..
तुझको जो पाया..तो जीना आया..अब ये लम्हा ठहर जाये थम जाये बस जाये हम दोनों के दरमियान...
- Mere Bina Main, Crook


  1. Hmmmm...What is the one thing I would take if my house was on fire?? I thought about this question a lot. My answer is similar to one of the characters in Modern Family, I would take my whole family with me and then I'll not need anything else. I guess it's because of the circumstances I am living in these past few days that my mindset has changed completely. But, I could not come up with any material things while thinking about this question.

  2. Ya..true..our mind responds to the situation we are in...Even I couldn't think of anything :)


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