Studying Tactics for Happiness

Here’s a novel idea: rather than just writing of theoretical ideas to become happier (most self-help books), actually approaching the question of wellbeing with scientific measure over a long period time. I’m impressed by an article I ran across at physorg today that seems to show more research in this direction.

There’s no shortage of advice in how to become a happier person, as a visit to any bookstore will demonstrate. In fact, Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues have collected more than 100 specific recommendations, ranging from those of the Buddha through the self-improvement industry of the 1990s.

The problem is, most of the books on store shelves aren’t backed up by rigorous research, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, who’s conducting such studies now. (She’s also writing her own book).

Oh, dear, Sonja, I most certainly agree, and applaud your efforts. There really can’t be enough research on such a vastly important topic as the wellbeing of humankind.

But it’ll take more work to see just how long the happiness boost from all these interventions actually lasts, with studies tracking people for many months or years, Lyubomirsky said.

That’s okay, as long as you’re making an effort. Guys — if you’d like to take a sneak peek on some of the tactics they’re testing check out the article.

Strange Delusions Caused by Epilepsy

MindHacks, one of my favorite neuroscience websites, recently had an article talking about individuals who either believe themselves to be dead, or believe their family was replaced by imposters (presumably by brain damage to some of the same areas).

At neuropsychological assessment LU presented with the Cotard delusion. She repeatedly stated that she was dead and was adamant that she had died two weeks prior to the assessment (i.e. around the time of her admission on 19/11/2004). She was extremely distressed and tearful as she related these beliefs, and was very anxious to learn whether or not the hospital she was in, was “heaven”. When asked how she thought she had died, LU replied “I don’t know how. Now I know that I had a flu and came here on 19th November. Maybe I died of the flu.” Interestingly, LU also reported that she felt “a bit strange towards my boyfriend. I cannot kiss him, it feels strange — although I know that he loves me.” Other presenting symptoms included reported sensations of dizziness, as well as musical hallucinosis (hallucinations of disco music), tactile hallucinations (a feeling of running water on her left forearm) and visual hallucinations (moving walls).

Check it out at MindHacks.