Tag Archives: happiness

Isa @ Ted Week Ucla – Why being happy matters

And… I’m back!
This year I had the opportunity to present at the TED Week UCLA about my happiness interventions and some of my findings in my queue for constant positivity. Here is the talk in full:

Smile and be grateful, 5 minutes per day

It sounds as a cliche, but in fact, one of the key factors for feeling happy, is being grateful. Focus on everything that you have and you like, and all those things that went well, instead of spending your time thinking about what is going wrong in your life.

Also, our brain sometimes likes to be tricked. Every time we smile and act happy, it starts believing that we really are and starts producing more dopamine to make us feel even better.

So I decided to put these two thoughts together and try one new thing in my life: Every day I wake up, and I spend my first five minutes thinking of everything that I’m grateful for. It can be a dessert I had last night, as well as people I’ve met and became important to me. I close my eyes and I smile while I’m thinking about it.

I set the alarm and the time flies by while I’m doing that. The five minutes are gone but, somehow, I’m still smiling inside!

Happy: the movie

I just watched Happy, the movie. I’m feeling so inspired that I want to share some of the things I learned!

First, what I found most interesting is that a lot of people attribute happiness to the current circumstances of their lives. For example, their social status, relationship or jobs. However, those only define 10% of your ‘happy level’. 40% of how you feel is a consequence of conscious actions you take everyday, like playing, changing routines, doing something good for you and the others. The other 50% can be found on your genes.

Second, as social beings, we need interaction. Collaborating with others is one of the key factors to release dopamine in your brain and, therefore, make you feel better. Denmark was considered one of the happiest countries and, one of the reasons for that, is the abundance of cohousing communities. In those buildings, everyone gets to help each other and, by doing that, they have more time to spend with what really matters.

Bhutan, which is a country you usually don’t hear much about, even created the Gross National Happiness as a goal to pursue and evaluate the quality of the govern. It’s a poor country, but when you compare it to Japan, which has a high Gross National Product, the bhutanese are considered way happier and satisfied.

If you’re determined to be a happier person, another thing that helps, is being so immersed in something that you love doing, that you actually feel complete every time you’re doing it.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this state as ‘FLOW’. Surfing and Rock Climbing are good examples for that.

So, no more excuses, go shake your bone and find yourself new things to do that will make you the happiest person on earth!

Refresh Everything – let’s vote

IsA Wonderful World is one of the finalists to receive a grand from Pepsi and change the communities in USA.

Our plan is to spend three months traveling all USA and make interventions in at least thirty different cities.

You can find some examples of the interventions we’ll make here.

Or watch this 1min video that describes our main proposal:

If you like the idea and want to help us bringing more joy and break the routine of big cities, please visit the Refresh Everything site and vote on our idea!

The Ultimate Intervention is getting closer

So, do you remember when I invited everybody to spend one day and do something really nice to a stranger/ community/ friend?

I called it Ultimate Intervention, the day is April 9th and it’s getting closer. Your intervention might be anything, you might spend five minutes or an hour doing it, and it’s supposed to be as much fun and simple and you want.

To clarify this event a little, I create this website.

There are already people from all over the world participating! Why don’t you join us?

Sadness is the lack of Joy

I’m sorry for this short absence. I’ve been in a midterm week at school and busy with many things less nice than doing interventions. But even though it’s almost 2am I couldn’t not share with you this web site that I just came across.

It’s a Brazilian project called O que é tristeza pra você (What is sadness for you?) that consists of many short documentaries where artists are invited to answer this question. The first answer was the title of this post, and when I watched the video response of Rita Pires I was amused to see that we share the same opinion: Happiness is in the small things, like a flower blooming and a genuine “good morning”.

There are subtitles is English, so I guess it’s worthy to take a look:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/17311424]

Why being happy matters

First, being happy is not only important to your social life, but also to your health. People who consider themselves happy are also more inclined to live longer and are less susceptible to heart attacks. In his book “Authentic Happiness”, Martin Seligman3 describes a study made with some nuns and based on the autobiographical essays they wrote when they were accepted in the convent. After sixty years, it was noted that the biggest part of the most cheerful nuns were still alive, while the others might had already died ten years before. And what gives more authenticity to this research is that, since they were all living together under the same conditions, you can eliminate any external variable that could influence in the result.This fact might be explained by the higher levels of Immunoglobin A that happier people also present. This protein plays an important whole in our immune system.4

Also, there are many studies to prove that Happiness is directly related to Kindness. The psychologist Alice Isen, from Cornell University, once developed a study where she left some dimes in pay phones and after people hang up, another person would be passing by and dropped a stack of paper. Those people who used the phone with extra money were much more inclined in helping the others than those who didn’t have gained anything. She has also distributed candies and played with people always in order to raise positive emotions on them and the result was always the same: People who have been exposed to these positive feelings were much more helpful than the others.5

In a bigger scale, this relation is also true. A report leaded by Charities Aid Foundation found out that nations where people are more glad to be alive tend to contribute more to charity, independently of their national income. Australia and New Zealand, for example, are the most giving countries while their wellbeing score is more than 7.0 in a scale of 10.6

Finally, Happiness is contagious. According to Nicholas Christakis’ study, if you’re a happy person, you’re much more inclined to be surrounded by equally happy people, and the opposite is also true. The reason of that is because we tend to search for people with similar interests and behaviors, and we also tend to copy what is around us. For example, if my very close friend gains weight, my risk of getting fatter also increases.

Images by Max Wanger.

The Ultimate Intervention

Lately I’ve been receiving a lot of ideas of nice things to do to break the routine of people by bringing joy.

So I decided to take a day to invite people to do the same, wherever they are. I already have representatives in USA and Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), and the more the merrier. Imagine how nice would it be to have many people engaged in doing nice things all around the world, at least for one day?

So I’m developing some kits of everything you need to make these interventions and I’m willing to send them to everyone who decides to participate. All I ask is that you record (pictures or movies) and send to me so I can publish it here! Also, invite your friends, you’re going to notice that is much, much more fun if you have some company!

Don Norman said that happy people are more inclined to act positively and be kinder to others. So, why not? It could be the start of a kind chain. I also understand that each place has its specific characteristics, so I would love to hear your suggestion of what to do in your city.

If you’re interested, or curious, please send me an e-mail to isawonderfulworld [at] yahoo [dot]  com with the subject “Ultimate Intervention” and let me know where you are! Let’s have fun together!