Over the last few days I’ve read a couple of different NY Times writings about the subject of Happiness. I’m not a philosopher or a behaviorist, but I like the topic. Those that seek happiness, regardless of the form, are highly motivated.
There are three different influences for this post. The first two, as I mentioned already, are writings I ran across in the NY Times and the third is a short film, audio visual graphic art type of thing. Each one makes me look at happiness from a different angle.
The first one I read is an Op-Ed by Roger Cohen called The Meaning of Life. Its mainly about a picture of two monkeys. These rhesus monkeys are part of an experiment to see what affect caloric intake has on life expectancy. The results suggest that on average restricting caloric intake does extend life. However, Cohen question is what is the point of living longer if you don’t enjoy that existence? And that is true. He goes on to intimate that a balance between discipline and reward is needed. And a trade off for it might be a few less years of life. Does one monkey look more satisfied in life than the other? You decide.
The second writing I liked this past week is by Daniel Goleman and its called Sitting Quietly, Doing Something. The topic of the writing is Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the Happiest Man in the World. He’s a Tibetan Lama who recently wrote a book about how to increase your happiness. Although he has specific ways to improve your happiness level, perhaps the most important is what the piece ends with – humility. If you can’t laugh at yourself, well…
Anyway, he teaches a meditation style which quiets parts of the brain and amplies the parts that are more associated with happiness. Here’s an excerpt:
Richard Davidson, who heads the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, has found one distinct brain profile for happiness. As Davidson’s laboratory has reported, when we are in distress, the brain shows high activation levels in the right prefrontal area and the amygdala. But when we are in an upbeat mood, the right side quiets and the left prefrontal area stirs. When showing this brain pattern, people report feeling, as Davidson put it to me, “positively engaged, goal-directed, enthusiastic, and energetic.”
And this last part is what got me thinking about some statements I’ve said in the past. I think one of the greatest feelings someone has is that “Ah Ha!” moment of when a breakthrough happens. Its like a race in your head where all these thoughts are rushing around with quick trial and error, and logic, and self doubt is creeping in, but persistence is still dominating, and then it happens – a quiet singular focus. And the answer reveals itself to you. And the part that is most exceptional is that you know you did it, but at the same time you observed yourself figuring it out. Its as if the self aware part watched the parallel processing computer part go through its cryptic problem solving steps.
Entrepreneurs constantly have that “Ah Ha” moment since they are problem solving at such a high rate. And to me, that form of happiness is tremendous. So quiet the right side of your brain and don’t always restrict your reward.
The video below is less than a minute long, but to me it symbolizes the “Ah Ha!” moment very well.