firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I am trying to take a course on edx.org called The Science of Happiness. But I just did 1/5 of the first week's work and I'm not sure how far I'm going to make it. Here is what I tossed into the discussion forum after reading two articles with an increasing sense of outrage. I'm darned if I'm going to make myself unhappy over a course about happiness.

These are the articles I'm commenting one.

Four Ways Happiness Can Hurt You by June Gruber
Is a Happy Life Different from a Meaningful One?" by Jason Marsh & Jill Suttie

~~~

The June Gruber article and the Jill Suttie/Jason Marsh article are taking correlations and assuming causal relationships without showing their work. June Gruber's article first.

These statements are contradictory, but no mention is made of this fact.
"too much positive emotion—and too little negative emotion—makes people inflexible in the face of new challenges."

"When feeling happy, we also tend to feel less inhibited and more likely to explore new possibilities and take risks."

"positive emotions like happiness signal to us that our goals are being fulfilled, which enables us to slow down"
This statement does not provide any evidence that pride "leads to" mania instead of being associated with mania or mania causing excessive feelings of pride. Isn't mania understood to have a biological component? If so then it would seem more likely that mania could lead to excess pride than that excess pride could lead to mania.
"when we experience too much pride or pride without genuine merit, it can lead to negative social outcomes, such as aggressiveness towards others, antisocial behavior, and even an increased risk of mood disorders such as mania."
In the context of human behavior, "hardwired" means "biologically or genetically determined" rather than "culturally determined." Americans don't have different genes than people who live in other countries, so it's pretty silly to assert "We seem hardwired to pursue happiness, and this is especially true for Americans."

Why would people who are depressed or who have bipolar disorder be more likely to 'pursue' happiness? Perhaps because their conditions make it more difficult for them to feel happy? Suggesting that their striving is causing their disorders seems like blaming the victim (especially since these conditions usually have a biological component).
"the pursuit of happiness is also associated with serious mental health problems, such as depression and bipolar disorder. It may be that striving for happiness is actually driving some of us crazy."
The final paragraph is written with highly questionable assumptions that constantly creep into self-help and pop psychology articles: that a person has finely detailed control over how and when they experience certain emotions and can therefore create an emotional experience as easily as making an omelette, and that it is necessary to constantly apply this sort of control in order to be "healthy."
"First, it is important to experience happiness in the right amount. Too little happiness is just as problematic as too much. Second, happiness has a time and a place, and one must be mindful about the context or situation in which one experiences happiness. Third, it is important to strike an emotional balance. One cannot experience happiness at the cost or expense of negative emotions, such as sadness or anger or guilt. These are all part of a complex recipe for emotional health and help us attain a more grounded perspective."
Jill Suttie and Jason Marsh's article is not as problematic as Gruber's, but it isn't free of the problem of confusing correlation and causation either.
A recent study by Steven Cole of the UCLA School of Medicine, and Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that people who reported more eudaimonic happiness had stronger immune system function than those who reported more hedonic happiness, suggesting that a life of meaning may be better for our health than a life seeking pleasure.
It must be that pursuing meaning causes better health, because it couldn'tpossibly be the case that people who are healthier find it easier to pursue meaningful activities than people who are having immune system problems all the time.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I failed to record the sources where I found these, but many are from [personal profile] andrewducker and [livejournal.com profile] moominmuppet

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112661209/young-gorillas-observed-dismantling-poacher-snares

http://www.buzzfeed.com/lyapalater/30-awesome-behind-the-scenes-photos-from-old-movie
"Old movies" are now movies made in the 70s and 80s, and in a couple of cases, 90s. Ghod.

http://boingboing.net/2012/07/23/eagle-scouts-stand-up-to-the-b.html
Some Eagle Scouts are returning their medals in protest of Boy Scouts of America homophobia and religious intolerance.

http://www.igda.org/why-crunch-modes-doesnt-work-six-lessons
Complete with equations! Now to get medical schools to also realize that days-long shifts aren't a good idea.

http://vimeo.com/28457062
Video of lightning captured at 7,207 images per second

http://www.salon.com/2012/07/21/paranoid_parents_kill_cities/
This is about how in the US and some other cultures, children are no longer allowed outdoors unsupervised.
"In the Sydney Morning Herald, a writer recently marveled at seeing children wandering unchaperoned all over Tokyo. When she worried to her Japanese colleague about the lack of adult supervision, he responded, “What do you mean, no adults? There were the car drivers, the shopkeepers, the other pedestrians.” In Japan, 80 percent of kids between 6 and 12 walk to school grownup-free."
Note: I don't judge any parents. But I wonder about the consequences of a culture where children are not allowed to have any time to themselves outdoors.

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/07/geeks-guide-ursula-k-le-guin/all/
Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin. Includes the cover of an SF Masterworks version of The Dispossessed that strikes me as the most awesome bookcover ever. This interview also links to an article Le Guin wrote for Harpers in 2008 about reading:
http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/02/0081907

http://www.buzzfeed.com/whitneyjefferson/dc-and-marvel-superheroes-as-manatees
MANATEE SUPERHEROES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/happiness_is_about_respect_not_riches
Yes I agree, but that doesn't mean people who have survival needs going unmet are happy. So I hope no one uses it as an excuse to continue suppressing the minimum wage and promoting other underpaid work.

http://www.npr.org/2012/07/12/156664337/stereotype-threat-why-women-quit-science-jobs
How Stereotypes Can Drive Women To Quit Science

And can I just say that I'm disgusted people are criticizing the body of a female swimmer who has won multiple gold medals? (Leisel Jones of Australia). I'm not linking to any of the news articles about it because they quote body hatred, but you can quack it.

http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/fluoride-lowers-your-iq-b.s.-headline-week
Fluoride lowers IQ, or does it? (How science is misreported, especially by people with an agenda.)

http://darkarchive.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/de-gendering-academic-dress-at-oxford/
I approve.

http://scienceinmyfiction.com/2012/07/23/science-fiction-fails-immunology/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britain-flooded-with-brand-police-to-protect-sponsors-7945436.html
Olympics organisers have warned businesses that during London 2012 their advertising should not include a list of banned words, including "gold", "silver" and "bronze", "summer", "sponsors" and "London", if they give the impression of a formal connection to the Olympics.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/pot-legalization-is-coming-20120726
Interesting article about the ramifications of various ways to legalize and regulate marijuana.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Interesting book review.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html">"Two Brains Running" by Jim Holt (a review of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman)

Excerpt (emphasis mine:
What does it mean to be happy? When Kahneman first took up this question, in the mid 1990s, most happiness research relied on asking people how satisfied they were with their life on the whole. But such retrospective assessments depend on memory, which is notoriously unreliable. What if, instead, a person’s actual experience of pleasure or pain could be sampled from moment to moment, and then summed up over time? Kahneman calls this “experienced” well-being, as opposed to the “remembered” well-being that researchers had relied upon. And he found that these two measures of happiness diverge in surprising ways. What makes the “experiencing self” happy is not the same as what makes the “remembering self” happy. In particular, the remembering self does not care about duration—how long a pleasant or unpleasant experience lasts. Rather, it retrospectively rates an experience by the peak level of pain or pleasure in the course of the experience, and by the way the experience ends.
...
Kahneman’s conclusion, radical as it sounds, may not go far enough. There may be no experiencing self at all. Brain-scanning experiments by Rafael Malach and his colleagues at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, for instance, have shown that when subjects are absorbed in an experience, like watching the “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” the parts of the brain associated with self-consciousness are not merely quiet, they’re actually shut down (“inhibited”) by the rest of the brain. The self seems simply to disappear. Then who exactly is enjoying the film? And why should such egoless pleasures enter into the decision calculus of the remembering self?
This intersects in interesting ways with my studies and experiences in Buddhism, especially the notion that the mind constructs the self, and the self isn't some kind of unchanging core. (A metaphor I found useful is that the mind constructs the self the way a hand constructs a fist.)

Also I've known for much of my life that what I want to do in the moment and what I want to have done are different, and I frequently noodle about how to reconcile them or rebalance the amount of energy I spend on each. My behavior tends to mostly toward what I want to do in the moment, and toward habit.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
[personal profile] graymalkin sent me an article about introversion. I think the article is OK and I think that articles debunking myths about introversion are generally a good idea. But there are some ways that this article ends up reinforcing some myths about introversion, and it has some other problems.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201008/revenge-the-introvert

Here is my understanding of introversion: Being drained by spending time in social environments (as opposed to gaining energy thereby). Needing alone-time to recharge.

Here are things commonly associated with introversion that I think are not inherently part of introversion: Shyness. Social phobia. Social awkwardness. Invariably being quiet in groups. Being unable to think on your feet. Disliking to perform.

Following are some quotes from the article and my comments.Read more... )
firecat: rock guitarist (fangirl)
There's another source of delight in my life, now that I have discovered Aretha Franklin's version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (From Painted Black, a compilation of Rolling Stones cover tracks).

Not only that, but I discovered it while listening to the Coverville podcast devoted to mondegreens (misheard lyrics). (Don't miss the comments on the web page for the podcast.)

A version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" made it onto the show because someone misheard a line in the second verse as line as "I was raised by a toothless spinning ham".

Also, I would rather listen to a song called "Love Dogs in Space" than one called "Love Comes in Spurts" any time.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I found a theater that offered it with rear window captioning so the OH could see it with me. Now I don't have to go to Wiscon prepared to clap my hands over my ears every five minutes to avoid spoilers.

Watching the movie made me happy. I was entertained.

spoilery goodness )
firecat: too much coffee man looking discouraged (too much coffee man)
If you're maybe noticing that you're older than you used to be, and are feeling sad/angry/confused/worried/frustrated that you haven't accomplished as much as you/other people in your present or past/annoyingly critical voices inside your head think you should have, and if you're maybe feeling something like "I'm not a real grownup like everyone else," and if you're maybe also feeling sad/angry/confused/worried/frustrated that your body isn't working the way it used to, and you're maybe thinking, "if that's true then how am I going to DO all those accomplishments that I/other people/voices in my head think I ought or want to do?", and maybe you're also wondering how are you going to dig out from under the accumulation of habit and procrastination and self-doubt to some sense of satisfaction in your life again, then post this same sentence in your journal.

Friends keep saying stuff like that where I can see it, and I've been feeling it for a while now too. One said it really well in a friends-locked post:
It's been hard for the last some-odd months, with my age catching up to me, not to feel that I've been a continual failure in school, work, and my personal life. ...

I've been trying so hard to hide from my friends -- most of them not very close, even if they were before -- the fact that I'm not in their league in any sense of the word. ...

Come to think of it, I don't do yard work because I'm afraid of being looked at/judged by passersby. I don't do artwork because I'm afraid of ill-judgment and meaningless or worthless praise. This has gotten as bad as it ever was in the worst years of my adolescence. Worse, because I don't have the energy or the twenty years ahead of me to think I have plenty of time yet to pull myself out of it.
It was a revelation to read this, especially the part about "as bad as it ever was in the worst years of my adolescence," because that's exactly what bugs me about the similar feelings I have—"WTF? I thought I was DONE with these feelings of self-consciousness. No one told me they would come back, dammit! I thought 'mid-life crisis' just meant you went out and got your virtual red sports car and had done with it."

When a whole bunch of my friends and acquaintances are having similar uncomfortable feelings, and especially when each one is having these feelings privately and feeling shame about it because it seems like no one else has them, I ask myself whether there's some kind of cultural pressure going on, and I ask myself whether maybe we would do better examining these tendencies and pressures together, so we can figure out where we stand, and which of the beliefs and tendencies to embrace, and which to say pbtpbtpbtpbt!!!! to.

I wonder how that could be accomplished.

Do you have those feelings? Could you use a way to talk about those feelings with other folks who struggle with them?
firecat: cartoon bear lying on back looking at sky (reflective pompoko)
Comments re-enabled (they were turned off by accident)

In the revised spoilage meme, or "fortunate life" meme, that I originally saw in [livejournal.com profile] kightp's journal and posted about here, there were three questions labeled "Mental Sanity":
( ) Are you generally happy?
( ) Do you “enjoy” your job?
( ) Do you have time for hobbies?

It seemed to me that every single person who filled out the meme (at least the ones I saw) took a point for each of these. (This pleased me—I thought it was the most accurate measure of satisfaction in the survey.)

Also, many people who scored "low" on the meme's "fortunate" scale said they were quite satisfied with their lives and thought they were very fortunate, thank you.

[livejournal.com profile] hmms_sio sent me an article, "Happiness and Public Policy" by Richard Layard, published in The Economic Journal 116 (March 2006). It has a soft science tendency of making equations out of everything, which I find annoying (it reminded me why I didn't go into sociology after all) but I thought these bits were interesting: Read more... )

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