Sunday, August 9, 2009

Accepting Emotions

Right from our childhood we are told that it is improper to display emotions like anger, angst, anxiety or even affection in public. We learn to suppress several of our emotions. Slowly we are unable to express or acknowledge emotions even in private. In the process of trying to gain acceptance from others, we get to reject part of ourselves.

Tal Ben-Shahar is a writer, speaker and a lecturer at Harvard University. Tal Ben-Shahar states that we should provide a channel for the expression of our emotions. We should ask ourselves, if we have outlets like trusted friends for the expression of painful emotions. If we cant identify people whom we can trust, writing a journal is also helpful. People who are able to express difficult emotions are reported to be happier and physically healthier.

We should, however, be able to distinguish between accepting an emotion and ruminating (obsessively thinking about the emotion) over it. Further, accepting an emotion does not imply that we also accept the behaviour that might spring from it. For example, we can accept that we are jealous and yet act benevolently.

In this program video Tal Ben-Shahar talks about positive psychology and discusses tips which can increase happiness.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happiness Traits

Originally from Russia, Sonja Lyubomirsky (Lyubomirsky in Russian means love and peace) is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Lyubomirsky teaches courses in social psychology and positive psychology. Her research addresses questions like what makes people happy and how can people become happier still.

According to her, happy people have been noted to exhibit some thinking and behaviour patterns. The following is a sample of the observations.

1. They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.

2. They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.

3. They are often the first to offer a helping hand to co-workers and passersby.

4. They practice optimism when imagining their futures.

5. They savour life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.

6. They make physical exercise a weekly – and sometimes daily – habit.

7. They are deeply committed to a life-long goal and ambition.

She has also authored the book ‘The How of Happiness’ which contains happiness related information based on scientific research.

In this video Lyubomirsky discusses how learned traits influence happiness.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sound Effects

Low frequency noise is common in urban environments, and has physiological and psychological implications.

For healthy adults the range of hearing is often quoted as extending from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. ‘Low frequency noise' is the term used to describe sound energy in the range from about 10Hz to 200Hz. It spans the infrasonic and audible ranges. Infrasound is specifically used to describe sound energy below 20Hz.

Low frequency noise may be produced from many artificial sources like automobiles, rail traffic, aircraft, industrial machinery, artillery and mining explosions, wind turbines, compressors, and ventilation or air-conditioning units and household appliances such as washing machines.

Low frequency noise can evoke particularly strong reactions in some groups of people. Reported effects include annoyance, irritation, unease, stress, depression, fatigue, headache, dizziness, palpitations, nausea, disturbed sleep and increased cortisol levels. Low frequency noise from ventilation systems can disturb rest and sleep even at low sound levels (This could explain why I lie awake sometimes in hotels trying to shut out the noise of the central air-conditioning system). Although exposure to low frequency noise in the home at night causes loss of sleep, there is evidence that low frequency noise under other conditions induces drowsiness.

As people cannot consciously detect infrasound, it can cause them to have unusual experiences. Infrasound has been reported to cause unexplained feelings of awe or fear in humans.

A low frequency noise can be heard by one person and not by another because people’s hearing sensitivity varies from one individual to another. Consequently it may annoy one person but not the other.

Earplugs are not an adequate solution.

A review of published research on low frequency noise and its effects is available at the Defra website. More research papers on low frequency noise are also available on the website.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Happiness Equations (3)

In the relatively recent field of 'Happiness economics' economists have started assessing welfare by combining economists’ and psychologists’ techniques. Micro-econometric happiness equations have been reported to be represented as:

Wit = a + BXit + Eit

W = The reported well-being of individual i at time t; a (alpha) is a coefficient; X = Vector of known variables including socio-demographic and socioeconomic characteristics; E = Error term which captures unobserved characteristics and measurement errors.

This requires knowledge of regression-analysis and is more suited for the economists.