Research – Limiting Happiness 2017-01-13T13:40:46+00:00

Research – Limiting Happiness

Professor Elaine Fox, psychologist and neuroscientist, has identified two basic types of personalities: “sunny” and “rainy.” The tendency to see the world optimistically or pessimistically is hard-wired into the brain and reflects primal impulses to seek pleasure or avoid danger. Her research shows that when we think negatively all the time, this strengthens the negative pathways in our brain. The negative messages get reinforced and embedded in our brain. This perpetuates our unhappiness, so we need to stop doing it.

The good news is that there are a range of techniques that can alter our brains’ circuitry, allowing even lifelong pessimists to think positively and find happiness. For example, we can train ourselves to focus on the positives as covered here:

http://happynesshub.com/research-positive-focus/

Find out more about Prof Fox’s book on the advantages of being optimistic and her research here:

Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain

Watch Prof Fox speaking here:

The Lost Lectures: Prof. Elaine Fox: ‘Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain’

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text from our footnote* into your browser top bar)

Robert Holden is a British psychologist, author, broadcaster, and expert in happiness. In his happiness workshops and seminars, he regularly encourages people to stop doing the things that limit their happiness. His work was examined in the BBC TV documentary Q.E.D. – How to be Happy where a scientific study found that his methods created lasting improvements in happiness.

Find out more about Robert Holden here:

Robert Holden

Further Interesting Research

Tiffany Ito et al. at Ohio State University showed that negative information weighs more heavily on our minds than positive. They showed people a number of different pictures known to create either positive, negative or neutral feelings. The electrical activity in the brain’s cerebral cortex was measured in order to see how their brains responded to the different images. The brain reacted more strongly to stimuli it deemed negative, suggesting our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat news than good news – so it’s even more important not to dwell on negativity because it has such an impact.

Read the research:

Negative Information Weighs More Heavily on the Brain: The Negativity Bias

Dr Barbara Fredrickson has carried out much research on the effect of positivity and negativity on happiness. She’s concluded that a ratio of at least 3:1 positive emotions to negative ones leads towards a “life of flourishing”. So we need to start reducing those negative things that are stopping our happiness

Her research is summarised in her book:

Positivity

She describes her findings in this video:

Barbara Fredrickson: The Positivity Ratio

In fact, leading psychologist Dr John Gottman claims that a 5:1 positive to negative ratio is necessary for a successful relationship.

Find out more about Dr John Gottman and the ‘magic’ ratio here:

The Gottman Institute

Watch the video:

John Gottman: The Magic Relationship Ratio

A famous study by Philip Brickman, Dan Coates and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman found that lottery winners aren’t any happier relatively than paraplegics. Our circumstances actually have a much smaller impact on our happiness than we think and we’re able to adapt to our situation (whether good or bad). Dwelling on our unfortunate situation doesn’t make sense, so we should consciously make an effort to stop doing it.

It’s worth pointing out that there has been criticism of the interpretation of this study, and that the number of people surveyed was small and the happiness levels were measured at just one point in time. Asking them to compare now with their previous levels and predict future levels.

Read the study:

Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative?

And here Dan Gilbert, psychologist and happiness expert, discusses that study and why we spend our time doing things that aren’t making us happy:

The Surprising Science of Happiness

Footnote*

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text below relating to the article you wish to see into your browser top bar)

Professor Elaine Fox
Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain
http://www.rainybrainsunnybrain.com/

The Lost Lectures: Prof. Elaine Fox: ‘Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain’

Robert Holden
Robert Holden

Home

Tiffany Ito et al.
Negative Information Weighs More Heavily on the Brain: The Negativity Bias
http://www.wisebrain.org/media/Papers/NegativeBiasInEaluativeCategories.pdf

Dr Barbara Fredrickson
Positivity
https://www.positivityratio.com/

Barbara Fredrickson: The Positivity Ratio

Dr John Gottman
The Gottman Institute
‪https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-positive-perspective-dr-gottmans-magic-ratio/‬‬

John Gottman: The Magic Relationship Ratio

Philip Brickman, Dan Coates and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman
Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative?
http://pages.ucsd.edu/~nchristenfeld/Happiness_Readings_files/Class%203%20-%20Brickman%201978.pdf

The Surprising Science of Happiness