Teaching Happiness

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If doing for others is the road to happiness, New York's Wesley Autry, who jumped on to subway tracks to save a man's life last week, ought to be the happiest guy on the planet these days. But what about the rest of us?

A new science of happiness is attempting to pin down what really lifts the spirit — to measure it, and to teach it. Happier people live longer. They get fewer colds. They have better relationships and do more for others.

Since the time of the ancients, we've had advice on the good life. Now, after a century of measuring well-being by the march of economic indicators, psychologists are saying let's measure and teach well-being itself.

This hour On Point: teaching happiness.

Quotes From the Show:

"Despite of what is going on in the world, most Americans say they are ok. ...The number of people who report they are happy almost doubles when their income goes up." Frank Newport

"When you break the data further, you find that as income has grown, there's been no change in the people's meaning and purpose in life." Todd Kashdan

"Positive psychologists want to make people happier ...What we are now finding is that social relationships not only make us happy but also affect our physical health." Todd Kashdan

"Actually optimistic people are the ones who are most likely to seek out information and preventive care." Todd Kashdan

"I found that there is more science on personal happiness than for other areas of happiness." D.T. Max

"A lot of research that supports positive psychology is correlational at best ... and that is risky because we don't know the causation." Caroline Keating

If you look at women and girls, they smile more than men, and that's not because they are happier but because of the expectation that women should appear smiling." Caroline Keating

"There is a lot of pressure in an individualist society like ours that we appear happy. ... But it's also helpful to deal with the down side of emotions." Caroline Keating


D.T. Max, National Science writer for NY Times Magazine. His article "Happiness 101" was the cover story in this weekend's magazine. He is also author of "The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery.";
Frank Newport, Editor-in-chief, Gallup Poll;
Todd Kashdan, professor of psychology at George Mason University. He teaches the Science of Happiness;
Caroline Keating, professor of psychology at Colgate University and a consultant to ABC News.

This program aired on January 8, 2007.


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