Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Pursuit of "The Happiness Advantage"

"90% of our happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by how our brains perceive the world."

I watched a TED talk today that opened my myopic eyes up to a simple truth: if we simply change the lens we view life through, we can change our happiness and use so much more of our potential as the human race (yes, there is only one genetically and anthropologically defined race and that is Homo sapiens). Why do inspiring people like my Mom survive living with all the terrible ugliness that is cancer for over a decade longer than the docs said she would? Why do some people have family and friends and community who readily reach out to help in times of need, yet they still feel alone and unsupported? The power of active optimism sounds like it's too good to be true but positive psychology works its magic without us understanding exactly why. It all seems like handwaving and "black box" phenomenon oftentimes, but try biting a pen in between your teeth for 5 minutes. Does your mood feel a little better? Using your body to carry out emotions actually tricks your brain into believing it! That's also why exercise gives you a mood lifting kickstart - because your endorphins teach your brain that your actions matter.

I am still a person guilty of stressing out, getting bogged down by the little details, placing value on things that in the big picture don't matter, setting unachievable sky-high goals and not wanting to settle for lowering my standards. Success --> happiness, catalyzed by coffee, complaints, and cortisol, right? We as a society have been chasing the wrong carrot. The speaker notes, "If happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain will never get there." So as counterintuitive as it sounds, we shouldn't slave away for this moving target called success, and we shouldn't work to be happy, but rather be happy while we're working. I can speak to the truth of this after this first block of medical school, because I realized that just because I don't freak out and stress and worry about something does not mean I don't care about it - it just allows me to focus for once on the plate in front of me - not the plate, the desk it's sitting on, the carpet under the desk, and the walls that intersect the carpet. So I'm going to take on the little quest of journaling 3 new things I am grateful for every day for 21 days until I can teach my brain to see the good before the bad and truly believe it. It took years and years to learn to starve myself of gratification for a job well done for the constantly F5-refreshing goal to do even better, to the point that even a 100% or A+ seemed limiting. I am sure many of you can relate, as we tend to be high-achieving people. The problem is when we turn our heads towards the next achievement without pausing to celebrate and acknowledge the path we laid out behind us.

Life never gets any easier. There is not one day you can wake up and everything will be perfect in the world and you won't have a worry. So it's time to write ourselves some prescriptions for rose-tinted glasses because the principle behind the nostalgia from "the good ole days" can very well be what makes today the best day of our lives, every day.

This is your brain on happiness  :)

P.S. I miss writing these reflective posts: just opening up a fresh page and typing away about a topic that I feel passionate about at this very moment in time. Working on the "just do what you feel" resolution. I also voted in my second election since I became of age today. What makes you unapologetically happy?

Images: shopbop.com and ovandony.com, collage by me


Alice Gu November 6, 2012 at 8:47 PM   said...

I saw this Ted talk too!
First off I wish I could write like you, and 2nd of all, thank you for breaking down the ted talk for the blogosphere. I just decided that I Love these kinds of post. Keep up the great work!

lisacng November 6, 2012 at 9:46 PM   said...

Tks for sharing your heart! Would love to read more on your passions, what drives you, other than fashion of course! I especially loved the part about us chasing our next task/goal/etc without taking the time to celebrate our current completed task/goal/etc. Also, that we keep recalling the "good ole days" when the good ole days could be RIGHT now and we're missing it!!! Recently, Alan made me realize that perhaps I have to make sacrifices at work (both of us actually) in order to have more family time. At first, I was mad b/c how dare he sabotage my career goals?! But then I thought about it, and realized that J is going to be young for so many years and if I'm stuck on my career, I'm just going to miss him growing up. So, like you, I'm taking the time to the enjoy the NOW. I have until I die to work long hours for my job. I don't have that long before J is too old to hang out with Mom. Tks Angie!

Unknown November 7, 2012 at 2:46 AM   said...

thanks for posting this! it was really good :) i'll think i'll try that 3 new things a day thing too :D
also enjoyed the part about medical school syndrome haha

Angie J. November 7, 2012 at 6:57 AM   said...

Really interesting post, Angie! And totally agreed, but I guess it easier said than done in this rush-rush-rush society, haha. Anyway good post, made me stop and think!

Angie || sundaybelle.com

Olyvia November 7, 2012 at 4:50 PM   said...

I've been feeling down lately and this post made me feel better! I do wear negative glasses too often, haha. I'm gonna try to put on some happy glasses then!

Belinda November 8, 2012 at 7:36 PM   said...

I love your blog and your photos look gorgeous! Great post.
Will you like to follow me on gfc???
I'm your new follower.


Jelena Dimić November 10, 2012 at 11:02 AM   said...

Love those glasses! I'd just love to own the first pair, they're beautiful! *.*


Nataša November 10, 2012 at 2:25 PM   said...

Nice sunglasses.Like your blog and style,and follow you,and I will be happy if you follow me too :)

Carrie November 12, 2012 at 9:45 PM   said...

thanks for these article. i definitely believe that we are the only ones who has the power to change our own lives. :D cute sunglasses btw. i really like the first one.


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Sarah November 25, 2012 at 12:08 AM   said...

We watching the video series at a retreat at my work this past summer. I have to say I also thought it was great and learned a lot from it. I think the most powerful thing I learned for it was, in short, to enjoy the ride instead of just struggling for the goal. I think I sort of was coming to that realization as I was going through life, but it's nice to have it said so clearly.

Anyway, really nice of you to break this down on the blogosphere!

Olivia Shutey November 29, 2012 at 8:09 AM   said...

Love your blog Dear ! Glad we discovered each other.. new follower.. and man those flower sunnies are to die for! keep in touch xoxo


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