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  1. Nov 2015
    1. Thinking about oneself is natural; humility is unnatural. Perhaps this is why gratitude is counterintuitive. It goes against our natural inclinations. We want to take credit for the good that we encounter. This self-serving bias is the adult derivative of childhood egocentricity.
    2. The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed. Humility ushers in a grateful response to life. Humility is a key to gratitude because living humbly is the truest approach to life. Humble people are grounded in the truth that they need others. We all do. We are not self-sufficient
    3. According to Mark T. Mitchell, professor of political science at Patrick Henry College in Virginia: Gratitude is born of humility, for it acknowledges the giftedness of the creation and the benevolence of the Creator. This recognition gives birth to acts marked by attention and responsibility. Ingratitude, on the other hand, is marked by hubris, which denies the gift, and this always leads to inattention, irresponsibility, and abuse.
    4. psychiatrists estimate that only one percent of the general population meets the clinical criteria for narcissistic disorders. However, narcissistic characteristics are found in all individuals in varying degrees. Early childhood is marked by egocentrism, the inability to take another’s perspective. This preoccupation with one’s own internal world is a normal stage of human development. Over time, most of us evolve out of this restricted perceptual lens. However those who continue to see the world primarily from the inside out slide down the slope from ordinary egocentrism to entitled narcissism.
    5. modern times have regressed gratitude into a mere feeling instead of retaining its historic value: as a virtue that leads to action. Just as great philosophers such as Cicero and Seneca conclude in their writings, gratitude is an action of returning a favor and is not just a sentiment. By the same token, ingratitude is the failure to both acknowledge receiving a favor and refusing to return or repay the favor. Just as gratitude is the queen of the virtues, ingratitude is the king of the vices.
    6. The lack of gratitude is contagious, and is passed from one generation to the next. Conversely, the act of gratitude is also viral and has been found to greatly and positively influence not just relationships but one’s own emotional status.
    7. Tom Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, known for his finding that spending money on experiences brings more happiness than spending money on material things, also studies gratitude. In his gratitude research, Gilovich looked at whether people feel more grateful for purchased experiences than purchased things (spoiler alert: yes). 
    8. when the people cultivate really extreme individualistic attitude ornarcissistic attitude and real clear focus on self they feel less gratitude. We knowfrom scientific literature that when we think about materialistic pursuits and we sort ofare interested in consumerism if you will we show declines in gratitude and then I thinkthat for those of you who are kind of leading busy life or are parenting kids who feel alittle over scheduled but what we are learning is that just that over scheduling and beingtoo busy is a very clear barrier to experiencing gratitude because gratitude requires a littlebit of time for reflection on the things that have been given to you.

      Barriers to experiencing gratitude

    1. Rather, a lack of gratitude may be connected to why that division of labor is so unequal to begin with.
    2. It is not uncommon for romantic partners, particularly if they are co-habitating or raising children, to feel like the other person doesn't contribute as much to maintaining the home as they themselves do. It's a result of our cognitive tendency to call to mind our own actions and behaviors more readily than we can think of or remember other people's actions and behaviors. Gratitude, the article below suggests, can counteract this relationship challenge. 
    3. Those in the gratitude condition showed avery strong preference for working with a partner, whereas those who were in the controlcondition actually preferred to work alone. So, one of the things we see about the socialbenefits of gratitude is that it enhances our desire to affiliate with others. Gratitudealso enhances our communal orientation toward others
    1. Remember, your goal is not to relive the experience but rather to get a new perspective on it. Simply rehearsing an upsetting event makes us feel worse about it. That is why catharsis has rarely been effective. Emotional venting without accompanying insight does not produce change. No amount of writing about the event will help unless you are able to take a fresh, redemptive perspective on it. This is an advantage that grateful people have—and it is a skill that anyone can learn.
    2. There’s another way to foster gratitude: confront your own mortality. In a recent study, researchers asked participants to imagine a scenario where they are trapped in a burning high rise, overcome by smoke, and killed. This resulted in a substantial increase in gratitude levels, as researchers discovered when they compared this group to two control conditions who were not compelled to imagine their own deaths. In these ways, remembering the bad can help us to appreciate the good. As the German theologian and Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.” We know that gratitude enhances happiness, but why? Gratitude maximizes happiness in multiple ways, and one reason is that it helps us reframe memories of unpleasant events in a way that decreases their unpleasant emotional impact. This implies that grateful coping entails looking for positive consequences of negative events. For example, grateful coping might involve seeing how a stressful event has shaped who we are today and has prompted us to reevaluate what is really important in life.
    3. Thanksgiving, was born and grew out of hard times. The first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrims died from a rough winter and year. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression. Why? Well, when times are good, people take prosperity for granted and begin to believe that they are invulnerable. In times of uncertainty, though, people realize how powerless they are to control their own destiny. If you begin to see that everything you have, everything you have counted on, may be taken away, it becomes much harder to take it for granted.
    4. We don’t have total control over our emotions. We cannot easily will ourselves to feel grateful, less depressed, or happy. Feelings follow from the way we look at the world, thoughts we have about the way things are, the way things should be, and the distance between these two points.
    5. Mother Theresa talked about how grateful she was to the people she was helping, the sick and dying in the slums of Calcutta, because they enabled her to grow and deepen her spirituality. That’s a very different way of thinking about gratitude—gratitude for what we can give as opposed to what we receive. But that can be a very powerful way, I think, of cultivating a sense of gratitude.
    6. With gratitude comes the realization that we get more than we deserve. I’ll never forget the comment by a man at a talk I gave on gratitude. “It’s a good thing we don’t get what we deserve,” he said. “I’m grateful because I get far more than I deserve.” This goes against a message we get a lot in our contemporary culture: that we deserve the good fortune that comes our way, that we’re entitled to it. If you deserve everything, if you’re entitled to everything, it makes it a lot harder to be grateful for anything.
    7. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness.
    8. In effect, I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. We spend so much time watching things—movies, computer screens, sports—but with gratitude we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.
    9. people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits: Psychological Higher levels of positive emotions More alert, alive, and awake More joy and pleasure More optimism and happiness Physical Stronger immune systems Less bothered by aches and pains Lower blood pressure Exercise more and take better care of their health Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking Social More helpful, generous, and compassionate More forgiving More outgoing Feel less lonely and isolated.
    10. The next thing that Phil saysin the sort of positivity bias, the notion that gratitude amplifies the good, is thatgratitude counteracts adaptation and habituation.
    11. First, gratitude enhances the frequency andthe magnitude of enjoyment that people have around present pleasant positive emotionalexperiences.
    1. Ask Yourself Three Questions. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
    1. It is gratitude that enables us to receive and it is gratitude that motivates us to return the goodness that we have been given. In short, it is gratitude that enables us to be fully human.
    2. Life becomes complete when we are able to give to others what we ourselves received in the past.
    3. A second reason supporting the power of gratitude is that gratitude increases one’s sense of personal worth. When we experience gratitude, we understand that another person wishes us well, and in turn, we feel loved and cared for. If someone has incurred a personal cost by helping me out, then how can I not conclude that I have value in that person’s eye?
    4. So why is gratitude good? For two main reasons, I think. First, gratitude strengthens social ties. It cultivates an individual’s sense of interconnectedness.
    5. Compared to people who didn’t receive the favor, including some who were put in a good mood by watching a funny video clip, the people who received the favor and felt grateful toward the confederate were more likely to go through the trouble of filling out the survey. This suggests the unique effects of gratitude in motivating helping behavior, more so than the general effects of simply being in a positive mood.
    6. Indeed, contemporary social science research reminds us that if we overlook gratitude, it will be at our own emotional and psychological peril. After years of ignoring gratitude—perhaps because it appears, on the surface, to be a very obvious emotion, lacking in interesting complications—researchers have found that gratitude contributes powerfully to human health, happiness, and social connection.
    7. One fascinating study in the 1980s found that American men were less likely to regard gratitude positively than were German men, and they viewed it as less constructive and useful than their German counterparts did. Gratitude presupposes so many judgments about debt and dependency that it is easy to see why supposedly self-reliant Americans would feel queasy about even discussing it.
    8. In some cases, people have reported that gratitude led to transformative life changes. And even more importantly, the family, friends, partners, and others who surround them consistently report that people who practice gratitude seem measurably happier and are more pleasant to be around. I’ve concluded that gratitude is one of the few attitudes that can measurably change people's lives.
    9. How many family members, friends, strangers, and all those who have come before us have made our daily lives easier and our existence freer, more comfortable, and even possible? It is mind boggling to consider.
  2. Oct 2015
    1. there are ones who are less grateful whohave a different orientation toward life. For variousreasons they’re going to focus more on what life is denying, what life is..um...what they’relosing out on. Looking at life with a lens ofscarcity vs. a lens of abundance.
    2. It’svery hard, by the way, to find people who are veryungrateful. In fact, if you look throughout thehistory of ideas, you see in-gratitude being excoriated as a vice, you know, it’s oneof the worse things people can say about you that you’rean ungrateful person. In some cases it really representssociopathy, or anti-social behavior because reciprocity is such a universal norm, thatwhen people do good things for us we do good thingsin return. We don’t return harm for good andso it’s unusual to find an ungrateful person,
    3. . The grateful person atthis other extreme end of this continuum of gratefulness, is one who accepts all of lifegood and bad. Everything that happens they see it asa gift or potential gift. That’s with a grateful person.Now, it’s quite a bit different than journaling all the nice things happening to you, butyou have to start somewhere.
    4. there’s a difference between that short term feeling and saying that someoneis a grateful person, that they habitually lookat life from a grateful focus or through gratitude glasses. That’s very different, I think.So, we could align levels of gratitude on acontinuum from the habit of saying thank you, to a moredeeper, abiding sense of thankfulness for life asa fundamental life orientation. That’s a different level of a degree of gratitude.
    5. It leadsto kind of more prosocial leadership behavior and, in fact, more charitable giving.
    6. the more grateful you are, the tendency is foryou to feel less anxious, less depressed. Bob Emmons really put it nicely, which isthe more you move to this grateful mindset, it'salmost physically impossible to be anxious or depressed.
    7. Adam Smith, the great economist, when he was thinking about what makes forcivil, kind, cooperative societies, said that gratitude is really the glue that ties peopletogether. If you move forward a couple of centuries we encounter Trivers, the greatevolutionary thinker who was making the case that altruism and sharing and generosity ofthe reciprocal kind that takes place between two individuals is really driven by feelingsof gratitude, of having a sense that other people are giving to you
    8. by beginning with the definition from Bob Emmons' really nicebook called Thanks from 2007. Gratitude, Emmons writes, is the feeling of reverence for thingsthat are given, and I think there's a real emphasis here on "given," which is the thingsthat we're grateful for are really beyond our own agency, beyond our own volition.
    1. Extrinsic goals, on the other hand, are focused on attaining rewards and/or praise from others--they are a means to an end, not inherently rewarding in and of themselves. Examples include financial wealth, fame, or popularity. People often pursue extrinsic goals under the assumption that these goals will bring them happiness, but evidence suggests otherwise. Researchers speculate that intrinsic goals lead to greater happiness because, in the pursuit of these goals, people have positive experiences along the way that support their happiness.
    2. Intrinsic goals: According to positive psychologist Tim Kasser and colleagues, intrinsic goals "are those that are inherently satisfying to pursue because they are likely to satisfy innate psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, competence, and growth"; they depend on satisfying one's own basic psychological needs rather than relying upon the judgments or approval of others. Examples of these goals include self-acceptance, forming social connections, and physical fitness.
    3. other scientists are finding when you really sortof focus our attention on these sort of intrinsic goals like being connected to others as opposedto making more money as you might imagine, those lead to more boosts in happiness andthen this other focus on making money and achieving fame really doesn't sort of boosthappiness in the same fashion.
    4. people who set goals to really find greater autonomy or freedom who feel greater confidenceand in particular, again as you might intuit, to be more connected to other people, theyactually had rises in happiness over that 6 month period.
    5. when we set goals that are reallynon-zero that have to do with not only honoring our own interests, but also advancing thewelfare and interests of others, friends, family members, and social groups, that kindof a goal, that non-zero goal that really incorporates others interests with the greatergood is associated with greater success, career, and happiness.
    6. Many of the themes of this week--optimism, focus, flow--converge on another mental habit that relates to happiness: goal setting. Research suggests that setting goals for ourselves, and progressing toward those goals, can foster well-being, perhaps because our happiness is intertwined with having a sense of meaning, hope, and purpose in life--a topic we touched on in Week 1. However, research also suggests that not all goals contribute equally to our happiness.
    7. Familiarity with one another’s communication style also helps them respond to each other quickly, and we know from Csikszentmihalyi’s research that immediate feedback is critical to flow.

      Programming specific example: waiting for compile times, etc., is a killer.

    8. They found that, more than any particular type of activity, achieving flow was determined by the mix of challenge and support teachers provide: Engagement was high when students were appropriately challenged by complex goals and high teacher expectations but also supported through positive interactions with their teacher.
    9. They found that students were most engaged in school while taking tests, doing individual work, and doing group work, and less so when listening to lectures or watching videos. In addition, the students were most engaged and reported being in a better mood when they felt that their activities were under their own control and relevant to their lives. The researchers conclude that teachers can encourage more flow in their classrooms through lessons that offer choice, are connected to students’ goals, and provide both challenges and opportunities for success that are appropriate to students’ level of skill.
    10. Real learning, says Shernoff, requires student engagement—of which flow is the deepest form possible—and that involves a combination of motivation, concentration, interest, and enjoyment derived from the process of learning itself—qualities that are essential to Csikzentmihalyi’s definition of flow.
    11. But one place where we might not find too much flow these days, sadly, is in American schools. For years, the learning conditions in classrooms have been practically antithetical to the conditions people need to achieve flow and all the benefits that come with it. Especially in the era of No Child Left Behind and high-stakes testing, schools have often favored regimentation over self-directed learning, making it harder for students to get deeply engaged with topics that interest them. Paradoxically, these trends might be undermining the kind of student achievement they were designed to promote, and could even be causing student burnout.
    12. Have you ever been so engaged in an activity that you lost all sense of time? Hours passed, but you didn't notice; you felt calm, focused, deeply satisfied, even meditative? Psychologists have a word for that mental state: flow.
    13. But what happens when a challenge ramps up and we don't have the skills to meet it? We're at risk of experiencing "frazzle," as Daniel Goleman explains in the next video.
    14. Many people surveyed in research by Csikszentmihalyi and others report that flow is an optimal state, when they truly feel like they're "in the zone." These findings resonate with Matt Killingsworth's research on mind-wandering and happiness, which we covered earlier.  In flow, we experience the opposite of the kind of distracted mind-wandering that Killingsworth links to unhappiness.
    1. Sirois suggests that interventions that focus on increasing self-compassion may be particularly beneficial for reducing the stress associated with procrastination because self-compassion allows a person to recognize the downsides of procrastination without entangling themselves in negative emotions, negative ruminations, and a negative relationship to themselves. People maintain an inner sense of well-being that allows them to risk failure and take action. 
    2. Often because we fear failing at the task and dread all the negative self-evaluations that might result from that failure.

      This popular explanation, and more importantly, Wikipedia, seem to suggest otherwise - though a nod is given to this hypothesis in the wiki article.

    1. self-compassion tends to promote health related behaviors such assticking to one’s diet or reducing smoking, or seeking medical treatment when it'snecessary and even exercising.
    2. People who were mindful were likely to behappy, but people who were mindful and self-compassionate were more likely tobe happier.
    3. Self-compassion is alsoassociated with positive psychological strengths such as happiness, optimism, curiosityand exploration, personal initiative, and emotional intelligence.
    4. "self-compassion (unlike self-esteem) helps buffer against anxiety" when confronted with threats to one's self-image; it also found that increases in self-compassion are associated with increased feelings of social connectedness and decreased depression, among other indicators of psychological well-being.

      I wonder if the ability to laugh at oneself is subsumed by self-compassion; at least, they seem related.

    5. all the traps that people can fall into when they try to get and keep a sense of high self-esteem: narcissism, self-absorption, self-righteous anger, prejudice, discrimination, and so on. I realized that self-compassion was the perfect alternative to the relentless pursuit of self-esteem. Why? Because it offers the same protection against harsh self-criticism as self-esteem, but without the need to see ourselves as perfect or as better than others. In other words, self-compassion provides the same benefits as high self-esteem without its drawbacks.
    6. In fact, a striking finding of the study was that people with high self-esteem were much more narcissistic than those with low self-esteem. In contrast, self-compassion was completely unassociated with narcissism, meaning that people who are high in self-compassion are no more likely to be narcissistic than people low in self-compassion.
    7. People with high levels of self-esteem, however, tended to get upset when they received neutral feedback (what, I’m just average?). They were also more likely to deny that the neutral feedback was due to their own personality (surely it’s because the person who watched the tape was an idiot!). This suggests that self-compassionate people are better able to accept who they are regardless of the degree of praise they receive from others. Self-esteem, on the other hand, only thrives when the reviews are good and may lead to evasive and counterproductive tactics when there’s a possibility of facing unpleasant truths about oneself.
    8. Those with both high and low self-esteem were equally likely to have thoughts like, “I’m such a loser” or “I wish I could die.” Once again, high self-esteem tends to come up empty-handed when the chips are down.
    9. Participants’ self-compassion levels, but not their self-esteem levels, predicted how much anxiety they felt.
    10. self-compassion steps in precisely where self-esteem lets us down—whenever we fail or feel inadequate. Sure, you skeptics may be saying to yourself, but what does the research show? The bottom line is that according to the science, self-compassion does in fact appear to offer the same advantages as high self-esteem, with no discernable downsides. The first thing to know is that self-compassion and self-esteem do tend to go together. If you’re self-compassionate, you’ll tend to have higher self-esteem than if you’re endlessly self-critical. And like high self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with significantly less anxiety and depression, as well as more happiness, optimism, and positive emotions. However, self-compassion offers clear advantages over self-esteem when things go wrong, or when our egos are threatened.
    11. self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.
    12. I slowly came to realize that self-criticism—despite being socially sanctioned—was not at all helpful, and in fact only made things worse. I wasn’t making myself a better person by beating myself up all the time. Instead, I was causing myself to feel inadequate and insecure, then taking out my frustration on the people closest to me. More than that, I wasn’t owning up to many things because I was so afraid of the self-hate that would follow if I admitted the truth.
    13. when we acceptourselves fully, and we embrace who we are, flaws and all, then it actually does allowus to see ourselves clearly (because it’s safe tosee ourselves clearly), and because we care about ourselves and don’t want to suffer,we’re going to try as much as possible to makechanges that, you know, are going to make us healthier and happier, but we also knowthat if we don’t succeed, it’s still OK.
    14. if you really have self-compassion, remember, you are more ableto see yourself clearly. It is safer to see yourself clearly and therefore it’s a loteasier for you to take responsibility because it’sokay to have messed up, to have made a mistake.

      This is to emphasize the difference with making excuses for oneself, and it is a fairly interesting distinction.

    15. Self-compassionisn’t poor me, self-compassion is: it’s hard for all of us. The human experienceis hard for me, for you, this is the way life is. It’s not ego-centric, quite the opposite,it’s a much more connected way of relating toyourself. And also this is why the mindfulness is so important. When we’re mindful of oursuffering, we see it as it is, we don’t ignore it, but we also don’t over-exaggerateit.
    16. “this is really hard. This is difficult. I need a little care and compassion toget me through this.” Then we really aren’tat our best, at our most psychologically stable, when we gotowards trying to fix that problem. So it’s actually something you have to remind yourselfto do before going straight into fixing problems.Just acknowledge and validate how difficult thesituation is.
    17. self esteem sort of suggests, that to be, to consider yourself valuablein the world, you have to be better than average. That’s great except that ifeverybody’s aspiring for that, and everybody is better than average we’re in a placeof mathematical implausibility

      I suppose we'll see if the key idea here is to focus on a few traits rather than the average of all traits.

    18. that self-harshness, guilt, and self-flagellation were the main ways to achieve happiness,which you actually didn’t get to arrive at until the afterlife.
    1. We all have a limited capacity for decision-making in any given day. Eventually this capacity fades, and with it the quality of the decisions we make, and our self-discipline in general. In other words, making a lot of decisions, even small ones, tires us out. Knowing this makes me feel better about restricting my choices. And I no longer think of myself as settling when I make a decision without exploring all the options. I’m practicing satisficing, and I’m happier than I would be in the long run if I were to maximize. I also have more energy and clarity when big decision-making moments come along.
    2. Dacher just introduced the distinction between "maximizers" and "satisficers" made by Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College. Maximizers try to squeeze the greatest amount of benefit and pleasure out of every choice or opportunity, while satisficers find contentment with choices as long as they pass a basic threshold of acceptability.
    3. Schwartz and his colleagues have found that maximizers score lower on scales of happiness, optimism, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, and score higher on measures of depression, perfectionism, and regret. This is especially problematic for people living in free, consumerist societies with an ever-growing number of choices before them.
    4. And we know from studies that happierpeople tend to define their happiness on their own terms and not comparethemselves to others and think about how they’re always falling short.
    5. when parents and teachers praise their kids for being perfect,right the kids feel alienated and anxious. By contrast, when you praise kids for justtrying hard and putting effort into some things they feel motivated.
    6. Just having positive experiences is not enough to promote last well-being. If a person feels grateful for a few seconds, that’s nice. That’s better than feeling resentful or bitter for a few seconds. But in order to really suck that experience into the brain, we need to stay with those experiences for a longer duration of time—we need to take steps, consciously, to keep that spotlight of attention on the positive. So, how do we actually do this? These are the three steps I recommend for taking in the good. I should note that I did not invent these steps. They are embedded in many good therapies and life practices. But I’ve tried to tease them apart and embed them in an evolutionary understanding of how the brain works. 1. Let a good fact become a good experience. Often we go through life and some good thing happens—a little thing, like we checked off an item on our To Do list, we survived another day at work, the flowers are blooming, and so forth. Hey, this is an opportunity to feel good. Don’t leave money lying on the table: Recognize that this is an opportunity to let yourself truly feel good. 2. Really savor this positive experience. Practice what any school teacher knows: If you want to help people learn something, make it as intense as possible—in this case, as felt in the body as possible—for as long as possible. 3. Finally, as you sink into this experience, sense your intent that this experience is sinking into you. Sometimes people do this through visualization, like by perceiving a golden light coming into themselves or a soothing balm inside themselves. You might imagine a jewel going into the treasure chest in your heart—or just know that this experience is sinking into you, becoming a resource you can take with you wherever you go.
    7. The problem, of course, is that most people don’t have very good control over their attention. Part of this is due to human nature, shaped by evolution: Our forbearers who just focused on the reflection of sunlight in the water—they got chomped by predators. But those who were constantly vigilant—they lived. And today we are constantly bombarded with stimuli that the brain has not evolved to handle. So gaining more control over attention one way or another is really crucial, whether it’s through the practice of mindfulness, for instance, or through gratitude practices, where we count our blessings.
    8. Another region is the frontal regions of the prefrontal cortex—areas involved in controlling attention. Again, this should be no surprise: They’re focusing their attention in their meditation, so they’re getting more control over it, and they’re strengthening its neural basis.
    9. You can use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better. This is known as “self-directed neuroplasticity.” Neuroplasticity refers to the malleable nature of the brain, and it’s constant, ongoing. Self-directed neuroplasticity means doing it with clarity and skillfulness and intention. The key to it is a controlled use of attention. Attention is like a spotlight, to be sure, shining on things within our awareness. But it’s also like vacuum cleaner, sucking whatever it rests upon into the brain, for better or worse.
    10. research has also shown that it’s possible to slow the loss of our brain cells. Normally, we lose about 10,000 brain cells a day. That may sound horrible, but we were born with 1.1 trillion. We also have several thousand born each day, mainly in the hippocampus, in what’s called neurogenesis. So losing 10,000 a day isn’t that big a deal, but the net bottom line is that a typical 80 year old will have lost about 4 percent of his or her brain mass—it’s called “cortical thinning with aging.” It’s a normal process. But in one study, researchers compared meditators and non-meditators. In the graph to the left, the meditators are the blue circles and the non-meditators are the red squares, comparing people of the same age. The non-meditators experienced normal cortical thinning in those two brain regions I mentioned above, along with a third, the somatosensory cortex. However, the people who routinely meditated and “worked” their brain did not experience cortical thinning in those regions.
    11. People who maintain some kind of regular meditative practice actually have measurably thicker brains in certain key regions. One of those regions is the insula, which is involved in what’s called “interoception”—tuning into the state of your body, as well as your deep feelings. This should be no surprise: A lot of what they’re doing is practicing mindfulness of breathing, staying really present with what’s going on inside themselves; no wonder they’re using, and therefore building, the insula.
    12. busy regions of the brain start stitching new connections with each other. Existing synapses—the connections between neurons that are very busy—get stronger, they get more sensitive, they start building out more receptors. New synapses form as well.
    13. more activation in the left prefrontal cortex is associated with more positive emotions. So as there is greater activation in the left, front portion of your brain relative to the right, there is also greater well-being. That’s probably in large part because the left prefrontal cortex is a major part of the brain for controlling negative emotion. So if you put the breaks on the negative, you get more of the positive. On the other hand, people who routinely experience chronic stress—particularly acute, even traumatic stress—release the hormone cortisol, which literally eats away, almost like an acid bath, at the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that’s very engaged in visual-spatial memory as well as memory for context and setting. For example, adults who have had that history of stress and have lost up to 25 percent of the volume of this critically important part of the brain are less able to form new memories.
    14. And better understanding them means we can skillfully stimulate the neural substrates of those states—which, in turn, means we can strengthen them. Because as the famous saying by the Canadian scientist Donald Hebb goes, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
    1. Freedman also points out how Siddhartha described Hesse's interior dialectic: "All of the contrasting poles of his life were sharply etched: the restless departures and the search for stillness at home; the diversity of experience and the harmony of a unifying spirit; the security of religious dogma and the anxiety of freedom."[8]

      This reminds me of a quote, which I can't currently attribute, that basically says you can have everything in life, but not everything at once. Somewhat obvious, but I think if a person isn't mindful of this idea and is afraid to get out of his comfortable zone, or is held to a set of rigid beliefs, a diverse range of experiences are highly unlikely.

    1. Mindfulness interrupts the conditioned responses that prevent us from exploring new avenues of thought, choking our creative potential. Each time we stand up against a habit—whether it’s checking our smartphone during a conversation or reacting defensively to a coworker’s passing remark— we weaken the grip of our conditioning. We lay down new tracks in the brain  and fashion new synaptic connections.
    2. No action, reaction, interaction, or relationship ever feels uninteresting or unworkable if a curious mind is brought to bear on it. You can actually transform that feeling of,  “Oh man, here comes John, my supervisor—I bet he wants me to change my work, again” into “Here comes John again. How can I see and hear him, without judgment, as though we were interacting for the very first time—just dealing with what comes up in the moment?”
    3. Think even smaller. Imagine something as routine as the way you hoist the phone to your ear when it rings. By really examining this action—seemingly so inconsequential, so unworthy of examination—you feel like it’s something you’re doing for the very first time. You may detect anxiety traveling down your arm and tension as you pick up the phone. Experiencing everyday actions up close in this way is not about being self-conscious. It’s about bringing choice, attention, and awareness back into things that you’ve allowed to become automatic. By opening up to the tiniest habit, you make it possible to crack open the larger habits, which seem more resistant to change. You can look at every action and interaction freshly.
    4. also in situations that may seem insignificant, but which could become more significant if left unexamined. Let’s say you’ve taken  the attitude that the tasks  assigned to you are unimportant or undervalued. Ask yourself if you feel that way because it is true. Or do you feel that way because you’re so used to telling yourself it’s true that you can’t think of it in any other way?
    5. Becoming aware of the impact the slight has had on you is the first step. Separate yourself from yourself just enough to allow you to examine, free from rote reactions, how your body, emotions, and thoughts are combining to gear up for a response.
    6. Each of us has our own pet scenarios that chafe against our expectations. When they pop up, they threaten to stir up jealousy, anger, defensiveness, mindless striving, and a stew of other possibilities. We may end up saying or doing something hurtful, something we’ll regret later and may have to apologize for. We leapt before we looked. Conversely, when we stop to examine how we typically respond to situations, we create space for more creative and flexible responses. Ultimately, as we build the habit of mindfully examining our responses in the moment, mindful awareness becomes our new default mode.
    7. It can be difficult enough to be open-minded toward others, but it is even more difficult to be open-minded toward oneself. It takes real training. To discover the ways of perceiving you’re apt to blindly apply, experiment with keeping yourself curious, attentive, and receptive. Whenever you detect yourself falling into an old, familiar pattern, stop and examine what is actually going on. Notice the physical sensations in your body; notice the emotions that have bloomed; notice what stories your mind is generating that make your body tense and inflame your emotions. But it’s important not to disparage yourself for falling into an old and unhelpful pattern. Recognize the potentially explosive negative charge generated by your body, thoughts, and emotions. Accept that it has arisen, then make the decision to be in control of it instead of being controlled by it.
    8. The positive response to the program was almost immediate. “In one classroom, the children went from having the most behavioral problems in the school—as measured by number of visits to the principal’s office—to having zero behavioral problems, after only two to three weeks of instruction,” says Schonert-Reichl.

      Mindfulness training in schools seems to have some major benefits.

    1. My wife and I recently witnessed a cockroach’s ability to find and consume food. We sat down to dinner at a well-known restaurant. Right next to our table was a fairly large painting. We decided to have a glass of wine before dinner. Within minutes of arrival of the wine, a German cockroach appeared from beneath the painting and walked out to the middle of our table. Of course, our reaction was not that of normal human beings and we decided to give it some wine. I placed a small drop of wine several inches from the roach which immediately recognized the presence of food through its antennae (smell). It walked over to the drop and tasted it with its maxillary palps. The roach proceeded to suck up the entire drop (which wasn’t much smaller than the roach). It then crawled back to the picture and disappeared. Much to our surprise, within a few minutes the roach reappeared and came back on the table. Of course I gave it another drop and it repeated the entire process of smelling, tasting and consuming the drop. Once finished this time it cleaned its antennae (as shown below) and returned to the picture. A few minutes later the roach dropped from the picture and began to spin on its back. Inebriated? I would think so.
    1. If you find yourself overwhelmed by anger against yourself or others, sitting meditation sounds like the one for you. If you frequently feel tired or sick, yoga is worth a try. While the body scan did not seem to yield as many benefits as the other two practices, that’s an area that needs further investigation. For example, it’s possible that body scan paired with sitting meditation or yoga could be helpful.

      Researchers found some benefits across all three groups. In all three groups participants reported reduced rumination, as well as greater self-compassion and well-being. These results echo decades of research showing that mindfulness practices improve physical and mental health.

    2. The study, published last month in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, suggests that meditating for just 30 minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, and empathy.

      One of those regions was the hippocampus, which prior research has found to be involved in learning, memory, and the regulation of our emotions. The gray matter of the hippocampus is often reduced in people who suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

      The researchers also found denser gray matter in the temporoparietal junction and the posterior cingulated cortex of the meditators’ brains—regions involved in empathy and taking the perspective of someone else—and in the cerebellum, which has been linked to emotion regulation.

    3. Participants for the gene study came into the lab and meditated for eight hours. Blood samples were taken before and after those hours of practice and then Davidson and crew looked for gene-expression changes over the course of that time in the lab. Results from this meditator group were compared to a control group that was not familiar with meditation and that came into the laboratory for “a day of leisure.” That group watched quiet videos, read, and took gentle walks. The findings? The control-group participants didn’t show the same kind of gene-expression changes, Davidson says. It’s the first study that shows “we can actually see gene-expression changes within a very short period of time.”
    4. “One of the important foci in our research is looking at inflammation, which has been implicated in many chronic illnesses,” Davidson says. “And there’s now increasing evidence to suggest that at a very basic biological level, certain kinds of meditation practices seem to modulate inflammatory systems. They down-regulate particular molecules—we call these proinflammatory cytokines—which are directly implicated in inflammation.”
    5. Our conversation veers toward how teaching mindfulness can sometimes be mistaken as training people to simply improve their own performance—through better concentration, through better training of attention and awareness. Davidson, interjects: “What we do always needs to be in the service of others. That’s the difference.”
    6. Davidson says. “It has yet to be studied in the specific area of meditation practice, but we can ask the question, for example, is it better to sit for 30 minutes a day, or is it better to have 10 three-minute periods of practice that are sprinkled throughout the day? We don’t know the answer to that.”
    7. Davidson shocked his professors by taking off for India to explore meditation practice and Buddhist teachings. After three months there and in Sri Lanka, he came back convinced he would do meditation research. He was quickly disabused of this notion by his professors, who let him know that if he had any hope of a career in science, he’d better stow the meditation and follow a more conventional path of research. He became a closet meditator and an affective neuroscientist—a deep student of the emotions.

      This seems to be the theme for scientific pioneers in recent decades.

    8. also did a briefmeditation intervention and in their subjects they were able to show that themeditation program resulted ina greater activation in reward circuitryso more contentment and pleasure and in this caseanticipatory pleasure because they were showing this activationin response to opportunities, to help opportunitiesto be of assistance.
    9. basically what they've been able to showis that certain regions of the brain seem to getmore densely interconnected and more responsiveafter meditation and those ones seem to be areas of the brain that areinvolved inwhat we call interoceptive awareness, which is also the same area that’s implicated in empathy so so we get stronger at responses in our in our insula in response to information from the outside world after having participated in a meditation programathis should make us more empathetic, and thisindeed that’s what we observed.
    10. Neuroplasticity is the idea that our brains change throughoutlifeas a result of day-to-day experiences and activities.
    11. And what they found was that the individuals who participated in the meditation programhad longer telomeres than the individuals who were in the control group after a three-monthexperience. This was first finding in that vein. Elissa Epel and her colleague did anotherresearch project where they looked at a mindfulness-based program for people with eating disorders andshowed that people who did the mindfulness had a 39% increase in telomerase activitywhich corresponds to lengthened telomeres and that this telomerase activity actuallypredicted benefits in other aspects of their treatment program having to do with the people’seating habits. So there’s this interesting effect that is being reiterated that mindfulnessactually seems to make people age more gracefully.
    1. Awareness: Self-awareness points to the ability to attain insight into one's own attitudes, motives, reactions, strengths and vulnerabilities.
    2. Attention: According to psychologist and philosopher William James, attention "is the taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what may seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thoughts…It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others." Many compare attention to a spotlight, which makes certain information from the inside or outside world more available to conscious awareness, while filtering out less useful information. Attention is limited, in that it can only hold a finite quantity of information in mind for a limited period of time, and selective, in that it orients to information that is deemed important in a given moment.
    3. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the mainstream in recent years largely through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. The MBSR program usually has students meet for two to three hours per week for eight weeks, practicing at home between classes. They learn practices such as the "body scan," in which they focus their attention along each part of the body, trying to be aware and accepting of whatever they sense in these body parts, and the "raisin meditation," where they slowly use all of their senses, one after another, to observe a raisin in great detail, from the way it feels in their hand to the way its taste bursts on the tongue.
    4. Meditation: Though mindfulness and meditation are closely related, they are not synonymous. As Jon Kabat-Zinn describes in his video, one can practice mindfulness while not doing a formal meditation practice, and there are many different kinds of meditation that go beyond mindfulness meditation. The term "meditation" refers to a wide range of practices that simply involve training the mind to achieve a particular state of consciousness, especially for relaxation. That said, mindfulness meditation, based on a technique adapted from Buddhist Vipassana meditation, is a basic and commonly practiced form of meditation.
    5. Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.
    6. Now notice again that ‘open,kind, and discerning’suggest that we’re not rigidly forcing our minds to pay attention all the time to somethingthat we intend to pay attention to, but rather that we’re present in the moment and notforcing anything, including forcing ourselves not to mind-wander.
    7. Now notice again that ‘open,kind, and discerning’suggest that we’re not rigidly forcing our minds to pay attention all the time to somethingthat we intend to pay attention to, but rather that we’re present in the moment and notforcing anything, including forcing ourselves not to mind-wander.
    1. during periods of mind-wandering, regions of the brain’s default mode network were activated. Then when participants became aware of this mind-wandering, brain regions related to the detection of salient or relevant events came online. After that, areas of the executive brain network took over, re-directing and maintaining attention on the chosen object. And all of this occurred within 12 seconds around those button presses.

      Link

      I'd be interested to see how sleep deprivation relates to this; I find my mind wanders easily when I haven't had enough sleep. Yet another reason to get more sleep to be happy and healthy.

    2. there is a strong relationship between mind-wandering now and being unhappy a short time later, consistent with the idea that mind-wandering is causing people to be unhappy. In contrast, there’s no relationship between being unhappy now and mind-wandering a short time later. Mind-wandering precedes unhappiness but unhappiness does not precede mind-wandering. In other words, mind-wandering seems likely to be a cause, and not merely a consequence, of unhappiness.
    3. A particularly generative field is contemplative neuroscience, which involves collaborations between scientists and expert authorities in the traditions that have informed the concept of mindfulness.
    4. For example, when your mind wandered off in that meeting, it might help to know you’re slipping into default mode—and you can deliberately bring yourself back to the moment. That’s an ability that can improve with training.
    5. One brain area stood out in this analysis: the medial prefrontal cortex, a part of the default mode network that is particularly related to self-focused thoughts, which make up a good portion of mind-wandering content. It turns out that experienced meditators deactivated this region more quickly after identifying mind-wandering than people who hadn’t meditated as much
    6. more experienced meditators have increased connectivity between default mode and attention brain regions, and less default mode activity while meditating.
    7. a wandering mind isn’t all bad. Not only can we leverage it to build focus using FA meditation, but the capacity to project our mental stream out of the present and imagine scenarios that aren’t actually happening is hugely evolutionarily valuable, which may explain why it’s so prominent in our mental lives. These processes allow for creativity, planning, imagination, memory—capacities that are central not only to our survival, but also to the very essence of being human. The key, I believe, is learning to become aware of these mental tendencies and to use them purposefully, rather than letting them take over. Meditation can help with that.
    8. the Killingsworth and Gilbert study I mentioned earlier found that when people’s minds were wandering, they tended to be less happy, presumably because our thoughts often tend towards negative rumination or stress. That’s why mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly important treatment of mental health difficulties like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even sexual dysfunction.
    9. What are other practical implications of this knowledge? Recent behavioral research shows that practicing meditation trains various aspects of attention. Studies show that meditation training not only improves working memory and fluid intelligence, but even standardized test scores. 
    10. Ironically, mind-wandering itself can help strengthen our ability to focus, if leveraged properly. This can be achieved using an age-old skill: meditation
    11. It may seem surprising, but mind-wandering is actually a central element of focused attention (FA) meditation. In this foundational style of meditation, the practitioner is instructed to keep her attention on a single object, often the physical sensations of breathing. 
    12. a recent study by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert sampled over 2,000 adults during their day-to-day activities and found that 47 percent of the time, their minds were not focused on what they were currently doing. Even more striking, when people’s minds were wandering, they reported being less happy.
    13. mindfulness is about dedicating our awareness to the present moment, in a kind, non-judging manner
    1. The easiest way—by far—to demonstrate interest in others is to ask questions. The most socially successful people ask not just factual questions (“What do you do for work?”) but questions that are a little more personal (“How do you like what you do?”). These two types of questions, used in conjunction, accelerate feelings of connectedness.
    2. Introverts may have a hard time feeling as socially connected as extroverts. But the most extroverted person in the room may not be the most socially connected. They may receive attention, but if an extrovert does not learn a bit about those around them—by quietly listening to them—those other people will hardly feel closer to them. Listening to others makes people want to be around you, and wanting to be around each other is the essence of feeling connected.
    1. By contrast, the atom of betrayal is not just turning away—not just turning away from my wife’s sadness in that moment—but doing what Caryl Rusbult called a “CL-ALT,” which stands for “comparison level for alternatives.” What that means is I not only turn away from her sadness, but I think to myself, “I can do better. Who needs this crap? I’m always dealing with her negativity. I can do better.” Once you start thinking that you can do better, then you begin a cascade of not committing to the relationship; of trashing your partner instead of cherishing your partner; of building resentment rather than gratitude; of lowering your investment in the relationship; of not sacrificing for the relationship; and of escalating conflicts.
    2. My graduate student Dan Yoshimoto has discovered that the basis for building trust is really the idea of attunement. He has broken this down with the acronym ATTUNE, which stands for: Awareness of your partner’s emotion; Turning toward the emotion; Tolerance of two different viewpoints; trying to Understand your partner; Non-defensive responses to your partner; and responding with Empathy.
    3. In my research, we filmed an interaction between a couple and had each partner turn a rating dial as they watched their tape afterward. On this graph (at left), you can see how one couple rated their interaction. The blue dots represent the wife’s ratings over 15 minutes of conversation; the red dots represent the husband’s ratings. When you add them together, these ratings are a constant, which means that in this interaction, her gain is his loss and his gain is her loss. This is what’s called in game theory a “zero-sum game.” You’ve probably all heard of the concept. It’s the idea that in an interaction, there’s a winner and a loser. And by looking at ratings like this, I came to define a “betrayal metric”: It’s the extent to which an interaction is a zero-sum game, where your partner’s gain is your loss. On the other hand, by trust we really mean, mathematically, that our partner’s behavior is acting to increase our rating dial. Even though we’re disagreeing, my wife is thinking about my welfare, my best interests. When we scientifically tested these so-called trust and betrayal metrics, we found that a high trust metric is correlated with very positive outcomes, such as greater stability in the relationship. In a 20-year longitudinal study of couples in the San Francisco Bay Area that I recently completed with UC Berkeley psychologist Bob Levenson, we found that about 11 percent of couples had a zero-sum game pattern, like in that graph. Every six years, we would re-contact all of the couples in the study, and they would come back to Bob’s lab at Berkeley. Yet we noticed that many of the zero-sum couples weren’t coming back. I thought maybe they dropped out because they found the whole thing so unpleasant. Well, it turns out that they didn’t drop out. They died.
    4. This research shows there are low- and high-trust regions of the United States. Nevada is a very low-trust region. (Nobody seems to be very surprised by that.) Minnesota is a very high-trust region. The Deep South is a very low-trust region. We see similar disparities internationally. In Brazil, two percent of people say they trust other people. In Norway, 65 percent say they trust other people. So what are the characteristics of low-trust regions? Few people vote, parents and schools are less active. There’s less philanthropy in low-trust regions, greater crime of all kinds, lower longevity, worse health, lower academic achievement in schools.
    5. To some people, these findings about oxytocin might raise another concern: that trust is not subject to rational control—that it’s “all hormones.” This seems to stand in stark contrast to the traditional idea of trust being the outcome of a cognitive, rational process. In my view, trust is both, just like other human social behaviors. We cannot deny that many of our decisions are governed by cognitive processes; in the case of trust, these processes take into account the available information about the trustee’s motivation, the likelihood of a repeated interaction, and so on.
    6. Interestingly, the investors’ expectations about the back-transfer from the trustee did not differ between the oxytocin and placebo recipients. Oxytocin increased the participants’ willingness to trust others, but it did not make them more optimistic about another person’s trustworthiness.

      The Trust Game; however, there was no difference in groups when the trustee was a computer, showing oxytocin affects social connections but not risk-behavior itself.

    7. there is a simple hypothesis about what steers the human brain to trust another human: a hormone called oxytocin.
    8. Conventional economic theory maintains that people will always behave in a purely self-interested manner. According to this worldview, it makes no sense to trust, whether in a trust game or in real life, as any trust will be exploited. The trustee will always keep her entire windfall for herself, so the investor would be better off not transferring any money in the first place. And yet when researchers like Joyce Berg and others have had people play the trust game with real monetary stakes, they have repeatedly found that the average investor will transfer half of her initial endowment and receive similar amounts in return. Through the trust game, researchers have also discovered a number of factors that seem to drive levels of trust. Familiarity breeds trust—players tend to trust each other more with each new game. So does introducing punishments for untrustworthy behavior, or even just reminding players of their obligations to each other.
    1. My colleagues and I have developed a nine-step method for forgiving almost any conceivable hurt. We have tested this method through a series of studies with people who had been lied to, cheated, abandoned, beaten, abused, or had their children murdered. They ranged from neglected spouses to the parents of terrorist victims in Northern Ireland.

      Frederic Luskin and the Stanford Forgiveness Projects

    2. To become a forgiving person, we have to practice forgiving smaller grievances. Then, when a bigger insult comes, we are ready, willing, and able to deal with it. Alternatively, like Delores, once we learn to forgive a major grievance, we can understand the value of limiting the power that pain and anger hold over us the next time we are hurt.

      The first statement may be a specialization of Barbara Fredrickson's broaden-and-build theory.

    3. Delores practiced and saw the value of the old adage that a life well lived is the best revenge.
    4. As the forgiveness training progressed, Delores began to look at her suffering and ask herself what “unenforceable rule” she was trying to enforce. I reminded her that she would not be so upset unless she was trying to change something that was impossible for her to change.

      From Epictetus.

    5. give the next moment a chance. That’s the acceptance, “I’m willing to give the nextmoment achance. I don‘t have to punish you because of what somebody else did.” And it all is,anotherway of putting this, is can I use resilience enough to be able to handle “no” whenit comes byway?
    6. the simple definition that I work with now is that forgiveness is the ability to makepeacewith the word “no.”
    7. Are some offenses so heinous that they ought never to be forgiven? Are there times when justice should trump forgiveness? Justice and forgiveness do clash at times. I do not advocate forgiving under all circumstances (unless a person’s religion dictates it). But I know that a sincere apology, restitution, or a punishment imposed by the proper authorities can often make it easier for victims to grant forgiveness. The big transgressions are not necessarily “unforgivable” because they are big. Instead, big transgressions are often the ones that, if they are ever to be surmounted, must be forgiven.
    8. It’s important to stress again that forgiveness usually takes time. In fact, in a meta-analysis of all research that measured the impact of forgiveness interventions, Nathaniel Wade and I found that a factor as simple as the amount of time someone spent trying to forgive was highly related to the actual degree of forgiveness experienced.
    9. British researchers Peter Woodruff and Tom Farrow are doing some of this important work. Their research suggests that the areas in the brain associated with forgiveness are often deep in the emotional centers, in the region known as the limbic system, rather than in the areas of the cortex usually associated with reasoned judgments. In one study, they asked people to judge the fairness of a transgression and then consider whether to forgive it or empathize with the transgressor. Ten individuals evaluated several social scenarios while the researchers recorded images of their brain activity. Whether people empathized or forgave, similar areas in the emotion centers of the brain lit up. When those same people thought about the fairness of the same transgression, though, the emotion centers stopped being as active. This could be a clue for interventionists. To help people forgive, help them steer clear of dwelling on how fair a transgression was or how just a solution might be. Instead, get people to see things from the other person’s perspective.
    10. the studies suggest that when partners hurt each other, there is often a shift in their goals for their relationship. They might have previously professed undying love and worked hard to cooperate with their partner, but if this partner betrays them, suddenly they become more competitive. They focus on getting even and keeping score instead of enjoying each other. They concentrate on not losing arguments rather than on compromise. They use past transgressions to remind the partner of his or her failings. Forgiveness, assert Fincham and his colleagues, can help restore more benevolent and cooperative goals to relationships.
    11. People are usually more willing to forgive if they sense trust and a willingness to sacrifice from their partner. The authors predicted that forgiving would be associated with greater well-being, especially in relationships of strong rather than weak commitment. They figured that people in highly committed relationships have more to lose if the relationship fails and so would be willing to make certain sacrifices.
    12. Hostility also has been found to be the part of type A behavior that seems to have the most pernicious health effects, such as a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease. Forsaking a grudge may also free a person from hostility and all its unhealthy consequences. It probably isn’t just hostility and stress that link unforgiveness and poor health. According to a review of the literature on forgiveness and health that my colleague Michael Scherer and I published, unforgiveness might compromise the immune system at many levels. For instance, our review suggests that unforgiveness might throw off the production of important hormones and even disrupt the way our cells fight off infections, bacteria, and other physical insults, such as mild periodontal disease.

      Type A should take magnesium.

    13. conducted a national survey of nearly 1,500 Americans, asking the degree to which each person practiced and experienced forgiveness (of others, of self, and even if they thought they had experienced forgiveness by God). Participants also reported on their physical and mental health. Toussaint and his colleagues found that older and middle-aged people forgave others more often than did young adults and also felt more forgiven by God. What’s more, they found a significant relationship between forgiving others and positive health among middle-aged and older Americans.

      From an atheist's vantage, a perceived forgiveness by a "god" might represent a breach in social contract. It is a bit like cheating: getting the benefits without giving back anything, at least directly (though I suppose the improved happiness the subject experiences may make others around them happier indirectly).

    14. To ruminate on an old transgression is to practice unforgiveness. Sure enough, in Witvliet’s research, when people recalled a grudge, their physical arousal soared. Their blood pressure and heart rate increased, and they sweated more. Ruminating about their grudges was stressful, and subjects found the rumination unpleasant. It made them feel angry, sad, anxious, and less in control. Witvliet also asked her subjects to try to empathize with their offenders or imagine forgiving them. When they practiced forgiveness, their physical arousal coasted downward. They showed no more of a stress reaction than normal wakefulness produces.
    15. researchers differ about what actually constitutes forgiveness. I’ve come to believe that how we define forgiveness usually depends on context. In cases where we hope to forgive a person with whom we do not want a continuing relationship, we usually define forgiveness as reducing or eliminating resentment and motivations toward revenge. My colleagues Michael McCullough, Kenneth Rachal, and I have defined forgiveness in close relationships to include more than merely getting rid of the negative. The forgiving person becomes less motivated to retaliate against someone who offended him or her and less motivated to remain estranged from that person. Instead, he or she becomes more motivated by feelings of goodwill, despite the offender’s hurtful actions. In a close relationship, we hope, forgiveness will not only move us past negative emotions, but move us toward a net positive feeling. It doesn’t mean forgetting or pardoning an offense.
    16. “It is much more agreeable to offend and later ask forgiveness than to be offended and grant forgiveness,” said the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. I think many people today are inclined to agree with him.
    17. Early on in this course, Dacher and Emiliana emphasized the importance of honoring (e.g., not trying to avoid or suppress) negative emotional experiences as we work to boost our own happiness in life. Happiness, research suggests, depends more on how we respond to and recover from difficult and painful experiences.
    18. we’ll see higher rates of forgiveness under those conditions that made forgiving adaptive in our ancestral environments. This means we’ll see more forgiveness in places where people are highly dependent on complex networks of cooperative relationships, policing is reliable, the system of justice is efficient and trustworthy, and social institutions are up to the task of helping truly contrite offenders make amends with the people they’ve harmed.
    19. Why might evolution have outfitted us with such an ability? Biologists have offered several hypotheses. I’m especially fond of the “valuable relationship” hypothesis, espoused by de Waal and many other primatologists. It goes like this: Animals reconcile because it repairs important relationships that have been damaged by aggression. By forgiving and repairing relationships, our ancestors were in a better position to glean the benefits of cooperation between group members—which, in turn, increased their evolutionary fitness.
    20. Chimpanzees aren’t the slightest bit unique in this respect. Other great apes, such as the bonobo and the mountain gorilla, also reconcile. And it gets more interesting still, for reconciliation isn’t even limited to primates. Goats, sheep, dolphins, and hyenas all tend to reconcile after conflicts (rubbing horns, flippers, and fur are common elements of these species’ conciliatory gestures). Of the half-dozen or so non-primates that have been studied, only domestic cats have failed to demonstrate a conciliatory tendency. (If you own a cat, this probably comes as no surprise).
    21. In highly mobile modern societies such as ours, often we can simply end relationships in which we’ve been betrayed. But in the close societies in which our earliest hominid ancestors lived, moving away usually wasn’t a good option. In fact, ostracism from the group was often a severe punishment that carried the risk of death.

      ... We might rightly view revenge as a modern-day problem, but from an evolutionary point of view, it’s also an age-old solution.

    22. when two men have an argument on the street, the mere presence of a third person doubles the likelihood that the encounter will escalate from an exchange of words to an exchange of blows.
    23. If our ancestors saw that someone didn’t seek revenge after being harmed, they may have concluded that he was an easy mark, then tried to take advantage of him themselves.
    24. By making our social environments less abundant in the factors that elicit the desire for revenge, and more abundant in the factors that elicit forgiveness. In other words, to increase forgiveness in the world, it doesn’t make sense to try to change human nature. It makes a lot more sense to try to change the world around you.
    25. The desire for revenge isn’t a disease that afflicts a few unfortunate people; rather it’s a universal trait of human nature, crafted by natural selection, that exists today because it helped our ancestors adapt to their environment. But there’s some good news, too. Evolutionary science leads us squarely to the conclusion that the capacity for forgiveness, like the desire for revenge, is also an intrinsic feature of human nature, crafted by natural selection.
    26. Somebody said that forgiveness means giving up allhope of a better past. It’s done, it’s the way that it was.
    1. People fail the acknowledgment phase of the apology when they make vague and incomplete apologies (“for whatever I did”); use the passive voice (“mistakes were made”); make the apology conditional (“if mistakes have been made”); question whether the victim was damaged or minimize the offense (“to the degree you were hurt” or “only a few enlisted soldiers were guilty at Abu Ghraib”); use the empathic “sorry” instead of acknowledging responsibility; apologize to the wrong party; or apologize for the wrong offense.
    2. Within the above structure of apology, an effective apology can generate forgiveness and reconciliation if it satisfies one or more of seven psychological needs in the offended party. The first and most common healing factor is the restoration of dignity, which is critical when the offense itself is an insult or a humiliation. Another healing factor is the affirmation that both parties have shared values and agree that the harm committed was wrong. Such apologies often follow racial or gender slurs because they help establish what kind of behavior is beyond the pale. A third healing factor is validation that the victim was not responsible for the offense. This is often necessary in rape and child abuse cases when the victim irrationally carries some of the blame. A fourth healing factor is the assurance that the offended party is safe from a repeat offense; such an assurance can come when an offender apologizes for threatening or committing physical or psychological harm to a victim. Reparative justice, the fifth healing factor, occurs when the offended sees the offending party suffer through some type of punishment. A sixth healing factor is reparation, when the victim receives some form of compensation for his or her pain. Finally, the seventh healing factor is a dialogue that allows the offended parties to express their feelings toward the offenders and even grieve over their losses. Examples of such exchanges occurred, with apologies offered, during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa.
    3. there are up to four parts to the structure of an effective apology. (Not every apology requires all four parts.) These are: acknowledgment of the offense; explanation; expressions of remorse, shame, and humility; and reparation.
    4. Forgiveness is often portrayed as a generous gift bestowed on us by someone we offended or as a gift we unconditionally extend to someone who offended us, regardless of an apology. Yet my own analysis has convinced me that forgiveness and apology are inextricably linked.
    5. Yet the embarrassed smile is more than just a smile; it has accompanying arabesques, muscle actions in the mouth that alter the appearance of the smile. The most frequent one is the lip press, a sign of inhibition. When people encounter strangers in the street, they often acknowledge each other with this modest smile. Just as common are lip puckers, a faint kiss gracing the embarrassed smile as it unfolds during its two-to-three second attempt to make peace.
    6. This view might make sense for solitary species, like the golden hamster, which flees upon being attacked, or territorial species, like many birds, that rely upon territorial arrangements to avoid deadly conflicts. But many mammals, and in particular primates, need each other to survive. Ostracism and marginalization are tickets to shortened lives. Among humans, individuals who have fewer and less healthy social bonds have been shown to live shorter lives, have compromised immune function, and be more vulnerable to disease. Our sociality, and that of many nonhuman primates, requires a mechanism that brings individuals together in the midst of conflict and aggression.
    7. This offers us insight into the true nature of embarrassment: I have discovered that this subtle display—the averted gaze, the pressed lips—is a sign of our respect for others, our appreciation of their view of things, and our commitment to the moral and social order. Far from reflecting confusion, it turns out that embarrassment can be a peacemaking force that brings people together—both during conflict and after breeches of the social contract, when there’s otherwise great potential for violence and disorder. I’ve even found evidence that facial displays of embarrassment have deep evolutionary roots, and that this seemingly inconsequential emotion provides us with a window into the ethical brain.
    8. Dacher documents his research on embarrassment, an often involuntary emotional response to having committed a social faux pas. People all around the world reflexively signal appeasement when they feel embarrassed, which serves as an unspoken acknowledgement of wrongdoing or having broken a social contract. This submissive, apologetic signal serves to avoid or prevent--rather than invite--conflict.  
  3. Sep 2015
    1. The first half of the twentieth century was drenched in the blood spilled by German and Japanese aggression, yet only a few decades later it is hard to think of two countries more pacific. Sweden spent the 17th century rampaging through Europe, yet it is now an icon of nurturing tranquility. Humans have invented the small nomadic band and the continental megastate, and have demonstrated a flexibility whereby uprooted descendants of the former can function effectively in the latter. We lack the type of physiology or anatomy that in other mammals determine their mating system, and have come up with societies based on monogamy, polygyny, and polyandry. And we have fashioned some religions in which violent acts are the entrée to paradise and other religions in which the same acts consign one to hell. Is a world of peacefully coexisting human Forest Troops possible? Anyone who says, “No, it is beyond our nature,” knows too little about primates, including ourselves.
    2. Is it possible to achieve the cooperative advantages of a small group without having the group reflexively view outsiders as the Other? One often encounters pessimism in response to this question, based on the notion that humans, as primates, are hard-wired for xenophobia. Some brain-imaging studies have appeared to support this view in a particularly discouraging way. There is a structure deep inside the brain called the amygdala, which plays a key role in fear and aggression, and experiments have shown that when subjects are presented with a face of someone from a different race, the amygdala gets metabolically active—aroused, alert, ready for action. This happens even when the face is presented subliminally, which is to say, so rapidly that the subject does not consciously see it. More recent studies, however, should mitigate this pessimism. Test a person who has a lot of experience with people of different races, and the amygdala does not activate.
    3. Working with captive primates, de Waal and Johanowicz created a mixed-sex social group of juvenile macaques, combining rhesus and stump tails together. Remarkably, instead of the rhesus macaques bullying the stump tails, over the course of a few months the rhesus males adopted the stump tails’ social style, eventually even matching the stump tails’ high rates of reconciliatory behavior. It so happens, moreover, that stump tails and rhesus macaques use different gestures when reconciling. The rhesus macaques in the study did not start using the stump tails’ reconciliatory gestures, but rather increased the incidence of their own species-typical gestures. In other words, they were not merely imitating the stump tails’ behavior; they were incorporating the concept of frequent reconciliation into their own social practices. Finally, when the newly warm-and-fuzzy rhesus macaques were returned to a larger, all-rhesus group, their new behavioral style persisted.

      An amazing way of looking at this is persistence of social qualities, regardless of the biological vector involved. On the other hand, such social qualities do not appear to be viral by any means: "This is nothing short of extraordinary. But it brings up one further question: When those rhesus macaques were transferred back into the all-rhesus world, did they spread their insights and behaviors to the others? Alas, they did not—at least not within the relatively short time they were studied. For that, we need to move on to a final case."

    4. Kummer conducted a simple experiment, trapping an adult female savanna baboon and releasing her into a hamadryas troop and trapping an adult female hamadryas and releasing her into a savanna troop. The females who were dropped in among a different species initially carried out their species-typical behavior, a major faux pas in the new neighborhood. But gradually, they absorbed the new rules. How long did this learning take? About an hour. In other words, millennia of genetic differences separating the two species, a lifetime of experience with a crucial social rule for each female—and a miniscule amount of time to reverse course completely.
    1. In a first analysis, data showed that people who took less than 10 seconds to decide how much to give gave approximately 15 percent more to the common pool than people who took longer than 10 seconds.

      Public Goods Game

    2. it suggests that maybe these prefrontal regionsthat are really important for decision making have to work a little bit harder when we decidenot to cooperate when we decide to compete or defect at the expense of the other person.
    3. we experience pleasurewhen we cooperate knowing that our cooperation is going to lead to benefits to the peoplethat we’re cooperating with.
    4. they found that reward signalling increased with reciprocated cooperation, inother words if I cooperate and I learn that you have alsocooperated then we’re both benefitting from this mutual cooperation there is greater rewardactivation or reward signalling gets boosted. And then also they found that when peoplecooperate but then are met with not cooperation in other words, unreciprocated cooperationdecreases activation in these reward processing areas.
    5. basketball campers play a basketball shooting game and in one condition it was orientedto be competitive against each other in another condition it was more focused on team playand cooperation. Afterwards he asked the kids how much fun they had, and he found that theyreally found the cooperative team play more fun and more motivating.
    1. But in a digital world, how do we connect ourselves and our children to what were once oral traditions? Hollywood has accomplished some of these tasks. The recent screen version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings brought us a classic story that is based on the epic tradition. Yet how many of us have stopped and talked with our children about the deeper meanings of this tale? As the sophistication of video gaming grows, can the power of this entertainment form be used to educate children about the pitfalls of following a herd mentality? Could these games help children develop their own internal compass in morally ambiguous situations? Or perhaps even help them think about their own ability to act heroically? And as we plow ahead in the digital era, how can the fundamental teachings of a code of honor remain relevant to human interactions?
    2. There are several concrete steps we can take to foster the heroic imagination. We can start by remaining mindful, carefully and critically evaluating each situation we encounter so that we don’t gloss over an emergency requiring our action. We should try to develop our “discontinuity detector”—an awareness of things that don’t fit, are out of place, or don’t make sense in a setting. This means asking questions to get the information we need to take responsible action. Second, it is important not to fear interpersonal conflict, and to develop the personal hardiness necessary to stand firm for principles we cherish. In fact, we shouldn’t think of difficult interactions as conflicts but rather as attempts to challenge other people to support their own principles and ideology. Third, we must remain aware of an extended time-horizon, not just the present moment. We should be engaged in the current situation, yet also be able to detach part of our analytical focus to imagine alternative future scenarios that might play out, depending on different actions or failures to act that we take in the present. In addition, we should keep part of our minds on the past, as that may help us recall values and teachings instilled in us long ago, which may inform our actions in the current situation. Fourth, we have to resist the urge to rationalize inaction and to develop justifications that recast evil deeds as acceptable means to supposedly righteous ends. Finally, we must try to transcend anticipating negative consequence associated with some forms of heroism, such as being socially ostracized. If our course is just, we must trust that others will eventually recognize the value of our heroic actions.

      Steps to heroism

    3. We hold up inventors, athletes, actors, politicians, and scientists as examples of “heroes.” These individuals are clearly role models, embodying important qualities we would all like to see in our children—curiosity, persistence, physical strength, being a Good Samaritan—but they do not demonstrate courage or fortitude. By diminishing the ideal of heroism, our society makes two mistakes. First, we dilute the important contribution of true heroes, whether they are luminary figures like Abraham Lincoln or the hero next door. Second, we keep ourselves from confronting the older, more demanding forms of this ideal. We do not have to challenge ourselves to see if, when faced with a situation that called for courage, we would meet that test. In prior generations, words like bravery, fortitude, gallantry, and valor stirred our souls.
    4. What characterizes the final step toward heroic action? Are those who do act more conscientious? Or are they simply less risk averse? We don’t know the answer to these vital questions—social science hasn’t resolved them yet. However, we believe that an important factor that may encourage heroic action is the stimulation of heroic imagination—the capacity to imagine facing physically or socially risky situations, to struggle with the hypothetical problems these situations generate, and to consider one’s actions and the consequences. By considering these issues in advance, the individual becomes more prepared to act when and if a moment that calls for heroism arises. Strengthening the heroic imagination may help to make people more aware of the ethical tests embedded in complex situations, while allowing the individual to have already considered, and to some degree transcended, the cost of their heroic action. Seeing one’s self as capable of the resolve necessary for heroism may be the first step toward a heroic outcome.
    5. Accounts of Sugihara’s life show us that his efforts to save Jewish refugees was a dramatic finale to a long list of smaller efforts, each of which demonstrated a willingness to occasionally defy the strict social constraints of Japanese society in the early 20th century. For example, he did not follow his father’s instructions to become a doctor, pursuing language study and civil service instead; his first wife was not Japanese; and in the 1930s, Sugihara resigned from a prestigious civil service position to protest the Japanese military’s treatment of the Chinese during the occupation of Manchuria. These incidents suggest that Sugihara already possessed the internal strength and self-assurance necessary to be guided by his own moral compass in uncertain situations. We can speculate that Sugihara was more willing to assert his individual view than others around him who preferred to “go along to get along.”
    6. The idea of the banality of heroism debunks the myth of the “heroic elect,” a myth that reinforces two basic human tendencies. The first is to ascribe very rare personal characteristics to people who do something special—to see them as superhuman, practically beyond comparison to the rest of us. The second is the trap of inaction—sometimes known as the “bystander effect.” Research has shown that the bystander effect is often motivated by diffusion of responsibility, when different people witnessing an emergency all assume someone else will help. Like the “good guards,” we fall into the trap of inaction when we assume it’s someone else’s responsibility to act the hero.
    7. the Heroic Imagination Project, that he founded to translate this research into action. 

      Link - from Philip Zimbardo

    8. So one of the principles of the talk, heroes are most effective not alone, not the, thesoldier in, in battle who takes a bullet for his buddy, but forming a network.
    9. Heroism is about one thing: It’s about a concern for other people in need, a concernto develop, to defending a moral cause knowing there is a personal cause or risk. That’s the key.And you do it without expectation of reward. So altruism is heroism light. Compassion is avirtue that may lead to heroism, but we don’t know. Nobody’s established said link.
    10. Narratives of the lives of Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa, and other inspiring figures are full of stories of people who, upon meeting the saintly figure, dropped their former materialistic pursuits and devoted themselves to advancing the mission of the one who elevated them. Indeed, a hallmark of elevation is that, like disgust, it is contagious.
    11. In both studies, reported feelings of happiness energized people to engage in private or self-interested pursuits, while feelings of elevation seemed to open people up and turn their atten­tion outwards, toward other people.
    12. Social disgust can then be understood as the emotional reaction people have to witness­ing others moving “down,” or exhibiting their lower, baser, less God-like nature. Human beings feel revolted by moral depravity, and this revulsion is akin to the revulsion they feel toward rotten food and cockroaches. In this way, dis­gust helps us form groups, reject devi­ants, and build a moral community. I thought about the social nature of dis­gust in this way for years, and about what exactly it means when someone moves “down” on the vertical dimension from good to evil.

      (moral) disgust and elevation are opposites

    13. . Psychologists have thought about morality primarily as a system of rules that prevents people from hurting each other and taking their possessions. But I believe that morality is much richer and more balanced. Most people don’t want to rape, steal, and kill. What they really want is to live in a moral community where people treat each other well, and in which they can satisfy their needs for love, productive work, and a sense of belonging to groups of which they are proud. We get a visceral sense that we do not live in such a moral world when we see people behave in petty, cruel, or selfish ways. But when we see a stranger perform a simple act of kindness for another stranger, it gives us a thrilling sense that maybe we do live in such a world.
    14. Here’s a puzzle: why do we care when a stranger does a good deed for another stranger? Most theories in the social sciences say that people’s actions and feelings are motivated by self-interest. So why are we sometimes moved to tears by the good deeds or heroic actions of others?

      I have to admit, I sometimes even feel this way when reading works of fiction.

    15. A second line of research is about "elevation," which refers to the warm, uplifting feeling we get when we witness someone else's good deed. Research by moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, as well as by Simone Schnall, has found that elevation systematically motivates people to perform altruistic acts themselves.
    1. So what does this mean if you’re a professional fundraiser? Maybe you should just set up a pretty website and then let people decide whether to donate of their own accord. There’s just one problem with this strategy: You’re not likely to collect much money. One of the most common reasons people report donating to charity is that someone asks them to give. The trick, then, is to craft charitable appeals that encourage people to give—without making them feel forced to comply.
    2. But it’s possible to create a sense of connection even with total strangers.  A particularly strong example of that is the website DonorsChoose.org, which allows donors to purchase supplies or fund projects for a specific group of students. Creating links between a specific donor and a specific classroom enables an emotional connection to emerge from what would otherwise be a cold financial transaction. Teachers send thank-you notes to donors, and students often do so as well. “When we deliver the initial thank-you note to the donor, our first ask is not for money,” says DonorsChoose founder Charles Best. “Instead, we ask the donor to write back to the classroom, and we measure success in the volume of two-way correspondence that we see between donors and classrooms.”

      Somewhat similar to kickstarter in some cases, though certainly the added product incentive is different.

    3. Who was happiest by the end of the day? The people who used the gift card to benefit someone else and spent time with that person at Starbucks. Investing and connecting provided the most happiness.