Happiness and its surprises

This is called Hooked on a Feeling: The Pursuit of Happiness and Human Design. I put up a somewhat dour Darwin, but a very happy chimp up there. My first point is that the pursuit of happiness is obligatory. Man wishes to be happy, only wishes to be happy, and cannot wish not to be so. We are wired to pursue happiness, not only to enjoy it, but to want more and more of it. So given that that's true, how good are we at increasing our happiness? Well, we certainly try. If you look on the Amazon site, there are over 2,000 titles with advice on the seven habits, the nine choices, the 10 secrets, the 14,000 thoughts that are supposed to bring happiness. Now another way we try to increase our happiness is we medicate ourselves.And so there's over 120 million prescriptions out there for antidepressants. Prozac was really the first absolute blockbuster drug. It was clean, efficient, there was no high, there was really no danger, it had no street value. In 1995, illegal drugs were a $400 billion business, representing eight percent of world trade, roughly the same as gas and oil. These routes to happiness haven't really increased happiness very much. One problem that's happening now is, although the rates of happiness are about as flat as the surface of the moon, depression and anxiety are rising. Some people say this is because we have better diagnosis, and more people are being found out. It isn't just that. We're seeing it all over the world. In the United States right now there are more suicides than homicides. There is a rash of suicide in China. And the World Health Organization predicts by the year 2020that depression will be the second largest cause of disability. Now the good news here is that if you take surveys from around the world, we see that about three quarters of people will say they are at least pretty happy. But this does not follow any of the usual trends. For example, these two show great growth in income,absolutely flat happiness curves. My field, the field of psychology, hasn't done a whole lot to help us move forward in understanding human happiness. In part, we have the legacy of Freud, who was a pessimist, who said that pursuit of happiness is a doomed quest, is propelled by infantile aspects of the individual that can never be met in reality. He said, "One feels inclined to saythat the intention that man should be happy is not included in the plan of creation." So the ultimate goal of psychoanalytic psychotherapy was really what Freud called ordinary misery. (Laughter) And Freud in part reflects the anatomy of the human emotion system -- which is that we have both a positive and a negative system, and our negative system is extremely sensitive.So for example, we're born loving the taste of something sweet and reacting aversively to the taste of something bitter. We also find that people are more averse to losing than they are happy to gain. The formula for a happy marriage is five positive remarks, or interactions, for every one negative. And that's how powerful the one negative is. Especially expressions of contempt or disgust, well you really need a lot of positives to upset that. I also put in here the stress response. We're wired for dangers that are immediate, that are physical, that are imminent, and so our body goes into an incredible reaction where endogenous opioids come in. We have a system that is really ancient, and really there for physical danger. And so over time, this becomes a stress response, which has enormous effects on the body. Cortisol floods the brain; it destroys hippocampal cells and memory,and can lead to all kinds of health problems. But unfortunately, we need this system in part. If we were only governed by pleasure we would not survive. We really have two command posts. Emotions are short-lived intense responses to challenge and to opportunity. And each one of them allows us to click into alternate selves that tune in, turn on, drop out thoughts, perceptions, feelings and memories. We tend to think of emotions as just feelings. But in fact, emotions are an allsystems alert that change what we remember, what kind of decisions we make, and how we perceive things. So let me go forward to the new science of happiness. We've come away from the Freudian gloom, and people are now actively studying this. And one of the key points in the science of happiness is that happiness and unhappiness are not endpoints of a single continuum.The Freudian model is really one continuum that, as you get less miserable, you get happier. And that isn't true -- when you get less miserable, you get less miserable. And that happiness is a whole other end of the equation. And it's been missing. It's been missing from

There is something very restorative about nature. and see where does happiness arise from in evolution. It wouldn't have sex. the brain's orgasmatron. "I like this. We are social beings from the beginning. is biophilia -. It gives objects what's called incentive salience. compassion. Humans. There was once a statement made by a psychologist that said that 80 percent of the pursuit of happiness is really just about the genes. Very interesting studies done on people recovering from surgery.but there is still that 50 percent that is unaccounted for. And then three emotions for which there are no English words: fiero. you know. There is a decent contribution to happiness from the genes -. there is a hormone oxytocin. as you see. gratitude. and absent from any discussions of happiness. We are very sensitive to the negative. It makes something look so attractive that you just have to go after it. They like to look at beautiful faces rather than plain faces. But somehow it was not put forward until very recently. high level. the people who looked out on the brick wall were in the hospital longer. that it really is a system of motivation. they tend to recur. And of course we know this intuitively. It goes to the nucleus accumbens. Babies really are born with a lot of innate pleasures. Here is a three-week-old baby." and it's this very large umbrella of a term. And we see here the smile. which is the internal opiates. you will look for this expression. a malicious pleasure. because there isn't a sense of the other half -. People have also wanted to deconstruct. And the universal signal is not just raising the corner of the lips to the zygomatic major. which simply says. So when people's symptoms go away. So they assumed this must be. when they see their mother. This was originally seen as a system that was the pleasure system of the brain. And even studies of cooperation show that cooperation between individuals lights up reward centers of the brain. and naches. seeing these as two parallel systems. many. Extroverts use it more than introverts. It's also crinkling the outer corner of the eye. who found that people who faced a brick wall versus people who looked out on trees and nature. particularly so. We're also born pleasure-seekers. So you see.That's nonsense. but many of them are base. It turned out that it wasn't. They like to listen to consonant melodies instead of dissonant melodies. which is a pride and joy in one's children. In the 1950s. schadenfreude. It wouldn't sleep. Our pleasures are really ancient. will show this particular kind of smile. a system of wanting. It wouldn't eat. all the way up to the prefrontal cortex. and had more medical complications. we're very imitative creatures. It wouldn't do anything but press this bar. happiness. and it's part of how we are tuned. needed more medication. We have basically at least two systems here. and that's fed by the chemical dopamine. the wanting system. that happiness is not just the absence of misery. orbital frontal cortex. many pleasures." The pleasure system. One is the reward system.that we have a response to the natural world that's very profound. One problem that psychology has had is instead of looking at this intersubjectivity --or the importance of the social brain to humans who come into the world helpless and need each other tremendously -. is much more centralized. And they're sort of two reciprocal and dynamically interacting systems. is widely spread throughout the brain. Babies love the taste of sweet and hate the taste of bitter. And we learn. and it's as difficult to become happier as it is to become taller. are happiness in another's happiness. And if you stick your tongue out at this baby.psychotherapy. and not . even 10month-old babies. Olds and Milner put electrodes into the brain of a rat. of course. So that the body can both look for opportunity and also protect itself from danger. We don't seem to have a word for that. The other thing about positive emotions is that they have a universal signal. And one of them. the orbicularis oculi. of course. They love to touch smooth surfaces rather than rough ones.of what pleasure. People who are relieved of depression show it more after than before. So if you want to unmask a true look of happiness. Let's just go into the brain for a moment.is that they focus instead on the self and self-esteem. and they both are very ancient. which is the pride in accomplishment of a challenge. We use this word "happy. but it is in part offset by the fact that we have a positivity. Absent from this list. And it starts in the ventral tegmental area. And we imitate from almost the second we are born. which is happiness in another's misfortune.what are the positive emotions. at the same time. That's something different from the system that is the pleasure system.Dopamine system. where decisions are made.about 50 percent -. the baby will do the same. And the rat would just keep pressing that bar thousands and thousands and thousands of times.

So clearly there is some effect." not "we" and "us" --and the letters are less hopeless than they are really alone. You see mental distress going up with lower income. Then do what you have to do. achievement. you see life satisfaction going up with each rung of income. they care that we replicate." And I think this has been a really tremendous problemthat goes against our biology and nature. So we have here."I. And that's. that a piece of evidence is. these three can separate. there is only one way to increase status. blame yourself. That whole dopamine-wanting system takes over and derails from any of the pleasure system." "my. And being alone is very unnatural to the human. to think beyond ourselves toward self-actualization or transcendence." There's attachment. and that is a prestige route.self-other. Now in the animal world. that we pass our genes on. adventure. is being satisfied -. They're not sitting in front of the mirror trying to figure themselves out. "Do you think the less-fortunate are having better sex?" And then this kid over here is saying. The other thing is. And one of the problems with money is materialism. if you look at the kinds of values that come in. when they're absorbed in something out in the world. And that's dopamine-fed. But it's not irrelevant.But very similarly." "First. Tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches. engaged in sports. and much more post-materialist values after. And that's clearly the way for us to create many more niches of status so that people don't have to be lower on the status hierarchy as they are in the animal world. that gets into the desire system." Thank you. They went from attractiveness and happiness and wealth and self-control to generosity and forgiveness. There's lust.become romantically infatuated with someone else. These are not the periods when you feel happiest. "I must have this one person. Romantic attraction. I seize command by physical prowess." See the problem is that." "me." So one of the things is that it really takes over. Because. is if you look at computerized text analysis of people who commit suicide. and it's quite interesting.our biological system. fun. which is just wanting to have sex. before the change. focusing on a loved one. life satisfaction. and we give that person status. is they forget about the real basic pleasures of life. I end with a few quotes. do not blame it. Maslow had this idea back in the 1950s that as people rise above their biological needs. and knows how to do things. and that's dominance. (Applause) .we can rise above them. So if you look at questions like this. the human has a whole other way to rise to the top. which says. the only one that survived there was happiness. and want to have sex with a third person. So to just quickly conclude with some brief data that suggests this might be so. and I keep it by beating my chest. as humans. because it's so important. which is oxytocin. Now. is use of the first person singular -. which is freely conferred.What happens when people pursue money too avidly. what you find there. and you make submissive gestures. So for example we have three systems that underlie reproduction. So a person can be in a long term attachment. be respected. or thinking about themselves. And that's really mediated by the sex hormones. It's sort of "me. The other way in which our genes can sometimes lead us astray is in social status. "If your daily life seems poor. for example. and hasn't made us any happier at all. you see wealth. But the effect is relatively small. people are happiest when in flow. "There is only one question: How to love this world?" And Rilke. The data isn't terribly supportive of money buying happiness. whatever. But there are ways in which our evolutionary history can really trip us up. And sure enough. Women had a whole different set of value shifts. the genes don't care whether we're happy. having sex. "Leave me alone with my toys. this couple. and rise above the materialist. We are very acutely aware of our social status and always seek to further and increase it. pleasure. when they're with other people. say to yourself what you would be." not "we. learning. and the opiates. Because when you think about it. as the world becomes safer and we don't have to worry about basic needs being met -. whatever motivates us. Someone has expertise and knowledge. when they're active. One is people who underwent what is called a quantum change: they felt their life and their whole values had changed. "This is a long-term bond. There is a profound need to belong.