Can Mindfulness and a Psychology Class Make You Happier?

Mindfulness learning to be happy

By studying the effects of mindfulness on psychiatric patients, and the pursuit of happiness, can we teach ourselves how to be happier?

The term mindfulness has entered popular culture in recent years, but this ancient Buddhist practice actually began gaining acceptance in western medicine in the 1970s.

The three main tenets of mindfulness are:

  •   Intention to cultivate awareness
  •   Attention to what is occurring in the present moment
  •   An attitude that is non-judgmental

In a recent article for psychiatric times, researchers looked at how mindfulness-based treatments work for psychiatric patients, and how these therapies can enhance and even replace pharmaceutical interventions. They found a wealth of evidence that mindfulness-based therapies have overwhelmingly positive effects on patients.

With mindfulness-based cognitive therapy reducing the rate of relapse rates for patients with major depression similar to that of pharmaceuticals, they also showed reduced anxiety, depression, and increased cognition.

The researchers point out, however, that, “Despite this evidence, pharmacotherapy remains the main treatment option for many patients with mental disorders, although about 75 percent of patients with mental disorders prefer psychotherapy. Researchers recommend implementing mindfulness-based therapies in place of, or in concert with, pharmacotherapy especially as the population grows older and cognitive issues become more common.

What makes us truly happy? Fame? Fortune? True happiness may be closer than you think, and a recent study shows we can learn to be happier.

Perhaps the most famous study of happiness, the “Harvard Study of Adult Development,” began in 1938 and studied students at Harvard University. It was coupled with another study of kids from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods, throughout their lives, and remains the longest-running longitudinal study of happiness and life satisfaction.

The main takeaway: happiness and satisfaction were not based on wealth, fame, or power, but on strong friendships and relationships.

But nowadays we are often more secluded. Social media friends are not always real friends and can take us away from human contact.  And comparing our lives to the curated lifestyles we see on the internet often makes us depressed. But there is a way to help cure that.

Just ask Laurie Santos, professor of Psychology at Yale University, who teaches the free online course, “The Science of Well Being” a class on increasing happiness, and ways to deal with habits that can make us unhappy as she told new scientists “for many of us, our happiness is much more under our control than we think.”

These controls include: 

  • Practicing mindfulness,
  • The use of gratitude journals to help us avoid “hedonic adaptation”, our tendency to become accustomed to a new positive life situation.
  • Talking to strangers can increase social connection.
  • Recognizing when we are comparing ourselves to others… and shifting our focus to something positive.

These tactics can be significant and long-lasting. A recent study conducted by Santos showed people who took the 10-week “Science of Well-Being” class compared to people who took a general psychology course were significantly happier, and for a longer period of time.

Santos concludes that courses like hers are, “A public health tool that could be used to improve mental health in the population.” 

And as George Vaillant, director of the Harvard Study for three decades once wrote, “Happiness is love. Full stop.”

10 Signs That You're a Free Spirit

woman using laptop

When we think of the term, “free spirit,” we imagine a person who steers their own course in life, unencumbered by common burdens or concerns. Some look at those who identify as free spirits as being irresponsible or childish, though this mindset offers lessons to inform us how we can live life on our own terms. 

If you’re someone who considers yourself an independent thinker or doer, who pushes against society’s envelope and is deeply committed to finding your own path, you may be a free spirit. Are you curious as to whether the free spirit path is for you?

Ten Signs You’re A Real Free Spirit

If you identify with any of these signs, chances are you have a free spirit waiting to be let loose into the world! 

1. You’re Independent-Minded

Independent people thrive on listening to their own voices, regardless of the situation or circumstance. This key personality trait of the free spirit is a common one in innovators, entrepreneurs, and creative artists, as an independent streak also relies on a strong foundation and belief in oneself.

Are you the person in the room who always finds a new way of looking at things? Free spirits defy expectations and will always see the unexpected in equally unlikely ways. These kinds of thinkers can be great assets on a creative team, as they will always find a new way to look at an idea. Free spirits are also incredible advocates for innovation, as they are not afraid to stand up and for their ideas, no matter how much it veers from the rest of the crowd.

2. Fear Doesn’t Stop You

Dale Carnegie said, “Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” Free spirits feel fear, but they don’t allow that feeling to be something that stops them. Instead, a free spirit will work through the fear and let it serve as a motivating factor. In fact, most free spirits will tell you that any success is not worth having unless it’s achieved with a healthy dose of moving through fear.

3. You Have a Strong Spine.

While it can be said that free spirits go with the flow of life, they accomplish it with a healthy and strong sense of self. This translates into living with intention and purpose and one that is not defined by anyone else. A free spirit walks the talk and in many cases, creates the language that makes up the talk.

4. Free From Attachment

To live as a free spirit, one has to be willing to let go, or walk away from the things that might weigh others down such as conventional relationships, careers, and other traditional trappings of modern life.

You might find a free spirit selling their material goods and living in a van, or not staying tethered to one place for very long. Or perhaps a free spirit may choose to live simply with a commitment to not participating in consumerism. Minimalism is often a choice of free spirits as this lifestyle embodies freedom from many of the things that weigh us down. Free spirits enjoy their own company and thrive on solo time, and putting themselves first.

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