How can I be happier? It’s a question many people ask themselves. Three professionals share their views on happiness.
These three experts say it’s impossible to always be happy, because setbacks and bad things are natural parts of life. Once you can accept that, you’ll be more capable of seeing the good things that are right there in front of you.
Susan Bögels – being attentive
Susan Bögels is a professor in developmental psychopathology at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and specializes in mindfulness.
“Being attentive is what makes people happiest. I’m talking about flow: being so focused on something that it draws you in completely. Everything you do with great attention can create flow. But the society we live in today doesn’t encourage being attentive, and that’s why we end up seeking out very intense experiences. While feeling good can just as easily be found in the small things: a nice cup of coffee, a walk in the woods, a good conversation. It is a very special skill humans have that they can focus on things with great intensity and for a long time. We should appreciate this far more.”
Paul van Tongeren – taking action
Paul van Tongeren is a professor of philosophical ethics at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and is the author of the book ‘Life is an art’.
“What’s more, when we talk about happiness, many people initially think of enjoyment. But Aristotle placed enjoyment last on the list. He wrote: “If you realize your potential to its maximum, enjoyment will follow.” Enjoyment rides on the back of action. Because when you act in the best possible way and do things well, you will receive recognition naturally. If you develop your senses in an optimal way you will naturally start to enjoy beautiful things.”
Eveline Brandt – accepting the bad things
Eveline Brandt is a journalist and mindfulness trainer in the Dutch city of Leiden.
“People usually come to my training sessions because they are unhappy about something. I then have to point out to them that mindfulness training is not going to make them happier. In the long term, mindfulness may make you experience more happiness, as you learn to accept the bad things that are, after all, also part of life. The basic premise is that there is always some form of suffering in our life. Whether it’s a colleague you don’t get along with, the daily commute or a more serious problem such as chronic pain, or the loss of a loved one. This suffering is a given of life, but we humans tend to sometimes add a second layer to it, by resisting it. And that just makes it worse. We can do something about the second layer, while the first layer will always continue to cross our path.”
Interviews Renate van der Zee Photography Debby Hudson
While we're stuck inside on screens for hours per day sheltering in place, tech platforms are proving that they aren't just products we use. For many of us, they are our new digital habitats and a major lens by which we perceive reality. What are we to make of this?
Join Webcast of Tristan Harris on City Arts & Lectures on April 30
Please consider joining San Francisco’s City Arts & Lectures in its new online form on Thursday, April 30 at 7:30 pm Pacific where Tristan Harris will speak with NBC’s Jacob Ward on technology’s impact on society at this critical time. It’s free.
Jacob Ward is an NBC News television correspondent covering the ethical and social implications of modern technology.
Digital Well-Being Guidelines for Parents During Covid-19
CHT has created new guidelines in conjunction with tech and child development experts for parents trying to navigate the overwhelming amount of technology used in their children's lives, and in their own, during stay-at-home orders. We offer this guidance in the form of principles that can be applied to familiar technologies as well as new, unfamiliar products as they emerge.
Why it matters: During Covid-19, parents have a difficult balancing act between challenging and stressful variables. Better understanding our family's intentions using technology, evaluating the trade-offs, and being informed on alternatives are important ways to keep our sanity and create healthier tech use now and in the future. Even as technology may be a lifeline for our kids’ education and connection to peers and family, our increased reliance on technology doesn’t diminish the challenges and dangers it poses. Children’s brains are still developing and can literally be shaped by technology and media.
What you can do: Read and discuss the guidelines with your family for more mindful technology use.
"Stranger than Fiction" Covid-19 Misinformation Episode
In our 14th podcast episode “Stranger Than Fiction,” Claire Wardle takes us into the gray zones of information warfare, where bad actors slip between facts and falsehoods, news and gossip, sincerity and satire. Claire reveals seven types of misinformation that confound reporters and readers alike, all germinating from a kernel of truth.
Why it matters: Online misinformation can have life and death consequences, and there are so many coronavirus myths that Snopes can’t keep up. The Covid-19 pandemic lays bare the failure of social media outlets to quarantine misinformation despite their best efforts—undermining democracy, shared truth, and belief in science.
What you can do: It’s in our human nature to fall prey to misinformation. To help inoculate yourself, watch Claire in "Why Do We Fall For Misinformation?”, a powerful 12-minute TEDTalk, and read this report from her organization, First Draft, a non-profit dedicated to fighting mis- and disinformation online. Systemically, social media companies must flatten the curve of misinformation, says the Harvard Kennedy’s Shorenstein Center.
"Changing our Climate of Denial" Podcast Episode In a special Earth Day episode, Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale's Climate Change Communication joined Tristan and Aza Raskin to discuss how tech platforms could extend their redesigns to coordinate life-saving measures for Covid-19 and also coordinate global climate action. Imagine if LinkedIn showed where each company is on its Drawdown initiative to become carbon neutral, in addition to the number of employees and revenue. Or what if on Earth Day Google Maps showed 10-year, sea-level rise.
Why it matters: Covid-19 has forced tech platforms to help people find accurate information in an effort to save lives. If they can help flatten the curve of Covid-19, they can also flatten the curve of carbon emissions. It’s time for tech platforms to prove how much they can do when they operate for the common good of humanity.
What you can do: Find ways to spotlight your local climate heroes and actions on social media. Let's make visible the 58% of Americans who are “Alarmed” or “Concerned” about global warming and not let the noisy deniers—who only make up 10%—distort reality. Consensus exists. What if our news feeds were filled with daily evidence of actions to make the world better, together and not who was shouting the loudest?
As always, we are grateful to be with you on this ever-changing journey. Be well, and be gentle with yourselves.