Monthly Archives: April 2011

Choose Loving Kindness

April 29, 2011

Maybe one of the greatest discoveries by humans or about humans, is that our choices shape us. They shape indirectly, because how we interact with people and our environments, in turn, have effects back on us. People who are more generous, for example, will build better relationships and experience greater generosity in return.

What is less appreciated is that our choices also shape us directly. By no means is this idea new or revolutionary. Epictetus said “As you think, so you become.” Mary Anne Evans (under the pen name George Eliot) wrote that “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice,” and Thomas Jefferson wrote that “dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise.” We’ve heard this message a thousand times, from all different cultures and times. For years now neuroscience has been showing us that these changes in the mind parallel changes in brain plasticity, the connections between neurons. The more a neural pathway is exercised, the stronger it becomes and the easier it is to activate it in the future.

While this is fairly well understood, to what degree do we recognize the implications of this and use it to its fullest potential?

Read the full article on:

Thanks to Marcello and Jeremy for allowing to post this excerpt. Marcello Spinella, Ph.D. is a guest blogger on The Psychology of Wellbeing blog. He is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, who shares his insightful postings on the “Friends of Positive Psychology” listserv.

The Science of a Meaningful Life: Building Compassion and Happiness is a day-long seminar offered by Dacher Keltner on May 20, 2011 at the Sacramento Convention Center (Sacramento, CA).

For instance, simply counting one’s blessings on a regular basis can lead to measurable improvements in one’s immune system and psychological well-being, and improve their relationships. Dr. Keltner’s overview of this research will show how leading a meaningful life isn’t just good, but good for you.

Building on this science, Dr. Keltner will present research-based tips for fostering empathy, compassion, happiness and other positive skills in yourself, in children, and in colleagues and clients. He will also shed light on those who have trouble forming compassionate relationships, such as those who suffer from social disorders like autism.

For more information and to register, please visit:

Dr Russ Harris, ACT (Acceptance and commitment therapy) specialist, talks about the importance of acceptance in all aspects of life.

Institute of subjective well-being podcast: a short post to invite you to visit this new podcast devoted to subjective well-being. Enjoy!

It recently emerged (example: that Happiest Countries also have the Highest Suicide Rates. Even keeping it in prospective for regional variations within the countries, etc. is this one more evidence which supports acceptance? What about the effects that giving so much prominence to self-esteem/self-love/self-developmenet etc. has on suicidal behaviour? In Western psychology, it was often postulated that one needs to develop self-esteem in order to properly relate with the world.

Understanding the value and values of all beings is certainly necessary to interact with the word; however, what happens when we give to one own esteem a kind of priority on the rest? Focusing on self-esteem may result in the vicious circle: self-esteem, self, self-interest, greed, feeling disconnected from other people, need to reinforce self-esteem, etc. What about leaving self-esteem (which is strongly conditional) and moving towards acceptance (unconditional), appreciation and embracing? Would this have a beneficial impact and lower suicide rates in the happiest countries? With acceptance, instead of self-esteem, people in happiest countries would not feel the pressure of constant comparing to the ones who appear to be even luckier than them (in relationship, financially, healthy, career-wise, etc.).

Steven Hayes, with its Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), has been creating awareness about the importance of nurturing acceptance. And then, to commit to keep the valuable approaches, and make the necessary changes.

Albert Ellis, with his work including the book “The myth of self-esteem”, stated that self-esteem is conditional, while acceptance is unconditional. Such conditionality of self-esteem makes us vulnerable and harder to cultivate empathy. For these reasons, he suggested to cultivate acceptance. And also to rate our behaviours and traits, to rate our aliveness, choosing to live healthfully and peacefully. He suggested not to rate our overall “worth”, because people who assign negative values to it create a self-fulfilling prophecy of poor results. If one really wants to rate overall worth, he suggested to rate all beings positively, because we are all on the same boat, and all worthy.

He also invited people to know the difference between needing, and wanting what we really need is limited, what we want unlimited. If we let the craving grow, soon there will be little space for empathy and happiness.


TEDxGoldenGateED will take place on June 11, 2011 from 1pm to 9pm at the soaring and historic Craneway Pavilion. Join us to hear from a incredibly diverse field of speakers about what science tells us about compassion and empathy, and see how compassion improves learning. You will also meet people who teach compassion explicitly, and others whose creative and vital work is deeply informed by it.

Compassion — the devotion to enhancing the welfare of others -– is humanity’s stickiest idea. Compassion is at the heart of the world’s ethical and spiritual traditions. Now, a new science is revealing humans to be a compassionate and caring species – there are DNA and brain structures devoted to the emotion. Compassion may be the natural state of mind. Are we entering into an era of compassion? In today’s schools, the ability to imagine the needs of others, to think compassionately, and to design, innovate, and act in ways that benefit others are true 21st century skills. Compassion is a new science of the brain, of human health, and of sustainability. It is the greatest privilege we are granted, to teach compassion.

Speakers include:
– Shabnam Aggarwal, The Teach Tour
– Brian Bordainick,9th Ward Field of Dreams
– Marc Brackett, Yale University
– Vinicius Cantuaria, Brazilian singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist
– Christine Carter, Raising Happiness
– Pete Docter, Pixar
– Jeff Duncan-Andrade, SFSU
– Ani Chöying Drolma, singer, educator, and Buddhist nun from Nepal
– Elle, a middle school student at Prospect Sierra
– Jill Ellis, Center for Early Intervention on Deafness
– Bill Frisell, guitarist, composer and bandleader
– Ashok Gadgil, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs
– Lily Gordon, Brick to Oven Project, Tanzania
– Mary Gordon, Roots of Empathy
– Meklit Hadero, singer, songwriter and TED Global Fellow
– Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley
– Nancy McGirr, Fotokids
– Nipun Mehta, Charityfocus
– River of Words
– Dan Siegel, Mindsight Institute
– Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, University of Wisconsin, Madison

For registration, please visit:

First edition of our Podcast, soon to be found on iTunes!

Happiness podcast 1: definying happiness. Happiness is more than pleasure.

How to be happier: meaning and happiness podcast. Happiness and science, philosophy, spirituality
How to be happier: meaning, subjective well-being, and happiness podcast. Discover how to be happier, leveraging the art of happiness and the science of happiness; lectures about well-being, philosophy, spirituality, etc.

AmAre is an approach to subjective well-being, it means “being”: Aware and Accepting; Meaningful and Motivated; Active and Attentive; Resilient and Respectful; Eating properly and Exercising.

John Arden is giving an online lecture titled Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to A Better Life, which covers:
* FEEDing Your Brain
* The Amygdala and the ‘Worry Circuit”
* How to Introduce Brain-Based Therapy into Your Practice
* Attention: The Gateway to Memory
* Exercise, Sleep, Food, and Humor: Welcome to Brain Fitness

For more information, and for free registration, please visit: and