Introduction: Turning the Switch from Depression to Happiness
a. A 2004 study at Harvard found 4 of 5 students suffered from depression during the school year. Only 45% of workers are happy at their jobs. And depression is 10 times today what it was in 1960. For years, most research was focused on diagnosing illnesses that create depression and unhappiness. In 1988 the ratio of negative to positive psychological studies was 17-1.
b. Medical School Syndrome—You get what you concentrate on. First-year med students study symptoms of many diseases, and many are convinced they’ve come down with those symptoms/diseases!
c. That same year (1998) Martin Seligman (U. of Penn.) became the head of the American Psychological Association and strategically shifted the organization toward investigating “positive psychology.” In 2006, Tal Ben-Shahar and Shawn Achor (the author), both professors at Harvard, developed a course on happiness, and nearly 1 in 6 students registered for it…the largest in the school’s history. These most privileged of students sought—needed—to find simple happiness.
d. Researchers did a “meta analysis” (a study of over 200 studies) on about 275,000 people and found that happiness affects every part of our lives for the better, including work, family, friendship, health, energy…you name it. People need to focus on the positive to protect themselves, especially those in certain professions. Consider auditors and lawyers—who are taught to look for flaws all day long. The toll is significant: Lawyers have three times more depression than other professions and law students suffer from dangerous levels of depression. Good news is that people can and do change at EVERY age. Neuroplasticity is the study of how flexible our brains are. For example, blind people’s fingers become more sensitive as does their sense of hearing. In effect, they see and feel with their re-routed brain.
e. The author found 7 positive patterns of success: The Happiness Advantage, The Fulcrum and the Lever, The Tetris Effect, Falling Up, The Zorro Circle, The 20-Second Rule, and Social Investment.