April 22, 2007

Happiness and PhD?

Writing about web page http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1606395,00.html

Comment about "Getting Serious About Happiness" (my motto: "don't be a zombie")

This article is about a PhD study on happiness, in the article the title is longer but in essence it is about happiness.

I found this title so ironic at the beginning, as I thought that "happiness" and "PhD" could not be in the same statement in a positive relationship. Anyway, it makes sense that people ought to spend time researching the subject. At the end of the day that is what everybody is looking for in life, more or less. However, the search for happiness is not that easy. Some of us might be too lazy, slow, scared to be happy. I have been lazy, slow and scared to be happy sometimes, I hope not most of the time. I reckon this might not be an uncommon thing. There thus is a wake up call for some who might be living their lives likes the zombies (trying to eat people) like the ones from those films we see these days. I hope to be brave enough to dare to be happy now while I am doing my PhD.

Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Chick-Sent-Me-High-ee according to the article) has three suggestions. Let's see if being reflective a bit will bring us a bit of happiness in return. I feel I can say something about it.

Be attuned to what gives you genuine satisfaction. Although many people assume that popular activities like watching TV are enjoyable, their own reports generally indicate that they feel more engaged, energetic, satisfied and happy when doing other things.

Nice one. A quick reaction is that sometimes what makes us happy is not sometimes entirely healthy or good for us, so one might end up being happy but dead or with a high cholesterol or with a heart attack (I see myself eating lots of chocolate or pasta with mozzarella - not at the same time though). However, this tip makes sense. Being aware of what makes us happy is the beginning. Although we might not be able to do something straightaway. I feel I would rather realise what makes me happy and try to create the situation to actually make it happen (even if I fail), than not haven realised at all.

Study yourself. To better understand their own happiness, Csikszentmihalyi says, people should systematically record their activities and feelings every few hours for a week or two. In recording your observations, try to focus on how you actually feel, rather than what you think you ought to be feeling or what you expect to feel. Afterwards, note the high points, particularly, and the low ones. Then try to adjust how you spend time according to your findings.

Good one. I see here a thing in common with the PhD process, as we hopefully should be learning bits about ourselves while we are undertaking the PhD. I reckon it is also life that gives us some hints if we are fast or clever enough to realise. It may require us to be the sort of people who actually learn from the experience -promptly (ours or somebody else's). However, I would go further and say (if possible) "learn about yourself", so much reflection without action takes me nowhere or takes me somewhere but late. However, this is easier to say or to write about than to actually do it.

Take control. Repairing unhappy conditions requires active effort. People often assume external conditions will change for the better or let chance determine their response. That's a mistake. "Get control," Csikszentmihalyi says. When things aren't right, "you have to put in the same effort you would if your business were in trouble. Just as markets move, life changes too."

Tough one. I experienced this not a while ago, when I had to give up a job, it wasn't easy. I needed to be brave enough to face people and more importantly to face myself everyday after that. I am sure I learned painful but useful lessons from the whole experience. However, it was a difficult period and time likes that would certainly affects us somehow. Maybe it will touch our confidence or determination, but I reckon if whatever action was really necessary or important it will bring us something positive at the end.

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