The researchers also found that marital satisfaction has a protective effect on people’s mental health. Part of a study found that people who had happy marriages in their 80s reported that their moods didn’t suffer even on the days when they had more physical pain. Those who had unhappy marriages felt both more emotional and physical pain.
The Contagion of Happiness
Everyone, it seems—from Buddhist monks to positive psychologists, from Charles Schulz to the Beatles—has offered opinions on what it means to be happy. And whether you believe that bliss is found with a warm puppy or a warm gun, in a Prozac prescription or the pages of self–help books, you likely crave more of it. For all the bumper–sticker clichés and pop–culture platitudes, though, happiness is one of the less–studied human emotions. It’s not a “treatable” problem like sadness, anger, or fear, and its very essence seems more the stuff of greeting cards than hard science. That’s changing, however, as a growing number of researchers—including several affiliated with Harvard Medical School—are uncovering surprising facts about the nature of delight.
Harvard Happiness Course: Why Study Online?
Founded back in 1636, Harvard is one of the oldest institutions of higher education. Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is one of the Ivy League Universities among Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University.
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W hen scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression, they hoped the longitudinal study would reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives.
After following the surviving Crimson men for nearly 80 years as part of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the world’s longest studies of adult life, researchers have collected a cornucopia of data on their physical and mental health.
Of the original Harvard cohort recruited as part of the Grant Study, only 19 are still alive, all in their mid-90s. Among the original recruits were eventual President John F. Kennedy and longtime Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. (Women weren’t in the original study because the College was still all male.)
In addition, scientists eventually expanded their research to include the men’s offspring, who now number 1,300 and are in their 50s and 60s, to find out how early-life experiences affect health and aging over time. Some participants went on to become successful businessmen, doctors, lawyers, and others ended up as schizophrenics or alcoholics, but not on inevitable tracks.
During the intervening decades, the control groups have expanded. In the 1970s, 456 Boston inner-city residents were enlisted as part of the Glueck Study, and 40 of them are still alive. More than a decade ago, researchers began including wives in the Grant and Glueck studies.
Over the years, researchers have studied the participants’ health trajectories and their broader lives, including their triumphs and failures in careers and marriage, and the finding have produced startling lessons, and not only for the researchers.
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”
Research on gratitude
Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.
One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.
Of course, studies such as this one cannot prove cause and effect. But most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.
Other studies have looked at how being grateful can improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.
Managers who remember to say "thank you" to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder. Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group — assigned to work on a different day — received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.
The Path to Happiness: What Chinese Philosophy Teaches Us about the Good Life (Enroll NOW)
Let’s begin with the Harvard happiness course that you came here for – The Path to Happiness: What Chinese Philosophy Teaches Us about the Good Life. The course focuses on exploring ancient Chinese philosophy, ethics, and political theory to change the way you understand what a meaningful life is.
In this course, you will be challenging the modern assumptions on what happiness is based on ancient Chinese philosophy. You will be focusing on the most powerful philosophies in human history that were founded two thousand years ago – from Confucianism to Daoism.
You will understand more about different philosophical concepts as well as the tools that will help you to change your life for the better as well as increase your happiness levels by focusing on the power of ritual, your actions, and the importance of understanding the world that surrounds you.
This Harvard happiness course is available online for the very first time. It’s based on one of the most popular Harvard courses and is widely recognized among people from all over the world. Needless to say, even though you’re not studying at Harvard University, you get to experience how it feels.
The Path to Happiness course will take you about 13 weeks to complete when learning about 1-2 hours per week. Since the course is flexible, you can learn at your own pace, whenever you find the time. This means that you can complete it much faster.
What’s truly amazing is that you can enroll in this Harvard happiness course completely free. You don’t get that many opportunities to do that. After the course, you can choose to purchase a certificate for $99. This certificate is shareable, so you can easily add it to your CV or portfolio if you think that it can help your future career.