CLARIN

The Everyday Science Of Striving For Happiness

Discovering new methods and habits to help us become a little happier every day has become a veritable science. And big business.

The Everyday Science Of Striving For Happiness
Ernesto Viéitez

BUENOS AIRES — Attaining happiness has become so important in our society that it now occupies an entire field of scientific study. Researchers have moved beyond merely studying the psychology of desire and are now identifying new methodologies to help us learn how to be happier.

One of the pioneers of the field is the Israeli-born psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches at Harvard University and is the author of several widely read books, including The Pursuit of Perfect, wherein he calls perfectionism a kind of neurosis. He argues that the modern human condition pushes us to work toward attaining the impossible. The antidote he proposes is to replace this perfectionism with optimism, noting how perfectionists simply reject flaws, while optimists humbly accept them.

Accepting life as it — flawed — will free you of the fear of failure, says Ben-Shahar. Learn from mistakes, he suggests, without dramatizing them. Another specific suggestion: 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily to release the chemicals in your body that mitigate pain and increase the sense of pleasure.

There are also specialists working in this field in Argentina. From the realm of sociology, Marita Carballo published La felicidad de las naciones (The Happiness of Nations), a book based on polls taken across the world that have brought out certain common "pointers" of happiness. She argues that this information could be integrated into school curricula, both to raise satisfaction levels and help students identify personal priorities.

Competing "needs"

"With the argument that too much advertising and consumer-oriented abundance make people less happy with what they have, and make them want more, certain governments are considering restrictions," Carballo notes. "In Sweden, advertising directed at children under the age of 12 was banned."

Since so many people continue to identify happy moments in their lives with social relations, this sociologist says there should be more public programs "that increase the level of interpersonal trust." In practical terms this can mean encouraging neighbors to spend time together.

Carballo notes that "the relationship between earnings and happiness is complex." Beyond a middle-income level, she states, "an increase in revenue does not necessarily signify more happiness." A good work environment and generally following your vocation seem to be important.

"People learn to feel well by repeating positive emotional processes and by avoiding negative processes," says neuroscientist Federico Fros Campelo, author of Ciencia de las emociones (Science of Emotions). "At the end of the day, these processes are the result of step-by-step sequences in the brain."

Fros Campelo says people come "wired with programs that turn into motives." One program is the "quest for self-sufficiency," which helps us develop ourselves, he argues.

Add to all of this what you have learned culturally, and we see that the society in which we live guides people toward individualism, encourages a search for autonomy above all other emotional maps, like empathy for example.

"Without your personality as a counterweight, the "self-sufficiency wand" may dazzle people, and this could become a dysfunctional activity," says Fros Campelo. "To be happy we have to know and harmonize the various programs that sometimes pull us in different directions." Part of that, the writer explains, means balancing our for "certainty and stability" with another need: new things in our lives.

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Geopolitics

In Sudan, A Surprise About-Face Marks Death Of The Revolution

Ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was the face of the "stolen revolution". The fact that he accepted, out of the blue, to return at the same position, albeit on different footing, opens the door to the final legitimization of the coup.

Sudanese protesters demonstrating against the military regime in London on Nov. 20, 2021

Nesrine Malik

A little over a month ago, a military coup in Sudan ended a military-civilian partnership established after the 2019 revolution that removed President Omar al-Bashir after almost 30 years in power. The army arrested the Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and, along with several of his cabinet and other civil government officials, threw him in detention. In the weeks that followed, the Sudanese military and their partners in power, the Rapid Support Forces, moved quickly.

They reappointed a new government of “technocrats” (read “loyalists”), shut down internet services, and violently suppressed peaceful protests against the coup and its sabotaging of the 2019 revolution. During those weeks, Hamdok remained the symbol of the stolen revolution, betrayed by the military, detained illegally, unable to communicate with the people who demanded his return. In his figure, the moral authority of the counter-coup resided.

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