Psychology is an academic and applied discipline that involves the scientific study of human or animal mental functions and behaviors.

Happiness – Do we have a choice?

The growth of neuroscience and genetics has seen an increasing number of articles stating that the part of the brain that does this or that, or the gene for this or that has been discovered. Happiness has not escaped these studies. Here is one such article I found in The Telegraph “Born miserable – some people genetically programmed to be negative” ( Wow. I hope I am not that person! After reading that article you might simply think; no wonder I’m miserable, it’s in my genes (and hence I cannot do anything about it).

And that leads me to an interesting article I found just the other day where the question was asked “is happiness a choice?” (…

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In the Pursuit of Happiness Contentment and Mindfulness Win

Ask anyone if they want to be happy and they’ll surely say yes. The pursuit of happiness has spurned a multi-million dollar business. But the relentless pursuit of happiness is unrealistic. No one is happy all of the time and when people expect to be happy all of the time, they are likely to find happiness an illusive state of mind. As the obsession with happiness has reached great heights, it is only natural to expect an antithetical movement against the happiness imperative. Yet while I agree that happiness cannot be an end unto itself, I caution against embracing the opposite.

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Chasing that state called “flow”

For a long time I have searched for a reason for our goal-driven nature that went beyond a simple evolutionary psychology explanation: our hard wired drive to perpetuate our gene pool, our need to satisfy basic needs (food, shelter, sex). Goal oriented humans would have had a better chance of survival. Without a goal oriented nature we would not hunt or gather. But in the developed world at least, those basic human needs are generally taken care of (at least basically). A simple evolutionary explanation does not suffice.

In his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that our prime goal has moved from basic survival to the desire for happiness. Yet we are no happier than our ancestors despite the trappings of the modern world. Happiness cannot be found in materialism. Happiness, according to Mihaly (and I tend to agree) is found in the state he calls flow. Much like Eckhard Tolie, flow is living in the “now” but is different in that Eckhard focuses on egolessness and Mihaly focuses on matching talent and challenge.

Much has been written on flow since Mihaly introduced the concept (although the fundamental idea is not new).Read More »Chasing that state called “flow”

Points to ponder: success or meaning

“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” Victor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning)

Personal achievement through positive thinking

In my post “The power of the sub-conscious-fact or fiction” I mentioned how our “sub-conscious” attempts to ensure that our thoughts and actions are congruent with our self concept, and how positive affirmations are believed to “reprogramme” the sub-conscious. Claude Steele’s “Self-Affirmation Theory” has been very influential in promoting the idea of positive thinking. Knowingly or not, many self help books ascribe to Steele’s theory.Read More »Personal achievement through positive thinking

Being “in the zone” – on the field and in the boardroom

In an interview with the American Psychological Association, sports psychologist Dr. Shane Murphy talks about what it takes to be an Olympic athlete. The last question asked by the APA was “What does it take to do your very best when the pressure is on? You talk about being in ‘the zone’. Is that how athletes master the psychological skills that allow them to deliver their best in competition?” Dr Murphy’s response is quoted below…Read More »Being “in the zone” – on the field and in the boardroom

The power of the subconscious – fact or fiction

What role does the subconscious mind play in goal driven behaviour? SImply Google “subconscious” and you’ll find a host of self help sources promising to unleash the power of the subconscious, or as Anthony Robbins puts it “Awaken the Giant Within”. “Alternative” theories of the role of the subconscious in goal achievement abound. Wikipedia is somewhat scathing: “The idea of the ‘subconscious’ as a powerful or potent agency has allowed the term to become prominent in the New Age and self-help literature, in which investigating or controlling its supposed knowledge or power is seen as advantageous. In the New Age community, techniques such as autosuggestion and affirmations are believed to harness the power of the subconscious to influence a person’s life and real-world outcomes“.Read More »The power of the subconscious – fact or fiction