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I believe, however, that these two different perspectives are complementary aspects of the flow experience.

Recite affirmations to combat negative emotions.

While Csikszentmihalyi draws attention to the strength and control that is achieved within flow, or its Yang aspect, Zhuangzi points to the effortlessness of the state, its Yin aspect. To take our ski example once again, the experience of flowing down the mountain can be described as "being in total control" and "dominating the mountain" or as "effortless" and "being one with the mountain.

While the self is becoming "stronger" as a result, there is no experience of a "separate self. Just as one quality naturally leads to its opposite, as Winter leads to Spring and Summer, the quality of flow involves the mutual interplay of focus and release, effort and effortlessness. In this sense, then, flow can truly be seen as an experience of the Dao which is the harmony of these opposing qualities. Csikszentmihalyi, M. Hunter Hektner, J.

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The Only Guide to Happiness You’ll Ever Need : zen habits

Ting is cutting up an ox for his Master Wen-Hui, and his activity is described in the following way: At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee -- zip! Ting goes on to explain how this state of mastery is achieved: However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I'm doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until -- flop!

References: Csikszentmihalyi, M. Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard. Join HuffPost Plus. Lance P. Hickey, Ph. This Blogger's Books and Other Items from Today is National Voter Registration Day! It is known since the dawn of mankind that psychoactive substances have the ability to change one's mood, also altering one's evaluation of one's condition and of the states of the world.

The inability to make important decisions on the part of individuals who have suffered injuries to specific brain areas that govern the elaboration of emotions—as shown in studies by Damasio —comes from the lack of indicators of the salience of the alternatives provided by the physiological emotional response.

On the other hand, if it is true that we now have highly selective molecules to modulate the mood and, consequently, the emotional state of a person, we still do not know exactly how they work. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, however, are candidates to also affect life satisfaction.


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This aspect is captured effectively in a recent novel that combines literary sensitivity and scientific expertise. The protagonist of Generosity by Powers fascinates those around her because of her contagious happiness, which consists in a really good mood which can be measured by psychological assessment tools and in a totally positive look on reality. The joy of living in Thassa Amzwar, a self-conscious and intelligent girl, appears disconnected from her life history her beloved parents were killed, she had to leave her country because of the civil war, she is an Arab immigrant in Chicago; albeit educated and multilingual, she has uncertain prospects for her future, a classmate she got close to tried to rape her….

Her amazing and contagious optimism arouses the interest of some researchers, who discover that the secret of Thassa's happiness is enclosed in a rare mutation in her DNA. The discovery triggers collective hysteria in the hope of creating a technique of genetic manipulation capable of giving perpetual euphoria, while the young woman sees her non-superficial joy waver for the first time.

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The ability not to break down and not to fall into inaction as a reaction to the events that affect us is certainly a valuable adaptive resource. It is a result of many studies that people have a mid-point of happiness they tend to come back to after peak events, both positive and negative, such as winning the lottery or surviving a serious car accident.

Brickman et al.

Brain Power: 100 Ways to Keep Your Mind Healthy and Fit

This happens when one can be happy or sad facing the same situation for example, having lost a rewarding job and not being able to find another one ; and when the correlation between the state of the world and one's own subjective state looks quite idiosyncratic, seeming wrong or dysfunctional to most observers, for example, if the servant declares himself happy to be chained.

Thus, the lack of realism about happiness can have serious consequences on the objective quality of life, which are different from the simple fact that it seems better to be moderately happy rather than mortally depressed Oishi et al. The topic of realism associated with the discourse on happiness becomes burdened with practical consequences when we enter the domain of prescriptive theories, that is, theories that advocate a sense of happiness as better or preferable and indicate the manner in which to achieve the highest and most enduring states of happiness.

The states of satisfaction that each individual decides to pursue are, of course, the result of subjective judgment which could in turn be the effect of an objective cerebral asset , with a non-idiosyncratic and non-relativistic component. A meta-ethical discourse on happiness, however, is not my focus here. I will therefore consider approaches that do not blatantly violate the basic rules of the law and common ethical sensitivity. Hedonism is the approach that sees happiness as equivalent to pleasure.

What are your personal values?

Empirically, today we might limit it or perhaps, better, extend it to all the states generated by the pleasure areas identified in the brain, whatever the stimulus endogenous or external that causes them. Nozick's experience machine is fully part of the hedonistic recipes for happiness, just like drugs, as long as they give us pleasure.

Internal realism, however, is not necessarily linked to the outside world; it can, indeed, lead to detachment from the world and one's own critical interests, if they are rooted in states of external reality.

The laboratory rat that keeps stimulating itself by moving a lever that controls an electrode implanted in its brain and those who compulsively seek inner satisfaction in food, sex, or even in solipsistic intellectual gratifications are united by a distancing from the states of the world beyond their own hedonic inner reality—as evidenced by the fact that all of them would probably agree to be connected to Nozick's experience machine.

In other words, scientific naturalism is only committed to describing nature and reality as they are, not to finding the way nature and reality should be—since there are not principles or values detectable by science in accord to which establish what happiness should be—or what behavior one should adopt i. All your perturbation comes from inward opinions about them. The world is a continual change; life is opinion.

'Flow' Experiences: The Secret to Ultimate Happiness?

According to Haidt , the most important idea of folk psychology is contained in these two quotes: world events affect us only through the interpretation that we give of them, so if we can control the interpretation, we can also control our world. Handbooks of self-esteem and self-help have the specific aim of changing these interpretations so as to make sure that the individual becomes happy not by acting on her situation in the world, but by adapting to the world with a change of perspective that makes her understand the positivity of their condition, once it has been better considered.

Thus, in an example given by Haidt, there often comes a time when a person worn out by years of resentment, pain and anger realizes that say her father did not hurt her directly when he abandoned their family, but merely left the house. It is the reaction to the event which gives rise to pain—according to this reading—so that if we abandon this reaction, the fact itself cease to be a source of suffering.

Giving different judgments on facts is not the same thing as denying reality, but it is often a strategy that can get close to denial if moral judgment is strongly deformed, or when there are no specific reasons to try to change our ordinary intuitions about reality instead of changing the states of the world that seem negative or dysfunctional. In the long term, meditation, psychotherapy, or medications such as Prozac can be effective on the affective style.

But here we return to internal brain realism, because it is possible to think that all these interventions, mediated or direct, act on some neural circuit deputed to the development of emotional evaluations 8. The position of at least part of positive psychology is quite different, as it is strongly tempted by the irrealist perspective.

Ehrenreich , cf. If we have cancer we must seek proper care, which sometimes is not available, and a stoic or optimistic attitude can be surely useful and admirable. But in front of other non-unavoidable events, such as social injustice and political oppression, we may end up passively accepting unjust situations as a result of the pursuit of inner happiness. Even the so-called humanistic psychology of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, influenced by the subjectivist-spontaneistic cultural climate of the s, has contributed to an optimistic relativism that promotes inner realization and the growth of one's inner potential, with the idea of harmonizing the self with the cosmos and not vice versa see Milton, Some simplifications of anti-psychiatry have led to believe that there are no objective diagnoses and that inner needs precede, and may be manifested regardless of, the external situation.

Even in the pursuit of one's own well-being, to consider the relevance of both internal states and the external states of the world is important. The recent trend that combines positive psychology with research on the neuroscientific bases of specific mental states can be placed in this area. The discovery of the benefits of meditation is in fact associated with neuroscientific advances that have shown that the brain can be transformed, and brain circuits can be rewired, by the experiences to which it is exposed.

In this case it comes to internal experiences, by definition disconnected from the external ones, which are considered sources of disturbance and anxiety. The second entails observing sights, sounds and other sensations, including internal bodily sensation and thoughts, without being carried away. Neuroscientists have tried to measure mindfulness meditation and found that it produces decreased sensitivity to pain, as well as a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The neurocerebral study of people who have a long experience of meditation, especially people of the Buddhist religion, has shown that they are able to sustain a Particular EEG patterns, in particular the so-called high-amplitude gamma-band oscillation and phase synchrony at between 25 and 42 Hz. The subjects have different EEG traces Lutz et al. Also, it seems that mindfulness training can decrease the volume of the amygdala, a brain area considered crucial for the development of feelings of fear and anxiety. Lewis et al. The consequence is that happiness can be increased by acting on the above-mentioned skills through a proper and systematic training Ricard, This goes in the direction of positive psychology Seligman, , for which personal flourishing which replaces happiness by definition has no external criteria to decide what accomplishment is valuable to someone.

This leads to an individualist trend that only marginally considers the happiness of the group. The risk is to undermine, in the long run, the very bases of social coexistence and rewards, which are the preconditions for any real flourishing. In fact, if we detach the pursuit of subjective happiness from external intersubjective criteria, the result could be forms of quietism weakening social bonds and collective cooperation, which are necessary for the maintenance of the material and social standard we have today.

Alternatively, such pursuit of happiness might lead to a gap between individual values and purposes able to interfere with the possibility of having stable bonds and relation at a community level. The latest stage of this trend has been reached by recent devices promising to make their users' happier Davies, For instance, one of them, thanks to sensor-laden headband which monitors the neuronal activity, should help improve the emotional state of the user, thereby training the brain for empathy and composure. In fact, these devices might be used to avoid the ups and downs of real life, which help us find our way in the social and physical world.