Participant 1: I was in the police academy
and I got injured. Participant 2: My grandpa has prostate cancer.
Participant 3: I lost my dad in January of this past year. Participant 4: On April 19 I faced a life threatening surgery,
which it caused me to be paralyzed and my major concern was that
I could not walk again but as you see, I am
here and I’ve got work to do. Julian: Glass is half full. Could have been
worse. Look on the bright side! When life knocks you down, these are the things you
hear people say. There’s no way what they’re telling could actually be helpful could it?
Well buckle up, because psychologists have found that a substantial amount of your happiness
in life is determined by your ability to focus on the positive. We gathered a group of volunteers
who experienced a significant and sometimes difficult life event in the past year. First
we handed them a test to gauge their current level of happiness. Now, in order to be super
scientific, we split them into two groups, a control group and a variable group. Now
what about that control group. Well, we asked them to think of something they had no opinion
on whatsoever. They didn’t feel too strongly about it one way or the other. And then, we
asked them to share that story with us. P5: I found apples to be rather neutral because
they don’t really taste particularly good or bad.
P6: I think the color yellow is a nice color. People like the color yellow because it looks
very nice and that’s all I had to say about yellow. P5: I think they’re rather bland
and fairly innocuous looking They’re cheap to purchase
which helps to make up for the rather obvious lack of flavor.
P7: The feeling I get when I watch a show that I think is just okay when I really don’t
want to watch it is a feeling of not wanting to be there. I want to get up and get ready
to go. P5: I think overall the pros and cons of this
fruit tend to balance itself out when you compare it to other fruits and hence that
was why I chose this fruit, apple. Julian: For the variable group we brought
them in, sat them down and asked them to think of a recent time in their life when they experienced
something positive. Maybe something they achieved, something good that happened to them, something
good they did for somebody else. The idea was to put them in a positive state of mind.
We asked them to focus on the details and three strengths that they had. Of those three,
we told them to choose their biggest strength and tell us a story that showed off that quality
of theirs. Would you mind reading for us what you wrote?
P3: Yeah sure. I wrote, I have a top notch quality of caring and being sympathetic with
those people close to me. P4: I have a talent for and the gift for helping
young people who don’t like school. Helping them to become intelligent and enjoy learning.
P1: The one quality I like most about myself is that I am very caring towards other people.
I do a lot of volunteer work, which is good for the person in need and lifts my spirit
immensely. P8: My strongest strength is my knowledge.
Not only because it’s a tool I use on a daily basis, but also because it’s a tool that helps
me get myself out of a lot of trouble. P2: My favorite part of my personality is
basically my self motivation. Because when a lot of people doubt me and tell me I can’t
do stuff, I just take the stuff people say I can’t do and use it as motivation and prove
them wrong in the end. P4: Well one thing I ask everyone to do is
to be your authentic self. Stand up and be who you are no matter what. What you think
of me is no concern of mine. P1: I deliver for the meals on wheels program
at the senior center and I love seeing my elderly recipients each week. They truly light
up my day and I don’t feel complete without giving them a big hug and making sure everything
is okay with them. P3: Recently a friend of mine, his father
also died and I was able to come together and help him with his mourning and with his
understanding process of death. And to let him know that you are not alone and it hurts
like hell but you’ll get through it with the help of good friends and that’s what life
is all about just overcoming and advancing. P2: Well my uncle was doubting me calling
me dumb and stuff like that and then they were telling me I wasn’t going to pass the
California High School Exit Exam, I was a dummy, I was a failure and other stuff like
that. But then I passed it so that was when I just realized that all the doubts that people
give me, I just use it as motivation and just use it to keep going on.
Julian: When they were finished we had them take another test. After they finished we
measured their happiness again to see what kind of effect the positivity exercise had.
Now keep in mind, our findings show an instantaneous increase in happiness. Changes ranged as high
as 43% increases in happiness and drops as low as 31%. For those who did the exercise
we saw a much narrower range. For some people happiness went up 18% and the lowest drop
was as little as 6%. So, maybe instead of focusing on your weaknesses, you should focus
on your strengths instead. What are your strengths? When was the last time you really got to show
it off and use it? Let us know in a video response We’ll do something awesome with it.
I’m Julian, and this has been The Science of Happiness. SoulPancake,