The content for Week 3 of the Science of Well-being course explained why we are generally so bad at predicting what we think what would make us happy. Professor Santos called them “Annoying Features” of our minds, and referred to the erroneous judgment for happiness outcomes of these Annoying Features as “miswantings”, a term coined by psychologists Tim Wilson and Dan Gilbert. It’s a term which I rather like and will use in discussion of happiness, or lack thereof, with others I know to whom I am humbled that some people turn to discuss rough spots in their lives. There was a lot of video content, which I will summarize and discuss below, with how I compensate for these Annoying Features to keep myself pretty happy generally, allowing for some sadness and other negative feelings to give the happiness more meaning through relativity. My compensation solutions aren’t discussed in the class but that’s my value add with this blog post. Professor Santos had an extensive list of reference articles of research to support her teachings, but I’ll leave them out since many probably won’t care for them. If you do to that level, I suggest signing up for the course on Coursera and taking it for free.
The “rewirements” for Week 2 was to savour something, and show gratitude each day.
One of the rewirements I’m supposed to do in this Week 3 of the Science of Well-being course I’m taking is to build connections by talking to people I don’t know (i.e. starting conversations with strangers) and doing random acts of kindness (RAKs). Now, RAKs aren’t hard to find. Most people would give you examples like buying someone this or that, likely someone you don’t know, in some situation like the person in front of you or behind you in the coffee line. Those are fine, but for someone with Signature Strength of Creativity being #1, Curiosity being #2 and Judgment (aka Analysis) being #7 of 24 Character Strengths, who believes things are more meaningful if “earned” through a little more work, this buying of generic stuff was “too easy”.
The videos and content in Week 2 of the Science of Well-being course mostly focused on dispelling misconceptions we have about happiness. Professor Laurie Santos talked a lot about, and referenced studies to back her point, how a lot of things we perceive will make us happy, or sad should we not get it, don’t have nearly the impact we think they have. That’s because our intuition for predicting happiness is terrible! Professor Santos didn’t frame it in the following way, but it seemed to me our intuition for what would make us happy is very much based in the amygdala that’s the emotional centre, and reptilian part, of our brain that’s old, more animal-like and limited. Emotional intelligence, as a concept, is the ability to control this amygdata with the rest, and more rational part, of the brain, the part that knows waiting 20 minutes for 2 marshmallows instead of taking 1 now will bring you greater benefits when you are as young as 4 years old. That was the key to the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment that showed having delayed gratification as a trait in a 4 year old who first starts to think, is a better predictor of success in life compared to any other tests like SAT scores, education attainment, BMI, etc. That animal instinct suggesting what might make us happy is a very simple and basic form of processing that gets predicting happiness, and especially lasting happiness, all wrong.
The Science of Well-being course had an optional rewirement assignment of using one’s Signature Strengths each day for the week. From my identification and analysis of MY Signature Strengths, along with notes on how to boost these strengths, and a little time to think about how I’d go about it, here’s my report on what I did.