The Happiness Advantage, Principle #7: Social Investment

Several years ago, I read about a psychology course being taught at Harvard, “Positive Psychology,” which became the most popular course at the university. The Head Teaching Fellow for the class, Shawn Achor, went on to write and publish, “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.”

A fascinating, well-researched and convincing read, what I found most compelling about The Happiness Advantage was Principle #7: Social Investment. With it, Achor highlights the study, “Very Happy People,” in which researchers sought out the characteristics of the happiest 10 percent among us. Of all the factors considered, including wealth, warmth of climate, and physical fitness, only one characteristic distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: strength of social relationships.

Achor buoyed the argument with his own research:

My empirical study of well-being among 1,600 Harvard undergraduates found a similar result—social support was a far greater predictor of happiness than any other factor, more than GPA, family income, SAT scores, age, gender, or race. In fact, the correlation between social support and happiness was 0.7. This may not sound like a big number, but for researchers it’s huge—most psychology findings are considered significant when they hit 0.3.

He then goes to explain one of the key mistakes people make that utterly disembowels of our central happiness. During times of challenge and stress, people will retreat into themselves, producing an emotional retraction. Perhaps it’s the perceived stigma of showing fear, of feeling shame, that causes us to divest from our social network. But in doing so, we only isolate ourselves, lose perspective, and most importantly, lose the benefit of having a support network in the first place.

After all, what’s the point of having social capital if we can’t tap into it when we need it most?

I recently experienced this phenomenon while going through some major life changes and relationship issues. I kept retreating, putting on a happy face while hiding the fact that I was dealing with some pretty heady stuff, and in the process, only made the situation worse. Finally, I hit a wall. I realized I couldn’t continue repressing and be happy.

So I finally opened up to a few trusted friends and family members. I even talked to a therapist. And to my own stubborn, arrogant surprise, it worked, as if my soul let out an exasperated sigh of relief.

As Achor warns in The Happiness Advantage, even though basic instincts might compel us to turn inward, positive psychology knows better. It can prove the difference between our ultimate success and failure.

Google Street Roo – exploring the outback one bounce at a time

One of our top requests from our users is the ability to roam the vast Australian continent. Unfortunately, the remoteness of the outback has posed a challenge for our traditional Street View cars and trikes.

Today, we’re happy to announce that Google has found an innovative way to capture a special collection of images from the back of beyond to include in Google Street View.

Over the next four weeks, more than a thousand Big Red kangaroos will be equipped with a 360-degree head camera that will automatically capture images when the marsupial is on the move during daylight hours.

The cameras on our Street Roo collection team will be powered by solar panels stitched into the back pocket of custom-made roo jackets. Images will be wired to Google in real-time. A GPS tracker embedded into the jacket will match the location of the kangaroo to ensure the image is accurately uploaded onto the new Street View layer.


Keep reading – Official Google Australia Blog

The benefits of raised bed gardening

It’s springtime and I’ll be out doing some planting today. Yesterday, at the farmers market, I picked up four seedlings: Pepper, Heirloom Tomato, Thai Basil, and Mexican Squash.

Before getting started I looked up what a ‘raised bed’ was. I had been hearing a lot about them and was wondering why they’re so popular. Turns out they have several endearing features:

  • Conserve water
  • Extend the planting season
  • Reduce weeds
  • Reduce the need to use poor native soil
  • Higher yields
  • Serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails
  • Can be planted earlier in the season because the soil is warmer when it is above ground level.

Raised bed gardening is a form of gardening in which the soil is formed in 3 – 4 foot wide beds, which can be of any length or shape. The soil is raised above the surrounding soil (approximately 6 inches to waist-high), is sometimes enclosed by a frame generally made of wood, rock, or concrete blocks, and may be enriched with compost.

The vegetable plants are spaced in geometric patterns, much closer together than conventional row gardening. The spacing is such that when the vegetables are fully grown, their leaves just barely touch each other, creating a microclimate in which weed growth is suppressed and moisture is conserved.

Additionally, waist-high raised beds enable the elderly and handicapped to grow vegetables without having to bend-over to tend them.

via Wikipedia


// Photo via mccun934

Immunotherapy – teaching the immune system to fight cancer – receives new FDA approval

The concept of ‘teaching’ the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells is over a century old, but the development of immunotherapeutic strategies for cancer was slow for many decades. However, much has been learned about the immune system in the meantime, and with the recent approval of two new immunotherapeutic anticancer drugs and several drugs in late-stage development, a new era in anticancer immunotherapy is beginning.

The video takes an audio-visual journey through the different approaches that are being investigated to harness the immune system to treat cancer.


For more, check out the Nature Reviews Drug Discovery poster (pdf):



// Thx to Derya Unutmaz