Pursuing absolute rather than relative forms of happiness was one of the many ideas discussed at the TEDxNTU forum on 17 March 2012.
8 accomplished speakers were invited to the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Technology, Entertainment, Design (TEDxNTU), including Dr William Wan, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement.
Dr Wan suggested that a reciprocal relationship may exist between kindness and happiness – in short, kindness can cause happiness.
He also mentioned the need to translate an ideal into an action to produce happiness. “Researchers are telling us that to generate a state of happiness, we have to translate a creed into conduct, a belief into behaviour.”
Here are some ways you can attain that elusive state of happiness:
Many studies have shown a clear link between happiness and kindness. When we are kind to others, our brains “reward” us by releasing a mixture of chemicals, including dopamine, which makes us feel good. Or serotonin with its calming effects, oxytonin which promotes social bonding. And DHEA which slows down the aging process. In a kind disposition, less cortisol, a stress-generating hormone, is produced. Kindness can make us happy, and when we are happy, we “reward” those around us by acting kindly towards them. In return, they reciprocate with kind acts towards us. And when we receive kindness from others, our own happiness increases.
Respond in the right way
Associate Professor Maureen Frances Neihart, Head of NIE Psychological Studies, said: “When people share good news with us, there’s four ways in which we can respond. We can ignore them; change the subject; acknowledge them; or we can acknowledge, affirm, and invite them to say a little bit more about it. It turns out that the last kind of response is key to building strong relationships. Relationships are one of the strongest predictors of how happy people are.”
Dr Nick Powdthavee, Assistant Professor at NTU School of Humanities and Social Sciences, said: “Humans tend to pursue the relative kind of happiness, because in relative, they’re much scarcer. The friendships that we have at home, we take them for granted. But we know that we care about other people’s status. If someone moves up the ladder, we become unhappy if we stay still or move down. What happens is we’re stuck in a happiness treadmill – we will never become happier because we cannot stop other people to pursue their own dreams.”
The TEDxNTU is an independently organised series of biannual talks organised by the TED community of NTU.
TED is a US-based, non-profit organisation that holds conferences aimed at sharing ideas and inspiring people.
View more photos from the event here.
Watch the talks from the event: