The Habits of Happiness
Podcast #5 — Aired November 7, 2013

When it comes to happiness, practice makes perfect. This week on BetterWorldians Radio we’ll talk about the surprising way to become a happier you. Our guest this week is Happiness Expert Dr. Matthew Della Porta. He’ll discuss how developing good habits, such as practicing gratitude and giving back, helps cultivate happiness. Tune in every week to hear new guests share how they are making the world a better place and to learn how you can become a BetterWorldian!

 

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Dr. Matthew Della Porta
Happiness Expert, YouBeauty.com Research Rockstar, Delivering Happiness

Dr. Della Porta is a Ph.D. graduate from the University of California. Using his expertise in health and wellness, Dr. Della Porta assists business professionals in cultivating optimal employee performance, engagement, and organizational health while helping the bottom line. He has given evidence-based recommendations to a variety of organizations wishing to emphasize employee wellness in their corporate cultures. Dr. Della Porta is also passionate about communicating complex research findings to general audiences. To this end, he has given presentations to several organizations wishing to learn more about the latest positive psychology research and how it can applied in the real world. In addition, Dr. Della Porta writes a column offering advice on the pursuit of happiness on YouBeauty.com; several of these articles have been featured in the Huffington Post.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Thanks, Greg. This week on BetterWorldians Radio, we are talking about habits of happiness. Well discuss the surprising way that you can become a happier you. Joining us is happiness expert, Dr. Matthew Della Porta. Hell discuss how developing good habits like practicing gratitude and giving back helps cultivate happiness. Dr. Della Porta is a PhD graduate from the University of California. Using his expertise in health and wellness, Dr. Della Porta assists business professionals in cultivating optimal employee performance, engagement, and organizational health while helping the bottom line. He has also given evidence-based recommendations to a variety of organizations wishing to emphasize employee wellness in their corporate culture.

MarySue Hansell
Matt, its great to have you on the show. Welcome!

Matthew Della Porta
Thank you very much. Its great to be here.

MarySue Hansell
Good. Well, Matt, lets begin with a question that our listeners are probably asking themselves right now. What is a happiness expert?

Matthew Della Porta
That term will pretty much come from two basic things. First of all, as a normal person wanting to be happy, Ive always been interested in this topic. Ive always, you know, explored various avenues to achieve greater happiness. But the other component of it is that through my graduate and doctorate training, I studied how to become happy through a scientific perspective, through, you know, rigorous experimental methods and basically different kinds of ways to investigate happiness-boosting activities and to what degree theyre actually effective.

MarySue Hansell
Great. You know, happiness seems like its a really hot topic these days, people talking about it a lot. Why do you think that is?

Matthew Della Porta
Well, I think, you know, happiness, to some extent, has always been a popular topic, but especially nowadays, I think people are becoming more empowered and becoming more aware of the importance of happiness, as opposed to, you know, sinful, you know, professional success and things like that. So, you know, I think were ushering in an age where people are really concerned about self-improvement and living the best possible life that they can.

MarySue Hansell
Very interesting. How does that relate to positive psychology, and whats the difference between positive psychology and regular psychology?

Matthew Della Porta
Well, positive psychology is a relatively recent research movement that started in psychology in the 90s. And, basically, positive psychology is the study of what is right with humanity, as opposed to what is wrong with it. Traditionally, psychology, you know, if you think of, you know, pivotal characters like Freud for example, looked at psychology from the perspective of, you know, theres something wrong with people. Lets try to piece apart what exactly causes people to have fears and, you know, doubts and phobias and things like that. Positive psychology, as I mentioned, is more recent movement that takes a completely different view by investigating things such as happiness and looking at what is right with humanity, what are the more positive aspects of, you know, psychological well-being, and things of that sort. So positive psychology, to answer your question, is essentially the study of things like happiness, gratitude, hope, curiosity, more of the kind of positive components of psychology.

MarySue Hansell
Great, Matt. (Indiscernible) Why did you make happiness and positivity your lifes work?

Matthew Della Porta
Well, you know, as I mentioned, just like any normal person, I was interested in happiness, and I was also studying psychology as an undergraduate. And when I decided I wanted to go into graduate school and get my PhD, I started looking at different kinds of ways I could do that. And I stumbled across one researcher in particular, Sonia Uber Mersky (ph), who was studying happiness, and that occurred to me to be a really interesting topic and something that I thought would not be just interesting for scientific reasons but also for personal reasons as well.

MarySue Hansell
Ah, the big question for you, Matt: Are some people just born happy or unhappy, or what actually determines a persons level of happiness?

Matthew Della Porta
Well, you know, thats a really good question. The working model that my research lab, you know, headed by Sonia, was working with was basically that the differences in happiness between one person and everyone else depends on three things. The first of them is genetics so the way that were born. And this accounts for about 50 percent of those differences. The next thing is life circumstances so this is what kind of job you have, how do you look physically, where do you live, things of that sort. That accounts for ten percent of those differences. And then, finally, intentional activities so the things that we choose to do day to day to make us more or possibly less happy accounts for 40 percent of those differences. So genetics do play a role in peoples happiness, but it is not the end-all and be-all. Theres still a fair amount of quote/unquote wiggle room.

MarySue Hansell
I bet a lot of people will be surprised about that. So what youre saying here that this isnt just a theory, this is actually based on research. Can you tell us a bit about that research?

Matthew Della Porta
Sure. So there is quite a bit of evidence suggesting that, you know, these numbers are accurate in terms of to what degree they account for differences in happiness so, you know, research with genetics has looked at the differences in identical, versus fraternal twins. And thats where we get that sort of number of about 50 percent. Life circumstances is an interesting one. You know, theres been studies done on things like lottery winners, for example, or people who are kind of on the other end of the spectrum, people who suffer some kind of, you know, paralyzing injury. And what the research shows is that those kinds of things, these major life events, that happen externally dont necessarily have that big of an impact on peoples happiness long term. To be sure, if theres a big short-term difference, but long term, theres not a much as you would expect. And the research that our lab focuses on primarily is that latter category of intentional activities. So what are the, you know, happiness-boosting activities a person can do on a day-to-day basis that can basically allow the person to choose to become happy through what they decide to do.

MarySue Hansell
Really interesting. What has been one of the biggest surprises in the research that either youve done personally or with Sonia that youve found?

Matthew Della Porta
Thats a good question. I think, you know, really just the basic idea that people can choose to become happy and that theres the 40 percent of differences in happiness that is under our direct control. You know, if you had asked me before I started the scientific study of happiness, I would have told you that genetics played a much larger role, you know, to use those numbers more of like around 80 or 90 percent maybe. But the fact that such a big chunk of our happiness can be attributed to what we choose to do, to me, has been one of the most surprising things. And, you know, in addition to that, the idea that life circumstances only account for about ten percent of our individual differences in happiness, to me, is very interesting because if you think about the way that we live our lives day to day, we tend to put far more stock in that life circumstances camp. As I mentioned, you know, people think, oh, you know, if I just had a better job, I would be happier, or if I was just a little bit better looking, then I would happier. If I didnt live in a place that was so cold, and I lived on the beach in California, then I would be happier. The research suggest that these things are not true at all, that we tend to adapt to them, and that they dont have a long-term impact the way that we might think they would.

MarySue Hansell
Well, thank you very much for that.

Raymond Hansell
Hi, Matt. I just wanted to sort of piggyback on that. I had somebody who always used to say, Ill be happy when --

Matthew Della Porta
Right.

Raymond Hansell
-- and then fill in the blank. Ill be happy when I get to the Caribbean. Ill be happy when I get promoted. Ill be happy when I graduate. And they never seem to be happy at that moment. So can you comment on that?

Matthew Della Porta
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think first of all that thats a very common, and to some extent, even logical way to approach happiness when you just assume that theres always better. And in reality, there always is going to be something better, even if youre one of the richest people in the world or you live in one of the best places in the world. Youll never totally be satisfied. Youll always think of a way that things could be even better than they are. So, you know, to your point, I agree that if you have that kind of mentality, chances are youre never going to be happy where you are here and now. Youre always going to be looking more toward the future and what you can do possibly at that point. So, you know, I guess the takeaway point would be that, you know, you have to kind of accept and even embrace your current life circumstances and focus more on what is under your direct control, as opposed to things that you wish are different.

Raymond Hansell
Oh, thats really great. Thats really great input. Were going to take a break right now. For our listeners, were talking to happiness expert, Dr. Matthew Della Porta. And when we come back, well be talking more about positive psychology and how you can apply it to your own life. You can learn more at betterworldians.com and follow our live tweets at twitter.com/betterworldians. Well be right back now. >> The Internets number one talk station. >> Number one talk station. >> Voiceamerica.com >> How can we make it a better world? >> I think we can make it a better world if we had peace among each other. >> Everybody needs to help their neighbor and then it will spread from there on. >> I should do more. >> I could do more. I spend so much time on Facebook. >> How much time do I spend on Facebook? >> Probably more than I should be spending. >> I would definitely give back if I could find the time. >> Now you can help others just by playing a game on Facebook. Its called A Better World. Share your hopes and dreams, do good deeds, make a difference, and have fun. Become a BetterWorldian. Join a community where all good deeds get rewarded. Log in today to find out how you can make a difference every day. >> For more information, visit facebook.com/abetterworld. >> Ask the experts. Call toll-free right now, 1-866-472-5787. >> Hello. >> And ask our all-star team to answer your questions. Thats 1-866-472-5787. >> Thank you for calling. >> Voiceamerica.com. >> This is BetterWorldians Radio with a family team of Ray, MarySue, and Gregory Hansell. To connect with the show today, please call us at 1-866-472-5788. Thats 1-866-472-5788. You may also send us an email to radio@betterworldians.com. Now, back to BetterWorldians Radio.

Gregory Hansell
Hi, Matt. This Greg. How are you doing?

Matthew Della Porta
Hello.

Gregory Hansell
You know, my first question I think its something that everyone at home is probably wondering. Can anyone be happy?

Matthew Della Porta
Yeah, that is the million-dollar question, isn't it? You know, as I mentioned, genetics do play a substantial role in happiness, but not a dominant one so, you know, for certain people, if you have a history of something, you know, like major depressive disorder throughout your family or bipolar disorder or, you know, any degree of mood disorders happening there, you're more prone to that sort of disorder. And, of course, those things are going to affect your happiness. But I do want to make clear that in virtually all cases, there is that certain degree of wiggle room, that 40 percent, that is, you know, no small beans. That's a substantial amount of happiness that is under someone's direct control. And, you know, on top of that, if someone is suffering from something like major depression, you know, part of that intentional activity is being proactive and constructive in essentially fighting back against the symptoms of that disorder.

Gregory Hansell
Right. Right. Well, I guess the other big question is what are some of things people can do to become happier?

Matthew Della Porta
Well, that's kind of what my lab specializes in. We, through long-term experimental studies using, you know, random assignments and control groups, we test different kinds of activities and determine to what extent they are effective in the long term. And some of the activities that we've had the most success in testing are things like expressing gratitude. So specifically, that would be something like writing a letter of gratitude to someone or keeping a gratitude journal. Acts of kindness, is another big one where if you do five acts of kindness all in one day, that's been shown to improve happiness substantially over the long term. Optimism is another big one. If you take a moment to kind of write about how you see your best possible self in the future regarding, you know, various areas of your life like your romantic life or your professional life, that's another way that it can happen.

Gregory Hansell
What is a gratitude journal?

Matthew Della Porta
Well, a gratitude journal would basically just be, you know, waking up in the morning or whenever a time is good to write down the things that you're grateful for and really trying to think about, you know, how things could be worse and what are the things I take for granted and what are the things that, you know, other people in maybe less developed countries don't have like, you know, things like clean water and a hot shower and things like that. So, yeah, a gratitude journal is essentially just a way to keep a diary of the things that you're grateful for and helps you kind of remind yourself on a daily or weekly basis things you should be keeping in mind when things get hard.

Gregory Hansell
Hmm. Thats interesting. Matt, one thing I was wondering is is there sort of a big kahuna, you know, one act that, you know, is the thing that if nothing else, people should do this to help themselves feel happier.

Matthew Della Porta
Well, I think it varies quite a bit from person to person. That's actually one of the things we've looked at to some degree in our lab is this idea that we call "fit." And that is the extent to which a given happiness-boosting activity is good for someone to do, that it feels right, that it feels natural, that it's interesting to them, you know, things like that. So I wouldn't say that there's necessarily any one particular activity that's the best. It really just has more to do with what your individual preferences are.

Gregory Hansell
Thats interesting. So is fit just very, very individual, or is that something where certain kinds of people, you know, tend to like certain kinds of, you know, do good actions or happiness kinds of things?

Matthew Della Porta
Oh, yeah. I think it's both that to some degree it's individual person to person but that you could also probably come up, you know, probably based on personality traits certain kinds of activities that are a better fit for other people, versus people with different personalities.

Gregory Hansell
Do you personally have a favorite act? Can I ask you that?

Matthew Della Porta
Oh, sure. You know, I think for me, I would say my answer would be gratitude because it's something that, you know, truthfully, I haven't really developed as well as I could throughout my life. And when I started studying gratitude and I saw just time after time how effective it was, it's really something that I've found to be personally very meaningful and something that, as I mentioned, you know, when times get hard, it's so easy to kind of lose perspective and think of, you know, how hard your life is and what a, you know, terrible time you're going through, but if you take a moment to really just keep, you know, what really amounts to an objective perspective of, like, what are the things that you have that a lot of people in this world don't have, like, you know, basic necessities and, you know, a decent life. That could make a huge, huge difference, and that's what it's done for me.

Gregory Hansell
Wow! Well, how about hope? You know, is that something that can lead people to greater happiness?

Matthew Della Porta
Absolutely. Yeah, hope is very much related to optimism and that kind of idea of thinking about what is your best possible life going to be like and what are the kinds of things you're striving for. And, you know, hope is important because it's one thing to have that idea of, you know, this is the kind of, you know, a romantic life I want with, you know, a wife and kids and the picket fence and all that sort of thing. But it's another thing to truly believe and have hope that that sort of thing is going to happen, as opposed to, you know, this is what I would like, but, you know, chances are it's not going to happen. Hope is the assurance and something just to latch on to when times get hard that, you know, there's a reason I'm waking up in the morning. There's a reason I'm going from day to day to day, and there is something to look forward to, and there is something good that's going to happen eventually. That will help a lot.

Gregory Hansell
Well, how do you balance, then, hope with, you know, as you were mentioning earlier, you know, a lot of people think that happiness depends on circumstance. So, you know, if they lose ten pounds or win the lottery or buy a bigger house, I mean, how do you balance hope toward happiness but not try to have those kinds of expectations that might maybe weigh you down?

Matthew Della Porta
Sure. Yeah, that's a good question. My answer to that would be basically that, you know, it's good to cultivate hope and to have an expectation that things will happen, but also not necessarily to put all your eggs in that basket and not to kind of center your life around ensuring that those things happen. Hope would be more of kind of the idea that you trust that things will work out okay, that you don't necessarily have to, you know, go through everything and put forth a ton of effort and work to make these things happen that if, you know, if you do what you're supposed to be doing and you live your life in a good way that things tend to work out okay.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah. So its sort of like I believe in myself, and I believe that Ill get there, but Im not obsessing with this. Im not waiting for it to happen until I can be happy.

Matthew Della Porta
Right. Yeah, and as I mentioned, you know, you're not putting all of your eggs in that basket and telling yourself, you know, the only way I can be happy is through that particular thing.

Gregory Hansell
Well then related to that, you know, let me ask you whats kind of really bad for happiness. You know, what do you want to avoid? Are there any really happiness killers? What do you watch out for?

Matthew Della Porta
You know, my answer might surprise a lot of people. I think the biggest thing that can affect your happiness negatively is focusing on being happier. And what I mean by that is --

Gregory Hansell
It's been a great show then, Matt.

Matthew Della Porta
You know, what I mean by that is, you know, we brought up at the top of the show how, you know, happiness has become a very popular topic and that a lot of people are interested in it and that's good. There's nothing wrong with that. I think where the danger lies is people start to become very self-obsessed, and they start to think of their happiness as the end-all and be-all and the thing that need number one attention. So what I would say is that really, the best thing people can do to be happy is to not worry so much about themselves but rather to worry about other people and just kind of trust that happiness will come from that. You know, if you're focusing too much on to what extent you are happy and how you could be happier and all that sort of thing, you know, chances are you're never really going to feel as happy as you would like. It's better to kind of allow happiness to happen as a result of good habits, as opposed to something you're kind of obsessively seeking and focusing on for your own personal benefit.

Gregory Hansell
Well, thats actually a perfect segue to my next question which was how important, really, are habits, then, to becoming happy. My sense was that these arent, you know, once and done. Is this something you have to really get, you know, become second nature in your life?

Matthew Della Porta
Habits are, I would say, the essence of being happy. You know, our everyday lives, our everyday circumstances are no guarantee that we're going to be happy by default if we kind of just go about our daily business not really worrying about it. You know, cultivating good habits, as I mentioned, things like doing nice things for other people, feeling grateful, having an attitude of hope and optimism, these are daily habits that really need to happen. Like, I would say a good example would be, you know, a lot of people are familiar with daily reaffirmation. So you wake up in the morning and you tell yourself, you know, I'm a good person. Good things are coming my way. You know, I have a lot to be grateful for. You tell yourself these things because if you don't, chances are negativity is going to creep up either from within you or around you, and, you know, you really have to kind of think of happiness as something that can be attained through daily habits and almost as if it's kind of a warding off of negativity. I mean, if we're going to be real here, you know, the world is a mixed bag, let's say. You know, there's a lot of good things, but there's also a lot of really bad things. There's a lot of negativity out there, and if you're not careful, if you're kind of just minding your own business and not really concerned, that negativity can really end up bringing you down. So it's good kind of almost as a defensive posture to have habits that cultivate happiness.

Gregory Hansell
Well, do you have any tricks with sort of catching yourself, you know, things, habits that people can use to sort of prevent them, well, oops. I just noticed Im negative again, you know, anything like that.

Matthew Della Porta
Sure. I think an awareness of the way that we think is absolutely critical. You know, a lot of people might know this idea as what we call "mindfulness," you know, the purposeful awareness of the present moment. And a big part of the present moment is basically what's going on in your head, how are you thinking right now. And if you take some time to really work on that, it's really just staggering what kind of thoughts can go through our head kind of unchecked and unaddressed. You know, it's very easy, especially, you know, if you have fairly difficult life circumstances, you start to really cultivate, you know, habitual negative thinking, you know, feelings of resentment, arguing with people in your head, things like that. So to whatever extent people can be aware of the way that they're thinking, and as you mentioned, you know, hey, oh, look at that; I'm thinking negatively again, not to get down on yourself about it but simply just to be aware of that and to, of course, from there, make efforts to change the way that you think. I think that's absolutely critical. Everything really kind of trickles down from the way that we think.

Gregory Hansell
You know, thats fascinating. You know, Ive noticed just like with happiness that mindfulness has been really in the news a lot recently. You know, why do you think that is? Do you think its just that thats some key for kind of becoming happy?

Matthew Della Porta
Yeah. I would say even before I took an interest in this kind of general topic of happiness, mindfulness was something that I really had a lot interest in and was interested in studying because mindfulness, I do agree, is central because if you think about it like what moment do you have in your life but the present moment, you know, any moment that has happened in the past was a present moment at time. Any moment that's going to happen in the future is also a present moment at that time. So the whole idea of mindfulness is really just to kind of stop the intensive, on-purpose, nonjudgmentally looking at what's happening in the moment. And, you know, if you have a daily habit of doing that, that's huge because you're dealing with life as it's occurring, as opposed to being hung up on things that have already happened, that are out of your control, or hoping that certain things happen that might be out of your control. You're dealing with life as it comes in the present moment. And, you know, really, rationally speaking, that's probably the best way to approach it.

Gregory Hansell
Hmm. You know, I know that, you know, we actually have a show coming up in a week on meditation. And I have read that mediation mindfulness have a relationship. Could you say something about that and what else people can do to kind of develop habits of mindfulness?

Matthew Della Porta
Absolutely. I mean, the kind of core of mindfulness is developed through meditation practice. And, you know, as soon as you bring up that word "meditation," a lot people have these kind of silly ideas of, you know, going, ohm, or, you know, any of that kind of New Age stuff. But really, all that mindfulness meditation is is what, you know, what I have always called it is mental exercise. You know, we all agree that physical exercise important, that we're supposed to, you know, get some cardio in, some strength training in, whatever it is. But how do you work out your mind? How do you mentally exercise? And I would say that mindfulness meditation is absolutely one of the best ways to do that. By paying attention to your breath, that would probably be the most kind of basic form of mindfulness meditation. By paying attention to the way you're breathing in and the way that you're breathing out, your breath is not only the thing that keeps you alive moment to moment but anchors you constantly to the present moment. You know, you're not going to worry about a breath you took five minutes ago. It's the breath that you're taking right now. So by simply sitting quietly paying attention to your breath as it comes in, paying attention to your breath as it goes out, not trying to force it or control it or anything but simply just being and sitting and being attentive to your breath, that's a great way to start. And even if you can do that for just five minutes a day, maybe even while you're sitting in traffic or something, that can make a huge difference.

Gregory Hansell
Wow. Wow. Well, I think people will give that shot. And everyone's welcome to actually write on to betterworldians.com or on twitter and let us know what kind of success you're having with that. You know, Matt, since we're talking about habits, we know a lot of people don't know that you reviewed our game, A Better World, where players can do these kinds of things like practice gratitude and positive thinking and doing goods, acts of kindness. I think you mentioned something like I believe that the greatest joy we can experience is through selflessly helping others, and this game provides and fun and easy way to experience that joy. Could you just say something how A Better World did help you cultivate some of the habits you talked about today?

Matthew Della Porta
Yeah. Absolutely. You know, as we all know, gaming is becoming increasingly popular in our culture. And, to me, it was so refreshing to see a gaming platform that had a direct connection to the real world and, specifically, a connection in which you could be helping people and cultivating good habits like we've just been talking about. So for me, as I mentioned in the review, really one of the most striking things was the idea that, you know, I could write a get-well note to real needy children in impoverished countries. And to know that that note could go through to them and that that was contributing to a greater good of, you know, getting need children surgeries and things of that nature, to me, was just great. I really thought that that was a fantastic way to, as I mentioned, first of all, help people cultivate good habits, but, you know, on the flip side, as I was talking about before, not focusing entirely on yourself, but to see that, you know, becoming happier doesn't have to be an entirely one-way street. It can be helping other people and being more self-aware of the needs of other people as well.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah. Yeah. Actually, our very first show is talking about CURE International, who we work with to do those get-well notes and how we got those to those kids throughout the world so thanks for bringing that up. That's one of our favorite sorts of killer apps inside the game. The things that excited me, you know, generally, is this idea, and this is one of the things that brought me to games is that, you know, games are habit forming, and everyone thinks about games as, you know, 12-year-old kids playing Space Invaders and bad habits and not getting outside. But to me, the idea that you can use games for good, you know, letting people cultivate happiness and gratitude and other habits, I thought that was really exciting. I just wanted to ask you how do you feel generally about this idea that games can be used to kind of cultivate habits and help people achieve wellness.

Matthew Della Porta
Well, I totally believe in that idea, and I think you guys are already doing that. You know, I'm a life-long gamer. I'm one of those kids who was sitting in front of the TV playing Super Mario Brothers when he was six, and I've been gaming ever since. To some degree, I've had to stop recently, but I think something like what you're talking about, a virtual platform on which, you know, people can communicate with one another, they can express, you know, prayers and hopes and get those things validated from other people. You can do good acts for other people. You can express gratitude. All that kind of stuff is one thing if you're kind of just doing it on your own, and it doesn't necessarily involve people that much. But to be able to do that in a community I think is really beneficial. And certainly through a gaming platform, that's probably one of the best ways to make that happen.

Gregory Hansell
What do you think is the frontier for kind of gaming for good habits? You know, what would you like to see in a game for good habits?

Matthew Della Porta
Yeah. That's a good question. I think, really, just to whatever extent interactions between people can become more and more, you know, close-knitted and intimate and meaningful, I think that's, you know, the best direction to go. And, obviously, there's some obstacles in there. You know, people kind of have a habit of being jerks on-line anonymously, but, you know, if you can figure out a way to kind of have a community of people that are all on the same page that want to do good and, you know, through -- it's kind of, I guess, the programming or whatever you want to call it, you're allowing people to have, you know, close and meaningful experiences with one another. That's, I think, the kind of the future there to really, you know, almost simulate what it would be like to have that community of people, you know, living in your neighborhood or living, you know, next door to you.

Gregory Hansell
Well, we'll see what we can do about that for you, Matt.

Matthew Della Porta
All right. That sounds good.

Raymond Hansell
Hi, Matt. This is Ray again. I just wanted to mention to piggyback something you said earlier. Charlie Rose had an interview the other night with Reggie Jackson, the former New York Yankee, and he regaled all his experiences, talked about batting, how to hold the bat. At the end of the interview, Charlie Rose posed a question, what kind of habits do you do on a regular basis. And I guess I was expecting something about stretching or something physically. And he said, you know, I express gratitude. Sometimes, I don't get to the end of the day and I'm still expressing gratitude, whether it's for a sandwich or for a sunset or whatever. And I think it took Charlie Rose a little bit back because they couldn't expect that kind of an answer. So it certainly is something that's out there in a big way. We need to take another break. When we come back, youll have the chance to ask happiness expert, Dr. Della Porta, questions of your own. You can do that several ways. First, you can call us at 1-866-472-5788. Thats 1-866-472-5788. Or you can also send us an email at radio@betterworldians.com. And you can tweet us a question at twitter.com/betterworldians. Well be right back! >> Stimulating talk. >> It gets those synapses in the brain firing really fast. >> All the time. >> The number one Internet talk station where your opinion counts. Voiceamerica.com. >> How can we make it a better world? >> I think we can make it a better world if we had peace among each other. >> Everybody needs to help their neighbor and then it will spread from there on. >> I should do more. >> I could do more. I spend so much time on Facebook. >> How much time do I spend on Facebook? >> Probably more than I should be spending. >> I would definitely give back if I could find the time. >> Now you can help others just by playing a game on Facebook. Its called A Better World. Share your hopes and dreams, do good deeds, make a difference, and have fun. Become a BetterWorldian. Join a community where all good deeds get rewarded. Log in today to find out how you can make a difference every day. >> For more information, visit facebook.com/abetterworld. >> Ask the experts. Call toll-free right now, 1-866-472-5787. >> Hello. >> And ask our all-star team to answer your questions. Thats 1-866-472-5787. >> Thank you for calling. >> Voiceamerica.com. >> This is BetterWorldians Radio with a family team of Ray, MarySue, and Gregory Hansell. To connect with the show today, please call us at 1-866-472-5788. Thats 1-866-472-5788. You may also send us an email to radio@betterworldians.com. Now, back to BetterWorldians Radio. Hi, Matt, can you tell us a little bit about how youre applying these same happiness habits to the workplace wellness?

Matthew Della Porta
Yeah. Absolutely. You know, as I was finishing up graduate school doing my doctorate in social and personality psychology, I had the idea that I wanted to try to expand my horizons a little bit outside of academia now that I had this research experience. And something that occurred to me right off the bat is I talked to so many people over the years who, you know, are asking about happiness, but what came up again and again is the simple idea that the workplace was this kind of black hole of happiness. Thats when people are going to work, they felt like they being treated like commodities, like they were cogs in the wheel, that, frankly, their employers just did not care about them at all, and they were just, you know, a means to an end. And I felt that, you know, some of the stuff that I was doing with this happiness research could readily be applied to the workplace. And specifically whats so exciting about this are is theres quite a bit of evidence suggesting that when employers and organizations invest in employee happiness, it helps their bottom lines. You have more engaged employees. You have employees who are excited to be there and who are going to perform optimally, as opposed to kind of just showing up for work, going through the motions, and doing whatever it minimally takes to get paid. So, you know, my line of work nowadays is more geared toward speaking for different organizations, educating them about the benefits of workplace happiness, what are the different kinds of way that you can do this for your employees. And most importantly, not that this is just something that is kind of a luxury but that this is smart business strategy, that this helps save money. This helps lower insurance costs, and that this is what progress and the best organizations are doing now.

Raymond Hansell
Thats very interesting. So youre doing some public speaking engagements as well.

Matthew Della Porta
Yes. You know, Ive done several talks in the past, you know, at many different conferences but also for Butler/Till Media in Rochester, New York. And I went overseas to Denmark to speak for a think tank company called the Innovation Lab. And, you know, its just been very encouraging to see that a lot of organizations are interested in this. They want to change their workplaces. They want to change their corporate cultures and that they really just need a little bit of guidance and some stimulation to help get those things in motion.

Raymond Hansell
Mm-hmm. And whats the reaction been in terms of audience participation and the engagement? How -- what feedback have you gotten so far?

Matthew Della Porta
Ill tell you. Its just been absolutely great. I mean, people are really on board with this kind of stuff. And, you know, we were talking about hope earlier. The essence of hope that I feel when I speak to an audience thats really on board with this kind of stuff is just staggering because people so desperately want a workplace that is a pleasant place to be and a place that they know theyre being cared for, and, in turn, theyre performing as well as they possibly can. So when people start to hear about not just, you know, heres some interesting ways that you can promote employee well-being but also the idea that this is smart business practice and that this really makes a difference to the bottom line, I mean, who cant -- who wouldnt be on board with that? It helps everyone involved.

Raymond Hansell
By the way, how can listeners out there contact you if theyre interested in learning more about your -- either your consulting services or your public speaking events?

Matthew Della Porta
You could just go to my Web site which is matthewdellaporta.com, and thats spelled m-a-t-t-h-e-w-d-e-l-l-a-p-o-r-t-a.

Raymond Hansell
Okay. Thank you very much. Matt, were heading into the holiday season, and as you know, that brings a lot of emotions, happiness, excitement, but also stress, some pressure. So what can our listeners do to feel happier this holiday season?

Matthew Della Porta
Well, the holiday season, as you just mentioned, is kind of notoriously kind of a mixed bag. Of course, people have a lot of positive associations. I know over at my house, were already playing Christmas music now that its just a few days after Halloween. I think what happens for a lot of people is they get caught up in habitual practices that make the holiday season maybe more stressful than it needs to be. There starts to be less of a focus on, like, what is the purpose of celebrating this holiday. What is vitally important to the enjoyment of people coming together? And, you know, for example, you know, your typical housewife might be thinking, you know, I need to get so much done. I have in-laws coming. Ive got to clean the house. I have to make 15 different pies, and if I dont make all those pies, everyones going to be talking about how, you know, theres not enough pie, all these different kinds of things. And, really, you know, what really should be focused on is just quality time with your loved ones. And, you know, if you do have a religious reason for celebrating that holiday that that really comes to the forefront that you really think about what is your spiritual reason for celebrating this holiday and not letting anything interfere with that because thats what is most important for people who believe that. So, you know, my answer to your question would just be -- is basically simplify, simplify, simplify. Do what it takes to just make time for your loved ones, and dont get bogged down in the commercialism. Dont get bogged down by unnecessary chores. And, you know, if necessary, just take a stand. You know, if you feel pressured, you know, you dont have to feel that kind of pressure year after year after year. Maybe its time to just kind of make a decision that heres the way things need to happen, and I think maybe people, you know, involved in that situation will understand, like, yeah. Things are better this way. We dont need to worry about, you know, all the different kinds of things that we normally worry about.

Raymond Hansell
You just went about answering one of my big questions is do we have enough pie. I think at this point, were going to push the pie back a little bit. No offense to any of our listeners out there who are in the baking world. But we do have a serious question from Samantha and along the lines, actually, another question from Caitlin thats talking about how these happiness habits can apply with people who are struggling with depression or really sort of the more disenfranchised or mentally challenged people in the world. How do you find happiness while going through these kinds of very hard times?

Matthew Della Porta
Well, thats absolutely an important issue to address. You know, in my experience as a columnist for YouBeauty.com writing about happiness, the feedback Ive gotten over and over again is keep writing articles that address these negative issues because people are really -- a lot of people are having a rough time and facing very adverse life circumstances, or, as you mentioned, theyre really struggling with things like depression. You know, occurrences of depression are very, very high, more than most people think. So, you know, we touched on this earlier of basically what I would say is just that, you know, you need -- for people struggling with depression, its going to be something that either is going to control you and define you, or its going to be something that you take a stance against, that you defy, that you say, you know what? I accept the fact that Im feeling depressed or that this is going to be a recurring struggle for me, but I am not willing to let that control my life. So, you know, what that specifically will me is, you know, of course, you know, therapists can be very helpful. As therapists are going to assign depressed people work to do like, as I mentioned, daily affirmations or expressing gratitude or trying to focus on other people or, you know, mindfulness is another effective technique where you really need to be aware of the negative thoughts going through your head and figure out ways to counteract them, you know, whatever it takes. The attitude of a depressed person who wants to be happy has to be that there is something that can be done. You have to believe in that 40 percent of the difference that is under your control and, you know, accept the fact that maybe youre not going to be able to, you know, be blissful every single day for the rest of your life but that youre not doomed to feel depressed every day either.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah. Im reminded by that scene at the back of the movie The Verdict that Paul Newman was famous. In his summation to the jury, he begins his conversation by saying, you know, we think of ourselves as victims, and we become victims. And that, you know, its -- it goes on to sort of, you know, elevate the argument and eventually win the jurors over. But, essentially, I think that thinking really does take you right there. I have another follow-up question here which is: How does one know if one is happy or just satisfied. Is there kind of a happiness meter that we can measure happiness, versus satisfaction?

Matthew Della Porta
You know, thats an important idea there. Basically, you know, we can think of happiness as kind of an overarching topic. And what we would say in the research on happiness is that there is, of course, positive emotions associated with happiness, and that there are within those positive emotions, some of those emotions we call the high arousal. So that would be things like joy, exhilaration, ecstasy, like, all these, like, you know, I think what people typically think of as happiness, we in the research, think of as high-arousal positive emotions, these things that really kind of overwhelm us in a good way. But on the other hand, whats really important to remember is that theres also low-arousal positive emotions. And these are things like contentment, satisfaction, feelings of peace and tranquility. And in my opinion, the attainments and recurrence of low-arousal positive emotions is a better strategy for overall happiness than it is chasing the high-arousal emotions like exhilaration and bliss and things like that. The very nature of these high-arousal positive emotions is that theyre relatively fleeting. They dont stick around forever. Theyre great when they happen, and they should happen. But if your definition of happiness is chasing one exhilarating and, you know, overwhelmingly powerful day after another, youre probably going to be disappointed. But if youre able to kind of focus more on these low-arousal positive emotions like peace and tranquility and satisfaction, those are the kinds of things that tend to endure day to day. Theyre long lasting. Theyre stable. And from that kind of base and that foundation, you can also expect to feel those more high-arousal positive emotions as well.

Raymond Hansell
I see. We have a question along those lines from Paul in New Jersey. He said, Matt, you said winning the lottery wont necessarily make you happier. Pauls question is Im pretty poor, and for the most part, exceedingly happy. So hes guessing that being rich would push him right into the extreme happiness zone.

Matthew Della Porta
Well, the issue of money and happiness is certainly a very common concern and a legitimate one. What the research tends to show, specifically with lottery winners, is this idea that weve called in our lab hedonic adaptation. And what that basically means is that when some kind of extraordinary, either good or bad, event happens, human beings, in general, have the ability to adapt to them and to basically perceive them in such a way where theyre not such a big deal after a while. Absolutely, if you win the lottery, youre going to have a great day, night, and probably a few weeks or a few months. But beyond that, its probably shocking to a lot of people to what extent that sort of thing becomes kind of background noise and becomes the norm. And thats exactly what research on lottery winners shows. I dont want to pretend like money plays no role in happiness. And generally speaking, what the research shows on happiness is that it is related to money to a point. So basically, practically speaking, if you have enough money where you can pay your bills, youre not going to get evicted from your home, youre able to put food on the table, you have enough money to be happy. Any additional money you have beyond taking care of the necessities has a relatively low impact on your happiness. And, certainly, the way people typically operate, they wrongfully assume that happiness plays more of a role -- Im sorry -- money plays more of a role in happiness than it actually does beyond having just that fixed amount that takes care of the necessities.

Raymond Hansell
I see. I wanted to follow up on something you had said in the previous section, and this is when people will hope and they have these expectations, do you find that sometimes they get in their own way by taking that expectation or hope and actually delineating, oh, this is exactly how this is going to happen. And then when the path to that expectation doesnt follow the pattern that they expected, they suddenly, boom, come way back to the bid disappointment. And if that is so, is it better to just trust the outcome, move, you know, put it out there and then move beyond the sort of trying to plan it out?

Matthew Della Porta
Yeah. Absolutely. I think people that have too rigid of an expectation, or I think more to the point, feel as if they have to exhibit too much control over their own lives, those are people who are just, simply put, are less likely to be happy. You know, it doesnt mean that you should be kind of willy-nilly and just, you know, not concerned at all with what you do day to day. You know, it does matter. It does, you know, make difference to, you know, do things like find a job and, you know, put yourself out there and meet people and things like that. But to have a super rigid idea of this is exactly what I want, and this is how its going to happen, and if it doesnt happen that way, Im going to be disappointed, you know, thats not going to work. You know, you need to have relative flexibility. And, you know, whether or not you believe in God, you can just trust in the basic idea that the universe is going to bring you what it brings you, you know, and that its up to you how youre going to respond to that.

Raymond Hansell
Thats been amazing, amazing advice. We really appreciate all of your counsel today. This has been very enlightening for our listeners and for us personally. For all of you out there, you can find out more about positive psychology by going to Matts Web site, matthewdellaporta.com. Matt, wed like to thank you again for joining us on BetterWorldians Radio today.

Matthew Della Porta
Thank you very much. Its been a pleasure to be here.

Raymond Hansell
Thank you. Join us next week, folks, for our show Being a Better You Through Meditation with Dr. Bob Butera, meditation expert and founder of YogaLife Institute. We have an excellent lineup of guests in the coming weeks, and if you know an unsung BetterWorldian who you think would make a great guest on our show, you can email us at radio@betterworldians.com. Just a quick reminder here, everyone. You can be part of that miracle this holiday simply by sharing our video challenge and help heal ten disabled children. Its that easy. Just go to colorwithkindness.com. Watch the video. Spread it around. Share it with your friends and give these kids the gift of a lifetime. Wed like to thank everyone today for listening. You can join the BetterWorldian community at betterworldians.com. Until next time, please, everybody, be a BetterWorldian!