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Yale's online class on “The Science of Well-Being” (cnbc.com)
177 points by NicoJuicy 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 128 comments

I posted it here because the summary on the course seemed likeable.


- Money doesn't create happiness ( and what they don't mention: being short on money makes unhappy, my 2 cents)

- never ever forget exercise, it makes you feel better and healthier

- make time for friends and family, not every relationship needs to have a meaning future-wise

And that related to me. Not "mumbo-jumbo" and spirituality like some comments below mention.

Or my TLDR; have enough of money, you don't need plenty.

Have plenty of time, you never have enough.

> - Money doesn't create happiness ( and what they don't mention: being short on money makes unhappy, my 2 cents)

I had this exact conversation with my uncle and dad the other day. It was basically along the lines of, "Those who say money doesn't make you happy have never been low on money trying to meet bills." Perhaps we're really cynical, but I feel this is a good point that many things don't address (though I am aware of the studies that show money does increase happiness, up to a point, around $75k USD if I remember).

That said, "Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy the things that make me happy."

As someone that grew up very poor, worked very hard for a long time and got very lucky, to then make a lot of money:

I like to look at it as the power of money to most people isn't what it adds to your life, it's what it takes away. No more fears about bills, no more worrying about being broke or stressing over the monetary concerns. That/those are the first plateau. Once those things are gone some people are going to be a lot happier, but sometimes money wasn't the actual cause of your unhappiness; just one of many causes amidst the pile. You might be more happy, or less stressed, neither, or both.

These concepts are nebulous at best, but I'm curious how one measures an increase in happiness versus a decrease of stress. Likely a fair amount of comorbidity at play.

"No more fears about bills, no more worrying about being broke or stressing over the monetary concerns"

Sounds like heaven!

It changes everything. I'll refrain from tying it to happiness and instead just say that it increases the quality of life.

The trope of "money doesn't create happiness" applies only to people who already have their financial freedom. I completely agree that aspiring to get a bigger house or a nicer car when you already have a big house and a nice car is pretty shallow and speaks to an underlying inferiority issue that more money won't cure.

The rest of us on the other hand would be anywhere from a little to much much happier if we had student loans, mortgages, kids' educations, and retirement savings all taken care of.

The prospect of having to slog through life in a glacial pursuit of these things fills me with dread. For me there isn't much of an option beyond becoming successful as an entrepreneur. It's not even so much about the money but having complete ownership. Having to work until 65 running a mildly successful business that I built seems like it shoild be much more gratifying than slaving away to enrich others.

> The trope of "money doesn't create happiness"

It's not a trope. It's backed by research. As an earlier poster says well-being research suggests the perceived increase in happiness plateaux after some figure around $75k. In fact, too much money can isolate you from your friends and family who stop being able to relate to you or feel you always have one over on them, or you move to a posh neighbourhood in a massive gated house and no one comes to visit any more...

> fills me with dread. For me there isn't much of an option beyond becoming successful as an entrepreneur

Utter rubbish. You should take this course. Believing that the only way to be happy is slogging your guts out on a moonshot to become a multi-millionaire is a sure way to stress yourself out and become unhappy.

There's more to life than money. In our industry it's easy to make more than enough for a comfortable life. Many people I work with take large breaks from work. That is real freedom. What would you do if you made all that money anyway? Maybe just start doing those things as soon as you can - you've got to find something to fill your time, either working for someone else or doing things that interest you.

> Having to work until 65 running a mildly successful business that I built seems like it shoild be much more gratifying than slaving away to enrich others.

That may be true. But that statement sounds like you wouldn't be doing it for the money rather the intrinsic satsifaction. That's far more valuable after you've hit that point of not worrying about bills, etc.

Or it can buy experiences, it doesn't make you appreciate the little things that make it awesome though ;)

In the same reasoning, most of my friends have no "lack of money", in the sense that they are'nt filthy rich. But they earn good money.

I have noticed that almost none of them are jealous of each other. Which are truly the best friends to have.

Don't get me started about people who complain all the time, but just want to talk the talk, without doing the walk. They won't bring joy, ever.

Some people are a lot richer, so what. I would also never went to trade places with someone who is a millionaire suddenly and have all their friends change because of that single thing.

Appreciating what you have is not such a rare thing ( outside of IT). But it's almost never mentioned here, everyone wants to start the next unicorn, while forgetting that a solid business/job keeps you more sane.

That study was nearly 10 years ago. A newer study[0] found that the number is closer to $105k.

[0]: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0277-0

I agree with you. Money can't create happiness on its own, but as a reasonably happy person, I'd much prefer to have more money than less.

I struggle with the last one, I make time for family and two somewhat close friends but I have a really bad tendency to cut off/not keep relstionships that have no obvious immediate or even long term benefit be it similar interests etc. I always have to change gyms every 8 months because it after that it becomes too awkward further avoiding conversations with people you see most of the week. If I talk to him once, that means I would have to talk to/greet him everytime i visit. If i did that for just a dozen people thats 25% of the time spent in the gym gone like that. This thought process takes over in many other situations including the workplace. I once avoided this guy at an agency I worked on a clshort term contract, he wasn't on my team/area so I used to kind of ignore(?)/not strike a conversation. I found out 4 months later he was the CEO on the project retrospect meeting. All four of the other contractors were given extensions except me. I know 100% it wasn't performance related because my team lead fully expected me to be back but told me it was a decided by "top management".

I am in my late 20s and have asked one women out, a few years ago (fwiw she turned out to be a lesbian). For me to approach a women she would have to be wife potential. Why would i waste time & money with some women with no potential (with me)? I have friends that do this and it confuses me, they they theyd never wife her and complain about wasting a whole weekended wasted together, but do it just for the sex. I've tried sex and it was unbelievably and depressingly underwhelming. Sex with condoms is a huge scam on men. I'd much rather jerk off at home.

This cavalier, selfish and aloof attitude is one I am 100% limit my career and happiness but I really doubt I will change.

> I always have to change gyms every 8 months because it after that it becomes too awkward further avoiding conversations with people you see most of the week. I

Just say hi and talk a minute in the beginning. Put your headphones in.

When you go heavy on the bench, you can ask someone at least.

-- I think a long time ago, I used to be like you ( not that extreme). But I started going out and quickly changed my behavior. The small overhead of saying hello and being nice in general, makes it less obvious that you filter out successful people ( sometimes).

Or the small talk with other people, when something is happening. You are the point of reference. Not someone who never says hello

Getting a raise from an adequate salary to a great one made it possible to move to the city and eliminate my commute, buying me more hours and energy for exercise and lower-friction access to my friends.

Money buys urban real estate, and urban real estate buys happiness.

thanks for putting it clearly and succinctly. I think that's a much better view than what a lot of self improvement books offer.

The class starts today if anyone is interested in enrolling: https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being

Just my 2.5 cents for myself.

Happiness is not a good thing. It is the other side of the same coin that brings me sadness and pain. What I'm looking for is peace.

Being in peace is the ultimate form of being -- the only form of being.

If I'm not in peace it means I'm chasing something else. When I stop looking for anything (including peace itself) then I am... I am.

People who are in peace generally don't have to think much about happiness, so in that sense peace = happiness.

Being in peace brings me joy but no happiness. Happiness takes one's ego up and what goes up will always come down.

But words are words, my joy could be your happiness.

How can you tell that your peace is not an instance of (arguably more intense than usual) emotional detachment rather a simple absence of the feeling of unhappiness?

I don't fully understand the question but here is my thoughts on "emotional detachment" and "absence of the feeling of unhappiness"

When I separate me with what is driven by me... I start to realize that I'm not JUST my feelings/ego. Saying I'm not my feelings/ego is as big of a lie as saying I am the ego.

But realizing that I am not JUST the ego puts me in a beautiful state of the mind -- so different than other states that I call it "no state". For me it is better to first think that I'm not the ego then embrace it -- it always works for me when I want to go into a deeper level of peace/joy/consciousness.

In other words, detachment from feelings is a tool used by me to get to the state where I feel everything.

Also, I like to think of all these as a complex mind/being trying to optimize/control itself -- it is not supernatural, religious or anything.

That clearly answers my question, which you understand quite well.

The problem with detaching from feelings like you do is that whatever fabricated peace that results from it is not a lasting one and when "push comes to shove" it will burst leading to the same old same old. These fabricated mental states are not reliable.

Actually feeling peaceful--as in, genuinely feeling happy and not unhappy--on the other hand is quite artless and natural, much like children feel playful and happy without artificial effort.

> The problem with detaching from feelings like you do

Detachment in the sence of not being dependent/defined by them, NOT in the sense of not feeling.

> These fabricated mental states are not reliable.

I think this is also the exact opposite. You are basically describing happiness made by mind of children and most adults which is artificial and dependent on what is not in their control. I like to describe that kind of hapiness as surfing the waves of emotions, going up and down, happy always bring sadness, and for them sadness always bring pain. But the solution is to grow up and understand that you are the ocean, this does not mean to feel nothing... quite opposite... it is the start of feeling more.

Happiness comes from the events outside. In case of a child you can take his toy away and he becomes sad.

I once saw a child cry because her friend went to the bathroom first. Children have a lot to teach those who are detached from being alive, but their understanding of world/self is not wise.

On the other hand the joy of being alive is always there and is not dependent on anything else. Once I realize the beauty and the significance of my own being, nothing brings me down from pure joy (which is more than happiness).

This is natural, effortless and is part of growing up as a human.

I learned a lot, thinking about your comments. Thanks! +1

> Detachment in the sence of not being dependent/defined by them [...]

That is the very definition of detachment.

Feelings are the core part of you, and not separate from you. Allowing "yourself" to not be defined by feelings essentially means detaching "yourself" from "your" feelings.

> Detachment [...] NOT in the sense of not feeling.

Of course if one is not feeling a feeling in the first place there is nothing to detach from.

> This is natural, effortless and is part of growing up as a human.

So whenever you begin to feel one or more of the following feelings[1] is it "natural, effortless" to experience your peace?


[1] sadness, loneliness, melancholy, grief, masochism and so on through all the variations such as agony; angst; anguish; anxiety; apprehension; bereavement; bleakness; crestfallen; deflated; dejected; depression; desolation; despondency; disappointment; disconcerted; disconsolate; discontented; discouraged; disenchanted; disillusioned; displeased; disquiet; dissatisfied; distress; dismay; downhearted; dreariness; edginess; fear; fed-up; flustered; foreboding; fretfulness; frustrated; gloominess; glum; grief; heartache; horror; lament; melancholic; miserable; misery; morose; mourning; nervousness; panic; perturbed; regret; sad; sadness; sorrow; sorrowfulness; suffering; tenseness; terror; thwarted; torment; trepidation; troubled; uneasiness; upset; woe; worry; wretchedness

> That is the very definition of detachment. > Feelings are the core part of you, and not separate from you

You are right. Then it is detachment but with feelings if it makes any sense to you. It's like you go beyond those feelings -- without excluding them.

> So whenever you begin to feel one or more of the following feelings[1] is it "natural, effortless" to experience your peace?

Yes because the peace you are talking about is what gives birth to all those feelings.

In other words, I no longer care about who goes to the toilet first.

And, it takes time for one to grow up. In that moment at the age of 4 no one could convince her that the pain/sadness she feels is self-made. One can argue that, those experiences are necessary to grow. But I'm sure we agree that it is a good thing to keep growing even after that.

So when you feel, say, lonely you just attempt to detach yourself from that loneliness even though the feeling of loneliness is not completely gone? And you call that peace which, in your mind, is superior to the simple act of choosing to feel happy instead? And this to you is growing up? Okay.

What's wrong with chasing? The buddha didn't check out after enlightenment, he spent the rest of his life chasing the same thing for others

> What's wrong with chasing?

Absolutely nothing. In fact chasing what I truly want to chase will eventually bring me closer to myself.

> Buddha didn't check out after enlightenment

Buddha is not enlightened until we all are. I used to think he was a different person and I still do, only sometimes :)

>Buddha is not enlightened until we all are. I used to think he was a different person and I still do, only sometimes

This gives me a Mahayana bad taste in my mouth. (THERAVADA PERSPECTIVE)

If I have goals, then I will chase something. Does it mean I am not in peace.

> Does it mean I am not in peace.

No. You already have peace! Being in peace is the natural form -- the only way of being. Everything else is like a dream, created by our mind... imagined.

> If I have goals, then I will chase something

True, I think.

Now I'm thinking... if pain is imagined... can I chase without imagining pain? I think so. I/You can do anything.

Little bit confused. Being in peace, what should I do? Or do nothing?

> Now I'm thinking... if pain is imagined... can I chase without imagining pain? I think so. I/You can do anything

Do you mean I can chase anything without losing peace. How is it possible?

> Or do nothing?

Do what you want, but don't define yourself by what you do. Be free of whatever defines you. Can I write this comment without letting it define who I am... not yet. but I'm working on it.

Things/goals are not bad, they have no energy, I give things energy. Imagine a heavy refrigerator in my kitchen, as long as I leave it alone it does not bother me, if I try to move it, It starts to resist... I feel no weight until I give energy to it, heck I can even break my back trying to move it :)

You may ask, what is wrong with being defined by them?

For the one who does not know himself (like me) it would be an ugly lie. A lie that brings pain.

> How is it possible?

By first distinguishing you from what is driven by you.

I don't believe in traditional meditation that requires one to sit. I believe we are all so close to our own being and peace that we only need to stop and enjoy it! It could be anywhere, anytime in any form!

Believe that you already have it! Believe that you are complete and nothing needs to be chased/changed/added/removed from whatever remains of you when are not defined by anything. In that moment of pure being and joy, you start to realize that your are! You ARE everything and nothing -- including the ego, definitions and more. In that moment, things have no meaning but you become the meaning in everything.

Sadly, the article read more like "teenager discovers the things her parents failed to teach her". Sorry I'm too old for this. Maybe the class is great, but the article was uninspiring.

> Sadly, the article read more like "teenager discovers the things her parents failed to teach her". Sorry I'm too old for this.

When you were 18, how concrete was your definition of well-being? Remember, this is a class being taught at Yale, whose incoming students are likely already high achievers. On top of that, a 10% admissions rate tells incoming students that they will simply have to keep climbing the ladder of GPAs, internships, varsity sports etc. for the next 4 years, and after that, for the rest of their lives.

I haven't taken this particular class, but I went through 4 years of college feeling like a failure if any one of the above "todos" didn't pan out, because it made me feel like I was closer to the bottom of the pile than the top. At that age, all you can see are the trees, not the forest

Looking back, it would've been nice to have had some perspective on what it's all for. Before you know it, you've graduated, and you can't go back and try to do things differently.

Hmm, I agree the article was uninspiring.

I looked into the course a bit more though and one of the first lectures addresses this preconception people seem to go into the course with in what the professor calls the "GI Joe Fallacy." She refers to it as "this mistaken idea that knowing is half the battle."

There will undoubtedly be behavioral practices or studies in positive psychology you may have come across before, but there is a difference in knowing those things vs. putting them to use through conscious, habitual effort.

I can't speak to how good the course is on that type of learned discipline, but it might be worth another go if you were interested enough to read the article.

> Spending less money on things that aren’t long-lasting, like extravagant gadgets and more bedsheets that I actually need.

My gadgets seem like they will outlast me at this point...which is exactly what makes it hard to continue spending money on them :D (I don't buy bedsheets, is this some kind of hobby?)

I do personally count ham radio as one of those "experiences plus gadgets" hobbies though; it's been a lot of fun in that way. It gives me more reasons to get out and exercise (radio play), make little trips (club breakfasts and event volunteering), and reach goals (stuff to talk about with friends). I feel like the friendships I make through the hobby are about 10x more resilient than other friendships.

There is a "spin the dial" philosophy in ham radio that I have taken into other friendships. There will always be someone else to talk to, so stop hanging around as if you're stuck with your current conversation partner. If things aren't going well, give the frequency dial a spin and see who else is around.

I'm glad to hear of this class. I think I'll take it in order to see if I can learn some things I didn't know.

That said, the article is very poorly written. The author appears to not have a good understanding of what constitutes standards of proof in the social sciences, and in what way studies in social sciences ought to be spoken about.

(For example, they refer to a landmark Princeton study that "proved" money doesn't equal happiness, then states that some later studies with a different demographic "disproved" this.

But the first study did not prove anything by most meanings of the word, nor did the second disprove it. They provided evidence, suggested conclusions, invited interpretation...etc. You can't prove lasting things about changing statistical aggregates, nor prove things about individuals based on group statistics. That is not how statistics works.)

Then there is the cheesy bit where they show themselves "scoring points" on a professor who "concedes" that a car could be an experience, if you can focus on the experience of driving it...but frankly she's gently correcting them, not conceding a point. (Note that these scare quotes are my interpretation; they are not said in the article.)

I do think in general that I don't like this folksy let's-pretend-the-journo-knows-nothing-because-some-readers-won't style. Perhaps it's an imperfection of mine rather than the author's.

I'd rather they just tell me what they know or found out, or quote the authority, because I don't find the fact that they had a conversation with the authority human-interesting. (That is, I think they're angling for a human interest style in this sort of piece, but there is nothing of human interest in showing me you had a conversation with a person.)

I was part of a group that took the free on-line class together a while back. It is not well-named, being not about 'well-being', rather entirely focused on 'happiness.' In addition, as the course is given at Yale, a college community enclave, the viewpoints of the participants are somewhat peculiar to young people who are still preparing to live in a society that is not all about them. Those two, three or four times the age of the college kids will find it hard to identify.

"Subjective well-being", as far as I can tell, is psychologists' code-word for plain old happiness

This is why I’m religious. Christianity, in accordance with scripture and tradition, is a path to mental and spiritual well-being that was tested by my ancestors for millennia.

Sadly, as scripture tells us, many (most) people who claim to be Christians are wolves in sheep’s clothing. But there are plenty of wolves hiding in the guise of the other paths too. Caveat emptor.

Until very recently, your ancestors didn't have too much of a choice.

Every single one of my ancestors, back to the first, had a choice.

Also the dark ages, but now N(ietzs +che) predicted the down fall of Christianity a century ago which was tested by all atheist ancestors.

Western Atheism is just another gnostic Christian heresy, because it claims direct knowledge (gnosis) of God. It's nothing new and it always fails relatively quickly.

So was Plato and Aristotle, most respectable people who walked upon this earth?!

You're confusing agnosticism with atheism. Atheism claims direct knowledge of God, namely that He does not exist. Agnosticism on the other hand is the position that the question cannot be answered. Plato and Aristotle's position was one of agnosticism, not gnostic atheism.

By the way I consider the agnostic position to be entirely intellectually honest and defensible. I happen to believe otherwise, but a reasonable person can reach the agnostic position.

it's not another gnostic heresy if it predates Christianity.

Modern western atheism doesn't predate Christianity, it's a response to it. And pre-Christian agnosticism is both not gnostic (duh agnostic) and predates Christianity.

You're creating a weird distinction to try and justify that western atheism is derived from christianity, which doesn't make sense given that the same stances existed well before christianity.

I'm drawing the distinction between two separate intellectual strands that are, evidently, easily confused.

Contemporary western Atheism is observably derived from Christianity. After all today's atheist isn't motivated by pre-Christian philosophers' doubts about the nature of the Hellenic pantheon. Furthermore, Christianity makes metaphysical assertions that are so much stronger than the old Hellenic ones that they aren't even in the same class.

Why does the teacher put "Well-Being" in the course title, instead of "Happiness", even when the course is totally about happiness? Does this mean happiness is the same as well-being? I highly doubt it.

Happiness might be well associated with a specific mental state or emotion while well-being is really one's overall health.

Someone who is in a very good position, and general state of well being will have bouts of every emotion, and surely won't be 'happy' in every moment.

Though surely one could make the case that 'general happiness' and 'general well being' are the same thing if they wanted to.

sridca 8 months ago [flagged]

I thought I'd join, but the more I read the more spiritual and mumbo-jumbo the course appears. From the course overview:

  Week 1. Signature Strengths
  Week 2. Savoring & Gratitude Journal
  Week 3. Kindness & Social Connection
  Week 4. Exercise & Sleep
  Week 5. Meditation & Gratitude Visit
  Week 6. (It's a SURPRISE!)
  Week 7. Rewirement Challenge Part 1
  Week 8. Rewirement Challenge Part 2
  Week 9. Rewirement Challenge Part 3
  Week 10. Rewirement Challenge Part 4
Just for starters, what's the deal with "gratitude"? Isn't that a spiritual concept? Why not go straight to the root and dislodge the root cause of resentment itself? Gratitude treats the symptoms -- it counters resentment -- but does not eliminate it. As an intelligent HNer we should not fall for these superficial traps.

EDIT: So a group of people have taken to downvoting my comments, instead of intelligently addressing them. Apparently I made a blasphemy, attacking a religious concept (gratitude). LOL.

Please don't break the site guidelines by going on about downvotes like that. It's tedious and self-referential.

Your original comment also broke the site guidelines by calling names and being a shallow dismissal and flamebait. If you'd made your substantive point about gratitude without all that, and neutrally, it might not have been downvoted, though even then it's kind of a generic tangent.

So far, that's at least five site guidelines you broke. Would you mind reviewing them?


I think gratitude is part of mindfulness. It means appreciating the smell of fresh air, the taste of your go to breakfast beverage, the sounds of the birds chirping or the smell of your partner. These are things we can get used to day after day, and so it’s useful to take a moment or two to appreciate them. That’s at least how I interpret it...

Then why call it "gratitude" instead of calling it what it is, to wit: appreciation? Obviously the proponents of gratitude meant something more than appreciation.

'Gratitude' or 'thankfulness' sound like they'd induce more humility than 'appreciation'.

To appreciate can mean to understand or recognize. Art appreciation doesn't quite mean gratitude towards art, as far as I can see.

Consider, 'I am grateful for the grace of God' or 'I am grateful that fate has spared us'.

Then try, 'I appreciate the grace of God' or 'I appreciate that fate has spared us'.

Appreciate sounds almost haughty and egocentric in comparison.

If I appreciate my food the focus can still be on me, maybe I can even relish how my oh-so sophisticated palate is able to extract wonders from the food, indeed how amazingly I'm able to appreciate the overall art of cuisine (or anything else).

If I am 'grateful' for the food, such a stance seems difficult. It's hard or silly to think of oneself as excelling in gratitude. Of course it can be done (and is always annoying to witness) but it seems harder to keep up as it's more obviously self-contradicting than garden-variety egotism.

So it seems that 'gratitude' suggests a more measured relationship between object and subject, and does a better job encouraging humility.

Good response, I agree.

Except of course for the connecting of appreciation and egocentrism.

I can appreciate eating a delicious croissant, for example, savouring its buttery flavours as experienced on the tongue without egotistically thinking of "my" oh-so sophisticated palate. Moreover the word "appreciation" does not necessarily imply selfish thinking of any such sort.

Of course gratitude is not taught in such "mundane" contexts of sensately enjoying eating a croissant. It is always about some "higher" things like God or your childhood hurt memories or "food" (as nourishment rather than sensory pleasure).

And humility is a core part of gratitude. Yet humility exists to counter pride (one can't help but be proud of being humble.). Humility and pride are two sides of the same coin, and appreciation has got nothing necessarily to do with either of them.

Have you had a bad experience with spirituality or something? You sound hella mad my friend and it's not a good look.

People invested their time and effort in this course. The least you can do is be grateful that there are such people on the planet who care about the wellbeing of others.

Who hasn't had a bad experience with spirituality?

This is the same kind of thing that's used to promote anti-vax campaigns and scam people out of thousands of dollars for fake medical treatments.

I think a lot of people have had both positive and negative experiences with spirituality (which I want to emphasize is not synonymous with "religion", which I think provokes stronger emotions for a lot of people). Similarly, I've had both good and bad experiences with public transportation, which I think is also fairly common. There are plenty of things that I've had bad experiences with that I still find useful due to other experiences that were better.

Why not just intelligently respond to my questions/ comments instead of projecting your feelings ("hella mad") onto me? Did what I write offend any of your sensibilities?

You inserted the concept of spirituality in an attempt to take some kind of stance; that was never present. You fabricated that, then complained when you were downvoted for being obtuse, and you keep complaining about lack of intelligent discourse while ignorantly hammering at a point that doesn't exist here.

> You inserted the concept of spirituality in an attempt to take some kind of stance; that was never present.

Incorrect. Gratitude, along with other meditative practices, is a spiritual notion.

> You fabricated that

Fabricated what exactly? Quote the exact words I wrote.

> then complained when you were downvoted for being obtuse,

If what I wrote was obtuse, the intelligent response is to ask for clarification instead of emotionally lashing out onto me with downvotes, sarcasm and projections.

> and you keep complaining about lack of intelligent discourse

Indeed. Just for one example, where is intelligent discourse in your comment? Do you have anything to say directly in response to what I actually wrote? Instead you are just trying in vain to intuit what "stance" I take.

> while ignorantly hammering at a point that doesn't exist here.

What point is it that I am "ignorantly hammering"?

Would you please stop with this flamewar? You've posted 20 times in this thread already and taken it way beyond pale. HN isn't for this kind of thing, so please don't do it here again.

Edit: I had to warn you about this just two days ago. If you keep doing it we are going to have to ban you, so please review the site guidelines and don't do it again.


Look, just because a handful of commenters reacted in heated fashion to my comment does not make it a flamewar. Have you actually read this thread? You may want to reevaluate your moderation abilities.

I'm not going to compromise on my principles, so go ahead and ban me (I see that you have already put a posting limit on my account).

My understanding is that gratitude is the standard term for that in the context of mindfulness.

I'm doing this class and I don't think there's any essential difference between gratitude and appreciation. Call it however you want, those are just names for particular practices anyhow.

What is a "non-essential" difference, according to you, between gratitude (defined as: "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.") and appreciation (defined as: "recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.")?

The "gratitude" definition you give seems to be a special case of "appreciation"; I honestly don't see how appreciating and returning kindness could be objectionable.

Do a bit of reading by the proponents of gratitude and you'll see that it is not the same as appreciation. For example, here's a quote from a link someone else posted on this thread:

  People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. 
  They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive 
  memories and being thankful for elements of 
  childhood or past blessings), the present (not 
  taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and 
  the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic 
Would you use "appreciation" to describe that?

Also here are the ways to cultivate gratitude per that same link:

  Write a thank-you note.   
  Thank someone mentally.
  Keep a gratitude journal. 
  Count your blessings. 
Is that how you'd describe "appreciation"? The spiritualists, and their secular friends, choose "gratitude" for a reason--they recommend a specific emotional state.

Personally in my mind appreciation is a matter of fact straightforward activity of ongoing enjoyment (of activities, things, events, people, etc.). Gratitude is not even close to that as illustrated above ... one I find little to no value in exemplifying (as there are superior ways of experiencing life such as appreciating being alive having a cup of coffee on a sunny terrace!).

> I honestly don't see how appreciating and returning kindness could be objectionable

Where did I write that they are objectionable? I said that gratitude is ineffective when you could be going straight to the root cause of resentment and dislodging it from your life.

You're raising a lot of interesting points; I appreciate it! (No pun intended)

I think that meditation might be better viewed as a practical tool that assists in doing what you are suggesting. The idea would be that meditation trains you to focus on the present, objective reality which would in turn make you more likely to appreciate a cup of coffee. My understanding is that at least in the Buddhist tradition that is the stated purpose of the basic breathing meditation that most people are familiar with.

Thats not to say that it might not be an ineffective tool, but I don't think its necessarily contrary to the approach that you are talking about.

Could you explain more about how you would approach things as opposed to gratitude? I think I'm understanding now what you are getting at, but I'm not sure I'm understanding the practical steps that you are advocating as an alternative to meditation.

> Could you explain more about how you would approach things as opposed to gratitude? I think I'm understanding now what you are getting at, but I'm not sure I'm understanding the practical steps that you are advocating as an alternative to meditation.

See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19905620

> Write a thank-you note.

> Thank someone mentally.

> Keep a gratitude journal.

> Count your blessings.

> Pray.

> Meditate.

I don't really see the first two things as being specifically spiritual, and I don't see it as much of a stretch to see that they can help with mental well-being. The third one is somewhat recursive, so I obviously can't argue that it isn't specific to gratitude.

The next two definitely feel spiritual, but I feel like they could pretty easily be expressed with "appreciation" and still be spiritual, e.g. "appreciate your blessings" or "appreciate the presence of god".

I'll be honest and say that from my naive understanding of meditation, I don't exactly know how it falls into the "gratitude" bucket. If I were asked to describe what "meditation" is in the spiritual sense, I definitely would have been more like to use the word "appreciation" than "gratitude", e.g. "appreciate one's place in the universe", so I don't really know enough to understand the distinction here.

Overall, to me, this list seems to be a mix of things that are overtly or mostly spiritual and things that don't seem particularly spiritual to me. Maybe it's just my lack of knowledge about this sort of topic, but I'm still not seeing any huge distinction between the two terms based off of those quotes. I definitely agree that from them, the course definitely seems to have a spiritual bent, but the word "gratitude" at least to me doesn't have anything to do with it.

> Where did I write that they are objectionable?

Fair enough; I may have been inferring a tone that wasn't present. It just strikes me as a bit odd that you feel so strongly about the differences between gratitude and appreciation when they don't seem that different to me (and from reading other comments, others seem to share this confusion).

> I may have been inferring a tone that wasn't present.

That's most likely the case. From my experience with talking to people on this topic I've noticed that anytime I point out the shortcomings of meditation and the like, people--no matter how intelligent they are--tend to get very offended and then proceed to respond to me in anger without even realizing that they are feeling anything but good. (The very fact that this otherwise reasonable thread has been flagged to death is a testament to that).

> I'll be honest and say that from my naive understanding of meditation [...]

If you do your research beyond the watering down of eastern spirituality to fit the western secular mind (which is not, actually, secular) then you may very well see that there is in fact no connection whatsoever between gratitude (i.e., writing thank-you notes, thanking someone mentally, keeping a gratitude journal, counting on one's blessings, praying, meditation) and enjoying and appreciating this moment of being alive while say drinking a delicious cup of coffee on a sunny terrace, as the former is designed specifically to attain a specific emotional state to counter, and keep at bay, the feelings like resentment.

Gratitude and appreciation are different things. I can appreciate an piece of art, it doesn't mean that I am thankful/ grateful for it. There are many things you can appreciate without being grateful - infact, this is inherently the issue that gratitude is addressing, which stems from ego, self-centeredness, thoughtlessness. An easy place to fall into.

What are some examples of things you appreciate (without being grateful) that stem from ego, self-centeredness, thoughtlessness?

The word comes from the Latin appretiare, 'to price' or 'to appraise'.

'Only I can truly appreciate your suffering and your needs, and so only I can lead you.'

How about that?

Perhaps some forms of lust?

I mean the whole idea of "mindfulness" and "meditation" are the sort of pseudoscientific bullshit that just plain don't belong in a scientific class.

Sure, they may have some benefits, but they're essentially just placebo effect. There has to be more interesting science on the topic than that...

To say mindfulness and meditation is pseudoscientific is totally absurd. There's has been a ton of proper science aimed at it, all the scientific consensus is that it has an effect far beyond placebo.

You're throwing the baby out with the bathwater just because some "out there" people also like it. You might as well stop eating healthy because Acai berries are hip.


Did you read your own link? One line from it mentions the study that actually brought me to this conclusion:

"A meta-analysis on meditation research published in JAMA in 2014,[167] (that included a combined total of 3515 participants), found insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight."

While there may be other with differing results it's... pretty sketchy in any case. I would hardly say scientific enough to belong in such a class.

I had a look at this when I considered meditation once but found it'd most likely just be a waste of my time. I'd rather not flush my time down the toilet.

I started practicing mindfulness after seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist for anxiety. One of the core parts of CPT are learning how to relax your mind (I’d literally have all these thoughts racing through my head that were barely grounded in to any kind of reality). Practicing mindfulness instead of letting my mind wander into dark places effectively cured me of my anxiety. And that’s not just one anecdote, CBT is the gold standard in science-based therapy right now.

That quote is very dishonestly misleading, as the same study found it had evidence of improved anxiety, less depression and pain.

You also cherry picked the negative paragraph for some reason, despite the above paragraph on the Wikipedia article citing a newer meta study with other positive results.

I only focused on the JAMA study as I'd seen it before, sorry about that I see it may have looked pretty slanted now, I wanted to have a better look at the positive metaanalysis, however the link on wikipedia was broken, look at where it points on wikipedia, you'll see "Cite error: The named reference Gotink was invoked but never defined (see the help page)."

I'm not disagreeing with you about that depression and anxiety thing, but it seems a bit of a stretch to suggest it to a generally mentally healthy person.

Finally someone on HN who is not gaga about meditation. :-P

In my understanding, meditation simply enables one to develop a heightened form of emotional detachment that may help deal with life's vicissitudes. Of course, that's again treating the symptoms and does nothing to cure the unhappiness.

Note that most of the research referenced there isn't properly controlled - it's sort of hard to control for something like that, you'd have to have a therapy that could offer something comparable without matching it, so comparing it's effectiveness to placebo seems in some ways quite apt.

<I mean the whole idea of "mindfulness" and "meditation" are the sort of pseudoscientific bullshit>

A good book to go down a scientific path is "Why Zebras don't get ulcers" by Dr Robert Sapolsky. Dr Sapolsky is professor of biology, and professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford.

His book helped me understand the physical effects on my health caused by my stressful company work environment. In short - our primate bodies have a fight or flight response to stress resulting in spikes in blood cortisol, muscle tension, gastrointestinal changes etc.

Once you understand how mind affects the body then it becomes possible to see how breathing and relaxation (mindfulness/meditation) can undo the effects of stress that we battle in our daily lives.

Of course there are other ways towards well-being. I found the tips in 'Getting Things Done' very useful in reducing anxiety. Switching to 'Eat food, mostly plants' advice is helping in mood and energy levels.

It makes you feel better, even if unmeasurably. It belongs more with the arts rather than sciences - people will do it even if there's never any p-value that gets significant. The "is good for you" in the scientific sense aspect is not that important.

Again, just to stress it out - the scientific aspect is not much relevant. From the science department I only care about it not doing harm.

I'd happily take an effective placebo. Remember, placebo effect is real and apparently the reasons for it are psychological.

The broad dismissal of entire fields of practice as placebo effect is itself a pseudoscientific reduction of science to a narrow band of European cultural practices labeled “science” then used to indulge discriminatory impulses against other cultures. The sense of certainty and self-satisfaction derived from this destructive effort is, itself, placebo.

"he broad dismissal of entire fields of practice as placebo effect is itself a pseudoscientific reduction of science to a narrow band of European cultural practices labeled “science” "

It can be, but it doesn't have to be.

'Traditional Chinese Medicine' is effectively bogus, or what we would call 'placebo'. It's not 'racist' to point that out. Chinese Emperor's in the 19th century knew that and banned it, Mao knew it as well (he had a Western doctor for himself) but re-introduced TCM after the civil war because it's the only medicine he could afford. And 'it does work' (i.e. placebo) for quite a number of things.

But 'mindfulness' crosses reasonably into the domain of legit psychological and mental well being and frankly it's not rocket science to start to conceive how 'clearing one's mind', and 'being in the moment' as opposed to living in constant anxiety can be an issue in one's mental well being, just as an example.

So yes, it's soft, and susceptible to a lot of hocus pocus and probably some 'believers and hypers' etc., but that doesn't in and of itself abnegate the real opportunities from it.

If you don't believe me, I'd highly recommend checking out this paper:


"We found low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight."

As for "destruction of other cultures" - well, people use the same excuses to say that homeopathy is great and crystal healing will cure your cancer. It's a non-sense argument. This has no cultural bearing at all, just a rejection of bullshit. I have no interest in blindly approving things without analysis just because they came from other cultures. Study them. The results here are sketchy at best.

I think that you may be getting downvoted because your posts are using incendiary language ("spiritual and mumbo jumbo") and splitting hairs over minor issues (should it be called gratitude or appreciation?). This may give people the impression that you are trying to pick a fight.

I also think that by positioning your argument as in opposition to "spirituality" it may call to mind negative experiences that many religious people have had with people who have bigoted views about religion.

Fair enough, good points. Will keep that in mind when writing.

As for "splitting hairs over minor issues" I disagree; the difference is not trivial as explained over here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19905418

I recall reading some research on the effects of gratitude. Here's an example:


As soon as you learn to exercise particular feelings you choose (most people believe feelings can only be triggered with external factors and not chosen at their own will but they are wrong) you will find out that feeling (actively) gratitude and pure unconditional love for no reason is extremely pleasurable.

Scientists would probably notice increase in pleasure/happiness-related neurochemicals and particular happy brain area activity patterns when I just choose to feel gratitude if they could put me in an fMRI machine and also perform realtime neurotransmitters monitoring.

Nevertheless I am not sure if this can be considered a reliable medication alternative, it can be hard to switch to these feelings with stressed amygdala and depleted L-tryptophan.

Okay, but what happens to the resentment while you experience the extreme pleasure of gratitude or unconditional love? Are these feelings merely a palliative (a remarkably strong one at that) rather than a permanent cure?

I dunno, I'm not prone to resentment. Anxiety, occasional anger, regret (for my own fails) - perhaps (and the practice helps a lot with these) but resentment - I can only speculate about how does it feel. I just know nobody but me myself, people's illusions (people themselves are perfect, their brains just are prone to misjudgment and unconscious behavior, as is mine although mine is already quite trained and less prone to these this way) and unfortunate consequences (which are nothing but a perfectly neutral manifestation of pure chaos) can be "guilty" in anything I would dislike. Resentment doesn't ever seem making any sense.

Gratitude could certainly be incorporated into a religious or spiritual practice, but it's not inherently a spiritual concept.

The way I was taught to use gratitude to enhance my well being was to consciously think about the things I'm grateful for a write them down. That's it.

'Gratitude' is a mental concept as much as it is spiritual and issues such as this and 'forgiveness' I suggest go far beyond merely addressing 'causes', they represent a certain perspective, a mental posture more than anything.

Gratitude as it's frequently been explained to me just sounds like slave-mentality shaming. There's a strong distinction between it and recognizing and accepting what you can and can't change. Genuine gratefulness isn't a bad thing in and of itself. It's not a forced emotion. Gratefulness as a mantra in practice is just guilt tripping, it informs you to feel shame for negative emotions. It's a healthy response to be upset at some circumstances. Being grateful for being dealt a bad hand is for the birds. Someone might chime in to suggest that's not what gratefulness is about - I'll save you some time, I disagree.

There is no end to potential causes of resentment, and some may not be resolved in a lifetime. It makes sense in the context of psychological health and well-being.

How does it [the necessity of resentment] make sense in the context of psychological health and well-being?

Wallowing in resentment for all the wrongs in the world is an unhealthy way to go through life. Gratitude is about escaping that.

Okay, so you were talking about gratitude. Yes, gratitude counters resentment (you call it "escaping" it). Yet my point was that it is not a cure for resentment; merely a palliative.

Life is a constant stream of potential causes of resentment. Gratitude is not just a palliative for resentment, but also a preventative against future resentment. If you're heavily focused on how grateful you are for the amazing life you live, you will be less likely to fall into a cycle of resentment about the setbacks.

Life is a process of looking for palliatives until we die. Let's not be dishonest about that.

Besides, the only people who promise cures for resentment, etc., tend to be religious.

Expressing gratitude to another, or mindfully thinking about things you are grateful for in the moment, is a recognized technique that has been shown in studies to increase people's self-reported level of contentment. I'm surprised they don't cover journaling, another low-cost, low-effort practice that has been shown to improve subjects' self-reported level of contentment with life.

Could you elaborate on how you would approach getting to the root cause of the resentment? And then once you have identified the cause, how would you go about dislodging that?

> Could you elaborate on how you would approach getting to the root cause of the resentment? And then once you have identified the cause, how would you go about dislodging that?

Sincerity as to what you are feeling each moment is the first step towards it.

If you are actively denying or dissociating (i.e., meditation), you won't get to understand how it all works. Resentment, or any other affective issue, is to be curiously explored with awareness and attentiveness (what are the emotions involved? what are the beliefs? why do I feel this way? how does this feeling operate? etc). Once you have fully explored something -- and this is where dogged determination comes into play -- there comes a point where that issues vanishes like dropping hot coal. Not unlike ceasing to believe in Santa Claus.

It does take time and persistence in the beginning.

I appreciate the thoughtful answer. It's interesting to me that a lot of what you mentioned in this comment seem (to me at least) to be some of the core ideals of mindfulness. Out of curiosity, did you arrive at this through another philosophy or have you come to this conclusion on your own?

You are welcome. It is part of what is known as the "actualism method" (that I am putting into practice for many years now) as described here: http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/richard/articles/thismomento...

Mindfulness is actually 180 degrees opposite, as it leads to a form of (acute) emotional distancing. Having done Vipassana in the past I can also say that from experience.

That's interesting. I will check out your link a little later when I have time. A lot of the reading I have done on mindfulness has been less about blocking things out or distancing yourself from it and more about accepting how you feel and observing it as if from a scientific perspective with genuine curiosity. I guess if we take away the semantics, what is really comes down to is that you seem to be opposed to blocking how you feel or distancing yourself from how you feel and more about being curious about how you feel and studying it. In that sense, I think you and I are in agreement, regardless of what label we attach to it.

We are definitely not in agreement. When, or if, you get to reading it do a search for `mindfulness site:actualfreedom.com.au` in Google to learn more.

Apologies for the misunderstanding on agreement outside of the definition of mindfulness. I've had a quick skim of your first link and also of the selected correspondence on mindfulness. Obviously there's a lot to digest there so I will wait until I can give them the attention they deserve. Until then I have a couple more questions if you don't mind answering (it's fine if you don't and I will read your links regardless).

First of all, when you say:

> to be curiously explored with awareness and attentiveness

To me that sounds like introspection (correct me if I am misunderstanding). You say that disassociating from your emotions is the wrong way to go about it, but how can you do true introspection without disassociating a little? Otherwise wouldn't your introspection be clouded by your emotions?

I was wondering if you had any thoughts on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy? To my knowledge, the main idea of ACT is that you don't avoid negative emotions or feelings but instead accept them and attempt to passively observe them.

In any case, whether you answer these questions or not I appreciate the conversation. It's always interesting to learn about new philosophies and criticisms of other philosophies.

In the website you'll read that "I" am "my" feelings and "my" feelings are "me". Basically it means the identity (or sense of self) is the same as feelings; they are one and the same thing. There is no separate "you" passively observing "your" feelings and doing so indicates a dissociative experience (which meditation takes to another level). If you're interested I can send an invite to our Slack community where you can put forward your questions for others (including the 3 actually free folks[1]) to respond; just send me your email.

[1] Reports of two of them becoming free are available online: https://www.actualists.org/reports/newly-free

Since when is gratitude a religious concept?

That's like saying love is a religious concept, just because some religions talk about love.

Oh, I was making a parallel to religion. As you may already know, even though one becomes atheist that does not necessarily mean they are no longer religious in other aspects of life (here, meditative practices).

But what's untouched by religion? Veganism, fasting, wearing hats, wearing pants, not wearing pants, underwear, appreciating trees, eating bread, drinking wine, not drinking wine, eating fruit.... Religion has commented on every aspect of human life, because some humans do religion.

I am reminded of the rather dismissive aphorism: "Show me an atheist and I'll show you the God he doesn't believe in."


Please don't get personal like that, even if another account is posting in a way that seems resentful or what have you. That just feeds the flames.


Exactly. I don't want to be associated with the poor generalisation at the end of the comment.

sridca 8 months ago [flagged]

Why not just intelligently respond to my questions/ comments instead of projecting your feelings (anger) onto me? Did what I write offend any of your sensibilities?

As to your question, given that you started off in this manner (projecting feelings) I doubt it arose out of any genuine curiosity. And it is curiosity that gets me talking; cheap forms of humour like sarcasm goes straight to trash bin.

skilled 8 months ago [flagged]

Hahaha, you are so intelligently determined that you need to copy and paste the same response to different people.

Don't you recognize that you are forcing people to tell you what you want to hear?

Please don't break the site guidelines, whether someone else has or not.


My bad.

sridca 8 months ago [flagged]

> you are so intelligently determined that you need to copy and paste the same response to different people.

Some people are so dogged in their beliefs that some things need to be told them repeatedly (and even then some won't listen).

> Don't you recognize that you are forcing people to tell you what you want to hear?

What is it that I want to hear?

And, by the way, why go offtopic like this instead of just intelligently responding to my questions/ comments? Did what I write offend any of your sensibilities?

Happiness has become a dirty word.

People fail at happiness; and then start devaluating happiness itself probably to rationalize their unhappiness and also justify the consequent resorting to socially inculcated meanings. Mr. Jordan Peterson even enabled a cult following around this odd psychic adumbration.

And, by the way, it goes without saying that cynicism and weariness precludes happiness.

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