“Conciencia y conexión: dos sencillos consejos para ser más felices” | Jesús Alcoba | TEDxMalagueta

Translator: Carl Luc Campbell
Reviewer: Sebastian Betti Are you happier now than
what your parents were at your age? In the 70s, a researcher
revealed an utterly surprising fact. Since the 40s until then, the purchasing power
of North Americans had increased by no less than 60 percent. And however, their average happiness
had hardly changed at all. In 2011, the researcher repeated
the same study in other countries. And the results… Were the same. In the long run, higher income
doesn’t result in happier individuals. Maybe some of you are thinking
that this is simply another reason to confirm that money
doesn’t buy happiness. But let’s think about this. Shouldn’t we simply be
just a little bit happier from the simple fact that
greater purchasing power grants access to better leisure opportunities,
more cultural and educational resources, better health benefits? Ultimately, does progress make us happier or doesn’t it? One day I was visiting a country with much fewer resources then our own and I came across this kid who out of some old pieces of string
and a couple of cushions had slapped together a swing
and was enjoying it so much that I felt jealous. With so little, that kid
was happier than what I am many days of my daily life. Much later, back in our country
I encountered a much different scenario. Imagine: a kid, sprawled on the floor in the main aisle of a department store — quite well-known, mind you —
crying, screaming and stomping, you could see the whites of his eyes,
on the verge of frothing at the mouth. His head was spinning
like the girl in The Exorcist, all because amidst so much abundance his parents had refused
to buy him any more candy. And I ask myself: In this country and in many others
where we declare that progress exists, is it plausible for a teenage girl
to give her mom the silent treatment for an entire afternoon just because
the hotel they’re at has no Wi-Fi? I think it is. So then, what good is progress
if it fails to make us happier? One of the most interesting
characteristics of human beings is that we get used to what happens to us. It’s what happens, for instance,
when we use cologne and after a while we no longer smell it. And it’s not because
the effect has expired, but because our sense
of smell gets used to it. Some people don’t realise this
and continue spraying. (Laughter) The truth is that, growing
accustomed to what happens to us is interesting in itself because we can, for example,
go through stages in life where one must experience pain or simply go through
unpleasant or hard experiences. The problem with human beings is that we also grow accustomed
to the good things that happen. And this effect, already described
in the last century, is known as the “treadmill effect.” And what it refers to, more or less,
in relation to our happiness levels, though we may appear
to be moving forward, in reality, we’re not moving at all. This is what happens, for example,
when we’re given a raise. Well, in this country we have to think long and hard to remember when this used to happen. But let’s make that effort. What happens to someone
when they get a raise? The first month they’re ecstatic,
the second month as well, but perhaps not as much. Third, fourth, fifth. By the sixth month
the effect has vanished entirely. And this happens with everything, right? Fascinating people we meet,
amazing movies we see, when we buy a new car, purse, shoes… Everything is fascinating
to begin with, it’s super-exciting. But, after a while, we get used to it. So it’s possible that this
is what happens with progress. They are many changes, novelties,
so many innovations, but in the end we get used to them and, although everything changes,
things remain almost the same. So if this is the case,
then what can we do to increase our level of happiness? What can we do in order for progress
to really make us happier? The first thing we need, obviously,
is to define what happiness is. What is happiness? Fortunately, science
has already provided us with a rather functional definition
of this complex phenomenon. Happiness is “the frequency
of positive emotions in our lives.” “The frequency of positive emotions
that exist in our lives.” What does this mean? Quite simple. Over the Christmas holidays I had
a good time, and so I was happy, and the following summer I also
had a great time and was happy. What usually happens? We feel pretty good on holiday. But the rest of the months,
we led a somewhat dull life, with a somewhat dull boss,
and somewhat dull friends. We’re actually unable
to say if we were happy during a certain period of our lives because it’s not emotional intensity
what counts toward happiness but rather the frequency of positive
emotions in our life. That’s happiness. Alright then. So then, what is it that causes us
to have these positive emotions? Well, science tells us there are
three influencing factors, the first of which,
believe it or not, is genetic, and is responsible for no less
than half of our total happiness. Believe it or not, some people
were born to be happier than others. Think about those people
you come across in the street. Suddenly you cross paths with someone who’s probably thinking
about their grocery list, but they’re wide-eyed,
beaming, a radiant look. And later, on the other hand,
you cross paths with someone who’s also thinking
about their grocery list, but is also utterly bitter. Some people are naturally
happier than others. The other two factors
that affect happiness are intentional activity, that is to say,
what we do in order to be happy, and our external circumstances. Think about this for a moment. Which of these two factors
do you think is important? Intentional activity, what we do
in order to be happy, or our external circumstances? Well, science says that
intentional activity is no less than four times more important
than external circumstances when it comes to happiness. So there’s actually a lot
we can do to feel happy. Fortunately, the talk doesn’t end here. So then, what can we do to be happy? First of all, by simply
observing the mind. My hypothesis is that happiness
depends on our awareness. Awareness is the canvas
upon which thoughts arise, the feelings and emotions
that we have throughout the day. Awareness is needed for many things. Recently we carried out
an experiment at the university that yielded utterly surprising results. We divided a group of students in two and to each subgroup we asked
that they copy down some quotes onto a sheet of paper, quite simply. The difference that the first group
was given what we call those “motivational” quotes. Quotes such as: “I’ve failed over and over again
in my life and that is why I succeed.” This quote is attributed
to Michael Jordan. The students in the second group
had to copy down quotes like this: “A labour shortage has hindered
the strawberry harvest in Huelva.” (Laughter) What were our observations? That students of the first group,
after having been subjected to a test of willpower, showed a substantial
statistical increase in willpower simply because we altered the content
of their awareness for a few minutes. As far as I know, this is
the first experiment that proves that motivational quotes actually work. So now you know. Awareness is important for many things. Also for happiness. They say that, many years ago,
in a faraway country there was a man who couldn’t sleep and was
tossing and turning in bed. His wife was beside him and said:
“What’s wrong? Why don’t you sleep?” And the man admitted that the next day he would have to pay off a debt
of seven silver coins to his neighbour, but he didn’t have them. And that’s what kept him awake. His wife, resolute, hopped out of bed,
put on a robe, went outside, stood under the neighbour’s window
and began to call for him loudly, and before long the neighbour
emerged rubbing his tired eyes and said: “What is it,
what is it, what is it? Who calls? And the woman said: “Know that tomorrow
you shan’t get your seven silver coins because my husband doesn’t have them.” That being said, she went home,
removed her robe, went back to bed, and told her husband:
“You can stop worrying because it’s the neighbour’s problem now.” (Laughter) Look… Each day thousands
of thoughts arise in our awareness. So one thing we can do
in order to figure out our level of happiness
is to calculate how many thoughts produce positive emotions
over a length of time. How many positive emotions do we have
each day, each week, each month? If you’re calculating on a
yearly basis, something’s not right. You need to realise that if happiness
is the frequency of positive emotions and emotions depend on thoughts that arise in our awareness, that proves that happiness
does depend on consciousness. A completely overwhelming experiment
was carried out on Facebook with no less than 700,000 users. The following was observed: If they artificially increased
the frequency of positive messages on user’s walls, they in turn published
more positive messages. So just because user’s awareness were artificially manipulated, they also became more positive. Obviously, this isn’t as easy
as getting up in the morning, looking yourself in the mirror and saying: “I’m so handsome, what a nice day,
I’m feeling so happy!” It’s not that easy. But it’s true that deliberately trying
to introduce into our awareness reasonably optimistic and
positive thoughts can increase our happiness levels. At the very least we shouldn’t
reject those positive thoughts and emotions as we often do. How often do we encounter
the following scene? A group of friends meets up
at night for a drink, a girl from the group arrives later
and someone remarks: “What a lovely dress! You look so pretty!” The girl looks at her dress and says:
“Oh, this dress? It’s really old. I got it on sale.” I don’t see how both things relate. (Laughter) If you’re pretty, then you’re pretty. Where does this tendency
to reject compliments and good things that happen
in general come from? Where does it come form? Ask anyone about their defects and their
virtues and they’ll list all their flaws. But virtues are always tricky.
Why is this so? Where does this come from? Simply being in good health
and having someone who loves us should suffice in order
to be immensely happy. For me, one of the greatest
truths about happiness is that appreciating the good things that
happen to us is psychologically opposed to getting used to them. Learning to appreciate the good things
that happen is psychologically opposed to getting used to them. What does this mean? That the best antidote
to the treadmill effect is to get used to appreciating
the good things that happen to us. Because are we or are we not happy
when we celebrate our successes? We’re happier when we remember
the good times, when we imagine better futures and, of course,
we’re happier when we learn to recognise and appreciate
the other people that accompany us in life and whose affection
we so often take for granted. There’s an unfortunately little-known,
beautiful poem by Mary Jean Irion that begins with this verse
I’d like to share with all of you. “Normal day [sic], let me be aware
of the treasure you are.” “Normal day [sic], let me be aware
of the treasure you are.” To my knowledge, no one has expressed
more beautifully or concisely the importance of bringing
into our conscious thoughts our appreciation for those
good people and, of course, the good things we have in life. “Normal day [sic], let me be aware
of the treasure you are.” But the Facebook experiment
also taught us something else. That happiness is contagious. Users were influenced by positive
messages that they read on their walls. Mathematical models have been conducted
on thousands of people to prove that throughout social connections happy individuals group together, and that sad people group together also. Take a look at this graph: the yellow people are happy,
the blue people are sad, and the green people can’t seem
to make up their minds, apparently. In this graph and others like it, we can
observe beautiful clusters of happiness. We can also take a peek
at the helplessly bitter folk. We can also see happy people
and in their immediate social circle, many other happy people
that are sort of blocked by sad bridges that stop them
from reaching the other side. (Laughter) And, evidently, we also see people who,
whatever science may say, insist on feeling bitter despite
being surrounded by happiness. Take a look at the graph and
ask yourself: “Where would I be?” Where are you? Are you people that live
surrounded by happiness? My most sincere congratulations. Are you surrounded by
bitter people? Stop calling them. And see how much better off you are. (Laughter) I’d like to end with a final observation. We often see people who
have been successful in life and say: “Sure, if I’d been
successful, I’d be happier”. We think a better job,
a better boss, relationship will make us happier, don’t we? Well then, today science
has demonstrated categorically that it’s not success
that leads to happiness, but happiness what leads to success. Think about it for a moment. Who would you rather hire?
A happy person or a sad one? Who would you fall in love with?
Someone happy or bitter? Well, I’ve seen all
kinds of things, actually. (Laughter) But I think we get the picture
that those people who are happy show behaviours that bring them
closer to their life objectives. At the start of the talk
I asked you: “Are you happier that your parents were at your age?” Some of you might have
thought so, others probably not. Does progress serve to make use happier? Mi answer to this question is
“that depends, certainly”. Today we’ve learned that
intentional activity, what we do in order to be happy
is four times more important than external circumstances
in regards to our happiness. And progress is precisely
those circumstances. So reach your own conclusions. Thank you very much. (Applause)

8 thoughts on ““Conciencia y conexión: dos sencillos consejos para ser más felices” | Jesús Alcoba | TEDxMalagueta

  1. estoy totalmente de acuerdo. No lo podrias haber expresado mejor! Yo vivo con esta filosofia de vida y funciona.

  2. Seamos felices, es lo mejor que podemos hacer por nuestros hijos. Pero hay gente que no se anima a ser feliz, que prefiere la seguridad del dolor, volver al pasado donde sufrió, que vivir el presente que lo puede enriquecer.
    Mi tía siempre estuvo dispuesta a sufrir y lo consiguió, porque ni siquiera se casó con el hombre que amaba, sino con el que quedaba; transformó a mi tío en un idiota, en un fracasado, el psicoanalista evitó que se suicidara (hasta que le pagó).
    Por supuesto, tuvieron hijos que educaron para que fueran tan infelices como ellos, de los que me salvé cuando me fui del pueblo excitado por el mundo, pero más por la libertad que nos hace audaces y felices.
    La vida es peligro, cuando entendemos que nos puede pasar todo es cuando empezamos a ser hombres y el hombre ve y goza la totalidad porque no tiene divisiones en la cabeza.
    El hombre fragmentado vive de pleito en pleito porque solo crea divisiones es decir se empobrece al empobrecer, por eso se amarga, sólo porque perdió El River o sólo se alegra porque ganó El Boca.
    El hombre entero comprende el dolor de los demás y comparte la alegría de cualquiera". Facundo Cabral.

  3. Bua qué pasada de charla, sin duda una de las mejores que he visto sobre la felicidad. Más sencillo y efectivo no se puede haber explicado!!

  4. Un consejo mas para ser felices es no juzgar a las personas, y ocuparnos de nuestra propia felicidad.
    Bien lo dijo ser concientes de lo que tenemos, y ser agradecidos de tenerlo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *