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Archive for July, 2015

Compassion and empathy are popular concepts today and believed to contribute to personal happiness. How useful are they in clinical settings, end-of-life care? Is it worthwhile to have compassion training programs in schools, assuming it is possible to train compassion? What is the difference between empathy and compassion and what do each of those words mean? Can they be measured? Can the brain be transformed through mental training (something we looked at in some depth in the June happiness meditations)?

Compassion: Bridging Science and Practice, a free multimendia e-book attempts to answer these questions. It is authored by Professor Dr.Tania Singer and Matthias Bolz, both from the Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. The book describes existing secular compassion training programs and empirical research, as well as the experiences of practitioners. The state-of-the-art layout of the e-book includes video clips and a selection of original sound collages by Nathalie Singer, and artistic images by Olafur Eliasson.

In the film Raising Compassion Tania Singer and Olafur Eliasson bring together workshop participants in an informative exchange between science, art, and contemplative practice.

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Happiness is a popular topic right now and there is another online Coursera course offered by the Indian School of Business, A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment, by Professor Rajagopal Raghunathan. Here is the description from the online catalog; click on the above link to read more and register.

What are the determinants of a happy and fulfilling life?

This is surely one of life’s biggest questions, and a question that has interested many of our ancestors. Buddha famously gave up his kingdom in search of happiness. Several Greek philosophers (from Aristotle to Epicurus and Plato to Socrates) had their own views on what it takes to be happy. And of course, we all have our own theories about happiness too.

How valid are our theories?

Till recently, if you wished for an answer to this question, you would’ve been forced to base it on discussions with spiritual leaders. Or, if you were lucky, you could’ve based it on late-night (and perhaps intoxicant-fueled) conversations with friends and family. Happily, all that has changed now. Over the past decade-and-a-half, scientists have gotten into the act big time. We now have a pretty good idea of what it takes to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

This course, based on the award-winning class offered both at the Indian School of Business and at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, developed by Prof. Raj Raghunathan (aka “Dr. Happy-smarts”) draws content from a variety of fields, including psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral decision theory to offer a tested and practical recipe for leading a life of happiness and fulfillment.

The course will feature guest appearances by several well-known thought leaders, including:
– Dan Ariely (author of Predictably Irrational and, soon to be released, Irrationally Yours),
– Ed Diener (“Dr. Happiness”),
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (author of Flow),
– Barbara Fredrickson (author of Positivity and Love 2.0),
– Marshall Goldsmith (author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and Triggers),
– Art Markman (author of Smart Thinking and Smart Change), and
– Srikumar Rao (author of Are You Ready to Succeed? and Happiness at Work)

By taking this course, you will discover the answers to questions such as:
– Why aren’t the smart-and-the-successful as happy as they could—or should—be
– What are the “7 Deadly Happiness Sins” that even the smart and the successful commit?, and
– What are the “7 Habits of the Highly Happy” and how can you implement them in your life?

By the end of the course, I expect students who have been diligent with the lectures and exercises to not just gain a deeper understanding of the science of happiness, but to also be significantly happier.

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