Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fall Festival Address (3)

I would like to use a portion of this book and talk to you about how wonderful the sundial way of life is. It begins on page 101, with the chapter entitled, “Advanced Movement to Increase Happiness.” This is the talk I gave at the Spring Festival two years ago, but since I believe there are many here that did not attend that event, I would like to reintroduce the content of that lecture here:

Advanced Movement to Increase Happiness

I believe there will be many people here who will, when they hear “Sundial Diary” or “Laughing Practice,” or “Sundial Way of Life,” say that they’ve known about that for a long time. However, I learned recently that what is written in this Inaugural Issue (of the Seicho-No-Ie Magazine) is not in the least bit old. I have here a copy of the February 28, 2005 issue of Time magazine. It’s the most recent issue that just hit the stands the other day, and it includes a Special Feature. The cover has the title, “The Science of Happiness” on it, but if we were to translate this into Japanese, it would be something that many of us have heard before.

In this issue, there is a 17-page article on the results of a study of a new kind of psychology, different from what has existed until now. I cannot introduce all of this information at this time, but if I were to summarize parts of it, it says that the goal of psychologists used to be to bring patients “to zero,” if we were to think of the condition of our minds as a number scale, with the worst condition (i.e. suicidal) being a “minus five.” In other words, the goal was to treat and bring the patient from a neurotic ailing state to a neutral normal one. It seems, however, that the trend amongst psychologists today is “positive psychology.” Positive psychology has a very proactive and positive goal and is studying ways to bring someone in a normal state of mind, “0,” to a “plus 3,” or “plus 5.”

There are different things written in the article, but, to share a portion of it with you, there are various study results regarding what makes us happy. Ordinarily, we might think the answer would be “having money” or “additional income,” but researchers found that there was no data supporting this. “Additional income” did little to raise people’s sense of satisfaction or happiness, nor did “a good education” or “a high IQ.” Then is “youth” the source of happiness? No, that isn’t it either. On the contrary, it seems that older people are more consistently satisfied with their lives than the young. How about not having to work frantically and being able to sit leisurely in front of a TV not thinking about anything? That doesn’t seem to be it either because findings state that when watching TV, those who watch it for more than three hours a day feel less happy than those who watch it for fewer hours a day. The studies show that there is “less sense of happiness.”

What does lift the spirit and make one feel happier is “religious faith.” So, too, do “warm, loving relationships with friends and family.” Moreover, studies have found that people feel happy when they have a job that allows a certain degree of freedom, and not having to do the same thing in the same way everyday.

Additionally, what do we need to do in order to implement the findings of this study in our daily lives? There are different methods described regarding that, too. This is something very interesting—It mentions a “gratitude journal” or “gratitude exercise” is important. This means that “being grateful leads to an increased sense of happiness”—this is something that we’ve heard somewhere before, isn’t it? It is the exact same way of thinking that we have been advocating and practicing since long ago. Looking for and making note of the good, positive points in people is the starting point in a life of increased happiness. And, to expand happiness, this article describes “performing acts of altruism.” When it comes down to this, it’s difficult to determine whether we’re talking about psychology or religion, but we have come to find that those things are very effective in realizing a life of happiness.

One of the psychologists conducting these kinds of studies is Martin Seligman. According to Dr. Seligman, one way towards an increased sense of happiness is a “gratitude visit.” These are a little different than the gratitude visits that are made when we are promoting attendance at Grand Lectures. It works like this: You think of a person in your life who has been kind to you but whom you've never properly thanked—for example a supervisor, grandfather, your father, a relative or a friend—and write a ''gratitude letter'' to that person. You explain in detail how the words of that person at a certain time were very helpful and how you are now living a very happy life thanks to his advice or encouragement. Then you visit that person and read that letter in front of him. According to Dr. Seligman, when you pay a “gratitude visit” you can feel a sense of happiness throughout the following month…

In this way, the “sundial way of life” is a leading way of thinking and living life today.

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