Third Sunday of Lent Preview
The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Reality is Broken: Happiness Hacking

I have been too busy the last two weeks to do much reading and blogging.  Hopefully I can get back into the routine and get Reality is Broken wrapped up in the next week or so.

Chapter Ten is entitled "Happiness Hacking: How alternate realities can help us adopt the daily habits of the world's happiest people."  I must say that that final bit didn't set well with me.  I'm not a huge fan of "happiness," largely because it is dependent upon circumstance (its connection with "happenstance.").  I'm more interested in joy as a state-of-mind.  And in other reading (and teaching for tonight's adult-ed) I am reminded of felicity, which includes a component of skill.  That, of course, could connect to what McGonigal is writing about -- developing the skills.

On a positive note, I was pleased that she criticizes self-help stuff.  It rarely works.  We need collective activity to improve our happiness levels.  "Positive psychology has shown that for any activity to feel truly meaningful, it needs to be attached to a much bigger project or community." 

She also points out that for many people happiness is viewed as inauthentic or corny

So, she has developed games as a way to develop happiness skills and levels.  She calls this Happiness Hacking and defines it as "the experimental design practice of translating positive-psychology research findings into game mechanics."  The bulk of the chapter discusses various real-world happiness hacks she has designed.  The first one is Cruel 2 B Kind and is supposed to improve our treatment of random strangers. 

The second is Tombstone Hold 'Em, a poker game to be played in cemetaries with one goal to get us to think more about death.  Thinking about death actually makes us happier, according to positive pscyhology research.  There are some interesting points about how game mechanics might connect with mindfulness, grief, and facing death. 

The third is Top Secret Dance-Off, which tries to get us to dance more, which is another activity that positive psychology finds laden with benefits.  I always enjoy watching Ellen dance on her show and usually take the moment to join in.

I wondered about increasing dance opportunities at church (we already have some).  I for one have generally found attempts to lead a worshipping congregation in dance moves to be a little ridiculous (talk about corny).  I have never been on the leading end of that stick, but on the congregant end during General Synods and such.

Dancing with others, in particular, requires trust, which is one reason it has such positive benefits.  She also writes, "dancing with others is a chance both to receive and to express our compassion, generosity, and humanity."  So, we could approach dance as a spiritual practice of care!



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