Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The pursuit of happiness

From Emory Health Now and Emory Report:

The ancient Greeks batted around the subject of mental health and happiness, says Emory sociologist Corey Keyes. Some championed emotions and pleasures as a path to happiness, others tranquility, freedom and reflection.

But only during the last 10 to 15 years has there been a fresh focus on what good mental health, or happiness, means. “For me, the presence of good mental health and bringing together those two traditions of happiness, is to flourish,” Keyes says. “And to flourish means to feel good about life and to function well. But we have to start looking at people who feel good but aren’t functioning well, and that’s half of the adult American population.”

Keyes has studied the role of mental well-being in predictive health and disease prevention. He is affiliated with the Emory/Georgia Tech Predictive Health Institute and “The Pursuit of Happiness” project run by Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

Data suggests that lawyers have almost twice the rate of mood disorders and anxiety than other professionals, notes Edward Craighead, Emory chair of child psychiatry. He suspects that in law students, this is largely driven by high rates of dysfunctional perfectionism.

Craighead and Keyes recently participated in a forum for law students, to help them understand their risk for unhappiness.

“Students think that feeling good about life is far better than functioning well in it,” said Keyes, who urged professors and students to “prioritize flourishing” in their lives.

Breathe in, breathe out, be happy

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