Happiness program on Channel 2 TV in Iceland – study shows 30% more happiness
8 ordinary Icelanders were observed as they went about icreasing their happiness levels with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar´s program on happiness based on Positive Psychology, with emphasis on mindfulness practice.
The program was designed and performed by Asdis Olsen, (B.Ed and M.A.) that has specialized in Positive Psychology and Mindfulness.
Dr. Karlsson measured the participants’ success and failures before, after and during the show to produce measurable data. Dr. Karlsson has a P.hD in psychology and analytics. He is presides over the pscyhology and public health dept. at The University of Reykjavík.
1. The trailer:
2. Informationa on the Program: Happier – reality show and research
– Powerpoint presentaion by Asdis Olsen
3. The research presentation: Happiness Study.
– Powerpoint presented by Asdis Olsen and Thorlakur Karlsson at ECPP 2012
4. Description: The 8 weeks happiness program:
Week 1: Force of Habit
Eight participants are introduced to viewers who get a sense of who they are, and the demons they are fighting. The concept of habit is introduced and participants are encouraged to introduce a new healthy habit into their life. Participants write their own eulugies in an effort to explore what they want to be remembered for and what they want to achieve in life. The concept of Mindulness, of being aware in the present moment, is introduced and participants take part in a meditation designed to break down their defences, build trust and create a bond between all involved.
Week 2: Gratitude
Choosing gratitude and love over fear and anxiety. The group project in week two is to write thank you letters to people who have made a difference in their life. Participants delve deep into their life experiences and approach the people who’ve made the most difference in their lives. Participants are encouraged to list everything that they can be grateful for on a daily basis which helps them shift their focus to the more positive aspects of their lives.
Week 3: Meaning, joy and strength
The third episode sees the participants map out their daily routines and how they go about their lives. With their lifes mapped out participants evaluate whether their actions have any, some or all of the following attributes; Are they meaningful? Do they bring joy or strength? If not, can they be substituted with actions that do? This brings about an awakening with the participants who come to realize that much of their time is poorly spent on meaningless activities and lead to drastic changes in lifestyle.
Week 4: Positivity
Evidence suggests negative emotions can be physically damaging. „The undoing effect of positive emotions“ by Barbara Fredrickson et al. hypothesizes that positive emotions undo cardiovascular effects of negative emotions. In other words, the physical benefits of positive thinking is not only good for the psyche but also the body. Participants are introduced this eye opening research and shown various ways to introduce more joy into their lives. A simple, daily, meditation can help re-wire the brain and transform people’s outlook on life. Participants are followed as they part take in some of their favourite activities and how being mindful of their actions they can develop a deeper understanding of the importance of joy in everyday life.
Week 5: Getting out of the ‘comfort zone’
Learn to fail or fail to learn! In week five participants have to go through some of the toughest excercises of the program. Let lose in a shopping mall, being filmed with hidden cameras, an earpiece in one ear and an infamous comedian feeding orders to them the participants take part in ‘shame attack excercises’. Talking to strangers, singing in public, dancing on the escalators and demanding attention from passers-by is terrifying at first but when the fear subsides as no harm comes to them the participants realize that some of their worst fears are unfounded. Those suffering from phobias or deep anxieties about a certain situation are made to face them head on.
Week 6: Old wounds
Old wounds, once opened and cleaned out, heal faster and better than before. Week six continues to challenge the participants are they are asked to share their toughest experiences, biggest regrets, deepest guilt and moments of shame. An important part of the journey towards happiness is confronting life’s toughest moments to make peace with them. Participants write lists of these events in their lives and when possible deal with them by talking to the other person or people involved. In many cases people will feel guilt and shame about things they have done and whether or not those on the receiving end of an apology accept it or not it will become apparent that just saying sorry goes a long way in freeing people from their darkest moments.
Week 7: The Moral Compass
Participants are asked to share their most basic values, their sense of wrong and right. What are their guiding principles in life? Do they live by these values, do they hold other people up to them? Do they stand up for what they believe in, do they stand up for themselves? Participants go through excercises where they have the choice to react based on their value system and in a twist towards the end of the show they all sit down to watch what their friends and family have to say about them and their moral compass. Interestingly many of the participants will experience that these views may have rung true 7 weeks ago but with the progress they have made so far on the show their conviction to what they believe in has increased in tandem with incresed self respect.
Week 8: Giving back
In the last episode we look back to the beginning and track the happiness index of all the participants and see how they’ve fared through the program. The participants’ progress through various exams and tests is analyzed by experts and the participants themselves give first-hand accounts of the beneficial (or not) impact the show has made on their lives. In one final challenge the participants are asked to choose an activity where they have to give something back to the community and thus the final lesson is learnt. Helping others helps put things in perspective, draw attention away from life’s problems and re-inforce one’s sense of self.
And finally – when the series was produced in Iceland a TV-special was produced six months after the last show aired. The participants came together and shared the last six months of their lives and if, in fact, the show had made a lasting impact on their lives. All the participants underwent the same tests they had done during the series and the results showed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all who took part still lived a more fulfilling and happier life than before the show. Everybody did indeed win.