Have you seen this video — The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude — from the creative agency Soul Pancake? If not, take a look:
The “science” behind the video is from positive psychology research (full text) done by Martin Seligman. Seligman et al gave participants “one week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had been especially kind to them but had never been properly thanked” and found that this exercise “caused large positive changes for one month.” The Soul Pancake folks one-upped this by doing a similar exercise all at the same time and taping it for all to see.
Gratitude? Or connection?
I’m posting this because I think the Soul Pancake folks are missing out on the real story here. They noted themselves that the people who were unable to share their gratitude (e.g., those who chose someone who was deceased) did not see a big increase in happiness. They also noted that the people who were the least happy to begin with saw the greatest increase when they shared their gratitude.
In other words, it seems clear (to me anyways) that it wasn’t the gratitude: it was the connection.
To be fair, this wasn’t just any connection. The people weren’t sharing how their favorite sports team had done or what the weather was like. No, this was a really intimate, meaningful connection. The kind of connection that, for most of us, is fairly infrequent given the various competitors for our time and energy … not to mention how hard it is for us to to be intimate, period.
Anyways, an interesting video. And it looks like you can get an increase in happiness by occasionally doing a gratitude journal. But I think that Soul Pancake missed the key takeaway and that Daniel Gilbert (see last week) has it right re social relationships: “nature’s designed us to experience happiness when we’re connected to others.”
Even when that connection is forced upon us as part of a video shoot!