'You Should Forget the Meditation App': True, False or Wildly Misleading?
Normally, reporting on the art and science of happiness makes me smile. Why? Because happiness turns out to be a learnable skill, unlike, in my case, navigating Facebook.
Not every one of us will live a happy life, and none of us can be happy every moment, but for many women and men who struggle with unhappiness, the battle ends when you fully realize, "You know what? Happiness is a conscious choice."
Or at least you can choose to be happier, and that's why we have a 24/7, on-demand, make-me-joyful-now happiness industry in America that includes thousands of happiness apps, books, adult beverages, retreats and happiness experts, not to mention assorted support animals.
Happiness is a booming business, and I consider it my business because happiness is rooted in the mind-body connection. That's the beautiful takeaway from "The Molecules of Emotion," a landmark book written in 1997 by Candace Pert. In her pioneering research, this hardcore, renowned neuroscientist with the National Institutes of Health proved that when you experience a deep sense of emotional well-being -- through yoga, meditation and mindfulness -- your entire body gets bathed in "bliss chemicals" (endorphins) of your own making.
And what else gets these bliss chemicals flowing? Well, that's where we jump to the work of British journalist Ruth Whippman, the author of "America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks." She wrote a commentary in The New York Times recently called "Happiness Is Other People," based on years of researching and writing her book.
There's too much focus on happiness as "an internal, personal quest, divorced from other people," she writes. Americans are engaging in the pursuit of happiness in larger numbers than ever, but she believes they are going about it in the wrong way.
"The idea that happiness should be engineered from the inside out, rather than the outside in, is slowly taking on the status of a default truism," she complains.
Resist, she says. This approach to happiness is leading people to "a journey of self-discovery," Whippman warns, "with the explicit aim of keeping each person locked in her own private emotional experience."
Whippman condemns that approach as an "isolationist philosophy," one that is shifting people away from spiritual practice "as a community-based endeavor to a private one, with silent meditation retreats, mindfulness apps and yoga classes replacing church socials and collective worship."
"Forget the meditation app," her article advised. "Self-help gurus urge us to look within, but joy in life is elsewhere."