Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This Emotional Life TV Series and Web Site

This Emotional Life is a fascinating television series that aired last week on PBS, aimed at identifying the key to human happiness. It is hosted by Daniel Todd Gilbert, a social psychology professor at Harvard and author of the best selling book, Stumbling on Happiness. Split into three segments lasting two hours each, the program examines the importance of social connections and human relationships, how they can go right or wrong, and what we can do to make them better.

The first segment (Family, Friends & Lovers) features the stories of several different individuals and families struggling to stay connected, and concludes that, since we humans have a basic need for love and are “wired to connect,” our happiness lies in each other’s hands. The second part (Facing Our Fears) explores negative emotions as impediments to happiness, and shares new discoveries about and effective tools for the management of anger, anxiety and depression. The third installment (Rethinking Happiness) looks at the power of resilience and forgiveness, along with empirically and scientifically based self-help programs such as positive psychology and meditation. The importance of mental as well as physical exercise is emphasized, along with the value of identifying our strengths and building upon them. Finding happiness is a choice, Gilbert concludes, and the most important factor is social connection: maintaining successful relationships with family, friends and other social groups.

In addition to affording us an opportunity to view each of the three segments in their entirety, the PBS Web site, This Emotional Life offers a treasure trove of additional information, resources and access to social support. The Topics section offers in-depth information on any number of mental and emotional health issues, including attachment, bullying, grief and loss, addiction, ADHD, autism, depression, PTSD, forgiveness, humor and more. Perspectives is a collection of videos, interviews, and stories. People & Blogs offers personal stories and expert insight. Resource Finder features recommended resources and promises a national data base of support organizations. The TV series itself, along with an overview of all three episodes, is found on the TV Series tab and can be downloaded for individual viewing at your convenience.  

In addition to all of that, because of the need for urgent help and the potential for deep impact, the project focuses on two special areas of concern: Early Childhood Attachment  and Military Service Members.

As described on its Facebook page (yet another rich source of information as well as interesting viewer commentary),
The impact of the project will also be extended by organizations already working in the area of happiness, fulfillment and mental health and wellness. These partners will assist in developing content and in distributing our materials and resources (online and offline through our toolkits). Leading medical and health sciences organizations from around the country have recognized the potential impact and value of this multi-faceted project and are assisting in developing content and will be taking part in events and distributing materials and resources. Partners include The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Mayo Clinic, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America, and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, as well as representatives from federal agencies and leading research institutions. Other partnerships at both the national and local level will be added as the campaign continues to grow.

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