Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life

The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.

Based at the University of California, Berkeley, the GGSC is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: not only do we sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, we help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives. Since 2001, we have been at the fore of a new scientific movement to explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior—the science of a meaningful life. And we have been without peer in our award-winning efforts to translate and disseminate this science to the public.

Self-Care - The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

How can mind-body skills help you?

Fundamental self-care consists of four essential areas:

healthy eating
exercise, movement, dance
stress management
human interaction

We teach simple techniques for people around the world to engage in this wellness journey, and get out of their brains and into their bodies—something all of us need. Below are just a few of our techniques that you can try alone or, even better, with others.

Our research shows measurable results using simple techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, drawing and movement, even with people with severe trauma resulting from wars and natural disasters

Health Behaviors of Nursing Students: A Longitudinal Study.

Clement, Madeleine; Jankowski, Louis W.; Bouchard, Louise; Perreault, Michel; Lepage, Yves
Journal of Nursing Education, 2002
A 3-year study compared 52 undergraduate nursing students with 93 education majors and with the general population. No significant differences among students on 9 health behaviors appeared. Compared with the general population, nursing students had inadequate time for sleep, exercise, and eating breakfast. (Contains 77 references.) (SK)

Sleep disorder and symptomatology among medical and nursing students

Sleep disorder and symptomatology among medical and nursing students
James B. Raybin, M.D., M.C.a (Capt.), Thomas P. Detre, M.D.b, c
a Department of Psychiatry, Fitzsimmons Army Hospital, Denver, Colo. USA
b Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Yale-New Haven Hospital New Haven, Conn. USA
c Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn. USA

This study reports on the quantity and quality of sleep disorder among a “normal” group of 139 medical and nursing students. About 20 per cent of the total population reported a disturbance of sleep.

Humor and Laughter may Influence Health

Humor and Laughter may Influence Health. I. History and Background
Mary Payne Bennett1 and Cecile A. Lengacher2
1Indiana State University, College of Nursing, IN, USA
2University of South Florida, College of Nursing, FL, USA

Received 30 March 2005

Articles in both the lay and professional literature have extolled the virtues of humor, many giving the impression that the health benefits of humor are well documented by the scientific and medical community. The concept that humor or laughter can be therapeutic goes back to biblical times and this belief has received varying levels of support from the scientific community at different points in its history.


The Experience of Laughter: A Phenomenological Study

The Experience of Laughter: A Phenomenological Study
Rosemarie Rizzo Parse, RN; PhD; FAAN
Hunter College, City University of New York, NY

The purpose of this research was to uncover a structural definition of laughing in persons over 65. The structural definition that arises from this study is: laughing is a buoyant immersion in the presence of unanticipated glimpsings prompting harmonious integrity which surfaces anew through contemplative visioning. This definition is congruent with some of the current literature and practices related to laughter and health. It corresponds to the principles of Parse's human becoming theory and thus expands understanding of human experiences related to structuring meaning, living in relation to others, and viewing the familiar in a new light.


How Humor Keeps You Well

Hassed C
Department of Community Medicine and General Practice, Monash University, Victoria.
Australian Family Physician [2001, 30(1):25-28]

BACKGROUND: The beneficial effect of humour on health has long been recognised anecdotally and intuitively but studying and quantifying that effect is difficult. 'Studying humour is like dissecting a frog--you may know a lot but you end up with a dead frog.' (Mark Twain)

OBJECTIVE: To describe some of the psychological and physiological effects of laughter and the health benefits of humour.


9 Reasons Walking Meetings Are Way Better Than Sitting in the Boardroom

The Surgeon General recommends that people achieve a goal of taking 10,000 steps a day to reduce risk for disease and help lead a longer, healthier life. This is roughly equivalent to 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. How is that possible for people who work at desk jobs all day? Take a walking meeting!

I've worn a few hats in my working life. One of them was a school administrator. The school was a progressive school in lots ways. Every year the whole faculty would go on a working retreat. There were hours and hours of meetings that included walking and talking as we hiked the Adirondack Mountains. Colleagues would comment on how much more we got accomplished when we walked and talked.


feet first: promoting walking communitites


Thinking, talking, and walking are inextricably linked through history. It is only a recent idea that we meet around tables, seated in chairs. We want to help you rediscover and share the value of walking meetings.

Aristotle was said to walk as he taught, founding what we now refer to as Ancient Greece’s Peripatetic School of Philosophy. This name was derived from the colonnade or walkway in the Lyceum in which he taught. The Sophists, philosophers predating Socrates, were wanderers. They traveled place to place on foot delivering talks.


Laughing at myself: beginning nursing students' insight for a professional career.

PURPOSE. This study examined the phenomenon and meaning of laughing at oneself as described by the lived experiences of student nurses. BACKGROUND. Studies in older populations revealed that maturity and experience, not necessarily age, made a difference in the ability to laugh at oneself, but little research has been conducted on nursing students and the ability to laugh at oneself. A descriptive, exploratory, qualitative design and phenomenological method was used. Face-to-face interviews with nine female nursing students were recorded and transcribed. Meaning statements were identified in the language of the participants and synthesized by the researcher. RESULTS. Findings suggest that beginning nursing students bring the experience of laughing at oneself into the nursing profession and it provides them with valuable insights into the challenges facing them in a nursing career. IMPLICATIONS. Major themes were that the ability to laugh at oneself helps nursing students to maintain a balanced perspective and to not take themselves too seriously. A potential for laughing at oneself helps in keeping a balance between tragedy and comedy in life. Other implications for nursing job satisfaction and job retention are discussed.
PMID: 19954466 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Cultural differences in therapeutic humor in nursing education.

Chiang-Hanisko, L., Adamle, K., & Chiang, L.C. (2009). Cultural differences in therapeutic humor in nursing education. Journal of Nursing Research, 17(1), 52-60.

Humor has been recognized by nurse researchers and practitioners as a constructive therapeutic intervention and has shown positive psychological and physiological outcomes for patient care. Because cross-cultural research on humor is sparse, this preliminary study investigates how nursing faculty members approach teaching therapeutic humor in the classroom and clinical education in different countries. Through an investigation of classroom (didactic) education and clinical practicum with direct patient care, the study may elucidate the linkage between theory and practice as well as how nursing faculty members view therapeutic humor in general. Researching nursing faculty teaching practices and viewpoints of therapeutic humor may help reveal cultural differences in the use of humor in healthcare settings. This cross-cultural study included 40 nursing faculty at three nursing programs: two in the United States and one in Taiwan. A qualitative approach was used to perform content analysis on responses to the open-ended questionnaires. Research findings revealed cultural differences between faculties from the two countries. Taiwanese faculty members indicated that they teach more theory and concepts related to therapeutic humor in the classroom than do nursing faculty members from the United States. However, nursing faculty members in Taiwan reported that they observe and practice less therapeutic humor in clinical settings out of respect for the cultural value of "reverence of illness" operating within Taiwanese society. Therapeutic humor was family centered and interdependent on relationships, roles, duties, and responsibilities of family members. In contrast, the U.S. faculty members stated that they teach less theory and concepts related to therapeutic humor in the classroom but observe and practice humor more in clinical settings. United States faculty approached teaching therapeutic humor in the classroom on an informal basis because the subject was not part of the required nursing curricula. In clinical settings, therapeutic humor was patient centered and spontaneous in nature.


Oncology Nurses' Response to Patient-Initiated Humor

Adamle, K., Ludwick, R., Zeller, R., & Winchell, J. (2009). Oncology nurses' responses to patient-initiated humor (PIH). Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care. 31(6), E1.

The purpose of this study was to investigate potential predictors (patient variables) that would result in oncology nurses' recognition of and response to patient-initiated humor (PIH). Participants included 47 nurses of an 80-member Oncology Nursing Society chapter (57% response rate), which yielded 232 usable vignettes. Previously collected qualitative data of patient-nurse conversations were used to construct simulated vignettes using a factorial survey design. Five randomly generated vignettes containing 14 independent patient variables with different levels were used to examine nurses' identification of PIH. The unit of analysis in factorial survey is the vignette. Multiple regression and analysis of variance were used to analyze variables in each vignette. Two of 14 variables were significant: "verbal" (actual words the patient spoke) and "intonation" (inflection, pitch, or manner of speech). A 2x2 factorial analysis of variance using verbal and intonation variables revealed that oncology nurses' recognition of and response to PIH were primarily predicted by patients' verbal words. This study distinguishes PIH as a patient-initiated behavior rather than nurse-driven interventions and is a new venue for research in patient-nurse interactions. Results demonstrate the central role of patient-centered communication to inform clinical practice about patient preferences, individualized integration/participation in their care, and a knowledge base of patient-centered behaviors for outcomes of personal importance.
PMID: 18987502 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


7 Ways to Practice Mindfulness in the Technology Age

I think we've all experienced that awkward moment, when you're speaking to someone and the cell phone rings. For a moment one person glances at their phone, while the other wonders if they're about to be trumped by a phone call. No one likes being ignored in the midst of a cell conversation. It's rude. But this is the reality of our 21st century lifestyle, where technology constantly competes for our attention. Social media, cell phones, emails and iGadgets. It's hard to keep track of it all. And it can stress you out. Twenty years ago, we did not face the same challenges of managing our time and energy. We live in unprecedented times of distraction and stimulation. We are connected 24/7 -- and oddly, disconnected.

It isn't just the plethora of tech offerings that keep us feeling preoccupied and divided, it is our relationship to these devices that keep us wanting more. What can we do to shift our relationship to the technology that surrounds us? How can we make technology work for us and not the other way around?

The good news is we can use technology as a tool to raise our awareness. We can do this by paying attention and asking ourselves questions about the way we use our technology. Just notice: Do you hold your breath when you're working on the computer? Do you notice how often you feel compelled to check your cell phone?

Here are seven ways you can practice mindfulness with your technology platforms. Try these practices as an experiment to raise your own awareness. Refrain from judging yourself or being too harsh about how these practices work for you. These exercises are intended to raise awareness by simply being aware.

1) When the cell phone rings: Have you ever noticed how quickly you respond to the phone ringing? From the moment it rings, do you instantly feel the need to respond right away? Does a ringing phone knock you out of your present moment or disconnect you from the people you're with?

Try taking three deep breaths and center yourself before answering the phone. Experience a moment of presence before answering the phone. Notice what it's like to pause before your answer. Read More


Longer Shifts, Higher Levels of Burnout, Higher Patient Dissatisfaction

The Longer The Shifts For Hospital Nurses, The Higher The Levels Of Burnout And Patient Dissatisfaction
Amy Witkoski Stimpfel ( is a research fellow at the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, in Philadelphia.
Douglas M. Sloane is an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
Linda H. Aiken is the Claire M. Fagin Leadership Professor of Nursing, a professor of sociology, and director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.


Extended work shifts of twelve hours or longer are common and even popular with hospital staff nurses, but little is known about how such extended hours affect the care that patients receive or the well-being of nurses. Survey data from nurses in four states showed that more than 80 percent of the nurses were satisfied with scheduling practices at their hospital. However, as the proportion of hospital nurses working shifts of more than thirteen hours increased, patients’ dissatisfaction with care increased. Furthermore, nurses working shifts of ten hours or longer were up to two and a half times more likely than nurses working shorter shifts to experience burnout and job dissatisfaction and to intend to leave the job. Extended shifts undermine nurses’ well-being, may result in expensive job turnover, and can negatively affect patient care. Policies regulating work hours for nurses, similar to those set for resident physicians, may be warranted. Nursing leaders should also encourage workplace cultures that respect nurses’ days off and vacation time, promote nurses’ prompt departure at the end of a shift, and allow nurses to refuse to work overtime without retribution.


Self-Care Who Cares

Tracey Motter , MSN, RN from Kent State University College of Nursing gave a presentation along with KSU students in the Accelerated nursing program. Check out her presentation and other self-care information.


Shiftwork Sleep Disorder. The role of nurse in SWSD for you and your patients

Do you work the night shift or rotating shifts? Do some of your patients struggle with sleep problems? If so, access our on-demand webinar on shiftwork sleep disorder (SWSD). More than 22 million Americans are shiftworkers, and nurses account for a large portion of them. Especially when they have long commutes and family responsibilities, shiftworking nurses are vulnerable to significant sleep loss and SWSD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SWSD poses serious health threats. Shiftwork, lost sleep, and SWSD can reduce your job performance, decrease quality of life, and jeopardize patient safety. And, the health threats your patients with SWSD suffer can lower their quality of life and put them at risk for injuries.

Unfortunately, many nurses and other healthcare professionals aren't familiar with SWSD. To learn more about this disorder that can affect you, your colleagues, and even patients, take advantage of an on-demand web course, "Shiftwork sleep disorder: The role of the nurse - Understanding the consequences of SWSD for you and your patients." This fast-paced, on-demand webinar features sleep disorder experts who discuss:

risks associated with shiftwork
physiologic and psychological effects of shiftwork and SWSD
impact of shiftwork on safety, performance, and productivity
nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic management
assessment tools

Take this free CE offering ...


The effects of lavender and rosemary essential oils on test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students.

Test taking in nursing school can produce stress that affects the ability of students to realize their goals of graduation. In this study, the use of lavender and rosemary essential oil sachets reduced test-taking stress in graduate nursing students as evidenced by lower scores on test anxiety measure, personal statements, and pulse rates.


Stress resiliency, psychological empowerment and conflict management styles among baccalaureate nursing students

pines e.w., rauschhuber m.l., norgan g.h., cook j.d., canchola l., richardson c. & jones m.e. (2012) Stress resiliency, psychological empowerment and conflict management styles among baccalaureate nursing students. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(7), 1482–1493.

Aims.  This article is a report of a Neuman Systems Model-guided correlational study of the relations of stress resiliency, psychological empowerment, selected demographic characteristics (age, ethnicity, semester in school) and conflict management styles.

Background.  Emerging evidence suggests that stress resiliency and psychological empowerment can strengthen student nurses in academic achievement and coping with stress. Little is known about conflict management styles of students and the relationship to empowerment, resiliency and the implications for managing workplace conflict.

Methods.  A correlational study was conducted in Spring 2010 with 166 baccalaureate students. Most participants were female, single, Hispanic and 25 years old. The data collection instruments included the Stress Resiliency Profile, the Psychological Empowerment Instrument, the Conflict Mode Instrument and a demographic inventory. Descriptive and inferential correlational statistics were used to analyse the data.

Results.  Students scored in the high range for focusing on their deficiencies in conflict situations; they scored above the 60th percentile for avoiding and accommodating behaviours and were less likely to use competing or collaborating strategies to manage conflict. Empowerment scores were significantly correlated with stress resiliency scores. Students with high scores on empowerment had high scores on the skill recognition subscale of the Stress Resiliency Profile suggesting more resilience; high scores on empowerment were related to high necessitating subscale scores of the Stress Resiliency Profile suggesting a predisposition to stress.

Conclusions.  Neuman Systems Model may provide guidance for educators to strengthen student nurses’ management of stressors in the workplace.


Assessing intervention effectiveness for reducing stress in student nurses

Aims.  To identify the types of interventions that are effective in reducing stress in student nurses, and to make recommendations for future research.

Background.  Student nurses experience significant stress during their training and this may contribute to sickness, absence and attrition. Given the global shortage of nurses and high dropout rates amongst trainees, the importance for developing stress management programmes for student nurses is becoming more evident. To date, only one review has examined the effectiveness of stress interventions for student nurses, but the emergence of recent literature warrants a new review.

Data sources.  Research papers published between April 1981 and April 2008 were identified from the following databases: Medline, CINAHL, Behavioral Sciences Collection, IBSS and Psychinfo.

Review methods.  A quantitative systematic review with narrative synthesis was conducted. Key terms included ‘nurses OR nursing OR nurse’, ‘student OR students’, ‘intervention’, ‘stress OR burnout’. In addition to database searches, reference lists of selected papers were scanned, key authors were contacted and manual searches of key journals were conducted.

Results.  The most effective interventions provided skills for coping with stressful situations (typically relaxation) and skills for changing maladaptive cognitions. Interventions which promoted skills to reduce the intensity or number of stressors were also successful. In most cases, stress interventions did not improve academic performance.

Conclusion.  The design of stress interventions should be driven by theory. Future studies should focus on interface and organizational factors and the long-term benefits of interventions for student nurses are yet to be demonstrated.


Nursing at its Best: Competent and Caring

Marilyn K. Rhodes, EdD, MSN, RN, CNM
Arlene H. Morris, EdD, MSN, RN, CNE
Ramona Browder Lazenby, EdD, RN, FNP-BC, CNE

An award-winning journalist spoke to a group of students during their first month in a baccalaureate nursing program, challenging the nursing profession to abandon its image of nurses as angels and promote an image of nurses as competent professionals who are both knowledgeable and caring. This presentation elicited an unanticipated level of emotion, primarily anger, on the part of the students. This unexpected reaction prompted faculty to explore the students’ motivations for entering the nursing profession and their perceptions of the relative importance of competence and caring in nursing. The authors begin this article by reviewing the literature related to motivations for selecting a profession and the contributions of competence and caring to nursing care. Next they describe their survey method and analysis and report their findings regarding student motivations and perceptions of competence and caring in nursing. Emerging themes for motivation reflected nursing values, especially altruism, and coincided with students’ beliefs of self-efficacy and goal attainment. Student responses indicated their understanding of the need for competence and revealed idealistic perceptions of caring. The authors conclude with a discussion of these themes and recommendations for student recruitment, curricular emphasis, and future research in this area.. Read morea t


Self-care in AHNA’s Nursing Population a project and study conducted at the AHNA 2010 conference Colorado Springs, Colorado

Bethany C. DeMarco, BA, BSN, RN
Research team: Bethany C. DeMarco, BA, BSN, RN, Jessica L. McDonald, BS, BSN, RN;
Dan Van Leuven, BS, BSN, RN; Tara Shaw, BS, BSN, RN.
Special Thanks to Beverly Sesters, DNP for facilitating our participation in the AHNA
Conference, the Reflection Room and research survey.
Caring is fundamental to the nursing practice, but is often compromised by burnout
experienced by nurses. Previous studies demonstrate the need for self-care in the
nursing population (Chow & Kalischuck, 2008), and relate lack of self-care to burnout
experienced by nurses (Brathovde, 2006; Johns 2004), as well as compromised caring
and quality of care for patients (Behrendt, 2008). Nurses may not have the appropriate
training or resources available to deal with work-related stressors (Brathovde, 2006).
The recovery of the ‘disease’ of burnout in nurses may result in increased quality of
patient care (Benner & Wrubel, 1989). Self-care is an essential component in nurses’
recovery from burnout. Although previous studies have demonstrated the need for
nursing or student nursing self care (Chow & Kalischuk, 2008), research does not
specifically address the holistic nursing population who actively seeks education about
nursing self-care at the AHNA annual conference. The specific aim of this study is to
measure the self-care status of AHNA nurses who attended the annual 2010 AHNA
conference and to determine if self-care is related to their overall health. Self-care is
central to AHNA according to Core Value 3, holistic nurses engage in self-care in order to
“better serve self and others” (ANA, 2007), thus AHNA’s Annual Conference was chosen
as the setting. The population studied met the minimum inclusion criteria of being a
registered nurse (R.N.), an attendee of the AHNA 2010 conference, and a participant in
the Reflection Room (RR). Read more at :


Reclaiming Self: Making Time for Yourself

By Jan Hornford, Future Perfect Coach
Special to NurseZone

It often seems that our days are engulfed in a myriad of tasks. Today we have many responsibilities and many roles—spouse, parent, sibling, child, friend, and career worker. Do you find you lose yourself in your relationships, in your nurturing roles, and in the busyness of life? Does it seem like your life has become a series of tasks to complete, rather than moments to enjoy? We often get so caught up in the doing that we forget to be.
Usually the first thing to go in this whirlwind of activity is time for ourselves. Lack of time for ourselves often leads to feeling frustrated, tired, overwhelmed and out of balance. Without this time for self, we lose sight of what's important to us and of what we need to be our best. Read more at:


Study supports using virtual environment to teach mind/body techniques

A small study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers found that online virtual communities may be an effective way to train patients in meditation and other mind/body techniques.  The ability to learn and practice approaches that elicit the relaxation response – a state of deep rest that has been shown to alleviate stress-related symptoms – in a virtual environment could help surmount several barriers that can restrict participation.

"Our finding that a medical intervention – in this case teaching a mind/body approach that includes the relaxation response – can be delivered via a virtual environment is important because these environments are are richer and more rewarding than simply using interactive web sites," says Daniel Hoch, MD, PhD, of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH, corresponding author of the report appearing in the open-access journal PLoS One.  

Hoch explains that, while practices that elicit the relaxation response have been shown to benefit individuals with a wide variety of health problems, the traditional way of teaching these practices – face-to-face meetings over several weeks – can present significant difficulties for patients, particularly those with limited mobility.  In addition, individuals who are uncomfortable with group programs may prefer the anonymity of a virtual educational setting. While Internet-based programs have been used for mental health screening and support programs, Hoch and his colleagues were not aware of any prior efforts to systematically study a virtual mind-body intervention. 

To test whether delivering such a program through a virtual environment was feasible, the research team chose Second Life, a three-dimensional "virtual world" in which users interact by means of online avatars that can communicate basic body language and emotional states.  Several patient support groups, including groups for individuals with neurologic disorders, have established Second Life communities to share information and experiences.  To adapt traditional face-to-face teaching methods to a virtual environment, Hoch brought experienced Benson-Henry clinicians together with experts in applications of Second Life to design the program.  


Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes

WEDNESDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've taken a significant stride forward in understanding how relaxation techniques such as meditation, prayer and yoga improve health: by changing patterns of gene activity that affect how the body responds to stress.

The changes were seen both in long-term practitioners and in newer recruits, the scientists said.

"It's not all in your head," said Dr. Herbert Benson, president emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "What we have found is that when you evoke the relaxation response, the very genes that are turned on or off by stress are turned the other way. The mind can actively turn on and turn off genes. The mind is not separated from the body."

One outside expert agreed.

"It's sort of like reverse thinking: If you can wreak havoc on yourself with lifestyle choices, for example, [in a way that] causes expression of latent genetic manifestations in the negative, then the reverse should hold true," said Dr. Gerry Leisman, director of the F.R. Carrick Institute for Clinical Ergonomics, Rehabilitation and Applied Neuroscience at Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K.