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Facing Financial Crisis

On Sunday, August 16, 2009, Dr. Peter Lin gave a talk entitled, “Facing Financial Crisis” at CMC. He focused on psychological research related to financial crisis and human happiness, interacting with the audience with questions and interesting research findings.

According to Dr. Lin, financial crises can be devastating for families. Research shows that families that communicate better tend to be less affected, and individual factors, such as coping skills and depression are significant. He offered practical advice for dealing with financial crises based on five recommendations by the American Psychological Association, and compared these to Buddhist wisdom, and Master Sheng Yen booklet, "108 Paths to Liberation".

· During financial crises, most people will pretend nothing happened or will panic. In this state, they will usually make bad decisions. Shifu said, "Try to cultivate this attitude in life: if I can have what I want, that's good; if I can't, that’s fine too. This will help us turn our suffering into joy, and live a happier life."

· Pay attention to what you are spending and learn skills for better financial management, which is comparable to Shifu's advice, "Only if you really need it, you should get it. What do you need, what do you want."

· Recognize how you deal with stress and the way you cope. We should avoid negative ways of dealing with stress, such as drinking alcohol, using drugs, or shopping, and apply positive means such as meditation, contemplation, and reciting mantras.

· See this difficult time as an opportunity for positive change. Shifu said, "Feel thankful for the chances to hone ourselves: both good and ill fortune are our benefactors."

· If nothing works, we should seek professional help, such as financial advisors and mental health professionals.

What determines happiness? Most people believe the more, the better—more money, more possessions, and more friends, but is this really true? The field of positive psychology focuses on happiness, well-being, inner peace and contentment. The Buddha taught that true happiness can not be found from outside, but from within.

Dr. Lin gave examples of scientific studies on happiness, looking at variables such as money, work-related issues, marriage, and love. Shifu said that happy people tend to have vows, and as a result, be more creative, enjoy work, be more likely to have more friends, and be more likely to get married. Research shows that 50% of happiness may be determined by genetic makeup, 10% is based on circumstances, and 40% depends on intentional activities.

These activities may include tendencies to nurture relationships, express gratitude, help others, practice optimism, be in the moment, engage in physical activities, be spiritual, and have meaningful goals. Happiness is a skill and takes work. If we are not happy, we should contemplate on what we are not doing to make ourselves happy.

(By Chang Jie)

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