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* This Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to the Research Digests RSS feed to receive future digests.


Happy Meals Make Happy Kids?

"Childhood Obesity and Unhappiness: The Influence of Soft Drinks and Fast Food Consumption"

Chang, H.; Nayga, R.M. Journal of Happiness Studies, Vol. 11 (3), October 2010, 261-275.

Data from a nationwide survey in Taiwan suggests that children who consume more fast food and soft drinks are (not surprisingly) more likely to be overweight; however, they’re also less likely to be unhappy. The researchers looked at factors driving fast food consumption. As a mother’s consumption of fast food and soft drinks increased so did that of her child. Kids also consumed more as they got older, and children living in high income households consumed more than children in low income households. The authors suggest that programs designed to reduce kids’ fast food and soft drink consumption should also focus on ways to compensate for the potential reduction in the happiness of these children. —Neha John-Henderson

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Mindfulness Protects Cancer Patients from Stress

"Self-report Mindfulness as a Mediator of Psychological Well-being in a Stress Reduction Intervention for Cancer Patients—A Randomized Study"

Bränström, R.; Kvillemo, P.; Brandberg, Y.; Moskowitz, J.T. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 39 (2), February 2010, 151-161.

This study taught mindfulness meditation skills to people with varying cancer diagnoses. Participants learned skills in observing and describing their thoughts and emotions. They also learned to accept the presence of these experiences without reacting to or judging these experiences as either good or bad. Researchers measured their psychological well-being before and after this training, and compared the results with the well-being of people who didn’t learn these skills. The researchers found that individuals in the mindfulness meditation group showed a greater decrease in psychological distress and a greater increase in positive states of mind than the other participants. These findings suggest that taking a more open and observant approach to life experiences can help decrease negative feelings of stress and increase positivity, even when faced with a particularly challenging and stressful situation. —Janelle Caponigro

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When Do We Forgive?

"Forgiveness and Forgiving Communication in Dating Relationships: An Expectancy–Investment Explanation"

Guerrero, L.K.; Bachman, G.F. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Vol. 27 (6), September 2010, 801-823.

It can be challenging, but the ability to forgive is essential to maintaining and repairing relationships. So why do some people choose to forgive and others plan for revenge? Researchers found that a person is more likely to forgive when they see a relationship as higher in quality, when they have a greater personal investment in it, and when they see the transgression as less negative. However, a person is more motivated to retaliate when they’re less invested in the relationship and see the transgression as intentional. These findings shed light on why we are more likely to give our close family and friends a second chance but may hold grudges against those who are less meaningful in our lives. —Janelle Caponigro

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