The Study of Human Flourishing and Other Mindful News

From the initiative to rewrite Wikipedia’s catalog on the continent of Africa to taking a closer look at what it means for all of us to thrive, here’s what’s new in the world of mindfulness.

Adobe Stock/ Cienpies Design

What creates human flourishing? The Global Flourishing Study, launched October 2021, is seeking answers. Over five years, social biomedical scientists at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science and Baylor University will collect data from 240,000 participants in 22 countries, using six “domains” of flourishing: happiness and life satisfaction; mental and physical health; meaning and purpose; character and virtue; close social relationships; and material and political stability. This data will be available for anyone to use, which Dave Mellor, Director of Policy at the Center for Open Science (a project partner), says will “increase the equity with which discoveries, findings, and data will become available, and help accelerate the process of discover.”

Kindness Rx

At Senders Pediatrics in Cleveland, Ohio, knowing how to be kind is considered part of a child’s overall well-being. Often, children leave the doctor’s office with colorful cards detailing ways to practice kindness. Helmed by their parent coach and educator Joan Morgenstern, the Senders Kindness Initiative aims to help kids cultivate social intelligence, happiness, agency, and purpose.

Backed by a Parenting Initiative Grant in 2020 from the Greater Good Science Center, Senders launched the Family Kindness Festival where kids display how they practice kindness. Morgenstern is working on this year’s festival, which will happen May 1. “My goal is to shift kindness from a moment into a movement and from an action into a habit,” she says.

Grow the Future

The relationship between African Americans and the land has been and continues to be tumultuous, with many having no sense (or documentation) of ownership over land they’ve tended for generations.

The Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund aims to fix that. The coalition of three Detroit urban farming organizations aims to address the disparity in land ownership that has plagued Black farmers for generations. “It definitely feels autonomous. Feeling like you can secure and protect the things that you’ve been working hard to maintain,” Dazmonique Carr, one of the program’s beneficiaries, told the outlet Grist. She hopes to pass her farm down to her son.

Writing History

We may live in The Information Age, but for Adama Sanneh, there was one thing he couldn’t get information on. “Wikipedia suffers from a paucity of information about Africa. There’s more information about the country of France than the entire continent of Africa,” Sanneh told the website Reasons to be Cheerful. Sanneh, through his Moleskine Foundation, is hoping to fill this gap with the WikiAfrica Education Initiative by creating content for Wikipedia in English and various African languages with the hope that young people will have resources to learn about their culture, from those who know it best.

Food for Thought

As a member of the Oglala Lakota Oyate, part of the Great Sioux Nation, Sean Sherman took part in many celebrations that included contemporary and traditional dishes. “My ancestors used all parts of the animals and plants with respect, viewing themselves as part of our environment, not above it. Nothing was wasted,” Sherman wrote in an essay in the New York Times. Now, through his non-profit, North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems, Sherman—who calls himself the Sioux Chef—is hoping to identify, share, and educate people on the authentic Indigenous foods of North America, using ingredients like wild manzanita berries and acorns. “My team and I are working toward the day we will be able to drive across this continent in any direction, stopping at Indigenous restaurants and experiencing all the richness of the varied original American cultures,” Sherman wrote.

Acts of Kindness

Paws That Refresh

When Lori Irby brought her foster kittens into work at The Meridian, a senior living community in California, her office became a popular place with residents. The joy the kittens brought inspired a weekly kitten therapy event that improves mental health and reduces loneliness for residents while helping to socialize the kittens.

A Wild Time

Five friends were hiking in British Columbia when they found two men who had fallen into the pool at the bottom of a waterfall and couldn’t pull themselves to safety. With no cell reception to call for help, the group of Sikh friends improvised, tying their turbans together to make a rope, and pulled the men up to the trail.

Dad It Up

A Louisiana high school with a fighting problem toned down when a group of 40 dads formed Dads on Duty and began taking shifts at their children’s school. They hang out in the hallways and greet kids as they head to class, giving “the look” to troublemakers and setting a lighthearted tone with—what else— punny dad jokes.

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