ABOUT THE AOH METHOD
Researchers have recently discovered that the benefits of happiness extend far beyond simply “feeling good.” Studies show that increasing your customary level of happiness will directly bring about greater success in areas such as dating, marriage, career, income, creativity, health, and longevity—it is essentially “one stop shopping” for improving every key area of life! Despite these tremendous benefits, “The Art of Happiness (AOH)” is not just a self-indulgent pursuit of personal rewards. In fact, there is now substantial scientific evidence showing how the cultivation of greater happiness not only benefits oneself, but also one’s family, community, and society. This evidence has also confirmed one of the fundamental AOH principles: the inextricable link between personal happiness, kindness, and compassion.
With the desire for happiness at the very core of human existence, human beings have derived countless ways of seeking happiness. The “Art of Happiness (AOH) method” is a practical approach to cultivating happiness, combining the principles and practices from The Art of Happiness books with the latest developments in positive psychology and neuroscience.
This approach was developed by Dr. Howard Cutler in order to extend the central aims of the AOH book series to his work in other settings, whether working with private clients, giving talks, or leading workshops. One of the unique aspects of this approach, setting it apart from many other programs on positive psychology, is the deliberate effort to bridge East and West by combining the findings of modern Western science with traditional Buddhist principles.
However, in seeking a method that can benefit individuals from all backgrounds and faiths, Dr. Cutler has adapted the Buddhist practices for a general secular audience, emphasizing scientifically verified techniques.
In developing the AOH method, Dr. Cutler has drawn from the world’s most authoritative sources. For the Buddhist perspective, he drew from his 15 year personal collaboration with the Dalai Lama on their book series, as well as his contact with many other highly accomplished Buddhist scholars and practitioners over a 35-year period. From the Western scientific perspective, Dr. Cutler not only called upon his own background and formal training in science, medicine, and psychiatry, but he also drew from years of contact with some of the world’s top neuroscientists, his training in positive psychology from Dr. Martin Seligman (considered by many to be the “founder of positive psychology”) and his private consultations with the legendary cognitive psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis, “the grandfather of cognitive- behavioral psychology” (passing away in 2007, Dr. Ellis is considered by many to be the most influential psychologist of the 20th century).
It has now been little more than a decade since happiness suddenly became a subject of intense interest to researchers, due largely to the birth of the new field of science called “positive psychology.” But in celebrating the fact that happiness has, for the very first time in human history, finally become a legitimate subject for scientific investigation, a natural question may arise: If we now have scientific evidence showing us how to be happy, what need is there for Buddhist theory or practice? Shouldn’t the scientific findings be enough?
In answering this question, Dr. Howard Cutler explains:
“There are some distinct advantages to including the Buddhist perspective in our investigation of how to become happier. For example, the idea of happiness as a ‘trainable skill,’ something that can be learned—something that can be intentionally and directly developed by ‘training the mind’—is considered to be a ‘revolutionary new scientific discovery’ in the West, yet this concept has been the cornerstone of Buddhist practice for 2600 years!
“So, although recent developments in the scientific investigation of happiness have been very exciting, positive psychology is still in its infancy as a formal science. And since these traditional Buddhist practices have the advantage of 2600 years of empiric testing, perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that we are starting to see some intriguing evidence showing that Buddhist techniques may have a lot to contribute to the science of happiness.
“For example, after identifying the region of the brain associated with feelings of happiness, investigators at the University of Wisconsin used neuroimaging techniques to look at the brain function of some Tibetan Buddhist monks and discovered levels of activity in the ‘happiness region’ of their brains that were the highest values ever recorded——so far above the average American that they were completely off the charts! And fortunately, evidence shows that some of the key Buddhist techniques used by these ‘Olympic champions of happiness’ can be adapted for use by non-Buddhists as well, to help anyone achieve greater happiness and life satisfaction.”
Ultimately, it appears that Dr. Cutler’s efforts to create a practical, science-based program uniting ancient Eastern wisdom with modern Western science, have paid off. Those who have applied the AOH principles and practices to their lives have consistently reported increased levels of day-to-day happiness, life satisfaction, and other personal rewards, discovering that even during our troubled times, times of uncertainty and economic hardship, genuine and lasting happiness is possible.
“Our aim has been to share with others the conviction that there is a lot each of us can actually do to achieve greater happiness in our lives and, more importantly, draw attention to the tremendous inner resources that are at the disposal of each of us.” –H. H. The Dalai Lama
“In The Art of Happiness, which I co-wrote with my old friend, the American psychiatrist Howard Cutler...we attempted to present to the reader a systematic approach to achieving greater happiness and overcoming life’s inevitable adversities and suffering. Our approach combines and integrates, hopefully, the best of East and West—that is Western science and psychology on the one hand and Buddhist principles and practices on the other.” —H.H. The Dalai Lama
Today, many consider Dr. Howard C. Cutler as the "father of the positive psychology movement."
The Art of Happiness to be a highly influential work, not only in popularizing the subject of happiness among a general Western audience, but also in changing the way that many people perceive happiness and go about finding it.
The Art of Happiness series by H.H. the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D., began in 1998 with the publication of The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. Originally released in America with a small first printing and modest expectations, the book seemed to resonate with readers—it soon appeared on The New York Times bestsellers list, where it remained for 97 weeks and went on to become an international bestseller translated into 50 languages. As his first popular bestseller, it became the Dalai Lama’s “breakout book,” the first to introduce him to a wide mainstream readership in the West. Now a beloved classic, it remains his most successful work today. Seeking to help readers from all backgrounds and faiths apply the Dalai Lama’s wisdom in their daily lives, the book chronicles a series of lively dialogues between the Tibetan spiritual leader and
American psychiatrist Dr. Howard Cutler, exploring a broad range of topics related to our search for a happier and more fulfilling life. The dialogues are supplemented with practical exercises as well as commentary by Dr. Cutler, illustrating the key principles with real-life stories, case histories, and scientific evidence supporting the Dalai Lama’s views.
Shortly after the book’s release, there was a sudden explosion of interest in happiness among both the scientific community and the general public, largely fueled by the birth of “positive psychology,” a field of science devoted to the study of positive emotions and human flourishing. This new research led to a global “happiness revolution,” marked by the growing impact of happiness research on Western society (e.g. in business, education, and government). As the surge of new scientific studies started generating many new books on the subject, The Art of Happiness became the “inaugural bestseller of the happiness revolution,” forerunner to the flood of popular books on happiness published in recent years. The book eventually became a kind of icon in popular American culture—images or comments about the book not only appeared in print media, but also started spontaneously showing up on many top TV programs at the time, including Friends, Sex and the City, Jeopardy, and even Monday Night Football!
Following their first book, the Dalai Lama and Dr. Cutler continued their collaboration, broadening the scope of their discussions in two more highly successful books, The Art of Happiness at Work and The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World. The authors are currently planning two more volumes to complete their Art of Happiness series.
Drawing upon 2600 years of Buddhist wisdom, combined with the latest findings of modern science, and mixed with a healthy dose of common sense, The Art of Happiness books offer practical solutions to overcoming life’s inevitable problems and provide a systematic approach to achieving greater happiness and life-satisfaction.