So recently I read a bunch of different books about the science of happiness. Contrary to popular belief, happiness isn’t like a butterfly, where if you chase it, it just runs away. Happiness is instead like literally everything else in life, when you pursue you it, you increase your likelihood of getting it IF you actually know how it works, and most people (literally almost everyone) doesn’t understand it, because it’s not intuitive, at all. Think of all the things you think would make you happier. You’d be wrong about at least half of them. Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s everyone.
You can set intelligent goals that will make you happier, but not if you rely on intuition over scientific research. We simply suck as guessing how different things will impact our level of happiness, mainly because our instincts have to do with survival, not happiness. Humans (and all life-forms) evolved to survive, not be happy, and once our needs are already met, our biology doesn’t tell us to slow down.
So rather than continue my haphazard attempts at crafting a lifestyle and habits that I think might make me happier but I wasn’t really sure about, I decided I should actually dig into the science.
So I read “Lost Connections”, “The Happiness Trap”, “Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile”, “Hardwiring Happiness” and “Authentic Happiness”, which were all jam-packed with useful, actionable, scientifically proven methods of improving your average mood.
Some key paradigm shifts I had whilst reading all this were:
You can’t control your thoughts.
Don’t believe me? Try to not think about vanilla ice-cream. Try to not think about how it tastes. Try not to think about how it smells. Try not to think about eating it right now? Did you succeed? No. This is the same for everything, so trying to “control” your thoughts to make them pleasant rather than unpleasant doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. What about all those books that preach this as a way of making you happier? They are toilet paper. All of them. But you can turn down the power that your thoughts have over you by observing them more often in a detached way. “The Happiness Trap” has great exercises for how to do this.
Community is key.
Do you know what happened to your ancestors who were not accepted members of their community? They died. Studies in these books about other primates as well as studies on humans reveals a powerful connection between those who were outcasts or lacked social ties and those who were miserable, stressed and had a lower life expectancy. Having internet friends doesn’t do dick for your feeling of being accepted in your community. Not knowing who your neighbours are and not feeling like you’re a part of something, in evolutionary terms, is a precarious situation to be in. This was a big reminder for me to actually engage in community service, community activities and join a community organisation.
Ugly, anti-social cities suck.
Greener areas, which encourage social ties between neighbours and are safe and not noisy are significantly better to your happiness to the alternative. And the alternative has been the places I’ve been living, for years and years.
The new goals I created for myself, after reading this book:
Reconnect With Meaningful Values
Connect With Other People
Regularly reflect on thoughts
Fill my day with Hobbies
Be someone who exercises regularly in nature
Develop a complex self-image
The best book of the bunch was “The How Of Happiness”, if you’re interested in actually living a happy life, I strongly recommend you check it out here
The best app for monitoring your progress with happiness is called, astonishingly: “Track Your Happiness”, you can get it here
Here’s to a happier you 🙂