And here’s another expert list of “things we should do to be happy”, this time from neuroscientist Gabrielle LeBlanc who has “canvassed the leading experts on what happy people have in common”.
Well okay, actually it’s from Oprah.com. 🙂 Here’s a quick summary…
- Find your own golden self
Eudaimonia means striving toward excellence based on one’s unique talents and potential. Aristotle considered it to be the noblest goal in life. “Eudaimonic well-being is much more robust and satisfying than hedonic happiness, and it engages different parts of the brain,” says Richard J. Davidson, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. So it’s not all about eating chocolate (although surely sometimes…), it’s about being meaningfully engaged with your life, and with yourself.
- Design your life to bring you joy
I like this one. “People don’t devote enough time to thinking seriously about how they spend their life and how much of it they actually enjoy,” says David Schkade, PhD, of the University of California San Diego. Schkade says that if you transfer even an hour of your day from an activity you hate (commuting, scrubbing the bathroom) to one you like (reading, spending time with friends), you should see a significant improvement in your overall happiness. Taking action is key.
- Avoid “if only” fantasies
If only I get a better job…find a man…lose the weight…life will be perfect. But actually, research suggests we’re surprisingly bad at predicting what will make us happy. We also have a natural ‘dimming effect’ which makes hedonistic pleasures fade as we get used to, say, being in a relationship or having a new house. Fill your life with novelty, but value what you’ve already got.
- Put best friends first
It’s no surprise that social engagement is one of the most important contributors to happiness, but according to research by Meliksah Demir, PhD, at Northern Arizona University, it’s the nature of the relationship that counts. Rather than dashing around chatting with acquaintances, you get more joy from spending longer periods of time with a close friend. And that doesn’t necessarily come from delving into heavy discussions. One of the most essential pleasures of close friendship, Demir found, is simple companionship, “just hanging out,” as he says.
- Allow yourself to be happy
Many of us are convinced, deep down, that it’s wrong to be happy (or too happy). Whether the belief comes from religion, culture, or the family you were raised in, it usually leaves you feeling guilty if you’re having fun. “Some people would say you shouldn’t strive for personal happiness until you’ve taken care of everyone in the world who is starving or doesn’t have adequate medical care,” says Howard Cutler, MD, co-author with the Dalai Lama of The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World. “The Dalai Lama believes you should pursue both simultaneously.”
So there you go. I reckon I should stop meaningfully engaging in the world now and go hang out with my best friends.
It seems everyone from Oprah to the Dalai Lama has got an opinion on this stuff. What’s yours?