“If we want to be happier, I think the first place to start is looking at the available options and then working out which to pursue. The way I see it, there are only three avenues to take. We can change how we think, how we spend our time, or the external facts of our life.”
“If you look at what people actually do to be happier, it seems nearly everyone tries to change the external facts: we try to become richer, thinner, more successful, to find a better house in a nicer area, and so on. A few of us think about trying to spend less time working, and more time on hobbies or with friends and family. Almost no one thinks about actively retraining the way they think. In fact, I don’t think this last one even crosses most of our minds.”
How to live a happy life Tell us 4 suggestions:
- Write down three things you’re grateful for each day.
- Practise mindfulness.
- Learn about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and use it.
- Track your happiness, then do more of what you like and less of what you don’t.
The first is ‘hedonic adaptation’. Simply: as a species, we are extraordinary good at getting used to things, such that very few events in life have a long-term impact on our happiness: births, marriages, deaths, promotions, demotions, etc can all occur to us or around us and typically, after 6 months, our self-reported happiness levels will be back where there were before.
Perhaps the most important case of adaptation comes from the Easterlin Paradox, named after the economist who found it, which is that self-reported life satisfaction scores in the developed world have barely improved over the last 60 years (since we started asking these questions) despite massive increases in GDP.