How To Be Hap­pier?

In Hap­pi­ness by De­sign: Change What You Do, Not How You Think, Paul Dolan lays out sim­ple so­lu­tions for in­creas­ing life sat­is­fac­tion: Struc­ture your days around the things you en­joy, stop toiling away to­ward goals you may not even want to meet, and bal­anc

Mandate - - Wellness -

You slam pos­i­tive think­ing. Why?

Self-help books tell you, ‘Be pos­i­tive.’ No shit! But there’s only so much you can do to think your­self hap­pier. You make any­where from 2,000 to 10,000 de­ci­sions ev­ery day. If you had to make them all con­sciously, think­ing about how each would boost hap­pi­ness, your head would ex­plode. It’s much eas­ier to de­sign the en­vi­ron­ment around you, and have that cue au­to­matic de­ci­sions that boost your hap­pi­ness. Take what you en­joy the most—a mid­day run, try­ing a new din­ner recipe, read­ing a book—then de­sign around those things. Make it clear to co-work­ers that you go for a run at lunch, so they won’t sched­ule meet­ings; sub­scribe to a de­liv­ery ser­vice that sends fresh pro­duce that you can use in recipes; set the home page of your com­puter to a lit­er­ary site that rec­om­mends nov­els. You’re prim­ing your sur­round­ings to help you make un­con­scious de­ci­sions that make you hap­pier. This is how you ‘plan’ for hap­pi­ness.

Mid­dle-aged guys sound like the un­hap­pi­est. What’s go­ing on?

We know there’s a prob­lem. Look at sui­cides in Amer­ica and you see the big­gest jump in men in midlife—up 50 per cent in the past 15 years—but there isn’t hard sci­en­tific data to show why. Ex­pla­na­tions that make sense: Men may have imag­ined that their lives would be sorted out by this point—mar­riage, chil­dren and the ideal ca­reer. Or they could be fix­at­ing on what’s mak­ing them the un­hap­pi­est, and shun­ning new ex­pe­ri­ences—some­thing that hap­pier peo­ple are open to and that peo­ple have less of as they age. It’s this idea of ex­pec­ta­tion; how happy we ex­pect to be. And this is a prob­lem ev­ery­one faces, not just men. When peo­ple be­lieve they will have higher life sat­is­fac­tion in the fu­ture com­pared with what they have now, their hap­pi­ness drops—a pat­tern that oc­curs un­til the 50s.

It al­most seems like the ad­vice is, ‘Set a low bar for hap­pi­ness, and you’ll hit it.’

Just don’t put too much em­pha­sis on an ‘ideal self,’ some­one with the per­fect job, the per­fect fam­ily, what­ever it may be. Too much of what we do is driven by th­ese things that we think will make us happy. You sac­ri­fice cur­rent hap­pi­ness for those fu­ture, imag­i­nary gains. You don’t think about that price. And once you reach your goal, it of­ten doesn’t make you happy af­ter all.

In the book, you talk about redi­rect­ing at­ten­tion to en­joy life more. How have you done this?

My best ex­am­ple is my stam­mer. I’ve al­ways told my­self how much hap­pier I’d be if I didn’t have it. A few years ago, I de­cided to re­ori­ent my at­ten­tion from stum­bling on words and what oth­ers thought about it (which was never as bad as I imag­ined) to how ef­fec­tively I was com­mu­ni­cat­ing—how well a speak­ing en­gage­ment would go, the pos­i­tive feed­back I would get. I be­came hap­pier, and stam­mered less, too.

So switch your fo­cus.

Just stop pay­ing at­ten­tion to the things that get un­der your skin and make you feel in­ad­e­quate, or the things that suck away your day—like con­stantly check­ing your phone. Di­rect your at­ten­tion to what has proven, time and again, to make you feel good.

Big pic­ture, what makes us hap­pi­est?

Cre­at­ing goals that have a bal­ance of plea­sure and pur­pose. So, don’t take a job that seems like it will make you happy, be­cause it’s pres­ti­gious or high-pay­ing, if you know that your day-to- day work will be stress­ful, re­lent­less, and hap­pi­ness- drain­ing. Do con­sider tack­ling projects that may seem daunt­ing, such as writ­ing a book, if you know that the process of do­ing it will make you feel con­stantly re­warded and sat­is­fied. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for com­pet­i­tive peo­ple, al­pha men, and those driven by end points. It’s so im­por­tant that the jour­ney to­ward the achieve­ment also makes you happy. Be­cause lost hap­pi­ness is lost for­ever.

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