Pretty much all my life when I have wondered how to “get” or “achieve” happiness, the answer has gone something like this: “First do X,Y,Z, then when you have achieved A,B,C, you can then be happy.” Pretty much the entire western world has a cognitive happiness model with happiness delayed in the future after some long journey with various achievements along the way. Consumer society is the most obvious offender “Buy This and get That”. But career advice, most religious traditions and even the “self help” industry reinforces this delayed gratification mental model.
This model always caused my BS meter to go off. Wouldn’t being happy now cause you and everyone around you to be happier now? Why couldn’t I be happy now but still have dreams? When hard or bad things happened, why should I allow that to make me unhappy? Are there ways to build happiness NOW without buying into some huge new mental model of the world (one religion say), or hanging my hopes on THE ONE TRUE THING sold by GURUX? I was always VERY skeptical that anyone or any organization had THE ONE TRUE THING that if I just bought it, practiced it, or believed it, all my problems would disappear and happiness would bloom like flowers. Or Unicorns.
Well it turns out my contrarian view has attracted some scientists who have been building a new mental model about happiness which is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what we have been taught. The field is Positive Psychology. One of the lights is Shawn Anchor and he has a brilliant TED talk about the new model. Anchor is also very entertaining and funny using many personal stories to describe the new model. In the end he gives five evidence based practices that have been shown to be able to raise the “base happiness” level in people NOW. You don’ t have to believe anything, buy anything, or join a cult. By adding a couple of simple practices, in total of less than 20 minutes a day, you can reliably and quantifiably increase your base happiness level. When you do that, it is self reinforcing and the world around you (seems to) change. Actually what you have changed is your mindset from a “everything sucks, i am going to be happy later”, to “I am happy now and happiness is my natural state.” If you are looking for an evidence based approach to happiness with some concrete exercises, this is for you.
Grab some popcorn. Watch this one. Change your life.
Also published on Medium.