Strategies from the Happiness Lab

2020-08-02 Summaries

I love listening to podcasts while I am out running. The latest one I found is The Happiness Lab from and with Dr. Laurie Santos, a professor teaching at Yale. She looks at happiness scientifically and takes an active approach: You have it in your own hands to improve your happiness. The podcast discusses various strategies with various scientists and experts from their respective field.

This is a collection of these strategies you can employ; with the link to the corresponding episode for more information.

  • Meditate. You have probably heard about people recommending meditating a thousand times. Do it. Start with 1 minute every day. The research of the benefits seems to be overwhelming.
  • Sleep enough. Trivial. Humans need sleep. Get. Some. Make it a ritual to go to bed. Make the bed a sanctuary. No screens, no distractions. If you are lying in bed, you sleep. If you can’t sleep, leave the bed and try again later. You can combine the ritual with meditation (see above).
  • Remove choice. Being in control of and having to decide everything is exhausting. Remove unnecessary choices from your life. Have a big wardrobe? Reduce it and go minimal. Or to quote President Obama who always wore a white shirt and cycled through his suits: “Do you know how many decision I have to make throughout the day? You think I also want to decide what to wear?”
  • Coach yourself from the third person. The research suggests that you perform better and are happier, if you think about the challenges you are facing from a third person perspective. The key term is distancing. Distance yourself to get a clearer picture of what is going on. You can use personal distancing (use your name instead of “I”): “Felix knows what he is doing and has experience. Trust him.” You can use temporal distancing: “Felix has faced this threat before and came out successful.” You can use group distancing: “We are a strong society and can solve this challenge together.”
  • Connect with others. Even strangers. Modern life aims at removing all inconveniences. But it also removes social connections with other people. The example from the podcast is from the guy that invented the ATM. When there were still bank tellers, you had to wait in line – where you might have to interact socially – and had to interact with the teller. A person. Research suggests that happiness improves just by interacting with other people
  • Frame your emotions. When encountering an emotion, you have 5 seconds to decide how to react to it. Use different frames depending on the situation. Examples for these frames:
    • The comedic frame Try to tell a joke about the situation.
    • The future storytelling frame Live your life in a way so that your story, told truthfully, makes you look like the person you strife to be. Which story sounds better to you? The story about a miserable and frustrated person that gave up on the slightest problem or the story about the person that strongly and cleverly encounters the challenges life throws at her and masters these challenges while smiling.
    • The stoic gods challenge frame Use stoic, imaginary gods as a psychological device: Every setback you face in life is a test these gods have designed to test you and your character. And you want and can prove to them that you are up to the challenge. The harder the challenge is, the more trust the gods have in you.
  • Practice negative visualization. Pause every once in a while during the day and think about what you could lose and how that would make you feel. Don’t dwell on these thoughts. Just let them flicker for a second. This aims at increasing your appreciation for the people and things you have in your life.

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