Happiness & Inspiration

Happiness

I like to keep a special place in my library for happiness and inspiration. The study of happiness is called positive psychology and is relatively recent. This contrasts with most of clinical psychology which is focused on disease.

Practical Happiness Advice

There’s some basic advice that can make you happy. Here are some of the basic concepts.

  • Exercise. Do 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. It’ll make your heart and brain work better as well as reduce your stress levels.
  • Meditate. Meditation lowers your blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels. It also lets you put stressors in perspective.
  • Friends and Family. Having friends and family you love and trust helps keep us calm. Even everyday social interactions make you happier.(1)Happiness Lab: Mistakenly Seeking Solitude
  • Sleep. The human body needs 7-9 hours of sleep. Less than this causes significant stress on the body.
  • Create and Play. Thinking of ourselves as creators helps us to build a different identity apart from how we make money and therefore makes us more human. Play lets us do what we enjoy without any sort of higher purpose.
  • Gratitude. Focus on the wonderful things you have, rather than the things you don’t.(2)Happiness Lab: Silver Lining
  • Use Money Wisely. People who think that money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop. Instead of buying physical items, you should spend money on the things that make you happy, like creating wonderful experiences or spending time with people you love.(3)From Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis. Also see Arthur Brooks, How to Buy Happiness
  • Reduce the Denomenator. Arthur Brooks writes that Satisaction = What You Have / What You Want. While most of us focus on increasing satisfaction by focusising on increasing what we have, it’s probably easier to increase satisfation by lowering what we want.(4)How to Want Less

Happiness Resources

  • I took Yale’s Happiness Class, the most popular class ever given at the University. Here are my key takeaways from the online class. The class is available online along with a podcast, The Happiness Lab. In the first episode, Professor Santos highlights that it’s important that happiness is something that you can work on and improve.
  • The book The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt is a summary of the key wisdom and psychological research(5)The psychology research Jonathan Haidt uses is somewhat out of date due to the reproducibility crisis. on happiness. The big point of the book is that psychology is generally obsessed with resolving problems rather than helping you live better. Religion does a better job of the complex problem of how to live a good life.
  • Jonathan Rausch wrote a great book called The Happiness Curve which explains the unhappiness of mid-life (sometimes called a mid-life crisis) and how it goes away. He has a good summary of the book in The Atlantic.
  • Choose the most respectful interpretation. It’s always best to assume people are doing the best that they can. For example, if someone cuts you off on the highway, it’s best to assume that they REALLY needed to get somewhere fast—instead of holding on to the anger.

Inspiration

2022 Updates

  • Tick, Tick, Boom. Movies like this never happen. So many things have to happen to make something this magical. Jonathan Larson, a young writer in New York was obsessed that he was running out of time. As he was turning 30, he was obsessed that he was going to “stop being a writer who waits tables and become a waiter with a hobby.” He didn’t have to worry about his musical prowess, writing Rent a few years later which became a huge success. But Larson was running out of time. He died of an aortic aneurism the day before previews started. 25 years after his death, Larson had inspired an entire generation on Broadway. They were able to collaborate with him to create this glorious film. Lin Manuel Miranda made his directorial debut and said, “If they only let me make one movie, I’m glad it was this one.” See the behind the scenes of the movie here and a documentary of Larson’s career on YouTube. Also, note how similar in tone Miranda’s Non-Stop from Hamilton is (How do you write like you’re running out of time…).

2021 Updates

2020 Updates

Older Items

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Happiness Lab: Mistakenly Seeking Solitude
2 Happiness Lab: Silver Lining
3 From Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis. Also see Arthur Brooks, How to Buy Happiness
4 How to Want Less
5 The psychology research Jonathan Haidt uses is somewhat out of date due to the reproducibility crisis.