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
- 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.
- Harvard also released their own class called Managing Happiness led by Alfred Brooks. It’s free until March 27, 2024. (Updated 7/2023)
- I wrote about emotion training in schools and how adults can use this too. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence created a much better app called How We Feel. (Updated 7/2023)
- 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.
- Drew Dudley gives a quick TED Talk about how a simple act like giving a stranger a lollypop can change someone’s life.
- I wrote a piece on Edward Harkness, one of the world’s greatest humble philanthropists. He was a mediocre Yalie who donated a large fortune to Harvard and Yale in the 1930s so that other unexceptional students wouldn’t fall through the cracks.
- And don’t feel you can only love “important” things. Take a look at this great book review, How a Book About Grover Revealed to Me the Wide World of Literature. Also, it’s hard to appreciate how good a truly great meal is unless you’ve never had one before. Here’s one of the best food reviews ever: I’m common as muck and spent £150 in a Michelin star restaurant to see if it was worth it.
- During coronavirus, I’m trying to find videos that really inspire me and remind me of the connections with others like: (Added 2020)
- In the movie The Greatest Showman, the anthem of the song is This is Me. The video of the initial run-through is incredible.
- It’s old. It’s overblown. But wow, it’s inspirational. 40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes.
- Disney’s Imagination Pre-show. This is just a great video about creativity and imagination from Disney World. When I was a teenager, there was a great pre-show movie in Epcot about imagination and creativity. The movie ran from 1995-2003. A few years ago, some people re-created the video based on the original movie.
- The Crazy Ones video from Steve’s funeral and Steve’s Narration over a draft of the ad.
- Neil Patrick Harris opened the Oscars with some wonderful numbers like It’s Bigger and It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore.
- Rent Finale B
- Songs from “Come From Away” (see below)
- Ze Frank (see below)
- Marie Kondo became famous for her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. While the book has a lot of helpful suggestions, many of us, especially those with children feel like the book sets an impossible standard. That’s why the Washington Post’s review of her new book is so refreshing. Marie Kondo’s life is messier now — and she’s fine with it highlights how life is really about focusing on things that really matter. Finally, even the poster child of organization realizes that we can’t always be perfectly neat all the time.
- 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…).
- Joe Biden’s inauguration was inspiring. Not just the swearing in and inaugural address, but Lady Gaga singing the national anthem and a poem from the National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. Also, I never thought I’d be so happy to see George W. Bush. Not to mention the Bernie Memes.
- I watched the movie Rain Main for the first time. It was amazing to see how the screenwriter Barry Morrow turned Kim Peek, the world’s greatest autistic savant, into a movie character. But Morrow didn’t exploit Peek, he wanted to share him with the world, even giving him his Oscar statue. Morrow made Peek in a celebrity who could then talk to the world. For more on this amazing story watch The Real Rain Man. I also really like the show Atypical which highlights autism.
- Come From Away came out this year on Apple TV+. The play has very little on the stage and each actor plays a number of different parts. The movie shows what theater can be (much like Hamilton). It’s the story of a the 6,000 transatlantic passengers who landed in Gander, Newfoundland when US Airspace closed on September 11, 2001. It’s a sweet story of how in the darkest of times, people can come together to help one another. You can also read about many of the true stories the show is based on. Some of my favorite songs: Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere, Screech In, and Screech Out.
- Ted Lasso is a sweet and simple show about a fish out of water trying to be a football coach in the UK.
- Ze Frank does amazing and inspriational work on the internet. He also has some wonderful inspirational songs (some of which are highlighted on the video) on chilling out (video), being scared (video), appreciating others and getting over rejection.
- Some Good News was John Krasinski’s good news from around the world in the early days of lockdown. They even had a surprise rendition of Hamilton for a young girl who couldn’t go.
- A video of a little girl seeing “herself” in Hamilton.
- Jimmy Fallon ends the year with the inspiring and funny 2020:The Musical.
- Did you know that you could get a reply from Santa’s Workshop, North Pole, 12345? Here’s the story of Santa’s ghostwriters from a GE plant in Schenectady NY. Audible also has a free audio-documentary of Santa’s real-life helpers. For those of you living elsewhere, you can join the USPS’s Operation Santa. And here’s some more on the history of letters to Santa and where they’ve gone.
- This year was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity.
- Sarah Kay wrote the poem If I Should Have a Daughter that highlights the magical bits of parenting.
- Tania Finlayson has cerebral palsy. She worked with her husband to create a Morse code interface so she could talk.
- When Michael Bloomberg was mayor, he spent $650M of his own money helping run the city.
- When I’m looking for inspiration, I can always find it in Ze Frank’s work. There’s a great retrospective of his work in this TED talk. When I need some courage to get up and do something, I can always rely on this kickoff to his 2012 web series.
- This is just a great video about creativity and imagination from Disney World. When I was a teenager, there was a great pre-show movie in Epcot about imagination and creativity. The movie ran from 1995-2003. A few years ago, some people re-created the video based on the original movie
- Anil Dash had an amazing Twitter stream in early December asking Who is a person (not counting family) that opened doors for you in your career when they didn’t have to? Anytime is a good time to show gratitude!
- I went to Yale and here’s Why I Chose Yale. The first 5 minutes show what makes a great college experience and it was all put together by students and recent graduates.
|↑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.|