How to be Happy, in 59 Seconds

This is taken from 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman, a book that wants to make your life better – in 59 seconds or less. It is all based on scientific research. If you like that sort of thing.

Here is what he suggests to make you happy.

Write a diary

  • Don’t suppress negative thoughts – they will only come back stronger. So write about them.
  • List 3-5 things to be thankful for once a week. Appreciate things that go unnoticed.
  • Describe a wonderful experience you have had in life.
  • Describe a great future; realistic, but in which you have worked hard and achieved your goals. It won’t help you achieve it, but it will make you smile.
  • Write a short letter to a person you are thankful for. Imagine you have only one opportunity to tell them. Describe what they mean to you and the impact they have had on your life.
  • Think back over the past week and make a note of three things that went really well for you (this can be trivial, like stroking the cat and getting a purr in return).

Spending and Giving

  • Buy experiences, not goods. Experiences tend to be social and the memory of them will improve with age, whereas goods tend to look worse with time. Like my bike.
  • We grow accustomed to changes in our circumstances. So riches will become quotidian.
  • Giving will make you happier than receiving gifts.
  • For a cheaper boost, carry out five non-financial acts of kindness on a single day. Don’t dilute the effect by spreading them out over the week.

Act happy

50% of  your happiness is genetic, 10% due to general circumstances, but 40% is governed by your day-to-day behaviour.

  • Smile for 15-30 seconds. Imagine a situation that would make you smile to make it convincing.
  • Sit up in your chair – posture is important.
  • Swing your arms like a kid (a human child, not a goat).
  • Add a spring in your step.
  • Use more expressive, excitable hand gestures in conversation.
  • Nod your head when others speak.
  • Wear more colourful clothing.
  • Use a greater frequency of positive words and a lower frequency of self-references in your conversation. The film was incredible! Not average.
  • Use a larger variation in the pitch of your voice. Squeak and growl.
  • Speak slightly faster.
  • Arm yourself with a significantly firmer handshake.

Intentional change

  • Intentional change (i.e. pursuing a goal, starting a new hobby) will make you happier than circumstantial change (i.e. a change in circumstances – getting a new car, house etc..).
  • Make the effort to start a new hobby, project, sport – something new, not habitual.
  • Look at something you enjoy already and find something new that is related. For example, playing the clarinet if you enjoy the piano.

All this advice seems pretty cool to me. However, it does come with a ‘be bothered’ warning. Can you be bothered? Seems like a lot to remember for me – no, I mean, go for it!

What do you think?