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[edit] From theory to Lifehacks

According to Aristotle, happiness is "the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing," and "the highest good." Practically everything we do in life is either for our own happiness or for the happiness of others.

  • Around 350 B.C. Aristotle wrote Nicomachean Ethics -- perhaps one of the most influential texts in Western civilization (esp. see Book 1: ch. 8, Virtue and happiness; ch. 11, Happiness depends on happiness of others; ch. 12, Happiness as activity of soul).

After abstract discussions of what constitutes happiness, one usually finds that it is something which simply "ensues." It is a by-product resulting from our inner and outer actions. So is it amendable to practical Lifehacks? --gochess

[edit] BBC experiment

The BBC in the UK started an experiment in a challenged area 22 miles west of London. Six experts (read their happiness tips), from various fields such as psychology and economics, worked together to improve the happiness of people in the Berkshire town of Slough. On 15 November 2005, fifty volunteers were given the HAPPINESS MANIFESTO, which they agreed to incorporate into their daily lives.

[edit] Happiness Manifesto

For the record ( PDF for printing ), here are the action points which they thought useful:

  • Get physical. Exercise for half an hour three times a week.
  • Count your blessings. At the end of each day, reflect on at least five things you're grateful for.
  • Talk time. Have an hour-long uninterrupted conversation with your partner or closest friend each week.
  • Plant something. Even if it’s a window box or pot plant. Keep it alive!
  • Cut your TV viewing by half.
  • Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger. At least once each day.
  • Phone a friend. Make contact with at least one friend or relation you have not been in contact for a while and arrange to meet up.
  • Have a good laugh at least once a day.
  • Every day make sure you give yourself a treat. Take time to really enjoy this.
  • Daily kindness. Do an extra good turn for someone each day.

[edit] Follow-up experiments

  • A team at 43things is currently making some progress. Lab book entries there tend to be episodic personal blogs. Here we need to be more systematic, and identify the "principal components" of effective actions which result in Happiness.

[edit] Your experience

If happiness is your goal, please add specific action points which you can recommend to others:

  • Meditate at least once a day. Silence the automatic self-chatter within.
  • Surround yourself with happy people. One can easily think negatively when surrounded by people who think that way.
  • Always be aware of the relationship between thought and your feelings. (This is the fundamental premise behind Cognitive Behavorial Therapy.)
  • Consult the excellent 43folders advisory regarding Watch_less_TV.
  • VOLUNTEER to help others who are less fortunate.
  • Try to see what is funny or absurd about the situations in which you find yourself. This takes practice, but it can help turn feelings like tension, nervousness, or embarrassment into a source of pleasure.

[edit] Csikszentmihalyi's secret

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, psychologist and author of FLOW: The Classic Work On How To Achieve Happiness, wrote an article for The Times (London, 19 September 2005) entitled 'The secrets of happiness'. The entire article is worth reading, but here's the primary secret in brief:

  • "The only solution to achieve enduring happiness, therefore, is to keep finding new opportunities to refine one’s skills: do one’s job better or faster, or expand the tasks that comprise it; find a new set of challenges more appropriate to your stage of life. Paradoxically, the feeling of happiness is only realised after the event. To acknowledge it at the time would only serve as distraction." [lifehack emphasis added]

[edit] Maslow's list

Many years before Csikszentmihalyi, another psychologist, Abraham Maslow claimed that humans have one sovereign drive, that of self-actualization -- an internal drive to become the best possible person. Whenever one is not self-actualizing, the result is discontentment, the polar opposite of happiness. To become self-actualized, Maslow said we need two things, action and inner exploration.

For our purposes here, we skip his analysis of the inner characteristics of self-actualizing persons (see his book TOWARDS THE PSYCHOLOGY OF BEING ), and go straight to his action list:

  • Experience things fully, vividly, selflessly.
  • Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety and risk. Take risks a dozen times a day to grow.
  • Shut out the external clues as to what you should think, feel, and say. Let your own experience dicate what you truly feel.
  • When in doubt, be honest. If you look into yourself and are honest, you will also take responsibility.
  • Work to excel at the things you want to do, no matter how insignificant they seem to be.
  • Get rid of illusions and false notions. Learn what you excel at, and what are not your potentialities.
  • Discover where you are going, and your mission. Identify your personal excuses, and then find the courage to give them up.

[edit] See also

  • 9 Tips in life that lead to Happiness -- lifehack.org.
  • ThinkHappyThoughts.com - a blog that explores only the concept of happiness
  • For general discussion at 43folders, aside from action points above, kindly goto Talk:Happiness.
    • Nota bene: Wikipedia has a good general article on happiness. There is a section entitled "Behaviors and emotions associated with happiness." The Lifehacks perspective here is intended to refine such Behaviors into useful practice of everyday habits. --gochess (Page established 13 December 2005.)

[edit] Happiness tagged

  • Bookmarks on Happiness -- constantly appended by the del.icio.us social network of users.
  • Typical goals and activities, from 43things, associated with Happiness, sorted by frequency. Happiness is not necessarily linked to profound actions. Simple banal ones may do the trick. Your mileage (and dopamine level ;-) may vary.

[edit] Greeks revisited: Enthusiasm

We began by quoting Aristotle, so let's conclude with a quote from Louis Pasteur:

  • "The Greeks understood the mysterious power of the hidden side of things. They bequeathed to us one of the most beautiful words in our language, the word enthusiasm -- en theos -- a god within. The grandeur of human actions is measured by the inspiration from which they spring. Happy is he who bears a god within, and who obeys it."
    • Greek word enthousiasmos derives from entheos which means: inspired or possessed by a divine being.
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