the hedonic treadmill

how-to-find-happiness

A growing list of traditional life pursuits are being found to have zero to only small correlations with happiness, well-being, and life satisfaction:

Beauty: ugly people are happy too.
Money: Materialism is inefficient.
Sunshine:Avoid really cold and dark places. Everything else is not much different
Education: Cheap education is the best education.
Children: Kids are for meaning and purpose. Friends and vacations are for happiness.
Choice: Simplify. Uncertainty feels bad, simplicity feels good.

Happier Human’s Hedonic Treadmill #

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sweet interactions

“My dad counsels people dealing with trauma and major anxiety, and once offhandedly mentioned a suggestion he gave to a client: When you’re out, look for people being nice to each other. Having sweet interactions. Look for friends getting coffee or a person holding open a door or strangers saying ‘how you doin’?’ or a dad kissing the top of his daughter’s head. And in Brooklyn, if you look for them, you get to see these tiny magic interactions everywhere. It’s gotten me through moments of secret darkness; it makes me well up with love for all these sweet, fragile, striving people around me; and for the gentle, kind man I learned it from.”

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technology

Technology means I’ve never felt more connected; it also means I’ve never felt more disconnected and alone. Connection enabled by technology is junk connectivity, and in the way junk food provides no nourishment, technology provides no fulfilling, deep human connection that we all need to thrive.

my morning ritual

“The only true voyage would be not to travel through a hundred different lands with the same pair of eyes, but to see the same land through a hundred different pairs of eyes”
~ Marcel Proust

I like my morning ritual where most days I go for a walk or jog through the forest right by our house before logging on to work at home. I stick to the same path mostly (I vary it slightly depending on my cravings for exercise and/or nature), but the benefit of this is I get to see the same landscape over and over again, through the days and seasons. Some days I notice things I’ve never noticed before even thought I’ve been there hundreds of times before. And some days some amazing things happen, like when I see baby koalas, kangaroos and when like this morning a thick fog covers the entire forest.

 

 

proficiency

“Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, of combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order to that the immanent and transcendent Unknown Quantity make take hold.”

~ Aldous Huxley

Via The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman – highly recommended

strategic incompetence

“Strategic incompetence is the art of avoiding undesirable tasks by pretending to be unable to do them, and though the phrase was apparently only recently coined in a Wall Street Journal article, the concept is surely as old as humanity. “

Oliver Burkeman #

it’s turtles all the way down

There’s an old apocryphal story from 16th-century where a young man climbs a large mountain to speak to the sage at the top. Supposedly this sage knew, like, everything and stuff. And this young man was anxious to understand the secrets of the world.

Upon arriving at the top of the mountain, the sage greeted the young man and invited him to ask him anything (note: this was way before Reddit threads). The young man then asked him his question, “Great sage, we stand upon the world, but what does the world stand upon?”

The sage immediately replied, “The world rests upon the back of a number of great elephants.”

The young man thought for a moment, and then asked, “Yes, but what do the elephants stand upon?”

The sage replied again, without hesitation, “The elephants rest upon the back of a great turtle.”

The young man, still not satisfied, asked, “Yes, but what does the great turtle rest upon?”

The sage replied, “It rests upon an even greater turtle.”

The young man, growing frustrated, began to ask, “But what does–”

“No, no,” the sage interrupted, “stop there–it’s turtles all the way down.”

via Mark Manson

productivity

“The trouble isn’t simply that we subjugate our non-work lives to work, but that we subjugate the present to the future – which, as you might have noticed, never arrives. In seeking to spend life as productively as we can, we bring upon ourselves the ultimate ironic punishment: we miss it.”

Oliver Burkeman – New Philosopher #20

loneliness

“Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties — all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion — these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.”

David Foster Wallace on Loneliness: I often like being alone – but I don’t like being lonely

should > could

“One of the biggest lessons is given a challenging situation — kids who want pizza — we all tend to default to what we should do instead of asking what we could do. My colleagues and I did an experiment in which I gave participants difficult ethical challenges where there seemed to be no good choice. I then asked participants either “What should you do?” or “What could you do?” We found that the “could” group were able to generate more creative solutions. Approaching problems with a “should” mindset gets us stuck on the trade-off the choice entails and narrows our thinking on one answer, the one that seems most obvious. But when we think in terms of “could,” we stay open-minded and the trade-offs involved inspire us to come up with creative solutions.”

When Solving Problems, Think About What You Could Do, Not What You Should Do

Cognitive behaviour therapy has taught me to avoid using and thinking of the word should as it discourages flexible thinking. Could thinking is a nice replacement.

→increasing complexity

“We chose to increase the complexity of our lives by having children”

I found this article and diagram by Austin Kleon very insightful—as a five person household I now realize we have 12 10 relationships to manage. You can apply the same concept to work teams.

Even though I’m a big fan of simplicity, I don’t necessarily see our family complexity negatively, as Marcus in About A Boy says:

“Suddenly I realized – two people isn’t enough. You need backup. If you’re only two people, and someone drops off the edge, then you’re on your own. Two isn’t a large enough number.”

nature as an antidepressant

“I have to say”, Professor Howard Frumkin—one of the leading experts on this subject in the world—told me later, “that if we had medication for which preliminary results showed such efficacy, we would be all over researching that medication… Here is a treatment that has very few side effects, is not expensive, doesn’t require a trained or licensed professional to prescribe it, and has pretty good evidence of efficacy so far”. But the research is very hard to find funding for, he said, because “a lot of the shape of modern biomedical research has been defined by the pharmaceutical industry,” and they’re not interested because “it’s very hard to commercialise nature contact.” You can’t sell it so they don’t want to know.

From Lost Connections by Johann Hari

When I hear ‘antidepressant’ I immediately think of a pill. One of those many pills I’ve taken over many, many years.

But one of the best antidepressants I’ve found isn’t chemical, it’s simply spending time in nature. Part of this I believe is that nature makes me feel like my problems are pretty trivial when you put them into a larger perspective: I’m a small thing in a large, complex world part of an even larger universe.

That, and oh, the fresh air.

Update: just saw this on my desk calendar:

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what is something that you can accumulate that no-one else can steal?

One of the many things I love about my Toastmasters club is hearing stories from fellow Toastmasters; seemingly ordinary people often with extraordinary life stories. Maurice grew up as a poor child in Sri Lanka. He worried about accumulating things as these would inevitably be stolen from him. So he spent his money accumulating knowledge through eduction. This allowed him to eventually migrate to Australia.

Sri Lanka
Elephants in Sri Lanka – Taken during our 2013 visit

anxiety and depression are like cover versions of the same song by different bands

“I started to see depression and anxiety as like cover versions of the same song by different bands. Depression is a cover version by a downbeat emo band, and anxiety is a cover version by a screaming heavy metal group, but the underlying sheet music is the same. They’re not identical, but they are twinned.”

Johann Hari in his new mind-changing book Lost Connections