Friday, September 10, 2010

Casual Friday

Hey, it's a new weekly feature! Actually since this blog is only 48 hours old, all features are new, but this one is especially so. Since it's Friday, I thought it might be nice to take a break from discussing current happy science news. Instead, I'll use Casual Fridays to share some quick and easy happiness tips--all based on scientific evidence, of course.

On this casual-est of Fridays, I've picked the book Happier:  Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment by Tal Ben-Shahar. Mr. Ben-Shahar became famous for teaching "Positive Psychology" at Harvard, a class that filled up with 855 students in a single semester. In addition to writing several books on the subject, he has also appeared on The Daily Show:

In a nutshell, Happier is a guide to creating happiness by balancing what you want now (pleasure) vs. what you want in the future (meaning). To be as happy as possible, you should, do things that are both pleasurable and meaningful at the same time. For instance, watching TV is pleasurable, but not particularly meaningful (unless you're watching The Wire, the greatest show ever!), so it won't make you happy in the long run. On the other hand, volunteering to clean up toxic sewage may be meaningful, but not pleasurable, so if you do it everyday you'll get burnt out before you feel long-term happiness.

To help you balance pleasure and meaning, Ben-Shahar suggests that you create a chart for yourself, mapping out your activities throughout the day and assigning a number value (on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest) to each activity's meaning and pleasure. So you might give "Watching TV" a 2 in the "Meaning" column and a 4 in the "Pleasure" column. Then write down how much time per week you spend doing each activity. At the end of the week, look at your chart and try to make a commitment to spend more time doing activities with high scores in both "Meaning" and "Pleasure", and less time doing activities with low scores.

Whew. That may seem like a lot of work, but it only takes a few minutes per week, and it can be an eye-opening experience to actually look at the time you waste doing stuff that's not meaningful or pleasurable. Like tallying up your expenditures for the week, actually seeing the numbers in front of you can make a huge difference in creating positive change.

So give it a try, then send us a comment to tell us how it goes--as long as commenting rates high enough on your chart.


  1. I love this post! It made me smile more than once :) And smiling is pleasurable and, I believe, meaningful!

    As for balance, I think it's key to everything. They don't say "everythign is only good in moderation" for nothing lol The thing he suggests does seem like a lot of work, but it's definately worth it - I find having facts and raw numbers right in front of you to be an eye opening experience most of the time!

    P.S. Thanks for the kind words about my project! In a way, we are colleagues :) I added "Happymentary" (or should I just name it "Happy"?) to my "links to be thankful for".

  2. Hey thanks a lot! Either title for this blog is fine (though Happymentary is probably less generic-sounding). I'll add your blog to my links too :)

  3. Aww, thanks, Derek :)

    P.S. I like how "happymentary" sounds - make syou stop and think about it!