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BECAUSE I'M HAPPY!
TOP RESEARCH-BASED TIPS TO BE HAPPIER AND MORE PRODUCTIVE FROM 'PROFESSOR HAPPY’ PAUL DOLAN
Dubbed ‘Professor Happy’ by the media, Paul Dolan appears to be happy and successful in every area of life. When he is not teaching behavioural science to his students at the London School of Economics, speaking on TV or working on his research, he likes spending time at his local gym in Brighton building up his physique.
MWS recently caught up with him on life, wellbeing and his acclaimed book Happiness by Design. Below are a handful of tips he shared with us that can help you redesign your environment so that your default choices are happy choices.
If you design your life better, you'll never have to think about being happy again - you just will be.
1. Make time
When you say you don’t have time to do something, you really mean you do not make it a priority. If you really want to exercise more, make it a priority and decide what you won’t do instead. If your homepage is Facebook, it’s inevitable that you will spend more time socialising and less time working. In general, humans are pretty lazy and are usually content to do whatever is the pre-set option. Defaults are passive commitments and you rarely notice them. To be happier you need to make conscious adjustments to your schedule so that going with the flow is consistent with being productive.
2. Break it down
When you have goals with clear endpoints, you are much more likely to reach them if you break them down into small chunks (running an extra 1K a week, for example) and if you use the law of small numbers when you are on the journey (10% gone, 20% gone and so on) The basic insight, as noted earlier, is that you are more likely to do something if it is easy and handy to do. Changing your habits is already challenging enough, so make each step on the path a simple one to avoid giving yourself a hard time.
3. Make a public promise
You are much more likely to act on voluntary commitments, and especially those that you make public. Tell your friends you are going to lose a pound a week or stop smoking and you are more likely to do so. We like to be consistent with our public image, so instead of wasting time reading a diet book, let as many people know about your intentions. According to research, every ten posts to Twitter were associated with 0.5% loss in weight, which is about one pound for an average-weight male in the United States.
4. Surround yourself with the right people
People around you influence you much more than you think. We are all social animals. You unconsciously want to fit in (even if, consciously, you say that you want to stand out) and you are wired to mimic and absorb the emotions of others around us. If you kept a diary about your moods and your perceptions of the moods of those around you, there would be a close correspondence between the two. It is not surprising then that having a good friend who lives within a mile of you increases the probability that you feel happier by 25%.
5. Seek feedback
You need to get regular feedback about what you are doing if you are to stand any chance of changing your behaviour and making the right choices. So weigh yourself regularly or keep a food diary if you want to lose weight, get a pedometer if you want to exercise more etc. The same goes for important life decisions. Ask your friends to help you imagine the long-term costs and benefits of your choices to help you avoid the pitfalls of distinction bias. Instead of asking yourself "Should I take this new job?" ask your friends "How do you think my day-to-day life will be in a couple of months if I change jobs?".
6. Don’t be afraid to quit
Commitments matter, but so does the ability to recognise when to give up on them. Time is a scarce resource and you should not waste it on remaining miserable. Once you start seriously considering folding, you should probably move on quite quickly. Don’t be afraid to walk out of the cinema or leave the party once you stopped enjoying yourself. If you are spending more and more time seriously thinking about quitting something, chances are you are unhappy so don’t spend too much longer committing to it. After all, happiness is all about reshaping your life and routines to maximise fulfilment and enjoy more of the things you like.