Happy in Less Than A Minute

Cover of "59 Seconds: Think a Little, Cha...

Cover via Amazon

“I am a busy person.” ~ Sophie

Thank Sophie. She is the reason that Richard Wiseman decided to come up with some alternative ways to achieve happiness without spending  forty years in therapy, six months in an experiential study, or half a million dollars at a spa. Sophie asked Wiseman what he thought of the “self-help happiness industry”. She had just purchased a book on the subject and was curious about his take on the subject. Apparently in response, he sunk his teeth deftly but deeply into the topic and provided her with some of the complex academic works on happiness he was familiar with.

Sophie stopped him in his tracks, told him she was a “busy person” and asked him if he could come up with “some effective advice that didn’t take quite so much time to implement”.  He asked her how long. She said: “About a minute.” So he rose to the challenge and produced the book, “59 Seconds – Think A Little, Change A Lot.”

This little book is a gem of down-sized knowledge. It includes all kinds of tests and some myth busters,  with a little genuine state-of-the-art scientific knowledge to boot. Wiseman is undeniably smart. After all he is Britain’s only Professor of  the Public Understanding of Psychology, and has an international reputation for doing research in unusual areas.

If you are a “busy person” like Sophie, you can skip to the last chapter of his book, aptly named “Conclusions” where Wiseman provides 10 ways that have been scientifically studied and verified to bring happiness to your life. He says he is quite sure that he could “on a good day….describe all ten in just under a minute”. I have chosen five for your immediate consumption, and if you are curious, you can pick his book up and find out what the other five are. And if you are not too busy, you might read the whole 296 pages of his tiny tome.

Without further ado, the teaser tips are:

1. Develop the Gratitude Attitude. Nothing new here, but it bears repetition. He says you should list three things that you are grateful for each day, and by the end of the month you will be “more optimistic about the future”.

2. Be a giver. Apparently even the smallest acts of kindness produce a fast-acting and significant boost in happiness. (something like an antacid).

3. Hang a mirror in your kitchen. People who do this have a 32% reduction in their consumption of unhealthy food. (I will not be doing this.)

4. Buy a potted plant—it reduces stress and induces good moods, which promotes creativity. (Unless, of course, you are like me and forget to water it, and it dies, which then produces a sense of both guilt and failure.)

5. Touch people slightly on the upper arm. It makes people more likely to agree to a request because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of high status. (I might be selective in just whom I would choose to practice this on.)

A really easy way to be happy is to behave like a happy person. And if you need some help, Wiseman recommends that you clench a pencil between your teeth, which forces the lower part of your face into a smile. He believes people who force their faces into a smile feel happier.

My suggestion?  Do this pencil trick in public, thereby not only making yourself smile, but others too—because you will look funny.

Happiness mind-map