Category Archives: Personal

“Happiness is a warm kitty”: the joy of pets

Three months ago, I found myself facing an important question: did I want a cat?

My sister-in-law found a poor kitty on the street, without a home and a wounded tail (aaah…). After a day of reflection and rushed research in the question how to take care of a kitty, we decided to take him in. Since that moment, we are proudly housing Rembrandt – I negotiated the right to name him and to pick a Dutch name. We hope to do so for the next fifteen odd years.

Rembrandt a few days after arriving, with still a wounded tail.

Rembrandt a few days after arriving, with still a wounded tail.

Rembrandt is a pretty social kitten. He likes to lay on the couch with us and enjoys to play. He has grown tremendously in the short time he has been with us. If only we figured out how to teach him to leave the plants alone…

As a happiness blogger, I am not just going to share cat pictures or cat memes, though I take it that’s one of the main functions of the internet. So let me face these questions: do cats, and other animals, make us happier? And a more complicated one: do animals themselves experience happiness?

Is happiness a warm kitty?

Amazingly, almost every single question about happiness I could come up with has been answered by a scientist. To answer whether animals make us happy, I looked at the result of a small study published by Bao et al. under the title “Is Happiness a Warm Puppy?: Examining the Association Between Pets and Well-Being”. Based on a survey under 263 people, among which 94% pet owners (of which 53% dogs and 41% cats), Bao et al. find a slightly higher level of life satisfaction for pet owners.

Although the survey numbers may be too small to draw strong conclusions, intuitively the findings make sense. Human beings need both social relations with other beings and a purpose to feel happiness. Having a pet could enrich human lives in both ways

Bao et al.’s study also looks into a trickier issue: cats or dogs? Dog owners were found to be happier than cat owners, and again, intuitively this makes sense. Cats are more isolated and independent animals, while dogs display a lot more affection. Also, dogs require to be walked, and people with more active lifestyles and time in nature are happier. The study – again, based on a small sample – even found higher levels of conscientiousness in dog owners and higher levels of neuroticism in cat owners. Scientists have found neuroticism to be a personality trait that is correlate with lower levels of happiness.

Do animals experience happiness?

And what about animals themselves: does Rembrandt love me? Does he experience happiness when he’s purring on my stomach and I am petting him? We are always warned not to project human emotions upon animals, but that does not mean animals do not have feelings. Even Darwin already asserted that animals have emotions.

To measure human happiness, scientists use surveys as well as brain research. In case of animals, surveys do not make sense – I cannot ask Rembrandt to fill out a questionnaire asking him to value his health, social relations, quality of food and shelter, and overall life satisfaction. Brain research in animals has confirmed that animals have broadly similar cerebral systems. Even the frontal cortex, said to be the determining factor in human progression over animals, may not be as sacred anymore.

Indeed, the more complex animals’ brains are, the less their behaviours are hard-wired in intuition, and the larger and more complex their brains are, the more space there is for emotional systems to influence animals’ behaviour. We can watch animals – including Rembrandt – and observe their behaviour, and infer something about how they feel.

As Carl Safina says in his TED talk “What animals are feeling and thinking“,

“attributing human thoughts and emotions to other species is the best first guess about what they’re feeling”

As such, I can be confident that Rembrandt feels positive emotions – be it calm, pleasure, or even happiness – in my presence.

 

And Rembrandt now, ready to join on a trip!

And Rembrandt now, ready to join on a trip!

Proudly presented: the For A State of Happiness Blue Monday Quiz!

Blue Monday is definitely a thing now. Dreamt up by marketeers and bogus scientists in 2005, the term has entered the public discourse by now. Media are full of tips to prevent Monday blues, and marketeers take it as a change to drive holiday sales and shopping in an otherwise dull January month. One could call it fake news.

And actually, I’ve also jumped on the Blue Monday bandwagon myself. Even though Blue Monday itself is bogus, there is such a thing as a winter depression, and January is still well in the dark season. Just as we meet family around Christmas, it’s sensible to meet up with friends around Blue Monday for celebration.

Since a few years, my wife and I tend to organise Blue Monday Eve drinks, inviting some friends to ensure we enter Blue Monday with a jolly feeling instead. We try to make it feel different from an ordinary house party; inviting friends on a Sunday instead and playing games (we still procured some wine though).

This year, we also played a happiness quiz with our guests, and on special request I post the questions and answers of the For A State of Happiness Blue Monday Quiz here – maybe you want to use them next year, or at a last minute Blue January event? You still have a week, and if not, February can be pretty blue too.

 

The For A State of Happiness Blue Monday Quiz 2019

What is the happiest country of the world?

According to the 2018 edition of the World Happiness Report: Finland.

What is hygge?

Hygge is a Danish concept that roughly translates to ‘cosiness’, typically felt sitting in front of the fire place with a hot chocolate during a storm. It stands for comfort, togetherness and wellbeing, according to Meik Wiking, author of a book on Hygge and director of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute.

What are the four elements making people happy at work, according to Pracuję bo lubię?

Energy, flow, purpose, and positive emotions. For more detail (but slightly different naming), see my post after sitting down with Aleksandra Grabska from Pracuję bo lubię (‘I work because I like it’).

Who are happier: people with cats or with dogs?

My post on this is not online yet, but the (unsurprising to most) answer is: dog owners tend to be happier.

Does the weather influence our quality of life?

This is the one many people get wrong: no, it doesn’t. Why not? Two psychological process explain why: ‘focus illusion’ and adaptation.

Which country invented Gross National Happiness?

Readers of my blog will know: Bhutan!

What ranking does Poland have in the World Happiness Report for 2018, out of 156 countries?

The answer is: 42, a bit higher than Poles would suspect. Compared globally, quality of life in Poland is pretty strong, and it has seen major improvements in the last 25 years. Still, Poland is a country where one has to find happiness in unhappiness.

When is the International Day of Happiness?

In 2012, on Bhutan’s initiative, the United Nations decided to institute an International Day of Happiness. It is celebrated each year on 20 March.

Name six positive emotions.

Naming six positive emotions may sound like a lot, but researchers identified even more of them. At Warsaw University, they listed ten: enchantment, love, inspiration, pride, amusement, hope, interest, calm, gratitude, and joy.

What motivates our behaviour more: positive or negative emotions?

Again, a question based on lectures at Warsaw University. While negative emotions can trigger strong responses to difficult events, ultimately positive emotions have a stronger impact on our actions than negative ones.

Character 'Sadness' from Inside Out - she is blue for a reason.

Character ‘Sadness’ from Inside Out – she is blue for a reason.

My new year resolution: a year of happy birthdays

When I was a boy, my grandparents had a birthday calendar in their toilet, just as many Dutch families do. On twelve pages – one for each month of the year – the calendar listed when their (grand)children and friends had their birthdays. As the calendar didn’t mention the days of the week, my grandparents could use it year after year.

Next to it, they had a print of a rhyme by Toon Hermans, a Dutch comedian and poet. It went as follows:

Vandaag is de dag

Hij komt maar één keer

Morgen dan is het

Vandaag al niet meer

Niet zeuren, geniet

van het leven, het mag

Maar doe het vandaag,

want vandaag is de dag.

 

Today is the day

It comes only once

Tomorrow it won’t

Be today anymore

Do not complain,

enjoy life, you may

But do it today

cause today is the day.

 

Birthdays and happiness

While I do care about my friendships, I am terrible in remembering birthdays. Even Facebook’s notifications – where every birthday becomes a number in a red box next to a bell, asking for your attention – do not help me. I am not as intimated by red numbers anymore as I was when I first got Facebook and a smartphone.

I think birthdays are important: it’s worth celebrating life, and it’s worth celebrating others that are important to you. Humans are social animals, and we need others to be happy. A birthday offers the occasion to have a small celebration, to appreciate the year that has past, to spend time together in pleasant company, or just send our good wishes. I’d imagine there to be a positive correlation between sending and receiving birthday wishes and happiness (though I didn’t come across any research on birthdays and happiness – I suggest this to be subject of further research).

I thus believe it’s a worthy goal to change myself, and get better at birthdays. Therefore, one of my New Year Resolutions this year is to remember my friends’ birthdays. Reminiscing about my grandparents’ birthday calendar, I set out to get the best tool I could think of to support me in meeting this resolution: an old-fashioned birthday calendar. I even managed to get one with the very poem lighting up my grandparents’ bathroom.

So I hope that 2019 will be the year of remembering and celebrating birthdays. Because many days this year, it will be “today is the day” for one of my friends. And I hope these birthdays will be happy ones.

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Daily tips to do good in December

It’s the first of December again. Tomorrow I’ll light my first advent candle, and Christmas parties with friends and at work are less than two weeks away.

December is a month we spend with others. Focusing on what happens around us, is not only good for others, but also for ourselves. Positive relations are a key element in happiness, and there’s research indicating that performing regular acts of kindness strengthens happiness.

Like last year, I’d like to share the Kindness Calendar developed by Action for Happiness.

Dubbing the months ‘Do Good December’, the calendar provides inspiration on how to help others and feel better yourself. Some of my favourites:

  • 4 December: listen wholeheartedly to someone without judging them. This is a difficult one: when hearing about problems friends are facing, we are quick to offer advice, and in doing so, sometimes try to impose our views.
  • 7 December: be generous. Feed someone with food, love or kindness today. And feeling happier is a great collateral benefit.
  • 10 December: count your blessings: list the kind things others have done for you. I’ve written it often before: gratitude is an important factor in happiness.
  • 17 December: thank people who do things for you but you may take for granted. It’s very easy to take things done for you for granted – by spouses, parents or friends. A friendly good morning or thank you in a shop or store or to the bus driver doesn’t hurt.

Have a great and good December!

Action for Happiness’ Do Good December Calendar (click to enlarge). Found on http://www.actionforhappiness.org/do-good-december

Action for Happiness’ Do Good December Calendar (click to enlarge). Found on http://www.actionforhappiness.org/do-good-december

The art and happiness of travel

A few weeks ago, I spent a few days in Varanasi, India.

A depiction of Vishnu, the sustainer, one of the main gods

A depiction of Vishnu, the presever, one of the main Hindu gods

It wasn’t the easiest place I have visited. I was confronted with a sweltering heat, pollution affecting my breathing, occasional smells of cow dung and rotting garbage, and a cacophonous concert of auto-riksha horns that resounded in my head long after I returned to the calm of my hotel.

At the same time, it was the most mind-blowing of all the places I had the fortune to visit. Varanasi is so different from any other place I have visited. I enjoyed visiting the temples, and learning how Hindu Gods are portrayed. Did you know that Hindus have 330 million Gods? They are not only above us, but everywhere around us.

I was fascinated to walk past the Ganges, the holy river, and witness how pilgrims came here to bath in the river, wash their clothes, and drink a few sips of holy water. On the riverbank of the Ganges, a few sets of stairs are used for the cremation of those who are lucky enough to die in Varanasi. According to Hindu mythology, if someone dies in Varanasi, their soul escapes the cycle of death and rebirth. Hence the streets are lined by pilgrims, among them many long-bearded men dressed in orange, waiting for the moment to liberate their soul.

The unique spirituality of the place, in my opinions, far outweighs the discomfort. And it perfectly illustrates why we travel in general, and why our travels can generate such moments of happiness.

Palace towers, temples, stairs, and the brown water of the holy Ganges

Palace towers, temples, stairs, and the brown water of the holy Ganges

Why we travel

The question ‘why we travel’ seem simple, but is not that easy to answer. For me, travel is a complex art of relaxation and adventure. Overall, I think there are five important reasons:

- to relax: to gain new mental and physical energy, or enjoy lazy days with sea and sunshine

- to learn about the world around us: experience different ways of living in other nations (people already have been doing this since the Roman times! A geographer named Pausanias even wrote a travel guide to Greece in the 2nd century AD).

- to admire beauty: to experience the beauty of nature, art and culture

- to meet new people: to gain fresh perspectives and ideas by meeting people from different cultures or in different settings than home

- to escape our comfort zone: while we need stability, we quickly adapt to our daily reality and bored. Travel helps us to break routines (and boy, did I do so in India!)

The Taj Mahal, the jewel of Indo-Islamic architecture and a monument of love

The Taj Mahal, the jewel of Indo-Islamic architecture and a monument of love

Travel, for a 2% happier life

Travel creates many moments that could experience happiness: relaxation, learning, beauty, and social encounters. At the same time, travel can also lead to difficult and stressful situations.

Altogether, there is only a small net positive effect of travel of happiness. Compared to people who do not go on vacation, people who travel have a slightly higher level of subjective well-being. According to this PhD study on leisure travel and happiness, holiday trips account for about 2% of the variance in life satisfaction. Probably, the effects are limited due to the simple fact that a vacation ends pretty soon. A few weeks after, sweet memories disappear to the back of the mind and daily routines take over again.

Nonetheless, there’s a clear stream in research suggesting spending money on experiences – which would include travel – rather than material goods is the way to go. While the novelty of a purchase wears off, triggering memories of the holidays through souvenirs, pictures or reading journals helps to keep the experience.

I think I’ve those boxes ticked: I write this on the couch next to pillowcases with elephants bought in India and lighted up this post a few pictures. And describing my experience in Varanasi at the start of the post almost made me hear the chaos of riksha traffic and admire the sunrise from a Ganges boat again. It is as if I haven’t left India yet.

It is worth to get up before 5 during the holidays - for a sunrise on the Ganges

It is worth to get up before 5 during the holidays – for a sunrise on the Ganges

 

Five years on the road

This Sunday – 30 September 2018 – marks the fifth anniversary of For A State of Happiness.

On 30 September 2013, I quietly set my first step  outside my door, into the wide world of blogging about happiness. As I then wrote, the blog is a travel journal, recording impressions and findings about what makes people, countries, and workplaces happier.

My journey so far

My journey has brought me to wonderful places. It has brought me to conferences in Bhutan, Mexico and Turkey and to visit the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. It allowed me to do book reviews, give  workshops, and talk on radio shows. I’ve had the chance to speak to researchers, journalists and inspirational speakers. I got to research pizza robots and the benefits of high taxes, to ponder about money and art. I even (after a few drinks) spoke to women about happiness during my very own bachelor party (no, there is no blog post about that…).

Happiness is easy, and it is not

My perspective on happiness hasn’t changed massively since my explorations began. Like I did then, I believe happiness often arises from small things in life: pleasant interactions with close friends or family, enjoying a home-made curry or a shared cup of coffee, being astounded by the beauty of a new landscape, or made to think by a piece of art. The art of life is to take notice of the happy moments we experience. Happiness is surprisingly easy.

I still believe we often act against our happiness, even wittingly doing so. We fail to step back in the face of stress. We allow modern technology to encroach on our use of time and attention. We stick to habits that bring about neither ephemeral happiness today nor strengthen our quality of life tomorrow. Happiness is surprisingly difficult.

Why I do what I do

When asked why I am writing this blog, there are generally two types of answers I give, depending on the occasion. Sometimes I say that I write about happiness because I learnt everything that is important in school, with the exception of how to be happy (fortunately, nowadays there are more and more educators that ‘teach’ happiness). And as happiness remains mysterious enough, I’ve reason enough to keep going.

The other answer is that I wanted to write a book about happiness, but figured a blog would be simpler. If you regularly write blog posts for a few years, all you basically have to do is bundle and print them, and you kind of have a book. Evidently it isn’t as easy as that, but there’s a lot of material here and in my head that would make a fine book. Sometimes an unfulfilled dream pushes you forward.

Both answers still apply as much today as they have over the last years. Today, they give an answer to the question “why do you do what you do?”, and hence the journey will go on. I am enjoying every step in the pursuit of happiness.

And I hope, dear reader, that you are enjoying the journey with me. Happy anniversary to you, too!

Image found here: https://www.amindonfire.com/road-trip-movies/

Image found here: https://www.amindonfire.com/road-trip-movies/

What would a once-per-50-years newspaper say on happiness?

I recently came across a brief podcast by the US National Public Radio (NPR) with an intriguing question.

Some of us have quit reading the news, as the endless updates about conflicts, natural disasters, political in-fighting, and abuse scandals make us depressed. (Sports news could balance it down a bit though, depending whether your team wins or loses).

The news is about what is uncommon – hence it is news – and often these are bad developments. In a time of online news and push notifications, we can get ‘new’ news in the time it takes to load a few tweets. As a result, we are a lot better informed about conflicts and disasters in many places we otherwise wouldn’t have heard about. But it might also make us lose the big picture on what is going well in the world.

That’s why the NPR jumped on an idea of Max Roser and Hannah Ritchie. The two are affiliated with Oxford University, and run a number-lovers’ paradise: Our World In Data. They came up with the idea: what would a newspaper consider as headline news if it appeared only once per fifty years?

 

The 50-year newspaper

The newspaper the NPR and Our World In Data made appeared on 1 January 2018, exactly fifty years after the previous edition of 1968.

It contains some bad news…

  • Is It Just Me, Or Is It Hot In Here? (on climate change, as human-induced greenhouse gas emissions rocket)
  • Humans to Animals: Drop Dead! (on biodiversity loss; the number of terrestrial animals declined by 60%)

… but also shows some of the great progress made in the last fifty years:

  • Poor No More (on poverty, which feel from 60% to 10% of the world population)
  • Child Mortality Plummets (in 1968, 1 out of 6 children died before their fifth birthday. With healthcare improving, it now is 1 out of 22)
  • Blame It On The Grain (on undernourishment; the population share with hunger fell from about one third to 12%)

 

What about happiness?

But what would the headline on happiness be in the paper of January 2018?

Fifty years after 1968, these are the headlines the newspaper should run:

  • Have You Jumped Out The Rat Race Yet? (on the growing awareness of people that they are in charge of their own well-being, but that they need to make important and difficult life style choices to achieve it)
  • Emerging Economies Show Massive Happiness Gains (the progress in fighting poverty, child mortality, and undernourishment across developing countries comes with a happiness dividend)
  • Free At Last! (on the transition towards democracy and self-determination in many countries, mainly in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and former colonies)
  • Politicians and Bosses Say: Your Happiness Is My Command (on the growing attention for happiness and well-being as a policy issue for the state, and corporations increasing attention to happiness at work)
  • Materialism Out, Experiences In! (on the gradually changing habit of people to value and spend money on experiences such as trips or time with friends, and a lesser emphasis on consumer goods)

 

Bonus: what the 1968 papers actually said about happiness, referring to a creepily titled Beatles song.

american-rifleman-happiness-is-a-warm-gun_01-1

 

Set your Big Goal for 2018 and beyond

Just a few days to go, and 2018 is starting.

The last few days of the year are useful to look back in gratitude at what you achieved and experienced this year. At the same time, you can also look forward and determine if there are any Big Goals you would like to work on next year. New Year’s Resolutions, anyone?

Do you need some inspiration? We often can find it in people who do truly big things. That’s why I would like to share Jaco Ottink‘s inspiring story today. I met him a few weeks ago, and his talk prompted me to write about his Big Goal.

Seven Summits

Jaco Ottink climbing Mount Everest. Source: Beyond Summits, www.beyondsummits.nl

Jaco Ottink climbing Mount Everest. Source: Beyond Summits, www.beyondsummits.nl

Jaco dedicated twenty years of his life to his dream: climb the highest mountains of each continent. By 2015, he was almost there: he had the highest peaks of the North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australasia, and Antarctica covered. Only one summit was keeping him from realising his dream: the 8,848 meters of Sagarmatha in the borderlands between Nepal and Tibet – better known as Mount Everest. Getting there would make him the ninth Dutchman to climb these Seven Summits.

In Jaco’s story, there are three key lessons: preparation, perseverance, and setting the right goal.

Preparation

Step one of achieving your Big Goal is preparation. If you want to climb the Mount Everest, you need to be top fit. In Jaco’s case, it required months and months of training: running, weight-lifting, and lots more, for 25 hours per week.

And every single detail matters, so the gear had to be top notch too. You want to make sure that your sleeping bag and layers of clothes actually keep you warm when spending a lot of time below zero degrees. (Keep clothes in your sleeping bag, to prevent them from freezing in the tent). And between an ice hammer of 400 or 800 grammes, the best choice is obvious – every gramme of weight needs to make it to 8848 meters.

Perseverance

Without perseverance, you cannot achieve a Big Goal. When trying something as demanding as the Mount Everest, you inevitably will have setbacks. So, if he couldn’t train one day for some reason, he gathered the courage to do it double next day.

Support will be needed to persevere. Jaco told us his eyes almost froze one hour away from the top, and he felt he might not be able to reach the summit safely. It was the support of his sherpa that convinced him to go on – without him, he’d fail to meet his Big Goal.

Set the right goal

The notion of perseverance is also visible in Jaco’s definition of success: achieving something beyond your current means. But there’s more in it: to achieve a Big Goal, you must be sure you set the right one.

What is the goal of a mountain climber? Achieve the summit, you might say. But think again, it isn’t. The real goal is to return back safely, as unfortunately doesn’t happen to all who set off to climb Mount Everest. Hence, sometimes the right call might be to return to safety and abandon the expedition.

And what is your goal?

I gather most of you have more mundane ambitions than climbing Mount Everest. As Jaco tells his audience, your Big Goal could also be something to make you happy and proud in your daily life, such as spending enough quality time with your family (he is now a part-time inspirational speaker running a firm called Beyond Summits, part time stay at home dad). His next Big Goals might be a bit far off for most of us: he aims to travel to the North Pole, and to inspire 1,000,000 people with his story and workshops.

My own Big Goal is already a bit closer to the type of things you might have in mind: my objective is to learn Polish fluently. Not an easy one, given the complicated pronunciation, grammar and vocab of this Slavic language. But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be a Big Goal. I have a few more years to go, but with preparation, perseverance, and maybe a little tweaking with the right goal, I should get there.

These are our goals – what is yours?

December, a month of kindness and happiness

It’s December again. Isn’t there a better time of the year to inspire happiness and kindness?

Random acts of kindness (and even those are more planned than random) greatly contribute to happiness. A thank you or a smile never hurt, and don’t even cost a thing!

As scientists have found, being kind or giving to others can result in moments of happiness. You could say that giving to others is both an altruistic and an egoistic act. As a giver, you benefit from it as well: giving simply makes you feel good!

The grass-roots movement Action for Happiness strongly believes in the power of, well, actions for happiness. We can’t always control how we feel, but taking positive actions can help us to feel happier.

In the season of advent candles and calendars counting down to Christmas, they came up with this amazing kindness calendar. Click the calendar to enlarge it and have a look at their tips. Feel inspired to have a kind December, and spread feelings of happiness around you!

Action for Happiness' Kindness Calendar. Found on http://www.actionforhappiness.org/kindness-calendar

Action for Happiness’ Kindness Calendar (click to enlarge). Found on http://www.actionforhappiness.org/kindness-calendar

The Pursuit of Happiness, A User’s Guide

We hold these truths to be self-evident,

That all men are created equal

That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights

That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

 

This is how the United States Declaration of Independence, proclaimed on 4 July 1776 starts.

It’s great line. But how does one pursue happiness? What can one do to be happier? The US declaration of independence doesn’t answer that question, so I have resolved to do so myself. And while there are many, many, ways to pursue happiness, I think they ultimately boil down to three strategies.

Dedication

The first strategy to be happier is dedication. If you want, you can dedicate your life to pursuing happiness. The best example is the book under the name ‘The Happiness Project’, by  author Gretchen Rubin. It’s quite a thing: one day she decided that she wasn’t happy, and that she wanted to be happier. So, she made a plan.

Her plan was to dedicate one year of life to being happier. In doing so, she identified twelve topics to work on, for instance Marriage, Work, Family Relations, Reading, Spirituality, and so on.

Every month she undertook different projects. In January, she worked on her energy, and started by… cleaning and keeping the house in order. In June, she worked on friendship, and made sure to remember her friends’ birthdays. In July, she worked on money, firstly reducing her dependence on happiness, but also going on a major spending spree. I’ve been told it can be great to buy a new dress.

The dedication strategy is great if you’re a programmatic person. But if you’re not, or if you don’t believe you can plan and organise your way to happiness, you may prefer the awareness strategy.

the-pursuit-of-happiness-quote

The idea of Dedication also comes forward in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, a 2006 movie with Will and Jaden Smith

Awareness

A simpler strategy in the pursuit of happiness is awareness. This strategy I based on the simple assumption that all of us have happy moments. But sometimes we’re just simply too busy to realise our moments of happiness. Life is great, but sometimes we need to slow down to be aware of that.

That’s what the awareness strategy to the pursuit of happiness is based on: registering moments of happiness we all experience. That can be done by journaling, or by a tool called ‘Three Good Things’.

The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley and the grass roots organisation Action for Happiness both promote ‘Three Good Things’ as, in the term positive psychology puts it, an ‘intervention’. The idea is that if you write down three things during the day that made you happy. It’s the best to do it every day ebfore you go sleep. Maybe you sat down for a coffee with a friend. You enjoyed a walk in the sun. And you favourite football team won. It can be very banal. But that’s happiness.

Either way, it will help you to remember and be aware. And it will also focus your spirit the next day. You’ll register moments during the day and think: this will go in my three good things today!

Curiosity

Again, the awareness strategy requires you to put aside some time every day. The third strategy is less time bound. I call it Curiosity. This strategy is based on the idea that we are curious people. Even when we don’t dedicate ourselves to happiness all day, or ensure we’re aware every day, we can develop happiness by being curious.

The idea that by learning about happiness, you can also absorb some of these lessons, and be happier, is one of the ideas behind my blog For A State of Happiness. There are plenty of places where you can learn about happiness.

For instance, there is a great course in the Science of Happiness on the online courses site EDx (enrollment is open!)

Or, there are dozens of TED talks about all aspects of happiness. On how to spend money on gratitude, on irrationality, or compassion. You name and you can find a talk!

Another place to be curious is to read blogs. Of course you can try For A State of Happiness! But there are many. Gretchen Rubin, from the Happiness Project under the Dedication strategy, has a blog. There is a blog of the Minimalists, blogging how a life with less stuff makes them happier. And Action for Happiness shares all kind of happiness facts and tools on their site.

Which strategy works for you?

The US Founding Father’s put it nicely when they stated that the Pursuit of Happiness is our unalienable right. But happiness is so personal. We all pursue happiness in our very own ways. Whether your pursuit resembles the Dedication, Awareness or Curiosity strategy is irrelevant. In either case, I’ll wish you luck on the way to a state of happiness.

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