What does it take to achieve happiness? That depends on the type of happiness you seek. For example, eating ice cream right now may bring you happiness in the present moment, but will it bring you lasting peace? When approaching that idea, the path to happiness can sometimes feel like a more overwhelming task.
Even if we are ready for the change, our bodies and minds will take extreme measures to prevent that. We might experience anxiety attacks and intense psychosomatic body pain because our very being doesn’t want to change.
To achieve happiness, we need to understand what makes us happy and what brings us peace. One way to know if we are on the right path is the happiness method.
What is The Happiness Method?
The Happiness Method – and its associated happiness meter – is not a structured method. It consists of periodically (a couple of times a month) assessing if whatever we are doing makes us happier.
IONS Scientist Arnaud Delorme, PhD, discusses his own experience with the Happiness Method in his book Why Our Minds Wander: Understand the Science and Learn How to Focus Your Thoughts. He gives an example of how he used to restrain himself to only reading books that helped him grow – self-help books and scientific books. Arnaud says “These generated a lot of mind wandering. I learned by reading these books, but it was not always fun; my mind often went off on tangents. I used to believe that life was too short to spend it reading fiction. Now, I have let go of that belief. I read fiction books I like, and I enjoy them thoroughly. My mind no longer wanders when I read, and it is a joy to read. My happiness meter shows me it was a good choice. I am happier for having made that choice, and I am more pleasant for being slightly happier, so the happiness of people around me is also affected. It actually also helped me to regulate my emotions, because I have a ‘good place’ that nobody can take away from me, where I am absorbed and at peace.”
How to Experience The Happiness Method
Here is an example of how you can practice the Happiness Method, from Chapter 16 of Why Our Minds Wander :
- Take a piece of paper and create two columns on it: “Positives” and “Negatives,” and fill in the good and bad aspects of your life currently. This could be your job, your relationships, your health.
- Now, cast your mind back one year and look at the listed situations in comparison to one year previously – perhaps you are earning more than the previous year and getting on better with your partner (positives) but you might have a difficult relationship with a new boss.
- Reflect on what changes you have made in your life that have made situations better or worse, and vow to continue on a path that increases happiness in your life.
Remember that this exercise is based on introspection – how happy you are feeling. There is no right or wrong way to judge your life. We sometimes need to make errors and end up on the wrong path to find our way to peace. For example, if we use the happiness method and believe a career change would make us happier, it may be worth trying. No matter what the end result is, we know ourselves better and are more content doing what we do because we do not fantasize about doing something else.
If you would like to learn more about the Happiness Method, how it’s impacted by mind wandering, and how to handle overwhelming thoughts, check out Arnaud’s book Why Our Minds Wander: Understand the Science and Learn How to Focus Your Thoughts (available now on Bookshop and where books are sold). You’ll find easy techniques that will enable you to develop the skill of mind wandering to improve your mood and foster greater creativity.