Book Corner: Happiness by Design

A lot of happiness books advise that you should find purpose in your life, help others, stop comparing yourself to others, eat well and maintain your social contacts.

But what if you could design it into your life?

Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan (behavioural scientist) looks into paying attention to how you act as a way of increasing happiness into your life. It’s definitely a fresh take compared to the other happiness books that I have previously read.

The first part of the book looks at all the research and our understanding of happiness. What is happiness, what we know and what causes it. The second half of the book goes through actionable changes that we can make in how we think and our environment.

Photo by Denise Jones on Unsplash

Pay Attention
– Make your happiness more obvious to yourself as we get use to things quickly
– Deal with uncertain anxiety causing tasks
– Trust your own experiences more than your desires and beliefs
– Make your purpose more obvious to yourself too.
– Find ways to challenge yourself, vary the skills you use, do new things.
– Don’t give up too much happiness for too long

Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

Design
– Prime your environment (eg. air freshener makes it far more likely that you will clean up, choose smaller plates if you are trying to lose weight, nature retains your attention in positive ways so add more greenery to your space, put books around if you want to read more)
– Set defaults for yourself so you have to opt out (eg. set up a default time to catch up with friends, change the browser of your home page to something that you want to read)
– Make your commitments public to someone/or someones, you’re more likely to keep them
– Break your commitments down to smaller goals and a right now goal to start you on your way
– Consider also when to give up on a commitment and forget about how much time and money might have gone into it. You can’t get them back anyway.
– Surround yourself with people who are also happy. Happiness is contagious.
– Change your routine and leave out the cue and reward.
– A change in environment is the perfect time to change some of your most ingrained habits because you now have a new environment to design.

Much of what you assume about the causes of happiness will be governed by the assumptions of those around you. Once you are aware of this, you can reconfigure your social norms

Happiness by Design- Paul Donan

Doing
– Pay attention to what you are doing
– Spend money on experiences- even talking about experiences rather than purchases can make us happier.
– Once your happiness in something starts to wane, switch to a purposeful task and vice versa.
– Listen to music- it’s been part of our culture for thousands of years
– Don’t underestimate the power of humour (can promote muscle relaxation and lessen feelings of loneliness or pain).
– Spend more time with people you like
– Allocate your attention purposely
– Don’t think too much about your lack of time or money

Photo by Hybrid on Unsplash

I thought the biggest take aways for me from this book was just how much your environment can influence your behaviours. And how we can manipulate our environment to make behavioural changes in ourselves (that works with basically anything eg be more productive, make new habits or change old habits).

Have you read this book? Would you recommend any other happiness books? Do you hate book about happiness?

5 thoughts on “Book Corner: Happiness by Design

  1. Looks like an interesting book. I’ll admit, I haven’t been reading any books on happiness, but it’s something I strive for every day. To do things that give me contentment, which most times aren’t easy or fun things. Anyway, thanks for this post!

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