Happiness By Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think / Finding Pleasure And Purpose In Everyday Life

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You are happiest when you experience your daily activities as pleasant and purposeful.

to be happy, you need to experience a combination of joy as well as meaning in your activities.

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happiness isn’t just caused by joy, but by feeling that what you’re doing has some purpose

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alternate pleasurable activities with purposeful ones.

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Happiness isn’t caused directly by what you do, but rather by what you pay attention to.

we often dwell on negative thoughts about past and future events rather than positive thoughts about the activity we’re doing in the moment.

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We tend to give more attention to unfamiliarities and novelties rather than routines in our lives and, unfortunately, we forget to cherish the good things we do on a daily basis.

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pay attention to them.

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concentrate on what makes you happy.

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Feeling happy, then, is not so much about changing what you do; it’s about what you give your attention to

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Your behavior and attention are largely driven by unconscious mechanisms that are prone to mistakes.

System 2 is the conscious brain you use to make considered, well-informed decisions. System 1, however, is far more influential. It’s the ancient, primitive part of our brain that is governed by instinct and operates on impulse and habit, which enables us to act automatically.

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Our focus often wanders onto negative things because our System 1 reacts to our surroundings, which leads to knee-jerk decisions. Without consciously knowing it, what we think and how we behave is changed by our environment.

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instinctive and impulsive decisions are catalyzed by our environments,

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In trying to achieve goals that will make you happy, you fall victim to behavioral spillover.

behavioral spillovers can also make it difficult to act the way we consciously want to, which typically leads to guilt and frustration.

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success or failure in acting out one behavior effects your future behavior; this effect is called behavioral spillover. Trouble is, these behaviors are largely attributable to your impulsive System 1

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our past, present and future decisions are not separate; they impact each other, and we are sometimes oblivious to it.

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one negative decision may lead to another.

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You often misjudge your desires and goals, including how they impact your happiness.

we get used to major changes – positive or negative – far more quickly than we expect.How we think about the future is also colored by how we recall the past. It’s the peak moments of pleasure and pain that stick with us the most.

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Worrying too much about future situations or achievements can prevent you from being happy right now.

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We also often begin goals with unreasonable expectations for ourselves and when we get frustrated, we end up settling for less, making our path unhappy most of the time.

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To decide what makes you happy, listen to immediate feedback from both yourself and others.

Focussing on the feelings that come as a result of your daily activities will help you ascertain what really brings you happiness.To start, you can use tracking methods such as the DRM (“Day Reconstruction Method") to discover which activities and people bring you the most pleasure and purpose.

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By using unconscious mechanisms, you can design your environment to steer your attention toward things and behaviors that make you happy.

start by redesigning your immediate environment to automatically make you happier.

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changing your office light bulb to a blue bulb can have a huge effect on your efficacy, as it’s been shown to biochemically increase alertness.

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set up primes and defaults that make you behave the way you wish with little effort

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To be happier, pay attention to what you’re doing, choosing to ignore distractions.

establish new defaults to break bad habits.

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make a mindful effort to focus on the “here and now," whether it’s work or pleasure.

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just the act of moving your attention from one thing to another, such as from your work email to your Facebook feed takes “switching cost."

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Final summary

The key message in this book:Rather than overhauling your personality and radically changing how you think, you can increase your happiness by having a balance of pleasure and purpose in your everyday activities, focussing on their positive aspects and making small adjustments to your surroundings.

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About the book:

Drawing from his own behavioral research and economist experience, Dolan explains how happiness arises and how we experience it in our everyday lives. He exposes some of the traps we fall into when trying to be happier and demonstrates some simple tools for adapting your environment to feel happier without having to radically change who you are and what you think.

About the author:

Paul Dolan is a Professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science and is acclaimed for his extensive research on the connection between happiness, well-being and behavior. He advises both US and UK government on public policies regarding health care and economy.