Simply Happy

Update: 2016-12-3017
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In this hour, finding happiness may be simpler than you think. (Original broadcast date: February 14, 2014).

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

before we get started we'd like to share a quick message from host Gator with all the tools you need to build and host your website including templates and twenty four seven expert support to help you every step of the way and right now Ted Radio Hour listeners get sixty percent off by visiting host Gator dot com slash NPR hates guy here and just wanna wish everyone listening a Happy New Year from all of us at Ted Radio Hour we've got a bunch of amazing new episodes coming up this year but we thought this one would be a good one to set the tone for twenty seventeen is called simply happy that explains why finding happiness might actually be easier than you think this the the is the Head Radio Hour each week groundbreaking had talked the Ted Technology Design at Stanford delivered and Ted conferences around the world gift of the human had to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio NPR guy rise in on the show today the one thing we can pretty much all agree we want happiness will of course this is Dan Gilbert happiness expert if you write a book with the word happiness in the title you get one question over and over and the question he gets a doc what's the secret of happiness yet so what is it the will it be the first thing is rather than answering the question just think about it from is there really a possibility that it's a secret and only I know and and you don't envy that it's a secret at all sadly this is true because if there's one thing we learned from working on Today show it's that there is no secret to happiness but there are plenty of ideas about it all which will explore this our ideas from Science design philosophy and the thing is a lot of these ideas are surprisingly simple you know when people ask about the secret of happiness and you tell them we'll take more time in your socialization should worry less about things experiences they kind of nod and look at you and say yes what about the secret because the secret of happiness is like the secret of dieting there's no secret to upper it'll be there so this year some man happy is like a big sigh of years and I'm thinking like you must have the secret okay no seriously what you know what it looked like that of guys walking around smiling everyday I had we all have down the left or right side I know she you know but really know much more simple way to look at it is to remember that you deserve to be happy in that room or my turn off our FL were to listen to the threats the show and I will be Chung is okay for the and I know you have to check out the video to this song it will literally make you happy later in the show Dan Gilbert will be back to explain why we are all actually hardwired to be happy but first could the key to happiness be through science most of what we know about happiness is you know what a scientist might call correlation or research met killings worth is for scientists to study the causes and nature of human happiness like to be happy at particular moments and I'm happy and other ones well to study that question you've got to ask a lots of people how they're feeling we can look at to what extent are richer people happy or are people with children happy here are unemployed people less happy et-cetera but it's hard to know for sure what's causing what it's even harder to know what can people actually change and have an impact in their lives like when someone asks you how each week we'll think about specific things throughout your week that the might of made you happy or not and why the kinds of happiness that you feel when you are interacting with your kids might be very different than the kind of happiness you experience when you're getting a great dinner and scientists obviously can't be with you all the time to know the difference so that five years ago met killings were came up with an idea to solve this fundamental problem of happiness research your smartphone for specifically an app on your smartphone and the basic idea behind this is that we can now use technology to measure happiness in real time so here's how it works he go to Track Your Happiness tub or a punch in your phone number and then later when your say on the subway you get the idea is that you want to respond as fast as you can tell me about your experiences the instant right before you got that text message and suddenly it's like a therapist in your iPhone all with some questions why I feel right scale from very good to very bad you could say ee oh you know about in the middle next question Do you have to do what you doing yes I know in your life yes definitely yes and then the question is get more detail to what extent are you being productive time for sleep last night when did you finish eating your most recent meal and then finally last question you want to do what you doing yes or no here's the moment where you think maybe I'm not but maybe this isn't what I want to be doing right now I find myself in and a lot of people tell me that you become much more aware of how happy you are how you spend your time of you know of the dimensions that we measure like you know what you want to be doing what you're doing anyway more on that later but the point is several times a day Matt sends these texts to thousands of people maybe thirty five thousand people who've done it in wherever they are at home or at work or in a vehicle and a coffee shop basically anywhere people find themselves Matt wants to be measuring their happiness in and details of what they're doing at that moment all this adds up to kind of statistical survey of happiness data because what Matt is doing he's vacuuming up all kinds of information that no has ever really analyze before and he looks for patterns I can look across all of these dimensions of our lives we spend our time with how we think about ourselves and other people how well we sleep how much exercise I mean a tremendous number of variables variables that might be starting to add up over time into an equation for happiness and whether there is such a thing that's a debate Matt took on in his Ted talk well sometimes I just like to try to resolve this debate with some data in particular I'd like to present data to from three questions The Last Track Your Happiness remember this is from moment to moment experience in people's real lives the three questions The first one is happiness question How do you feel on a scale ranging from very bad to very good second activity question What are you doing on a list of twenty two different activities including things like eating and working and watching TV and finally a mind wandering question are you thinking about something other than what you're currently doing people would say no in other words I'm focused only on my task or yes I am thinking about something else and the topic of those thoughts are pleasant neutral or unpleasant any of those Yes responses are what we call mind wondering would be fine as it turns out people are substantially less happy when their minds are wondering when they're not now you might look at this result and say Okay sure on average people are less happy when the mind wandering surely when their minds are shying away from something that wasn't very enjoyable to begin with at least then mine wondering should be doing something good for us now as it turns out people less happy when their mind wandering no matter what they're doing for example people don't really like commuting to work very much it's one of the least enjoyable activities and yet they are substantially happier when they're focused only on their commute than when the mind is going off to something else amazing so how could this be happening I think part of the reason a big part of the reason is that when our minds wonder we often think about unpleasant things and they are enormously less happy when they do that our worries anxieties are regrets forty seven percent of the time people are thinking about something other than what they're currently doing ranging from high sixty five percent people are taking a shower brushing their teeth to fifty percent when they're working to forty percent when they're exercising all the way down to this one short on the right I think some of you are probably laughing at ten percent of the time people's minds are wondering when they're having sex with a something I think it's quite interesting in this graph and that is basically with one exception no matter what people are doing their mind wondering at least thirty percent of the time which suggests I think the mind wondering isn't just frequent its ubiquitous pervades basically everything that we do in other words mind wandering very likely seems to be a natural cause and not merely a consequence of unhappiness The The The The The The The The The and that's the single biggest determinant like you can say without question the most consistent result we have is that when the mind wonders are less happy exactly I think our ability to mind wanders kind of a superpower the ability for human beings to think about something other than what they're doing allows them to plan and reason and do a lot of really amazing things that make us such a successful species but it's a superpower we can't really control in the sense that we use it really often for things that aren't very helpful for us and that's one of the surprising results in my research is that when I look across all the different activities that people engage in they are universally happier when they're fully engaged in activity and not mind wandering no matter what they're doing so when they're in the moment when they're in the moment exactly have you do that like had you get to that place that's the million dollar question and I don't know the answer I think it is possible for people to redirect their attention one thing I've certainly started doing since I began this research is notice where my attention is and I do find straying especially if I'm mind wondering about something that's not really productive or useful or adding to my experience just bring my attention back to whatever I'm doing to do that repeatedly and when I do that I can not only sort of turn off mind wandering but I think really enjoy that experience a lot more reducing that's like science like what you're researching could ultimately give us a formula to find happiness I think it can make a lot of progress this is a question that people have been thinking about for thousands of years and there are some recurring answers like treating other people like you would like to be treated but at the same time I think there are just a lot of debates they haven't really been resolved and it's really hard to resolve them when it's just people talking at each other and I think that is really the power of science is to use the scientific method and collect data and figure out who's right you know in the same way that we've stood on the shoulders of our ancestors understand a lot about medicine or the economy I think we're at the start of a long but I think really exciting journey to understand a lot more about the causes of happiness making sure he's a researcher at UC San Francisco is hot and happiness that head back on and if you want those little happiness takes a couple times a day check out their happiness at or by going right at the moment are you doing something you have to be doing right now honestly yes I'm liking my two year old butt and then is like are you doing something you want to be like yeah i oso wun b wif my two year old get to spend time with more of a surprisingly simple ideas behind happiness in just a moment of Kairos and you're listening to the Ted Radio Hour from NPR the Ole Hey Everyone Just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors who helps make this podcast possible at last year to date nearly anything is possible if we can dream it seems can build it so how do you bring everyone together to realize their shared vision with at last EON makers of software for teams Gere a confluence hip chat and get Beckett give your team's everything you need to organize discuss complete shared work at last he works to help teams large and small ascend to new heights to create what's next classy and team up is it that last year the com for more I am just one more quick thing to wonder how a company or brand is created the story behind the people who toiled for years in obscurity men like when they became Mark's record well that's a promise of another show I host is called How I built this and you can find it at NPR dot org slash podcast on iTunes or however you get your podcasts the it's the Ted Radio Hour from NPR and Guy rise and on the show de ideas surround happiness fulfillment and how so much of the science and philosophy is surprisingly simple so we just heard about the science of happiness and get back to that a bit later in the show but for the moment we asked to ten speakers one writer the other a designer to explain their ideas about what makes us feel happier let's start with the writer my name is Carl Andre am an author and speaker I travel around the world telling everyone why it makes sense to slow down and yes it does make sense to slow down to pavement you play hockey for the moon I'm not quite as fast as I use to what I was sixteen but when I because I was thinking like Tai Chee the the HEA competitive techy me the I'm not good enough to be competitive for the So Carl Andre says we are a world obsessed with speed and our need to do everything faster to cram more into less and less time it's not making us any happier here's Karl on the Ted stage or so marinated in the culture of speed that we we all fail to notice the toll it takes in every aspect of our lives our health our work our relationships in our community and sometimes it takes are a wakeup call doesn't it to to alert us to the fact that we're hurrying through our lives instead of actually living them that we're living the fast life instead of the good life my wakeup call came when I started reading bedtime stories to my son and I found at the end of the day I would go into his room and I just couldn't slow down speed reading The Cat In The Hat be skipping lines here paragraphs there sometimes a whole page of course my little boy due the book inside out so we would quarrel and what should have been the most relaxing the most intimate most tender moment today when a dad sits down to read to his son became instead this kind of editorial battle of wills a clash between my speed and his slowness and this went on for some time to myself scanning a newspaper article with time saving tips are fast people and one of them made reference to a series of books called The One minute bedtime story and I I when saying those words now but my first reflex was to say Hallelujah what a great idea this is exactly what I'm looking for to speed up that time even more but thankfully a lightbulb went on over my head in my next reaction was very different and I to step back I thought whoa has it really come to this my really in such a hurry that I'm prepared to fall off my son with a sound bite at the end of the day but why isit so hard to slow down I think there are various reasons one is that the speed is fine speed is sexy at all that adrenaline rush it's hard to give it up another reason I think perhaps even most powerful reason why we find it hard to slow down as the cultural taboo against slowing down the slope is a dirty word in our culture is a by word for lazy slacker for being somebody who gives up he's a bit slow it's actually with being stupid but I think there's a kind of metaphysical dimension that speed becomes a way if Walling ourselves off from the bigger deeper questions we fill our heads with distraction with busyness we don't have to ask my well my happy children growing up right she like I have so been there like it's like when you wake up at like three in the morning and everything slows down and see why start to feel anxious like like I am definitely not happy that stressing as part of recall an experience that you'll find also that you stick with that and sometimes you work something out or you come to terms with something that you have made has been putting on the backburner due to never find any kind of benefit from falling through that anxiety are those late night palpitations and worries now uses a second Andy and I back to the quick fix I still love speaking I live in London and I work as a journalist and I enjoy the bars and a business and the adrenaline rush that comes from both of those things but I've also got in touch with my inner tortoise I no longer overload myself gratuitous Lee and the upshot of all of that is that I actually feel alot happier healthier more productive than I ever have I feel like I'm my life rather than actually just racing through it so is it possible that's really the main question before us today is it possible to slow down and I am happy to be able to say to that the answer yes the Connor aim is to check is called In praise of slowness check it out at Ted in PR work ok so if that sounds you know kind of simple it's because there might be something to the relationship between simplicity and happiness at least that's what the designer Graham Hill would argue and back in the day he was on the web before it was really the lead yeah we're very fortunate so we're talking ninety four ninety five This is a time where people confuse their email addresses and website addresses ok so the ten second version of the stories that cram and some friends built a company designing websites and then a couple years later they sold for about ten million dollars grant was barely thirty never dreamed he would see that kind of money no I'm came from Mike of middle class or family and so yeah so you're twenty eight you get all this money in the natural thing to do this by the Yeah it's like there's this void of sudden that you have to fill and I didn't go that crazy but just when it was a lot of stuff so I buy yet but a thirty six hundred square foot homes of a sedan and the furniture is much technology stereos and one First MP three players can't believe how much stuff was cool to have a nice car but are you buying the right things is the right price Yan and so distinctive that sort of feel like a pit my stomach just having this house and is realizing you fill it full of stuff I mean listen it's sth i have zero complaints I've been extremely fortunate but like making a bunch of mine doesn't radically transform you into a happy person actually all that stuff started to try them kind of nuts so he decided to do something a lot of rich Jews don't which is to get rid of it and so Graham's big idea became too much stuff is making us less happy Kerry is on the Ted stage if you know that we Americans have about three times in a space we did fifty years ago three times to think with all this extra space plenty of room for all our stuff right nope new industry in town twenty two billion dollar two point two billion square foot industry that a personal storage so got triple the space we become such good shoppers we need even more space so where does this leave lots of credit card debt huge environmental footprints and perhaps not coincidentally our happiness levels flat line Hussein fifty years one year to suggest there's a better way that lets me actually equal more that most of us experienced at some point the joys of less college dorm traveling and hotel room camping we got basically nothing maybe a boat whatever it was for you I bet that among other things this gave you a little more freedom more time so back in two thousand seven surrounded by a bunch of useless stuff that was not making him happy Graham decided to edit his life he started by trying to come up with the way to live that was simpler and smaller and so we called up some other designers and friends he came up with a plan for a new to live his life and what came as it was a four hundred and twenty square foot apartment is almost Zen like in its simplicity to imagine wake up in the morning in a bright room with big windows comfortable queen bed and hop out of that news just close it up right into the wall which then reveals a nice couch and sea bass clean living room for men at that point and the wall across from you just pull out this wall and runs on tracks that are its library technology that are in the in the floor and behind that wall two more beds that fold down cuff like bunk beds and so you get some decent privacy and you can have guests over which is which is great and that's really the least of it everything in Graham's tiny apartment kitchen bathroom everything is designed to save space and minimize stuff was all services tend to attract stuff and so the less you can have an easier is to be neat and instead nearly every wall opens up to a storage space or a closet full table table and chair seating for ten in all that can be stored in the walls have cycling this is a four hundred and twenty four feet apart and you have dinner parties with ten guests comfortably yeah it's it's all up a lot better than it sounds sexy beautiful beautiful room in our point is less but better so you know have been wanting no staff have stuff to have great staff that's really versatile and right now Graham is developing a whole apartment building based on this concept in Brazil a community thinks will be a really really happy place to live we want space efficiency want things that are designed for how they use the vast majority of the time not that rare event why have a six burner stove when you rarely use three so we want things that ness we want things that stack we want to digitize you can take paperwork books movies and you can make it disappear it's magic finally one multi functional spaces and housewares sinks combine of the toilet a dining table becomes a bet same space so I'm not saying we all need to live in four hundred and twenty square feet but consider the benefits of unedited life go for three thousand to two thousand from fifteen hundred two thousand so you go home when you walk through your front door take a second ask yourself Could I do it's a little editing without getting a little more freedom maybe a little more time so let's make room for the good stuff like uh so here's a story my dad called me and said Son you are approaching middle age and I'm not I don't feel like I should be storing your things from a child anymore there are fourteen boxes in the house and I'm putting my crate Nelly and shipping off to Washington so I got them and their school stuff and like art things I didn't honestly say aches in line it's kind of cool and there's a lot of it is an abundance of it yet but I can like I would say it was special as I am going to get through this so how I would say that how important is the physical aspect of that and so I can all have a shirt that I've worn it's time to really there are memories attached to and take a picture done okay I guess that's fine dammit a picture of like my handprint in the clay from when I was like three because it's cool you might hope that this stuff makes me happy I probably was me I'd probably keep if maybe a handful of them and then take pictures of of all arrests had you know you're not carry great talent I have to know the notes are like over at your life cutie but think of a U din even know what that stuff was there and that's the point I think as a way of editing let's just remember that what really matters in life is memorable experiences connections and relationships in space and stuff should support that the grand hell his company is called Life edited can seem really pictures of his apartment at Life edited dot com and check out his talk at Ted dot NPR dot org and speaking of tiny spaces right now I'm sitting in a very small room on the Harvard University campus filled with electronica this is Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert again and we brought him into that small studio to ask him about his life's work what really brings happiness about has become a question that we have put in the hands of poets and philosophers for millennia then recently we've asked scientists to answer questions about what brings human happiness like you study the Superbowl of scientific subjects course why would I write a book about something that wasn't the single most important topic in the world is the open front against attack we have twenty one minutes to speak two million seems like a really long time and evolution two million nothing yet and two million years the human brain has nearly tripled in mass going from the one in a quarter pound brain of our ancestor here have a list to the almost three pound meatloaf that everybody here has between their years and one of the got so big is because it got a new part called the pre frontal core tax free from court ex do for you that should justify the entire architectural overhaul of the human skull in the blink of an evolutionary time well turns out the peripheral cortex does lots of things one of the most important things it does is it is an Experience simulator human beings have this marvelous adaptation that they can actually have experiences in their heads before they try them out in real life this is a trick that got our species out of the trees and into the shopping mall now all of you Ben doesn't have a liver in a new ice cream and it's not because they
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