On Saturday, David Warden, Chair of Dorset Humanists shared the results of his reading around the science of happiness, and personal pursuit of the same, in an enjoyable and well-attended meeting. While there isn’t room to do justice to his presentation here, we present a brief summary of his key points and a list of books that David recommended during the afternoon.
1. Evolution doesn’t give a fig for your happiness. It just wants you alive and making babies.
2. Your brain is a contraption, part of which we share with lizards and other reptiles. The ancient limbic system generates troublesome emotions.
3. The happiest people are Swiss, in social class I, extrovert and married.
4. Your happiness ‘set point’ is partly determined by your genes and other unalterable factors.
5. You can take control of about 40% of your potential for happiness.
12 top tips
1. Spend more time with the people who make you feel good
2. You can take control of your brain chemistry (to some extent, by thinking of your emotions, chemical events in your body and as information, alarm signals)
3. Active activities (TV, a passive activity, induces mild depression)
4. Life is a package deal – unhappiness is part of the grainy ‘texture’ of life. Don’t be unhappy about unhappiness itself – it’s normal and it will pass.
5. Practise gratitude (over the space of a few days write a list with 100 items on it – things you have been grateful for in your life)
6. Honour your own life (no regrets…)
7. Practise compassion (to everyone around you, even the unlovely)
8. Take action to reduce stress (plan your time better)
9. Do more enjoyable things (and have some idleness time)
10. Engage your senses more fully (enjoy ordinary things, trees, birdsong, sunshine)
11. Join a community organisation (such as Dorset Humanists)
12. Start a happiness project (keep a happiness journal for a year and make it your goal to increase your happiness and those around you)
Further reading (And DW’s comments)
· Daniel Nettle The Science of Happiness – compact and readable
· Cecilia D’Felice Dare to be You – a beautiful self-help book
· Paul Gilbert Overcoming Depression – a chunky self-help manual
· Don Cupitt The Way to Happiness – Don Cupitt is keen on ‘ordinary ecstasy’
· Martin Seligman Authentic Happiness – Positive Psychology
· Robert Holden Be Happy – a bit religious but in-depth and useful
· Andre Jordan Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now – a great book for wallowing in misery
(Note: If you do decide to buy any books from Amazon to further your investigation of the science of happiness, please use the following link which provides a small cash percentage to the British Humanist Association without increasing the price you pay: http://www.amazon.co.uk/?%5Fencoding=UTF8&tag=britishhumani-21&linkCode=sb1&camp=2378&creative=8438 ).