I listened to the Rich Roll podcast yesterday with author and academic, Arthur C. Brooks. Brooks was sharing his knowledge and research (grounded in neuroscience) on happiness and how we can all be happier if we know what to do. He describes that happiness is not a destination, but a direction.

First, he debunks western society’s current idea of what brings happiness: via material goods, a promotion, or even financial success. These, of course, are often a moving target, offering only temporary satisfaction at best.  

Brooks goes on to explain that while suffering, grief and pain are an inevitable part of life, we can experience greater happiness and well-being if we know how to do so. Brooks describes getting happier as a project with three main things we must focus on: enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose. In the podcast, he goes on to talk about what pillars support enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose: faith (or anything transcendent like time in nature, religious faith, playing music, meditating, etc.), family, friends, and work. Ultimately, happiness is the result of quality relationships, creating value for others, doing hard things, and having some type of spiritual understanding/relationship.

Practical application ideas Brooks presents include moving our body to lower negative affect or emotions, deciding to love and focus on our family and relationships, figuring out what our values are and how to live according to them, creating and practicing some sort of contemplation 15 minutes/day (like meditation or walking in nature), and reading some sort of wisdom or spiritual literature for 15 minutes/day.

While the pursuit of happiness certainly isn’t easy, living our lives wanting less and pursuing more depth, connection, and meaning will lead to greater fulfillment, satisfaction, and ultimately, happiness in our lives.

Podcast info: I recommend listening to the podcast- it is long but filled with helpful and accessible information about building a better life. Brooks also recently co-wrote a book with Oprah, Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier. Listen to podcast

Therapeutic resource/practical application: What steps will you take to living a happier life today? Here is a list of value words Dr. Brené Brown developed to help you determine what is important to you. I recommend reading through it and narrowing it to your top three to five value words. You might have to start with many more and continue to wean down until you have a core list of values that are most important to you. Values handout