Realistic Ways to Achieve Happiness: An Interview with Tim Bono
With the start of the New Year, many people make themselves promises to engage in healthier behaviors, to jumpstart in earnest a pursuit of personal happiness. New Year’s resolutions notwithstanding, the pursuit of happiness is not only a worthwhile endeavor, it’s also life-affirming and can result in lasting change to overall well-being.
To delve deeper into realistic ways to achieve happiness, I recently spoke with Tim Bono, a psychology lecturer in Arts & Sciences who teaches courses in happiness at Washington University in St. Louis. Bono is the author of When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness.
You say “life-changing” and that there’s a science to happiness. Can you explain what you mean by that?
TB: People have been interested in pursuing the good life for as long as there have been people. Over the last few decades, the field of psychology has applied the scientific method to the age-old questions around how we can increase our well-being and strengthen our psychological health. Beyond just intuition and conventional wisdom, the scientific method tests hypotheses by collecting data on large groups of people to identify the behaviors and mindsets that are most effective at increasing our happiness.
What are your top tips for making this a happier New Year – by doing something proactive to get a handle on personal happiness?
TB: I have a few I recommend, as follows:
- Get outside, move around, take a walk.
- Get more happiness for your money. Buy experiences instead of things and spend your money on others.
- Carve out time to be happy, then give it away. Thirty minutes helping others is more rewarding and actually leaves us feeling empowered to tackle the next project, helping us feel more in control of our lives and even less pressed for time. This translates to higher levels of happiness and satisfaction.
- Delay the positive, dispatch the negative. Anticipation itself is pleasurable, and looking forward to an enjoyable experience can make it all that much sweeter.
- Enjoy the ride. People who focus more on process than outcome tend to remain motivated in the face of setbacks.
- Embrace failure. How we think about failure determines whether it makes us happy or sad.
- Sweet dreams. Get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis.
- Strengthen your willpower muscles. Exercising willpower muscles in small, everyday behaviors strengthens our ability to stay focused at work.
- Introduce variety into your day-to-day activities.
- Stop comparing yourself to others.
- Reach out and connect with someone.
- Limit time on social media.
- Use your phone in the way phones were originally intended.
- Practice gratitude.
Are most of your tips on how to achieve happiness – like going outside for a walk – more physical than mental? That is, do you initiate the code to happiness by doing something physical? Or is it more of a balance between the two?