by Mike Shea on 29 December 2009

"We have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing."

I'm still fascinated by Dan Gilbert's TED presentation and Colbert Report interview discussing the human brain's ability to generate happiness and poor ability to predict it. Both of them are well worth your time.

I think a lot about being happy. I think its something worth spending a lot of time thinking about. A while back I wrote down a list of things I do to help me stay happy. Here's what I came up with:

This isn't a very good list. It's all over the place and there's probably ninety two other things I could add. Still, these are some tricks I particularly like.

One thing I notice and have noticed throughout my life is how much my happiness relates to what I'm eating. In the times where I'm on a diet and reducing calories, I have better sustained happiness than any other time in my life. This is so true that I can actually feel the guilt of overeating /missing/ from my life. My mind will wander around looking for that thing to feel bad about and then I'll remember "oh yeah, I'm eating right. I don't have anything to feel guilty about."

Simplifying and reducing things out of my life makes me happy, but I'm easily bored. If I don't have a project to work on, I get bored, unhappy, and cranky pretty quickly. I'm actually happiest when I have about four to seven things on my to-do list, whether at home or at work. If the list gets higher than seven, I feel overwhelmed. If I have three or less (or, God forbid, zero!), I start to get bored. I end up manufacturing projects at this point and often they are simply wastes of time.

I've always enjoyed the simple and small pleasures. Sometimes to a fault. I remember how difficult a time I had in my latter years of college but what would really send me over the deep-end was when NYPD Blue would be cancelled for a Barbara Walters special. God, that would make me mad. Lately I've taken to writing out lists of the small pleasures I seek in my life. When I hit periods of time with no clear projects, its a good list to jump to:

Again, not a complete list, but it makes me happy to write it out and think about it. What is your own "simple pleasure" list?

I really like Dan Gilbert's TED talk. I think understanding the value of manufactured happiness, how we can get it, control it, and use it, is a real key to a good life.