1) Don’t work too much. Work is stressful. Stress releases cortisol, which kills cells in the hippocampus, which along with the amygdalahelps to regulate mood and store memories. The amygdala is also changed by stress – it grows – and these changes lead to chronic stress and the production of more cortisol, which continues the cycle. The stress induced glucocorticoids also reduce medial prefrontal cortex activity. This region has been shown to inhibit the amygdala, which prompts fear. The stress related brain changes also cause depression. One reason why anti-depressants work is that they help to regenerate cells in the hippocampus. So don’t work too much.
2) Focus on a fun and enjoyable life. That means getting your priorities straight. See #1.
3) Learn energetic sex. If you are able to have sex without loud screaming, it isn’t great sex. If you are capable of imagining another lover than the one you are with, it isn’t great sex.
Sex increases levels of the natural cannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, which help to erase traumatic memories. Another great use for make-up sex. Sex also increases levels of the highly addictive hormone oxytocin, which is the love-drug ecstacy causes the brain to release.
Energetic sex can be 10 or 100 times better than ordinary 10-minute-to-ejaculation sex. You can get to and sustain an incredibly powerful full body plateau, and then go higher. You can last for hours, if you want to.
Of course you’ll need to have a lover that you are attracted to and who is attracted to you. If the one you are with doesn’t turn you on, disrupt your life, no matter the consequences, and get one who does. No big loss for your lover if you aren’t even attracted to the person – he/she will move on – you aren’t the whole world, no matter what he/she tells you.
4) Train your mind habits to let go of irritations as quickly as you can. Don’t avoid them or push them away or ignore them. Just let go of them as quickly as you can.
5) Train your mind habits to linger on pleasures. Give yourself over to pleasures. Be like a little kid, and just enjoy yourself.
6) See as big a picture as you can, in any situation. Try to embrace all sides of a situation, and then synthesise them with all you know to get your own distilled viewpoint that embraces them and can choose what seems best. Don’t agree with anyone about anything – not even yourself – just because it is easy. This will help to unify your mind, which will help you to have love and peace. The alternative is to have many fragmented selves, each with competing views and agendas.
7) Avoid people who don’t have it as their top priority being happy and making other people happy. Work and family as top priorities are sure signs of a diseased personality.
Ya but… ya but, splutter.. the real world! Pragmatism! We have to take care of everything!
Yes, the real world. The priority is to be happy now, in this real world, not in some imaginary future place once everything is settled and taken care of. If you arent’ enjoying life, why breath? If it isn’t your expectation to be happy now, it isn’t your priority.
This means avoiding workaholics who find financial gain an interesting topic to discuss. It means avoiding all the various emotionally manipulative personalities that get their power from making you off balance until you want them restore normalcy. It means finding people who enjoy being happy and don’t crave emotional gestures from you other than those of sharing and increasing happiness.
8 ) Train in the hard work of letting go of thoughts and just listening to and watching and sinking into your sensory environment. At least parts of the day should go to this. The effort will reverberate throughout the day and even into your dreams, heightening your clarity and presence.
9) Learn and practice energetic and body based arts, such as Chi-kung, Kundalini yoga, Daoist meditations, hatha yoga, etc. This will get you grounded and feeling a sense of embodied bliss.
10) Accept opportunities for intimacy. They are everywhere. A quick glance into the eyes of a stranger can be 1/2 second sex. A simple hello can be a heart to heart. Intimacy is valuable, and makes everyone feel connected and good about the world.
11) This is an abstract one, but perhaps the most important. Seed your soul with the yearning to love and understand everyone and everything, just as it is, right now. This implies living in an evidence-based-reality. If you get any data that conflicts with anything you believe, change your belief, or at least stop believing. Thisis the world that we need to love, now. Utopia is for the weak minded. They can be happy once they get there. We want to be happy now. So most religious beliefs will be falling down, as well as many social dogmas. Evidence will crumble them. We don’t have allegiance to any belief system – our allegiance is to the world, as it is, right now. See it, understand it, love it.
12) Don’t focus on material gain. Be content with little. If what you have makes you happy, then what you have is enough. Never think in terms of status: don’t compare your phsycial situation with those around you. If this is difficult for you, train in the habit of comparing your situation with that of Neanderthals. Once you have your basic needs of food and shelter met, money only remains tied to happiness through status – people enjoy having more than others. But it takes a lot of stressful work to have more than others, and some others will always have more, so best to avoid searching for the elusive and relatively small bit of gain in happiness that material wealth brings. You’ll be happier by learning the quite practicable art of being content with little.
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After writing this I thought I should google up recent scientific research on happiness. Here are some main discoveries (italics are mine):
- All of us have natural hedonic “set points,” (average level of happiness) to which our bodies are likely to return, like our weight. This is true whether our experiences are marvelous—like winning the lottery—or shattering. This set point remains stable throughout our lives. (However it can be altered through some practices, most notably Buddhist and other meditative practices.)
- Married people are happier than those who are not. In a 35,000 person poll, 40 percent of married Americans described themselves as “very happy,” compared with just 24 percent of unmarried Americans who said the same. (Of course, happy people may be the ones who get married to begin with.) Married couples were found to live longer and enjoy good physical health, but single people can achieve the same by cultivating a ‘para-family’ of friends, ex-lovers and colleagues.
- Relationships need to be intimate and include a great deal of self-disclosure to result in higher levels of happiness.
- People who believe in God are happier than those who don’t. (However I suspect that post-rational people are happier than rational people, who are less happy than pre-rational people. So an evidence based person should ultimately be able to be happier)
- Those who drink in moderation are happier.
- Attractive people are slightly happier than unattractive people.
- Older people report slightly higher levels of life satisfaction and fewer dark days
- Children don’t make parents any happier. Every bit of data says children are an extreme source of negative affect, a mild source of negative affect, or none at all. It’s hard to find a study where there’s one net positive.
- We are terrible predictors of what will make us happy.
- Those who are permanently injured say they’d be willing to pay far less to undo their injuries than able-bodied people say they’d pay to prevent them.
- Being surrounded by friends and family is one of the most crucial determinants of our well-being.
- Economists have a term for those who seek out the best options in life. They call them maximizers. And maximizers, in practically every study one can find, are far more miserable than people who are willing to make do. They are on the hedonic treadmill, where heartfelt aspiration has turned to a mindless state of yearning.
- A superabundance of options can lead one to either not choose, or to be convinced one chose badly.” Having many options can create desires for things we don’t need—which, not coincidentally, is the business of Madison Avenue—and, as a corollary, pointless regrets, turning us into counterfactual historians, men and women who obsessively imagine different and better outcomes for ourselves.
- Money doesn’t make much difference in happiness, but status does. Happiness, in other words, “is less a function of absolute income than of comparative income”. People of higher social status have better health and happiness than their lowlier contemporaries
- So can happiness be taught? Literature based on twin studies seems to suggest that roughly 50 percent of our affect is determined by genetics. (However contemplatives and meditators have a long documented history of altering affect, changing the set point of happiness)
- When we’re in a state of high gratification, we’re experiencing flow—a state of total absorption, when time seems to stop and the self deserts us completely. One key to happiness is to cultivate ‘flow’ activities – hobbies or activities in which we become so immersed that time is forgotten. (Sex can and should be like this)
- A central finding is that we can promote our happiness by learning to control, and eventually avoid, negative thoughts. One technique is ‘fast forward thinking’ in which we screen a ‘film’ of a negative event in the mind then fast forward it until it becomes a blur.
- Negative emotions such as fear, boredom or embarrassment are often over-reactions and can be controlled.
- Research showed that it takes 21 days to create a so- called pathway in the brain’ that makes being happier a habit and a further 63 days to consolidate what has been learned.
- Awareness of death makes people keen not to waste their lives.
- To be happy it is essential that a certain amount of time every day is spent on ‘some sort of positive action, connecting with the community around us.
- People who care about others are happier than those who are more preoccupied with themselves.
- Depressives are far more likely to be realists, while happy people are more likely to walk around in a mild state of delusion. (Again I suspect that a post-rational person would be more likely to be both happy and realistic. It is possible to clearly see all the pain and confusion all around you and the grim prognosis for the planet and still be happy.)
- Mood can affect the way people process information—we think globally when we are happy and get hung up on details when we are sad. (So the converse may be true – learning to think globally could make us happier)
- People who are happier are healthier and live longer.
- Older people are happier.
- Sex without a condom makes you a happier person.
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If you are a happy person and a good lover, careful to praise and nurture strengths and spread joy, you can seduce a lover to be addicted to you mind-and-body and make them, as my girlfriend tells me every day, “so grateful and so incredibly happy to be with you”.