How to become an expert in Happiness

What does it take to become an expert?

The short answer is a combination of theory backed up by a lot of practice.

There are no shortcuts. You’ve got to walk the walk. 

Getting started on your journey is the hardest part and sometimes it can be so daunting that you’re not entirely sure where you should start. However, as a wise man once said, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’

With this in mind, we take a look at the ‘everyone could do with a little more of it’ subject of Happiness, with some top resources to set you off in the right direction. 

5 books:

1) Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

2) Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine by Derren Brown

3) Happiness: A History by Daniel H. McMahon

4) Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard  

5) The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

5 podcasts:

1) Happiness Podcast

2) Happier with Gretchen Rubin

3) The Primal Happiness Show

4) 10% Happier with Dan Harris

5) Optimal Living Daily  

5 twitterati:






5 talks:

1. What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger

2. The surprising science of happiness | Dan Gilbert

3. The habits of happiness | Matthieu Ricard

4. Want to be happy? Be grateful | David Steindl-Rast

5. There’s more to life than being happy | Emily Esfahani Smith

Alternatively, you can skip the above and take an online course in Happiness from the Happiness Research Institute founded by the New York Times Best Selling author Meik Weiking. 


Original Source

32 Reasons To Be Happy – Part Four

The media would like you to believe the world is in a worse state than it actually is. The reality is there is much to celebrate. 

It’s the last instalment in this four part series looking at the work from Hans Rosling’s excellent book Factfulness. It will hopefully leave you feeling a bit better about the world. If you haven’t read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 it might help to start with them. 

To give yourself an even bigger mood lift, consider giving up reading or watching the news completely. If anything truly serious happens, you’ll be sure to hear about it from a friend or colleague anyway! 

In this post, we take a look a further eight bad things that have dramatically declined over time.

1. Deaths from plane crashes – deaths per 10 billion passenger miles (5 year averages) have fallen from 2,100 (1929-1933) to 1 in (2012-2016).  Source: Gapminder based on iATA, ICAO, BTS & ATAA

2. Child labour – Share of children aged 5-14 who work full time under bad conditions has dropped from 28% in 1950 to 10% in 2012.  Source: Gapminder based on ILO & OurWorldInData

3. Deaths from disaster – 1,000 deaths per year (10 year average) as a result of disasters has fallen from 971 in 1930s to 72 (2010-2016).  Source: EM-DAT (The International Disasters Database)

4. Nuclear arms – 1,000s of nuclear warheads in the world have declined from 64 in 1986 to 15 in 2017.  Source: Nuclear Notebook & SIPRI

5. Smallpox – number of countries in the world (out of 194) with smallpox cases has dropped from 148 in 1850 to 0 in 1979. Now that’s worth celebrating!  Source: Klepac et al.

6. Smoke particles – KG of S02 particles emitted per person has fallen from 38kg in 1970 to 14kg in 2010.  Source: Gapminder, Klein Goldewijk, CDIAC & UN-Pop

7. Ozone depletion – 1,000 tons of ozone-depleting substances in use has declined from 1,663 in 1970 to 22 in 2016.  Source: UNEP

8. Hunger – Share of people undernourished has dropped from 28% in 1970 to 11% in 2015.  Source: Gapminder based on FAO

Ok, that’s it. Or at least those are all the ones that Hans provided graphical data for in his wonderful book. Hope you enjoyed this series of blog posts and they helped you to put things in perspective and feel happier about the current state of the world.

If you’re interested in learning about other examples of world progress then it’s worth reading Steven Pinker’s excellent book ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ or check out the website

Original Source

32 Reasons To Be Happy – Part Three

It’s the job of the media to keep us in a perpetual state of fear. Good news doesn’t get anywhere near the same exposure as the bad. Here we share some amazing stats of progress in the world to put you in a better mood. 

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we looked at 16 positive things that were improving in the world.

In Part 3 and Part 4 we will take a look at the flip side: 16 bad things that have been decreasing over time.  

Because bad things on the decline is essentially the same as good things improving right?  

So, without further ado, here are the first 8 bad things that are, thankfully, decreasing:

1. Legal slavery – number of countries in the world (out of 194) where forced labour is legal or practised by the state has decreased from 193 in 1800 to 3 in 2017.  Source: Gapminder, Pinker, ILO & SDL

2. Oil spills – amount of oil (in 1,000 of tons) that has spilled from tanker ships has declined from 636 in 1979 to 6 in 2016. Source: ITOPF

3. Cost of solar panels – the average price of PV models ($/Wp) has fallen from $66 in 1976 to $0.6 in 2016. Quite astonishing really!  Source: OurWorldData based on Lafond et al

4. HIV infections – new infections per million people have dropped from 549 in 1996 to 241 in 2016.  Source: Gapminder based on UNAIDS

5. Children dying – percentage of children passing away before their 5th birthday has declined from 44% in 1800 to just 4% in 2016.  Source: Gapminder based on UNHGME & HMD

6. Battle deaths – number dying in battle per 100,000 people has fallen from 201 in 1942 to 1 in 2016.  Source: Gleditsch, PRIO, Correlates of War & UCDP

7. Death penalty – number of countries in the world (out of 194) with the death penalty has dropped from 193 in 1863 to 89 in 2016.  Source: Gapminder based on Amnesty & Pinker.

8. Leaded gasoline – number of countries in the world (out of 194) permitting lead in gasoline has dropped from 193 in 1986 to just 3 in 2017.  Source: Gapminder based on UNEP & ILMC

Can you think of any other examples? Please share them in the comments below. 

Original Source

32 Reasons To Be Happy – Part Two

In Part 1 we looked at the work of Hans Rosling and his team to uncover the many fact based reasons to feel happy about the world.

Although it might not seem like it, things have never been better than the period of time we’re currently living in.

Here in Part 2, we look at eight more good things that are increasing:

1. Child cancer survival rates have climbed from 58% in 1975 to 80% in 2010.  Source: US National Cancer Institute

2. The share of girls enrolled in primary school has increased from 65% in 1970 to 90% in 2015.  Source: UNESCO

3. Monitored animal species have risen from just 34 in 1959 to 87,967 in 2017.  Source: Gapminder

4. Share of electricity coverage has increased from 72% of people having some access to electricity in 1991 to 85% in 2014.  Source: GTF by the World Bank & IEA

5. Share of people with mobile phones has climbed from 0.0003% in 1980 to 65% in 2017. Expect this to increase again significantly by the end of 2018. Source: GSMA, ITU

6. Share of people with water from a protected source has risen from 58% in 1980 to 88% in 2015.  Source: WHO, UNICEF & World Bank

7. Share of people with Internet access has grown from 0% in 1980 to 48% in 2017.  Source: Gapminder based on ISC & ITU via World Bank.

8. Share of immunisation for 1 year olds who received at least one vaccination has gone from just 22% in 1980 to 88% in 2016. This is a huge improvement considering the challenge of distributing vaccines in remote communities.  Source: WHO & Gapminder

Keep an eye out for Parts 3 & 4 and let us know in the comments below if you’re aware of any other dramatically improved world statistics to be happy about. 

Original Source

32 Reasons To Be Happy – Part One

If you read the news on a regular basis you’re likely to feel pretty negative about the world.

Natural disasters, murder, war, refugees, terrorist attacks; the list seems endless.

However, It is important to recognise that this is only part of the picture. A part that the media specifically focuses on to provoke our most powerful of emotions: fear.

Thankfully, one man dedicated his life to telling the other side of the story: Hans Rosling.

Hans wanted to spread the word that things were far from as terrible as the newspapers portrayed and that there was lots to be positive and optimistic about.

Sadly, Hans passed away in 2017 not long before his excellent book Factfulness was published. In it, he shares many fact based examples of progress that should put anyone in a brighter mood.

In this blog series, we take a look 32 of them. Here, we take a look at the first eight good things that are increasing. Yay! 

1. New movies – From just 1 new feature film release in 1906 to 11,000 in 2016 there are now more movies to entertain us than ever before.  Source: Gapminder & iMDb

2. Area of protected nature – The share of Earth’s land surface protected as national parks and other reserves has increased from 0.03% in 1900 to 14.7% in 2016.  Source: Gapminder based on Abouchakra and UNEP

3. Women’s right to vote – Countries with equal rights for women and men to vote has gone from only 1 in 1893 to 193 in 2017 (out of 194 countries). Just one more to go!  Source: Gapminder

4. New music – Number of new music recordings per year has risen from 1 in 1860 to 6,210,002 in 2015. Your ears have never had more of a chance to party!  Source: Spotify & Wikipedia

5. Science papers – Number of scholarly articles published per year has risen from 119 in 1665 to 2,550,000 in 2016.  Source: Royal Society of London

6. Harvest yields – Cereal yields (thousand kg per hectare) have increased from 1.4 in 1961 to 4 in 2014.  Source: FAO

7. Literacy – Share of adults (15+) with basic skills to read and write has gone from 10% in 1800 to 86% in 2016.  Source: Gapminder & UNESCO

8. Democracy – Share of humanity living in a democracy has increased from 1% in 1816 to 56% in 2015. Great progress made but still a long way to go!  Source: OurWorldInData

Keep an eye out for the next instalments of positive examples of world progress in the coming days.

Original Source

Why getting that new car won’t make you any happier

How many times have you heard someone say one of the following?

“I’ll be happy just as soon as I get this promotion.”


“I’ll be happy when I get that new car.”

Or even

“I’ll be happy when we can finally afford to go on a nice holiday.”

Unfortunately, we are very poor at predicting our own future happiness. Specifically, we tend to misjudge what will bring us joy. We place too great an emphasis on external factors (like buying a new car) and believe they will have a disproportionately positive effect on our wellbeing. 

The problem comes when we get that thing we wanted, only to find that our happiness levels swiftly return to their previous state.

In effect, we experience a shortfall between our expectations and that little old thing called reality and this leaves us with a sense of frustration and disappointment. Ironically, by setting ‘conditions’ on our happiness we often end up achieving the exact opposite.

The reason for this is that our internal state has a far greater impact on our happiness than external factors do. More than anything, ‘happiness’ or indeed ‘unhappiness’ is a ‘state of mind’ and therefore will follow you wherever you go. 

So what can you do about it?

One hack is to learn to set the bar low in terms of your expectations. This is not to say you shouldn’t look forward to anything but it does mean you shouldn’t think of that shiny new sports car as a guarantee that you’ll live happily ever after.  

What this does is soften the ‘conditional’ aspect of our expectations for future happiness. It games the system to work more in our favour. When the moment of reality arrives we will have managed our expectations sufficiently that we are not expecting this single, external event to have such a positive impact on our overall happiness.

It’s like the difference between making plans for New Year’s Eve (which normally ends up being a massive anti-climax) or leaving it completely open and ending up at a friend of a friend’s house party where you end up having the experience of your lifetime! 

When you catch yourself thinking if only I got that payrise I’d be so much happier remember that in doing so you’re almost certainly setting yourself up for the opposite. 

Original Source

The Formula to Find “The One”

Let’s say your 15 year old kid wants to start dating. What do you say?

Assuming you want your child to live a happy life, the prudent answer is actually “go ahead darling, but reject everyone until you’re 24!”

This may sound like a nonsense rhyme out of Alice In Wonderland, but statistically speaking, it is the right answer. Yes, there is a mathematical formula that can help you end up with “The One”.

But wait – what about romance? What about fate?

As the great blog, Wait But Why points out, we take things like business, or getting into the university we want, or hiring an employee very seriously. We do our research, put effort in, go about the process with a strategy and a plan. Anyone who takes this same approach to their love life, however, is seen as a loser who is trying too hard.

Which makes no sense.

The Harvard Study of 268 men over a course of their entire adult lives found that the biggest factor that affects your happiness, health, and even your success is the person you choose to spend your life with. Doesn’t that mean we should take the search seriously? I mean, at least as seriously as finding a good secretary.

The search for a good secretary was deemed such an important issue, that a mathematical model was developed to figure out a how to do it. It’s also called “the optimal stopping point”, and can apply just as easily to the search for the perfect house to buy, and guess what – finding The One.

The mathematician herself, Hannah Fry, explains the details in her TED talk, but here’s the gist:

If you could casually date many people over your whole life, you’d be able to rank them from best to worst, but what would be the point? What you want is that list before you pick someone to settle down with.

The optimal stopping point can tell you exactly how many people you should date and drop to give you the best chance of finding The One.

And it’s 37%.

Wait, what?

It works like this: If you start dating when you’re 15 years old, and hope to settle down with someone by the time you’re, say, 40, date around but don’t get serious with anyone until just after your 24th birthday (that’s 37% of your dating life). Then, choose the next person you meet who is better than the best person you met in those formative dating years.

In Hannah’s words, “Spend a bit of time playing the field when you’re young until you’ve got a feel for the marketplace.”

Doing this will give you almost a 40% shot at setting down with The One by the time you’re 40.

(If you’re not so picky about The One, and will settle for someone in the top 5%, your chance of success shoots up to nearly 60%.)

I mean, you could leave it to fate and so on, but the fact is, dating is a numbers game. And that’s what you should tell your 15 year old, just before you get into the safe sex talk…

As I said, this is the biggest aspect, but still one of many that affects human happiness. If you’d like to learn more about Happiness and ways to get more of it in your life, have a look at The Happy Course, made by the Happiness Research Institute and 42courses.