Pioneering positive psychologist and New York Times–bestselling author Tal Ben-Shahar shows us how Happier, No Matter What. Born in 1970 a lecturer at Harvard University, Tal created the most popular course in Harvard’s history. Influenced by the pioneering work of Dr Martin Seligman, the world-renowned founder of positive psychology, Tal Ben-Shahar states that his goal in teaching positive psychology is to create a bridge between the Ivory Tower and Main Street. In addition to his work at Harvard, Tal consults and lectures worldwide to executives in multi-national corporations, the public, and at-risk populations, addressing such topics as happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal-setting, mindfulness, and leadership.
I am so pleased to interview him again, this time for his new book Happier, No Matter What: Cultivating Hope, Resilience, and Purpose in Hard Times Hardcover – May 11, 2021
According to Tal, other issues to incorporate into daily life include remembering the mind-body connection; expressing gratitude – appreciating the good things in life – and prioritising relationships: It is also important to simplify we compromise our happiness by seeking to do too much. But we can do something: We can climb the SPIRE—Ben-Shahar’s five-step staircase to hope and purpose.
- Spiritual: I am experiencing meaning.
- Physical: My body’s needs are met.
- Intellectual: I am learning.
- Relational: My friends support me.
- Emotional: I am allowed to feel.
Understanding when to say “no” to others frequently means saying “yes” to ourselves.
Tal Ben-Shahar does not limit himself to this advice. His recommendations are validated by studies taught in universities, educational institutions, and companies. Their strength lies in their transformative power because for him, who does not believe in miracles or magic formulas, it is by combining reflection and action. In his words, he defines “reflection” that one gradually shapes the contours and content of one’s existence. It is, therefore, no fluke that the other advantage of his method is the simplicity of the tools it offers. One of his teachings, which could in fact be her motto, is “Learning to be happy is an everyday affair”. And working on it, one might add, requires a little patience and a lot of kindness towards oneself and towards others.
“The number one predictor of happiness is the time we spend with people we care about and who care about us”.
From the time I can remember myself, I was often told, or heard others being told, that “everything happens for the best.” While on a global or cosmic level, that may be true, personally, I never truly bought into this worldview. It was only years later, after studying philosophy and psychology, that I was able to formulate my own modified version of this statement: Things do not necessarily happen for the best, but some people can make the best of things that happen. The belief that things happen for the best is optimism that relies on blind faith. In contrast, understanding that we can make the best of things that happen is realistic optimism. Another way of distinguishing the two types of optimism is that the former is passive optimism while the latter, active optimism.
Life devoid of hardship is lifeless.
The problem is what we do with the hardship, how we deal with the pain. Armed with genuine faith, we can actively take charge of our condition and consequently learn, develop, and make the best of most things that life throws our way.
Channelling negative feelings The paradox is that to fulfil our potential for happiness, we must allow in unhappiness.
Giving thanks A person who is generally more grateful, who, be it in good times or tough times, can appreciate the good things in life.
Doing physical exercise Exercise does not just make us physically tougher; it significantly contributes to our psychological toughness.
Spend quality time with those you care about. Spending quality time with people you care about and who care about you is always important; it is essential now. If actual get-togethers are not possible, then virtual get-togethers will do.
Distract yourself Seek out distractions. Engage with music, watch TV, or play games with family and friends.
By truly living these five elements of well-being, Tal shows us how to build the resilience to carry us through anything—from a personal loss to a global pandemic. And lastly, he shows us how to become “whole again”—and when we’re whole, we invite happiness in.