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The Expert’s Guide to Contentment

May 6, 2017
Plain English Version

Happiness.

The experts met in Vancouver. The agreed on the following tips to a better life.

  • Face-to-face social interaction leads to a longer life

Forget about smoking, drinking, exercise or even your heart. They matter, but something else matters more. Close relations with people are the most important. Having friends and family, you spend time with counts. Good support systems will add years to your life.

Women spend more time with friends and family. That is why they live longer. Texting, emails or even telephoning do not do the job. Person-to-person contact is what matters.

An expert said face-to-face contact releases neurotransmitters in the body. They act like a vaccine to protect you. The contact can be brief. Making eye contact, or shaking hands or high-fives can do the trick. It releases dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel less stressed and gives you a little high.

A quarter of the population says they have no one to talk to. The expert said, “It is a biological imperative to know we belong.”

  • Knowing when to turn off your smartphone enriches your life

Turning off your smartphone is like taking a vacation. That is a vacation without interruption. An expert said that people who spend great amounts of time on social networks and dating apps are less happy. That goes for following the online news as well. Scrolling on your phone is nonstop. You want to do things for pleasure that have a beginning and an end. Read a book or watch a movie.

Ten years ago smartphones took just a little time each day. In 2017, a smartphone can take up almost all our personal time. People who put the phone on airplane mode on weekends can enjoy life more.

The expert said, “Life becomes more colorful and richer. You have better conversations. You connect with the person who is with you.”

  • Chasing meaning, not happiness, is what really matters

Do not look for happiness. It is fleeting. An expert said what is making us feel sad is not a lack of happiness. It is the lack of meaning in our lives. She said there are four forms of meaning.

Belonging. Spend time with the people in your life who love and care about you.

Purpose. It is not just at work. The absence of a job, or unemployment, can lead to a feeling of less self-worth. Find something to drive you forward.

Transcendence. Do something to be part of a bigger effort. Do something outside of yourself. It could be solitary like a walk, or it could be part of a bigger activity like a civic club.

Storytelling. It is your personal narrative. The expert says, “We are the author of our stories. We can change how we are telling them. Your life is not just a list of events.”

Source: The Washington Post April 28, 2017

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