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  • Ray Christian

How to hack happiness

Updated: 4 days ago

There is no path to happiness… happiness is the path

-Thich Nhat Hanh


I’ve dealt with depression and knew that building a company, especially one that requires disrupting an industry, would test my mental health. I needed tactics for:


a) feeling consistently happy, and

b) quickly hacking out of negative thought loops


I tried all kinds of habits on my happiness path, one month at a time over 6 years, and kept what worked.


Fast forward 6 years and the path has me astoundingly happy, with two peculiar developments:


  1. The random wave of uneasiness or anxiety or emptiness-in-your-stomach that occasionally hits us all, comes rarely now. When it does, rather than experiencing it as a feeling of anxiety that’s “taking over” (oh fuck), I now notice it as an objective physical sensation that will cease

  2. When my brain is idle and the default mode network kicks in, the thoughts that randomly pop up are overwhelmingly more positive than when I was suffering from mental illness


That last point was subtle but profound for me. It showed me that my behavioral patterns and also my thought patterns were programmable. I was actively brute-forcing so many positive thoughts, actions, mantras and calendar reminders that when my brain was “inactive”, it defaulted to what it had been doing lately: generating happy, uplifting thoughts.


That simple breakthrough is something I can’t unsee.


I realized that at a granular day-to-day level if you have a massive shift in how many positive thoughts and sensations you have, the cumulative result, is in fact, a shift in your happiness.


My favorite habits are listed below, categorized and rated on a 1–10 scale, with (10) being the biggest impact on my mental health:


Learning

  • 10 minutes of Duolingo language learning (8)

  • Develop a custom recipe for a food/beverage (8)

  • Play at least one instrument (9)

  • Read an informative book (9)


Body

  • 5 minutes of dancing and/or bongos, preferably with a) hands above the head and b) getting airborne c) shouting or d) all the above (9)

  • Track booze and marijuana intake by the week. I have a whiteboard and mark a dash for every glass of wine or bong hit. I then periodically assessed how I felt in a given moment throughout the week and reconciled the feeling with the recent substance intake (9.5)

  • Allow myself to be brought to tears 3–4 times a week (9)

  • 20 minutes of sun before lunch (8)

  • Intermittent fasting (9)


Secular buddhism

  • Meditation (10)

  • When experiencing a sensation of anxiety, I do a body scan to see if there’s a body part that’s in pain or tense, then I breathe into it (8)

  • When I experience negative thoughts, I thank the thought—or the module of the brain that generated that thought—and acknowledge that thought is trying to help and although that thought may have been useful before, we don’t need it right now (9)

  • I have my mind “tell” my body I love you. Then have my body “tell” my mind I love you

  • Monthly psychedelic therapy. It feels like achieving the peace, clarity and love that would result from 1,000 consecutive hours of meditating … except you’re done in 5 hours (10)

  • Understand my role as a copilot in my life. I can impact many things… but many are just part of the script of this “movie” that I need to accept (9)

  • Once a week, spend 10 minutes giving to someone: either a small gift, a nice note or a thoughtful compliment (9)

  • Internally wish someone, anyone, happiness for 10 seconds (7)


Technology

  • Less podcasts, more music (8)

  • Stop watching the news (9)

  • Take a break from all social media (9)

  • Talk to AiME and watch the videos I create with her (9)


Conflict

  • When heading into or dealing with challenging interpersonal conflict:

  • Start (internally) with the phrase “I love you” to remind myself that I otherwise value this person I’m having a conflict with (9)

  • Remind myself of 3 accomplishments I’m proud of (8.5)

  • Imagine it’s the 10-year-old version of them that’s attacking me (8)

  • When a person is acting particularly preposterous or pugnacious, I remind myself of the stupendous statistical improbability of human life emerging from rocks and chemicals that even enables us to have this interaction (7)

  • When in doubt, walk away from conflict, don’t write the email or the text. Wait 2 days and see how I feel (9.5)


Easy wins and early morning momentum

  • Don’t pray at night... pray, or set intentions, in the morning instead (8)

  • Wake up early (530a) (9.5)

  • Name 1 thing I’m looking forward to today and 1 thing in the near future (8)

  • Make the bed (7)

  • 5 minutes of exercise after making the bed (9)

  • During morning coffee:

  • Write down 3 things I’m grateful for (9)

  • Write down an intention for myself (“I will be a sublime leader and a creative genius today”) and something for my company (“something stupendous will happen for textpert today”) then I speak both phrases… twice... loudly. (10)

  • 5 minutes of leadership or business reading (7)

  • 10 finger gratitude exercise on the way to work (9.5)

  • Savor food to an absurd degree. For at least a few bites: no TV, no phone, close your eyes and deeply concentrate on the taste. It can feel legitimately orgasmic (8)

  • Develop 3–5 word aspirational mantras (“I’m fucking unstoppable”) and repeat them every day... speak or shout them when alone (10)


My recommendation: try 1-2 new tactics every month, put a reminder in your daily calendar until it becomes routine, and see if you can develop a happiness path that works for you.

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