The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People – David Niven, Ph. D

Here’s my interview with David Niven, Ph. D

Here are 5 other ways to increase your happiness:

What are the secrets of happy people? According to David Niven, Ph. D, there are 100 different ways to increase your happiness level. However despite the plethora of ways to increase your happiness, there are a few recurring themes: relationships, ignoring the noise, and having a purpose.

When it comes to relationships, David Niven states that you want to build, foster, and grow meaningful and positive relationships. Humans have historically always been social beings. In fact, some scientists even theorize that one of the reasons we were able to survive up until now is because of our ability to socialize and create a sense of community. In the book Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect by Harvard Professor Matthew Lieberman, he addresses the benefits of humans being social creatures.

As for ignoring the noise, this essentially means living life on your own terms without listening to what others tell you to do. Learn to filter out other people’s expectations of you and the messages of needing to buy or have certain items to feel a certain way. By not buying in to what others tell you to do, you have full control over your emotions, thoughts, and actions which will then lead to a happier life.

Lastly, having a defined set of goals, purpose, and mission is what will increase your happiness. Despite what we think, constant consumption isn’t the answer to happiness but rather it’s production, especially if it’s something you enjoy doing and resonates with your overall vision. I believe that people constantly consume things because they need to distract themselves from the reality of their situation, job, work, and or life. They’re not happy with where they are and so they find ways to distract or temporarily forget about what it is that they dislike. They then continue on in the rat race by working a job they dislike to then use that money to pay for things to temporarily take away their pain. Take a job or do something that you actually enjoy and fits in with your mission and I’m quite positive that you’ll no longer need to constantly consume things to distract you from the pain of your job.

For those of you who are looking for a book on happiness, this book cuts right to the chase and gives you practical and useful tips on ways you can increase your happiness. I would recommend this book to anyone as it’s very simple, easy to understand, and filled with a plethora of strategies.

My rating:
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Check out the book here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK


There were many great ideas from the book but here are my top 6 points in no particular order:

1. Turn off the TV
Television is a creamy filling that distracts us from the substance of our lives. When you are in the supermarket, do you buy something from each and every aisle? Of course not. You go to aisles that have something you want and skip the aisles that don’t have anything you need. But when it comes to watching television, many of us seem to follow the buy-something-from-every-aisle plan. If it’s Monday, we watch TV. If it’s Tuesday, we watch TV. If it’s Wednesday, we watch TV. Too often we watch TV because that’s what we usually do rather than because there is some- thing we actually want to see. Ask yourself when you are watching TV, ‘Is this something I want to see? Would I ask that this program be made if it didn’t already exist?’ Psychologists have found some people who watch so much TV that it actually inhibits their ability to carry on a conversation. In the words of one psychologist, ‘TV robs our time and never gives it back.’ Don’t turn on the TV just because it’s there and that’s what you usually do. Turn it on only when there is something on that you want to watch. Your newly liberated hours can be spent doing something with your family or your friends or finding a rare quiet moment for yourself. Without TV, you can do something actively fun instead of passively distracting. Watching too much TV can triple our hunger for more possessions, while reducing our personal contentment by about 5 percent for every hour a day we watch.


2. Don’t confuse stuff with success.
You are neither a better nor worse person for the kind of car you drive, the size of your home, or the performance of your mutual funds. Remember what really matters in your life. Imagine for a moment that today was your last day on Earth. Now, make a list for yourself of all the things that you feel you have accomplished, all the things you are proud of, and all the things that make you happy. Is your car on the list? Your television? Your stereo? Is your salary on the list? No. What’s on the list are the fundamental elements of a satisfied life—your relationship with friends and family, the contribution you have made to others’ lives, the celebrated events of your life. Those are the building blocks of your list. Many of us live day to day as if the opposite were true. Instead of appreciating what is truly important and making that our priority, we collect things and indicators of success without questioning just what success really means. In a study using surveys and daily observation, the availability of material resources was nine times less important to happiness than the availability of ‘personal’ resources such as friends and family.


3. Volunteer
Every community has countless opportunities for giving of yourself. Be a reading tutor. Give your time to help the local charity thrift store. Anything you can do will not only help the world, it will also help you. Volunteers feel good about themselves. They have a sense of purpose, feel appreciated, and are less likely to be bored in their lives. Volunteers experience rewards that cannot be attained in any other way. Even if you don’t have a lot of time or skills, find an hour a month and give yourself to a good cause. Bessie is a widow in her seventies. She found herself with time on her hands and a desire to do something useful with it. She wanted something that would make her want to get up in the morning with a smile on her face. Bessie found out about a foster grandparent program run out of a Buffalo area community center. The program uses senior citizens to offer companionship to disabled children during the day. Bessie signed up and now spends a couple of hours a day playing, reading, talking, and sitting with the children. One of Bessie’s friends, who also volunteers in the same program, says that the foster grandparents give the children ‘love and attention,’ and in return they are rewarded by getting a chance to see ‘the beauty in every one of these children.’ Bessie says the volunteer work ‘gives me the feeling that I am doing something good. I’m helping the children, the parents, and myself. Everybody wins, but I always feel I win the most.’ An analysis of volumes of previous research on the subject shows a strong consensus that volunteering contributes to happiness by decreasing boredom and creating an increased sense of purpose in life. Volunteers, on average, are twice as likely to feel happy with themselves as non-volunteers.


4. Exercise
People who exercise, whether that involves an intense workout or just a regular long walk, feel healthier, feel better about themselves, and enjoy life more. A prominent executive used to say, ‘Whenever the thought occurs to me that maybe I should exercise, I lie down until the thought passes.’ He said this a lot, and, not surprisingly, his philosophy led him directly to a lack of energy and, soon, to health problems. His doctors impressed on him the necessity of changing his lifestyle, and the executive gave it a try. To his surprise, he found he actually enjoyed exercising. It was a chance to spend some time every day, without any worries or concerns, doing something positive. And instead of making him tired, exercise actually increased his energy. What’s his philosophy now? ‘I enjoy exercise so much, I can hardly put it into words.’Research on physical activity finds that exercise increases self-confidence, which in turn strengthens self-evaluations. Regular exercise, including brisk walks, directly increases happiness 12 percent, and can indirectly make a dramatic contribution to improving self-image.


5. Busy is better than bored
Find something to do, because the feeling that we have too much to do is much more pleasing than the feeling that we have nothing to do. A philosopher once noted that people long for immortality but run out of things to do on a rainy afternoon. If we planned out our time in long chunks, say twenty years, we would never consider penciling in five or ten of those years for wasting time. Yet during the average day, we often let a few hours slip away. Time is a strange commodity, because we seem to have so much of it, until the moment we have none at all. We often complain about having too much to do. Yet having too much to do is a positive problem of abundance, while having too little to do is a negative problem of shortage. Metro Plastics Technology in Indiana tested out this principle by cutting the length of the workweek for its employees from forty hours to thirty hours. And do you know what happened after the switch? The quality of the company’s products improved, and the company actually made more money. Management found that giving workers more to do in less time made the workers more efficient, energetic, and enthusiastic and gave workers more free time outside of the workplace.In studies of college students, those with more demanding schedules were 15 percent more satisfied with life. Despite the more demanding schedules, the individuals studied did not experience any more stress than those with less to do.


6. Make your work a calling
If you see your work as only a job, then it’s dragging you away from what you really want to be doing. If you see it as a calling, then it is no longer a toiling sacrifice. Instead, it becomes an expression of you, a part of you. Victor is a motorman for the Chicago Transit Authority. Five days a week he’s running an elevated train on the Red Line. Victor stands out in the minds of the people who ride his train because of a notable and unusual trait: he loves his job. ‘Thank you for riding with me this evening on Electric Avenue. Don’t lean against the doors, I don’t want to lose you,’ he tells passengers over the intercom as the train departs. As the train makes its way north, Victor points out notable sites, including which connecting buses are waiting in the street below. People compliment him all the time, telling the city he’s the best motorman in Chicago. Victor admits, ‘Our equipment may be junky, but for $1.50 I want to give a Lincoln Town Car ride.’ Why does Victor have such a positive approach to his job? ‘My father is a retired motorman, and one day he took me to work with him and I was so impressed looking out that window,’ he says, speaking of the city skyline. ‘Ever since I was five years old, I knew I wanted to run the trains.’ In research on working women, researchers found that even for those working in the same kinds of jobs, work was alternatively viewed either as a series of hassles or as a positive experience in which the women were in control of their lives. Among those who felt control, life satisfaction was 28 percent higher than among those who did not.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


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  1. […] your happiness levels as having a purpose in life is a huge factor of happiness. In the book The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, David Niven states that having a purpose is one of the main reasons why you’re happy. In […]


  2. […] and just being who we are without having to listen to others; this can be found in the book The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by David Niven, Ph. D. A lot of the time we believe that happiness comes from having a lot […]


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