Category: Happiness

The Hedonic Treadmill

By Christian Staal

Most people assume that getting what we want (promotions, romance, world domination) will bring us happiness. But in most cases the effect is short-lived. This is because of The Hedonic Treadmill: Humans rapidly adapt to new circumstances, and therefore take things for granted, once we have them. The bright side is, that this same mechanism protects us, when something bad happens.

Hedonic treadmill (Wikipedia)
Reprieve (essay) by Tim Kreider
For a different perspective: read the chapter on happiness in Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

What is the Meaning of Life?

By Christian Staal

Imagine asking a chess master about the best possible move in chess:

Asking about the meaning of life is the same thing. There is no universal meaning of life – it depends on the circumstances of your life.

Man’s Search for Meaning (book) by Viktor E. Frankl (I totally stole the analogy from this brilliant book!)

Primary Pain vs Secondary Pain

By Christian Staal

Psychologists distinguish between two types of pain:

  • Primary pain relates to a specific event (e.g. worrying about a job interview)
  • Secondary pain is emotional gasoline thrown into the fire (e.g. being sad/angry/worried about being worried)

Secondary pain accounts for more misery than primary pain. You can reduce secondary pain by accepting – rather than fighting – primary pain (one way to train this is meditation).

What do you carry? (Puzzle.blog)
The Upside of Your Dark Side (book) by Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd Kashdan

Meaningful Work: Building a Cathedral

By Christian Staal

A traveller came upon two bricklayers, and asked them what they were doing:

Your perception of your work influences your motivation, productivity and happiness. Are you laying bricks, or building a cathedral?


Man’s Search for Meaning (book) by Viktor Frankl
Want To Make Your Work More Meaningful? (article) by Michelle McQuaid



The Peak-End Rule

By Christian Staal

Think of one of your most cherished memories. What do you think determines how you remember it today? You would think that your memory of the experience is determined by how good you felt, and for how long. However, research shows that the duration of an experience is mostly neglected when we think about our past.

Two things influence how you remember an experience: how you felt at the emotional peak of the experience, and how you felt at the end. 

The riddle of experience vs. memory (TED Talk) by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow (book) by Daniel Kahneman

Feeling overwhelmed? Try this.

By Christian Staal

What do you when you’re feeling overwhelmed? My favourite answer to this question comes from Jocko Willink (former Navy SEAL Commander): “Prioritize and execute.”

It’s as simple as that. Make a list, get clear on what’s most important, and executive on your priorities.

Tribe of Mentors (book) by Tim Ferriss, p. 539.

“Crap, I’m thinking”

By Christian Staal

When you’re meditating, and realise that you’re lost in thought, it’s easy to get irritated. But this is not a moment of defeat: Becoming aware of your thoughts is the very goal of meditation.


The Power of Gratitude

By Christian Staal

It often feels like happiness is waiting right around the corner (“If only I get that promotion”). However, if you can’t be happy with what you have, you won’t be happy with what you get. Gratitude can boost your happiness. Here’s a scientifically proven exercise you might enjoy: The next few weeks, pick a day, and write down three things you’re grateful for (aim for new things every week).


The How of Happiness (book) Sonja Lyubomirsky, p. 88-91.

Academic articles:

  • R.A. Emmons og M.E. McCullough, “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well- Being,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003, 84, 377–389.
  • M.E. McCullough, S.D. Kilpatrick, R.A. Emmons, og D.B. Larson, “Is Gratitude a Moral Affect?” Psychological Bulletin, 2001, 127, 249–266
  • R.A. Emmons og C.A. Crumpler, “Gratitude as a Human Strength: Appraising the Evi- dence,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 2000, 19, 56–69

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