Cognitive Traps of Happiness: 4 Lifehacks for Well-Being

Listen to podcast: Cognitive traps of happiness 😁 4 lifehacks for well-being

In the TED Talk below Dr. Daniel Kahneman, Inventor of Behavioral Economics, explains how our happiness is determined and sometimes distorted by what he describes as our two selves.

Actionable takeaways from the TED Talk

The way a story ends…

We must be conscious of the way a story ends in our memories. A bad ending can make our Remembering Self permanently unhappy about an otherwise very happy experience. Therefore it’s essential to recognize and compartmentalize a negative ending to what’s going to become a memory narrative.

A personal experience: This year I took the coolest vacations of my life: While traveling from Central to South America, I spent four days in the surreal San Blas Islands (in between Panama and Colombia). It was a time of relaxation on sunny beaches, meeting the locals of the islands (and even learning a little of their language), eating great food, drinking fine wine and rum by bonfires, making new friends, and snorkeling in clear waters. However, it ended with two minor disasters: 1) At the border crossing my passport was almost ruined by water damage 2) On our first night in Colombia, we got robbed.
When these two negative events happened I made a conscious decision to categorize them as simply part of the risks of travel, and not include them in my mental narrative of the San Blas Islands vacation.

Memory anticipation feedback loops

Our Remembering Self is the one in charge of making decisions, it makes decisions based upon future anticipated memories. We derive a lot of happiness from these self-fulfilling prophecies. So if there’s a decision you need to make, imagine yourself being happy in the future reflecting on the decision.

Spend time with people you like

Who make you feel good about yourself — it’s the most significant measurable factor of happiness.

Make it to $60,000/year

It turns out money does buy happiness, but the happiness-to-income correlation flattens out at $60K a year for Americans and other comparable countries. So do whatever it takes to get your income to $60K yearly but after that focus on other areas of your life to maximize happiness.

Thought experiment

At the end of a vacation, all your pictures are going to be destroyed and you will receive a drug that gives you amnesia. All your memories of the vacation are going to be destroyed. Would you choose the same activities?

If so then it illustrates a significant difference between the way your Remembering Self and your Experiencing Self perceive happiness.

My question for Dr. Kahneman would be…

Do biological happiness and healthiness correlate more to the Experiencing Self or the Remembering Self? Should we as biohackers be more focused on maximizing Experiential Happiness or creating Happy Memories?

More takeaways

0:30 — Over 40 books published in the last five years with happiness in the title, happiness is researched thoroughly.
1:07 — The first trap of happiness is a reluctance to admit complexity; the word happiness is too general, and we need to adopt a more complex view.
1:30 — The second trap is confusion between experience and memory; being happy in your life and being happy about your life.
1:50 — The third trap is Focusing Illusion; we cannot think about any factor of well-being without distorting its significance.
2:55 — The two selves; the Experiencing Self (in the present), and the Remembering Self (keeps score of our life). They are very different.
3:45 — The notion of happiness gets confused between the two selves.
5:30 — An example from medical operations; when the story or memory ended in pain it negatively colored the entire dialog.
6:50 — The ending of the story makes the biggest difference.
7:20 — The psychological present is only about three seconds long.
7:40 — The Remembering Self only focuses on very few of these.
8:08 — The biggest difference between the two selves is the handling of time.
9:00 — The Remembering Self is the one that makes decisions, the Experiencing Self has very little to do with the decision-making process.
9:40 — We think of our future as anticipated memories. We live at the tyranny of the Remembering Self.
11:15 — Thought Experiment: At the end of vacation all your pictures are going to be destroyed and you will receive an amnesiac drug. All your memories of the vacation are going to be destroyed. Would you choose the same activities?
13:56 — A person’s moment-to-moment happiness (the Experiencing Self) can vary drastically from the happiness they feel when they think about their life (the Remembering Self).
14:50 — The biggest factor of happiness is spending time with people we like.
15:00 — We should not think of happiness as a substitute for well-being.
17:17 — Happiness of the Experiencing Self for Americans; below $60,000/yearly people are unhappy, above $60,000/yearly money does not buy you happiness — the Experiencing Self ‘s happiness graph goes flat.

The paradox of happiness is that the more you pursue and worry about happiness, the less happy you’ll be. I explain why here

--

--

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jonathan Roseland

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸