Hacking Happiness

Who doesn’t like being happy? Grumpy people that’s who. I’ve been there. You have too, grumpy pants McGhee. 

It’s okay. We all get grumpy from time to time, and lots of other adjectives too. Happy is just one. Happy is the warm combination of hugs and love, smiles and safe. And, if you are anything like me (you are), you probably wouldn’t hate having more happy in your life.

What I’ve come up with isn’t revolutionary. It’s evolutionary. I’m just using a combination of existing tools in a new way. It’s actually a pretty simple hack, using targeted feedback to maintain your happy place. 

Now, before we dig in, let me say this. If you follow what James Clear is saying here, you’ll most likely be happy more often than not. He’s 100% right. Some of you can stop here. For the rest of you, let’s dig in.

Also, I’m not a doctor. I just someone who’s been on earth for 44 years, survived mental and physical abuse, been molested, and lived with a suicidal bipolar mother, watching it take her from us way too soon. I grew up with divorce and half-brothers who are my brothers. I’ve seen hate. Bigger tragedies too. I’m also 5″7″ – so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. And still, I’m blessed, just like you.

Needless to say, I’ve had a pretty intimate relationship with therapy since I was 14. 

I even attended and graduated anger management school because I grew up in an angry home. I was actually taught to be angry, encouraged. It’s a long-standing Bell family tradition from what I have garnered. I can tell you anger does work well for some things, like sports, but not every job requires a hammer. You know? So, I needed to learn why I was so angry and how to operate. I needed more tools on my belt.

The tool I picked up in anger management was learning to measure and level myself by scanning my anger and quantifying it. Anything above a 7 on the anger scale requires active attention. This tool saved my life. Our family may have an angry history, but it’s stopping with this generation. I’m forever grateful to my guide, Eric, for showing me the way with this tool. You need to know where you are before you can figure out where you want to go. Reliable feedback in your process is key. 

So, why am I telling you all of this?

Because James is right. You will get a very high rate of return in life if you follow his seven rules. I’ll even bet big money you’ll behappy more often if you practice what he’s preaching. It’s not complicated, but, of course, life can be — especially when feelings get involved, Bam-Bam.

What I’m about to share is what you do to pick up the pieces along the way, to modulate your moods, allowing you to reach higher ground more quickly. Learning to scan anger was a gift. Learning to scan all of your emotions is infinitely more powerful. Let’s get happy. 

Personally, I’ve tried countless methods to manage the madness in my head over the years. I’ve been medicated. I’ve self-medicated. All I can tell you is, in 2017 I found this amazing app that connected the Rorschach dots for me. It not only changed the game for me — this method has changed my oldest son’s life.

He’s 12, my son. He has a hard time connecting to his feelings and modulating them. We learned he has a processing gap. It’s okay. Big feelings need big solutions. This is why we are here. He and me, we’re from the same tree. What I didn’t realize in my quest to help him was it would change my life too by adding this practice to my own life. I was experimenting on myself as a baseline only to find out that I was just as disconnected as he was. So, this is what works for us. Maybe it will for you too. At least, that’s my hope. 

We can rebuild him, too. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.

Now, your ability to achieve level-2-ninja status begins with understanding that you need to science yourself, scientist.

What you’re ‘feeling’ is actually a usable stream of data. Google. Facebook. Apple. Amazon. They treat all your data like it’s worth billions, and trillions now. They know more about you than you do. Why? Because understanding you — that’s a profitable proposition. You are valuable.

And, you are valuable, not just for what you can buy, but for what you can do. For what you can contribute to yourself, your family, your friends, and even humanity. Yes, you. Hopefully, we can agree everyone has something to contribute. Even the crazy people like you and me.

I now know, if you don’t understand your data, you’re busy playing checkers when you could be slaying in chess. So, not only am I about to teach you how to science yourself, I’m going to empower you to crush this thing called the 21st century. 

It is said in the Buddhist teachings that there is no task so difficult that it cannot be broken down into a series of small, easy tasks.

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Let’s begin.

First, you’re gonna need some tools. Being awesome does take an investment in time (and money), and these are serious tools. You’ll want to power up with Headspace and Gyroscope. Headspace is an app you’ve probably heard of. You’ve been meaning to download it, I know. Or, probably, if you have it on your phone, I’m here to remind you that you need to use it more. It’s a mindfulness app. 

Now, I know… mindfulness is right up there with ‘synergy’ in the lexicon right about now. I get it. I’m also telling you, it’s a gamechanger when I show you how I use it. And, for those of you who don’t know, Headspace is a veritable smorgasbord of mindfulness. For those who maybe forgot, let me give you a tour.

This is Headspace.

Slide through the pics. I’ll wait. What Headspace allows you to do is mindfully meditate on whatever you’re feeling. You’ll be spending most of your time in the Packs and Singles sections of Headspace. Look around in the app, get familiar. Those adjectives you see in the slideshow; those feelings, positive and not so positive, are going to be something you use later. We’re going to map them to you because your core processor (aka your brain) will soon also have a testing and feedback loop you’re in control of. Let me explain. 

There are over 2000 meditation apps out there, but Headspace is one of the only ones committed to advancing the field of mindfulness meditation through clinically-validated research. Their 7-person, in-house science department is led by Chief Science Officer Dr. Megan Jones Bell (yes, we’re probably related), who has +14 years of experience running National Institute of Health (NIH) and European Research Council (ERC)-funded clinical trials on digital health interventions.

You might not be crazy like me, but the reality is you are feeling a lot of things throughout the day — whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not — especially on long days if you’re busy living. Or, maybe, when life is busy living you.

Remember that other app I told you about, Gyroscope? You’re going to want to boot that up. This is where it gets pretty cool. It’s actually a pretty simple hack. 

Gyroscope was founded by Anand Sharma in the fall of 2014. I have to tell you, I have a man-crush on the genius that is this man. His mission is very simple. They’re building a new OS for the human body. Buckle up kiddos, you’re about to get plugged into the matrix of you.

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This is Gyroscope.

Quantified self is all the rage now, and for good reason. We have the ability to know ourselves better than ever, especially with data to help guide us. Like I said, your data is valuable — to you. What you do with that data is up to you. And depending on where you’re sitting right now you might have a GIGO issue on your hands, or a VIVO opportunity waiting for you on the other side of whatever you’re feeling. That’s “Garbage In, Garbage out” and “Value In, Value Out” for the uninitiated. Let me show you around.

Look at that picture again. That’s your dashboard. It’s chock full of data. You can see my heart rate for the day. I pumped that bad boy. I was extremely focused on my computer (future post in this series). I slept for 8.8 hours. All in all, not a bad day. And for most of us, that’s where we’d stop. Stasis achieved. But, there’s more to you than just numbers. You have feelings too. You see that red circle toward the top? It says 43. 43 is not good. I am human after all. It was a particularly bad day. We’ve all had them. On the surface I was fine. Under the hood? Not so much. 

Let’s fix that.

I said this post was about hacking happiness. It’s not. It’s about hacking the entirety of your emotional state through plugged-in awareness. How? With Mood Scores.

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This is Mood Scores.

This slideshow is a small sample of the awesome.

Mood Scores is a tool in the Pro version of Gyroscope. It’s your emotional scoreboard. What I’m showing you here is just a few of the 39 emotion cards you’ll be tinder swiping through. Left, no. Right, yes. You’ll be done in less than 30 seconds. 

You’re presented with this when you’re done. Take note of the adjectives. I’ll show you just one example of how powerful having access to this data can be for you. 

 

 

You see Sunday, the 16th? You see sitting me at 65? That was me being not happy. Someone did something that was not cool. I’ll spare you the details.

Knowing I was in a funk, I did a check-in. My results presented a very specific list of adjectives as you can see. Sure, I knew I was angry. But I definitely did not know I was unhappy too — and there is a difference. I was mad, that I knew. Seeing the more nuanced truth with a sharper lens provided me with my shortlist search on Headspace.  I looked for those two adjectives: Anger and Sadness.

I jumped right into the Anger section and used Headspace to meditate on that for 3 minutes. Then I jumped into Headspace’s Sadness meditation for 10 minutes. I also rode the Peloton for 30 minutes because James is right, exercise is good for the soul and I knew I needed that as well. This one was a doozy.

Now, do you see that score of 89, two hours later? That’s me too. Sure enough, we’re back in happy-land. Absolutely nothing changed about my situation except my attitude. You’re going to have to trust me when I tell you, if you had to deal with what I had to deal with that day, you would’ve struggled to recover. Yet, I felt happy again. And, hostile still. Happy and hostile. So, I meditated on “Losing Your…”, investing another three minutes. 

Inside 19 minutes with targeted mindfulness and 30 minutes on the bike, I was feeling much better and I knew it. 

Monday I was worried about a health issue in my family. So I drilled into ‘Worried’ on Headspace. What you don’t see is I was so productive and so happy and strong after I drilled into Worried, I didn’t even make time to check-in again until Thursday. 100% doc. My aptitude for awesome continued through Sunday the 23rd too. And again, nothing had materially improved with this situation, except my emotional state.

Not only was I able to dig myself out of my funk more quickly, but I also came out stronger on the other side and for a sustained period of time. 

What you see here is me having a REALLY bad day this week. 41 Is not good. 24 is horrible. I focused my attention on Angry, Sad, and Worried using Headspace. I worked out.

And will you look at that? Not only did I recover, but I recovered back to 100% the very next day. 

I can tell you that is not supposed to happen.

That certainly didn’t happen when I was younger and less experienced. It definitely didn’t happen before I had this combination of tools at the ready. 2-3 days, sure. This was Amazon Prime fast for me.

Here’s the thing. You are absolutely going to feel 100% using this technique. And, I need you to remember that you’ll be using this app combo on those days too. Connecting to positive emotions like gratitude and happiness will make your ‘happy’ last longer.

I’ve recently set reminders on my phone because I’m also guilty of checking out when things are good. (Anand, can you help a brother out?) I can tell you when I’m regular, I’m running on high octane.

And, of course, I still know when I need to check in because I can feel it.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” 
― Helen Keller

Thanks for sticking with me. I know this was a long post.

From the bottom of my heart, I hope you learn how to connect to your feelings, and wade in happy waters. All I can tell you is, this what helps me and my tribe. I hope it helps you on your journey too. I hope your 10-minute investment reading this wasn’t a waste.

Either way, don’t forget to invest in The Asset of Gratitude along your way. 

➤ Thank you for reading. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

 

Your Tool Box:

Headspace (Paid Version)Gyroscope (Pro)

 

What I’m currently happily consuming:

The New Science Of Happiness – Time, 2005.

Maybe your edge is you. — Tadas Vistkanta

Hacking Happiness — John C. Havens at TEDxIndianapolis

This happiness hack might surprise you.  — Evernote

Regret minimization… — Morgan Housel

 

 

 

 

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