6 tips for Happiness

Earlier this year the Huffington Post asked me for my six tips for happiness. Here then are half a dozen ideas taken from How To Do Everything and Be Happy. Have a read. Make some lists. Then create your own plan. Tip 1: Manage Your Time

“Time,” so they say “is money.” But imagine that as if it was the hours and minutes of your life, managed by a “Universal Bank of Time.”Under their strict account usage terms, the UBT would mandate a compulsory daily withdrawal of 24 hours. The hours would be automatically transferred to you at the start of each day. But you could never make a deposit, you could never put back what you didn’t use – unused hours would be taxed at 100%. Worse still, there’d be no online banking with the UBT. No paper statements. You couldn’t even get a balance – you’d never be sure how much time you had left.

If real bank accounts worked this way you’d make sure you spent every penny of your daily withdrawal limit on something worthwhile. Pretty soon you’d probably start to plan your spending – you might even keep a book of items you wanted to spend your money on. So with that in mind…

Tip 2: Make a “Now List”

Most folks have heard of a Bucket List (taken from the movie of the same name), a list of all the things you’d like to do before you die (“kick the bucket”). It’s a fabulous idea – except for the built-in assumption that we’re going to be doing all these marvelous things at some far flung point in the future, probably when we’ll be far too old and frail to do anything more than regret each and every item on the list as a missed opportunity.So let’s dispense with the term Bucket List. What we want is to “Live Life Now” list – or a “Now List” for short. Write down everything you’d like to do, then start making it happen. And when you do…

Tip 3: Collect “Trophies”

Andy Warhol, so it’s said, never opened any of his mail. He merely collected it up, put it in a box, and when that box was full, sealed it and wrote the year on the top.I’ve never taken the time to find out just how true this story is, but I do know that the first time I heard it, it had a profound effect on me. I wanted to do the same. However, being a somewhat deluded individual, I was fairly certain I could improve on the concept.And so I started to collect things. Theatre tickets, raffle tickets, train tickets, plane tickets, postcards, greeting cards, thank you cards, business cards, labels, badges, anything that was evidence of somewhere I’d been, something I’d done, or someone I’d met. And something I could pin to a board.This is how my “Trophy Board” looked at the end of 2012. How’s yours coming along?
slide 3 - trophy board

Yet More Trophies

Not all mementos can be pinned to a board. Every now and then you’ll pick up something altogether more three dimensional. Maybe a pebble from the beach. A pocket full of Lipa (Croatian pennies). A finger puppet your niece made for you. A cork from a bottle of champagne. The security pass from that time you did a radio interview. Don’t throw these items in a drawer. Instead, get yourself an old fashioned glass sweet jar and start filling it with this kind of stuff. Or how about this – an old fashioned printer’s tray available for just a few dollars from your friendly local eBay seller.

Here’s mine.
printer's tray
 Tip 4: Decide What’s Important
Most people I encounter haven’t actually got a clue what they really want. They might wake up in the morning and want to go back to bed. They might flick through a magazine and want those shoes. They might even want the person in the magazine wearing those shoes. But these desires come and go. Few of them seem to stick around and become important – and that’s a mistake.Knowing exactly what you want is hugely important. Merely knowing has the power to change everything. Not convinced? Then allow me to introduce you to the incredible, completely automated wish-fulfilment machine you have inside your head…

Tip 5: Use The Power of Focus

Brains are amazing. Especially yours. Even mine has its moments. And one of the most fascinating mechanisms of the human brain is how it deals with focus. Have you ever noticed how when you buy a new car, or even when you’ve merely decided what type of car it is you want to buy, you start seeing that same car everywhere?! That’s the power of focus. It happens because in order for our brains to cope with the extraordinary amount of information coming in through our five senses from the world around us, we’re programmed to concentrate on what’s “important,” and more or less ignore the rest.
Unconvinced? Excellent! Pick a card from the six shown here. Don’t tell me which one it is, just pick one, and remember which card you’ve chosen. Then continue reading.
slide 6 - cardsbefore
Now click on this link and look at the cards again and then come back.

…And It’s Gone!

So, how did I do that? The answer, of course, is focus. Your mind was concentrating on the card you’d chosen, and its apparent disappearance, and failed entirely to notice that all the cards had changed. The other cards weren’t “important.”You might be asking yourself how does the brain determine what’s important? And the answer is: you tell it! And this mechanism isn’t just taking place during card tricks; this happens all day, every day. Your brain is continually filtering the information coming in based on what you’ve decided is important.
Strange then that we quite often focus on entirely the wrong things, or nothing at all.

Tip 6: Remind Yourself Of The Important Things

Most people own a wallet, a purse, or some other item to carry around their credit cards, dog-eared receipts or (if you’re really retro) cash.If your wallet is like mine then it might have a small see-through pocket where you’re supposed to put a photo of a loved one. Ditch it. Not the loved one, just the photo.
On a small piece of card, just big enough to fit that space, write down what you really want in life – your “life vision” if you like – and place it in your wallet. What we’re doing here is utilizing that Power Of Focus on a daily basis by creating something that will remind you of those important things, each and every time you look in your wallet.
slide 8 - wallet

Goals, Ghosts, & Supper Club Hosts; WTFHIBD Episode 3

With barely 10 days left of 2012, I figured it was about time I gave you a What The **** Have I Been Doing update. This is the ‘regular’ feature – well, sort of – where I come clean on what I’ve been spending my time on and show you how I’ve gone about applying the concepts in the book to my own life.

Boxing Day

I’ll confess that I’ve built up a bit of a Boxing Day backlog these past couple of months. I did manage to squeeze one in a couple of weeks back and it was bliss.

I didn’t do much really – quite a lot of it was spent larking around on facebook – but the sun suddenly made an unexpected appearance so I wandered down to beach and rearranged some of the pebbles. I also jotted down some ideas for what could, one day, be a novel. Whether anything will come of that you’ll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, I have two Boxing Days ‘in the bank’ so I suspect I might be using those over Christmas. It would be nice to have a Boxing Day on the 26th of December (a Boxing Day on Boxing Day!) … but my publishers (Harper Collins) tell me I’ll be busy giving interviews that day!!

My Now List

You will be pleased to know that since my last WTFHIBD update I have managed to tick several things off my Now List!

In September I spent a few days in Cornwall, and whilst I didn’t manage to make it to St Michael’s Mount, or the Minack Theatre, I did make it back to Fowey. On the way back I drove through Devon and decided that I really ought to add that to the Now List.

IMG_1079I finally managed to visit a pop-up restaurant. Our host, ‘Food Urchin‘, treated us to pit roasted lamb. He quite literally dug a massive hole in his back garden (a few days earlier I hasten to add) and created a kind of rudimentary oven in which he roasted a whole lamb for several hours.

The rest of the menu looked like this:

Cold mezze consisting of
homemade Taramasalata, Baba Ganoush,
Hummus and Tzatziki
with Grilled Haloumi and Flatbreads.

Kleftiko, Roast New Potatoes
with Capers and Red Onions, Greek Salad.

Palate cleanser (of some description)

Poached Pears
with Filo, Praline, Pistachio and Vanilla Ice Cream.

It was fabulous!

twibAnd last week I finally saw the stage production of The Woman in Black – a play that I’ve wanted to see for the longest time. And Blimey O’Reily it was jaw droppingly fabulous. I’d go back tonight if it wasn’t sold out already. Easily the best play I’ve seen this year – possibly this decade. Possibly ever.

And as I sat there marvelling at the ingenuity of the story telling, whilst at the same time keeping an eye out for anything that might make me jump three foot in the air, I remembered why I started a Now List, how doing this stuff is the ice cream sundae of life, and how I skip dessert way too often in preference for a slightly larger main course. Madness.

Next year I’m making way more of an effort to work my Now List.

My Goals

After my last update I had a bit of a melt down.

Things were moving in the right direction – generally speaking – but it felt a little like I was on a runaway train – thundering down a track, without anyone at the helm. Do train’s have helms? Anyway. Life seemed to be getting away from me. So I booked a Goals Day, sat down with my Goals and my master to-do list and reviewed everything.

By the end of the day I’d re-written my three primary Goals and re-structured the list. To give you an example here’s how my primary goal used to look.

“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy,
and no longer worry about bills.”
December 2012

And here’s how it looks now

“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy.”
December 2013

I know what you’re thinking, it’s virtually identical to the previous goal. Except that it isn’t. That line in the original goal (‘worrying about bills’) was impairing my ability to focus properly.

If you’ve read How To Do Everything and be Happy then you’ll know that it simply isn’t possible to not think or worry about something. The very act of NOT thinking about something requires your brain to conjure up images of the thing you don’t want to think about, so you can ignore it. It was as if I was constantly reminding myself to worry about the damn bills whilst I attempted to earn a living out of the things I love and enjoy. Way to go Jonesy. Talk about putting myself under pressure. I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before.

Since re-writing that Goal things have got significantly easier. Or they seem significantly easier, which I’m pretty sure is the same thing. I’m back in control.

audible coverThe new paperback version of How To Do Everything and Be Happy is printed and should be in shops everywhere on the 17th of January. There should be a feature in about me and the book in tomorrow’s Guardian newspaper, and Harper Collins tell me that I have no idea just how much publicity I’ll be doing this time next month. And when it’s all done I’m going to celebrate. You did get the invite didn’t you?

I had a nice chat with Harper Collins in the USA. They’re publishing the paperback in June 2013. The ebook is available now of course.

My second book (How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim) has been finished for a while and is sitting with my agent whilst I put the finishing touches to my third book (How To Survive Online Dating). Both should be available, in some format, next year.

A new monthly version of my Happiness workshop starts in January (I’m calling it Happy Club – why not come along) and my assistant is booking me talking gigs up and down the country. It’s all good.

But enough about me. How’s life with you? Drop me a line or post a comment below. I really want to know.

Selective Attention

Brains are amazing. Especially yours. Even mine has its moments. And one of the most fascinating mechanisms of the human brain is how it deals with “focus”.

Have you ever noticed how when you buy a new car, or even when you’ve merely decided what type of car it is you want to buy, you start seeing that same car everywhere!

Or the kettle packs up, the DVD stops playing, and suddenly half a dozen other electrical items in the house decide to turn up their boots, like they’re all suffering from some sort of appliance manic-depression?

Or how you can sleep through a thunderstorm, the traffic noise, and the sounds of revellers returning from a night on the town, but if your new-born’s breathing changes even slightly – in the next room – you’re awake!

Or have you ever seen someone across a crowded room, started to walk towards them, and somehow walked into the table, the person, the immoveable object, that was directly in front of you but momentarily invisible?

Or have you ever fallen in love, fallen out of love, had a tiff, a blazing row, a passing thought about that girl you used to know – and the words of the next song on the radio seem to capture your feelings precisely?

That’s the power of focus. Your brain is extremely good at noticing things, or disregarding things, depending on whatever it is you’re currently focused on.

The following video – a ‘selective attention test’ – is an intriguing demonstration of the brains uncanny ability to focus only on what we deem important. Press the play icon in the middle of the image, and concentrate carefully on the number of times the players in white pass the ball to each other.

You can find out more about this video, and the science behind it at here.