Unlock a Happier Life: 3 Research-Backed Secrets - Transcripts
Hey, it's your friend Mel and welcome to an episode of the Mel Robbins podcast that is going to help you be happier. Let's do this thing. Hey, it's Mel. I am so excited you're here because today you and I are going to dig into a super cool topic, the science of happiness. And there are so many new listeners that if you're new, I just want to take a minute and welcome you personally to the podcast. I'm Mel, I'm a New York Times best-selling author and one of the world's leading experts on change, motivation, and habits. And I believe that there are simple things that you and I can do based on research and common sense that will help us both create a better life. And one of the biggest elements of a better life is getting intentional about being a happier you, bringing more happiness into your life. And the subject of happiness, the science around it, it's really misunderstood. But the good news today for you and for me is that you don't have to dig into the research because I've done it for you. I have read all the latest research and I'm also very, very familiar with the largest longitudinal study, 84 years long and going. And today what you and I are going to talk about is I'm going to boil down the decades of research into a powerful metaphor that is going to help you understand happiness at a whole new level.
And I'm also going to give you the three elements of happiness based on the research that you can apply to your life. And even though this is all grounded in research and science, I'm not trying to give you a PhD today. You're going to leave with three takeaways that a normal human being like you or me can apply to our already busy and overwhelming life so that we become happier in our lives. And I so believe in what we're about to talk about because these three things that we're going to focus on today, this is what I have been working on for the past three years of my own life and the difference that it has made in the amount of happiness that I'm experiencing, it's kind of hard to describe in words. So I want to say right up front, this conversation, it could actually change your life. Really everything we're going to talk about today is accessible to you. And I also want to thank the sponsors of the Mel Robbins podcast because of their support. I can bring you this awesome stuff at zero cost. And that brings me to our very first question about happiness from a listener named Andrea.
Hey Mel, it's Andrea. Can you talk about happiness? I can't think of a time that I have felt true happiness. I'm just living, I guess. I feel that something is missing and I believe it's happiness.
Andrea, I love the way you framed that question. And for you listening, I'm going to put that question right back to you. Can you think of a time that you felt true happiness? Or are you, like most people, that you feel like something is missing from your life and you can't quite put your finger on it? You know, when I hear Andrea's question, I can totally relate to it because I know I felt the way that she's feeling. And one of the mistakes that I was making when I felt like something was missing is I, of course, went on the search. I got to find happiness. And here's the first piece of research that I want to talk about. Research says that happiness or that feeling that we're seeking of happiness, it's often fleeting because we are searching for happiness in the wrong places. In fact, researchers at Rutgers and the University of Toronto found that people who pursue happiness, you're chasing it. You're looking for it outside yourself. You often feel like you don't have enough time in the day, and this paradoxically makes you feel unhappy because when you feel like you don't have enough time in the day because you're constantly chasing all these things outside of you, you start to feel like you're not in control of your life.
And I think that's what Andrea is talking about, that we're all chasing down some version of happiness that we think we're supposed to be chasing, right? That society has marketed some version of life to us. And that's why you probably are familiar with that phrase, I'll be happy when. We also come to that thinking, I'll be happy when I lose the weight. I fall in love. I land that dream job. I pay off my bills. I get into my dream school. I find the perfect apartment. And there's multiple problems with thinking like this. First of all, if you think that you'll be happier when you achieve something, what always happens is when you achieve it, you're not as happy as you thought you would be. And then all of a sudden, because you don't have this big goal in front of you anymore, your happiness plummets.
And so the research is very, very clear that these big events that we're chasing, that we think are gonna give us a boost of happiness, that happiness doesn't last. And there's a second reason why this kind of thinking that you'll be happy at some point in the future, why this is really problematic. It's because you are anchoring your happiness on something that hasn't happened yet. That means your happiness is something you have to earn. Your happiness is something that's outside of you. And that's not what happiness is at all. Happiness is always within your control. Happiness is something that you want to cultivate in your life where you are right now. And the good news is you don't have to wait to be happy when you can learn to be happier now. So let me explain based on the research how happiness works when it comes to you individually. So there's this formula that's supported by the science that says that if you think about your capacity for happiness, you have 100% capacity for happiness. That's what you got.
Your cup can be full and runneth over, 100%, baby, happiness is for you. 50% of that capacity is genetics. That's your default. So you might be somebody that has 50% genetics that are preset to being very sunny and kind of bubbly and happy. Or 50% of your genetics might be like, meh, you're kind of grumpy. That's okay because you still have the other 50% to play with. 10% of the rest is based on the circumstances that you're facing right now. And 40% of happiness, period, in your life right now is completely under your control. And that's what we're going to focus on because that's awesome. No matter what kind of family you were born into, no matter what you're facing right now in your life, 40% of your capacity for happiness right now completely in your control. And so before we go forward, I want to make sure that as we're talking that we're in complete agreement about what the word happiness means. Because when you and I use the word happy or happiness, we might be saying totally different things.
There's a huge spectrum when people use this word. In fact, researchers even talk about the fact that happiness is all over the map. Some people, when they say happiness, they mean laughing and having a good time. Other people mean fulfillment or thriving or kicking ass in life. And so you and I are going to have a conversation right now about what you mean when you say happiness. Where are you on this spectrum between laughter and having a great time to feeling completely fulfilled and thriving in life? And so in order for you and I to get on the same page, I'm going to bring a metaphor in. You know Mel Robbins. She loves her metaphors. She loves her visual explanations for these big, heady concepts. And thankfully, I got a great one for happiness. So whenever you hear the word happiness, I want you to think about an ocean.
There are waves in an ocean, and that's one spectrum of happiness. And waves come and they go. And having fun in the waves requires you to jump in the waves, to get into the ocean, to decide that you're going to go have fun. But then if you think about the ocean, there are days that there's no waves at all. It's perfectly still. And the ocean itself and your ability to stand in that ocean, to float and to swim, that's a deeper form of happiness. Or what about the days where the ocean is stormy and you wouldn't dare go in, but on those days that you're on the beach, aren't you so present to the wind, to the salt, to the waves crashing on the beach? That's what I want you to think about, that huge range of how an ocean shows up. And I love this metaphor of an ocean for happiness, the waves being fun and the still ocean being your ability to just experience happiness and you being present even on the stormiest days to the little details. I love this range because it ties right back to all of the research but it gives us a visual. So when you look at the research around happiness, researchers have put happiness into two big categories. One is hedonic happiness.
And hedonic happiness is, am I having fun right now? It's the moment to moment fluctuating experiences that you have. And let's go back to the metaphor. It's like the waves in the ocean. They come and they go. You can jump in, you can play, you can have fun, and then it's over. And then there is the deeper happiness, the eudemonic happiness, which is the sense of your life-having meaning, of you feeling fulfilled and thriving in that life of yours. And it's important for you to understand that happiness has these two buckets because I think what happens for a lot of us, and this kind of gets to Andrea's question, is that maybe you have one type of happiness. Maybe you're having a lot of fun on the surface but life doesn't feel very meaningful. Or maybe you're deep in it but you're not having any fun. And so I really want to unpack the difference between these two things and why you need both before we jump into the three different ways that you can increase happiness in your life. And we're going to do that by bringing in another question from a listener named Rachel.
But first, we're going to hear a word from our sponsor and then we'll hear Rachel's question when we come back. Hey, it's Mel. Welcome back. I want to thank you for listening to our sponsors because they help us bring you this podcast at zero cost and today's topic is super important. We're unpacking all of the research around happiness. And we've been talking about the importance of what researchers call the two parts of happiness, hedonic and eudaimonic happiness. And eudaimonic happiness is that sense of life having meaning and being worthwhile. And we're going to go to a question from Rachel because it's going to help me truly distinguish
between the two parts and why hedonic having fun is really important. Hey Mel, I absolutely love your podcast and all of your work. I have a very loaded question and I know a one size fits all answer might not exist, but I wanted to ask anyway. How can I truly be happy? How do I cultivate happiness? I read so many self help books, read a lot about the effects of childhood trauma. I journal, I try to be conscious of my habitual thoughts and patterns and work to reframe them. I exercise. I'm always listening to inspiring and transformational content like you. I feel like I do all the things, but I still struggle just to be happy and to feel happy. And I feel very stuck in the same emotions and I really want to change. I really want to enjoy my life.
Do you have any advice, Rachel? I so relate to you and I want to just pass the mic to you listening right now. When Rachel said, I just want to enjoy my life, didn't you get the chills? Didn't you nod along and say, yeah, I just want to enjoy my life too. And this is really on my mind because I think that's the point of life, right? To really try to enjoy it. And one of the things that I noticed can happen when you are in a period in your life where you're trying to heal, you're investing in yourself and your personal growth. You mentioned that you're working on trauma. You're trying to dig out of some of the holes maybe that you feel like you fell into. You're trying to change your mindset. That's serious work. That was me for years too.
Here's the problem with having a big healing journey. You're not having any fun. You know, I think about periods of my life when I was going through a lot of change and I was working on myself and I was doing everything that you're doing. Every book I picked up was self-help. Everything that I listened to was self-improvement. I couldn't even remember the last time I read a fiction novel or I went to a concert or I went to a party. Everything got so serious because my focus became so serious. And my focus was about improving my life, improving my life, improving my life. And doing the work to change your life, it's important. Doing the work to identify toxic patterns that you have or bad thinking patterns that make you feel like shit. That's super important. But you must also double down on the fun while you're doing the deeper work.
And so the first thing that I want you to do is I want you to set an intention that your number one goal this year is to have more fun. To invest in that first category, hedonic happiness, that researchers say is so important. Because yes, it's meaningful. Yes, it's fulfilling to do the hard work, to change your life for the better. But changing your life for the better also means that you need more moments of fun in your life. And I worry a lot about this based on what we've all experienced in the past three years. We've all become hermits. It's hard enough to get yourself out of your house. But the other thing that's happened is if you're not going into work, if you're still working from home, you're also missing out on all of the spontaneous stuff that happens when you bump into people when you're out and about. In fact, I can tell you a story. Just the other night this happened to me. It was Sunday night.
And as a bit of background, my husband and I had gotten some really awful news last week that a very, very close friend of ours suddenly died, age 47, heart attack, gone. And I had been holed up in my house ever since hearing the news. I was super sad, feeling down, and I hadn't left the house in days. And so on Sunday, Chris says to me, Mel, I made a 4.30 reservation at the paddle tennis courts, which is a kind of form of almost like ping pong that you can play sort of like pickle ball in the middle of the winter on these tennis courts outside, with some friends. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to just curl up on the couch and suck my thumb and feel sad. And we got into the car, and the entire ride over, I was sitting there thinking, should I tell Chris I'm pissed that he made this date with this couple to go play paddle? Should I tell him this is the last thing that I want to do? I kept saying to myself, should I say this? Should I not say it? And then I would say, don't, don't shit on his parade, like, you know, just suck it up. It's going to be OK.
We pull up. The sun's starting to go down. It's freezing. I've got a hat on and mittens on. And I'm grumpy and I don't really want to be there. And then I see our friends and I felt a little lighter. Do you know it took about five seconds of hitting that ball around for me to feel totally different? The truth is I needed the fun. I needed the laughter. I needed to not be thinking about something so heavy. I needed to see people that I really like. I needed to do something that wasn't that serious, like working on myself or feeling sad or grieving.
I needed fun and getting out on that paddle court. It was fun. And there's a part of me that is sitting here going, Mel, are we really having a conversation right now on this podcast about the obvious that we need to schedule time to have fun, that we need to force ourselves out of our houses, that we need to break this habit of being isolated and lonely? Yeah, we do have to have this conversation. Because I don't think you and I have truly grasped the extent to which our day-to-day lives and our happiness has been impacted by these past three years. I mean, even those of us who really enjoyed that period of lockdown where we were trapped inside with our families, this new normal, this part of it, where we're sort of back to normal, but we're not, but we're coping, like this situation, the loneliness and isolation, it feels like it's become everybody's new lifestyle. It's our new default. And so it sounds obvious for me to say to you, you have to prioritize fun. But this isn't just obvious. It's well-researched. Researchers have proven that the difference between people who are happy and those of us who aren't is that happy people prioritize doing things that make them happy. I know, it's so dumb, but I need the reminder too.
So now let's go back to my analogy about the ocean and the beach and waves and happiness. And I want you to just imagine that you're sitting on the beach and those waves are rolling in and they're rolling out and there's a boogie board sitting next to you. At some point, you have to get off the towel and you got to run into that ocean and you got to go play. And the fact is, it just takes one person to get everybody else to go. There's always that one person in a group of people at a beach who stands up first and grabs the boogie board and says, let's go body surfing. Come on, guys, let's go into the waves. And thankfully, this past Sunday night, for me, it was Chris. He was that one person. And look, being intentional about enjoying your life, about having fun particularly during those periods of time where you're grieving, where you are going through something difficult, where life feels heavy, prioritizing fun is critical. But that's just one of the three things that you and I are going to discuss when it comes to getting intentional and amplifying up the 40% of happiness that is within your control right now. And if you're sitting there scratching your head going, oh my God, this is so me, but Mel like, I think I forgot how to have fun. Don't worry about it.
I've got an entire episode that we did a while back called How to Have More Fun, and I will link to that along with all the studies that we're talking about in the show notes. And so now that you and I have been playing in the waves and you understand that dragging yourself out of the house, to the beach, off the towel, into the ocean, and forcing yourself to do things that are fun, that that is part of happiness that we cannot escape. You and I are now going to go deeper into the ocean, and we're going to talk about the two other elements that you can tap into to create more happiness in your life right now. And we're going to do that using more questions from fellow listeners of the podcast when we come back. Welcome back. I'm Mel Robbins, and you and I are talking about what research says about creating more happiness in your life. We've already talked about the fact that researchers have identified two types of happiness, hedonic happiness and eudaimonic happiness, both of which are critical to your overall feelings of happiness. And we've talked about why getting intentional about having more fun is critical to you feeling happier now. Now we're going to jump into the deeper part of happiness. And that is the eudaimonic happiness, whether or not your life has meaning. Because when you go through periods of life where life is monotonous, it just feels kind of blah, you're on autopilot, you're not gonna feel that happy. Just ask Jenna.
Hey Mel, my name is Jenna, and my question for you is, how do you truly find happiness in everyday ordinary life? I'm a mom of two boys, and I struggle most days with being as joyful as I was when they were very little.
As a mother of three kids who are now young adults, I can relate to what you were saying about how you were joyful when they were little. And I love that you use the word joyful, because I wanna go back to that metaphor that I introduced at the very beginning of an ocean, and thinking about an ocean when you think about happiness. And so to me, when you go to the beach, and it's a very, very calm day, there are no waves, there might not even be a cloud in the sky. Boy, it sure is beautiful. Happiness is like a still ocean on those days. It's your ability to stand in that ocean and feel this state of presence and connectedness and gratitude to simply being in the ocean. And I wanna come back to something that you also said that I absolutely loved. You use the word ordinary. And the reason why I think it's important for us to focus in on the word ordinary is we often make the mistake of thinking that happiness is this big thing, this big burst, the big wave. And when it comes to the eudaimonic happiness, the deeper meaning in your life that creates the sense of happiness and fulfillment for you, I wanna flip this perspective because true happiness comes from finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. That's right, true happiness is actually pretty ordinary. And researchers have identified the number one factor in you living a happy life.
And it is the most ordinary thing on the planet, which is why most of us miss it. And that's the quality and depth of your relationships. So let's unpack this. The Harvard study of adult development is the longest in-depth longitudinal study of human life that's ever been done. I mean, this has been going on for 84 years and counting. And for those of you super geeks like me out there, this used to be called the Harvard men's study. So when you hear people talking about the Harvard study of adult development, that's the new name for this. And it now includes three generations of people that they've been studying. The original 724 participants now include 1300 descendants. How cool is that? And here's the thing about the study. This study followed people through their life, asking them all kinds of questions as people aged.
And one of the reasons why this study is so profound is because it tracked people as they lived. Most studies have people looking backwards, which means when you look backwards, you often change the details. That's why the Harvard study of adult development is so exciting and so accurate and the most accurate and important study of happiness that's ever been done. And Dr. Robert Waldinger is the fourth director of the study, and he and past study leaders have published these amazing findings that you and I can apply to our lives. These results from the Harvard men's study, they've been replicated in five other huge global studies. And I'm telling you all this because there's one singular conclusion from all of this data, all of this research, all of these fancy institutions, and it's this. Good relationships make you happier and healthier. The single best decision you can make to improve your health and happiness is to cultivate what researchers call warm relationships. I know what you're thinking. Mel, what the hell are warm relationships? Well, from a clinical standpoint, warm relationships are relationships that don't cause conflict, and you feel positive emotions around the people that you have a warm relationship with. Said in a normal person's way, it's basically people that make you feel warm and fuzzy.
That's what warm relationships are. And I want you to stop and think right now, let's apply the science. If you think about people in your life, I just want you to put two columns in your mind. Who would you put under the column labeled warm? They give you the warm and fuzzies. You get a text from them, you're like, oh, yeah, okay. You know, you're excited to see them. You feel energized when you make plans. Now there's the cold column. These are people that put you on edge. These are people that drain your energy. These are the people that when they call or text you, you're like bracing for something.
I can boil 84 years of research down to one takeaway. You wanna be happier? Put all your energy into warm relationships. Building them, strengthening them, spending time with those people in the warm column. You do that, you will be a happier you right now. And the second way that you can do that, by the way, prioritizing the warm is spend less time with people in the cold column. You either need to stop hanging out with them because they're sucking your energy dry, or you gotta put some effort into warming them up by forgiving them or reframing how you see them or working on your boundaries so that you're not triggered by them and their negativity doesn't impact your happiness. So keep that visual of a warm and a cold column. And as you meet people in your life, you can immediately feel what they're like. Are they warm? Are they bringing out the fuzzies? Or are you feeling on edge?
Because when it comes to happiness, your happiness right now, not the I'll be when happy, the happiness that truly matters, standing in that deep end of the ocean, the quality of your relationships is truly the most important thing that matters. And I can explain why at an even deeper level. The reason why this matters so much, it is the number one indicator of a happy life, good, warm relationships, floating in that ocean with your warm buddies, keeping you buoyant. The reason why is evolution. See positive or warm interactions with people. You know what that does, that warm, fuzzy feeling, those kind of people in your warm column? They make you feel safe. When you're around those people, you're not on edge, so your body feels safe. And the opposite is true when you're around people that you would put in the cold column because when you're around negativity, when people trigger you and they put you on edge, when you feel like you can't be yourself, you're now in a stress response of fight, flight, or freeze. And this response to other people, it's wired in you. Early Homo sapiens survive because their bodies and their brains, They not only encouraged connection, but they also signaled when somebody might be unsafe. You and I survived because we're social beings.
So this is hardwired into us. And here's where it gets interesting. When you feel loneliness, your brain perceives that as life-threatening. And loneliness is not just about physical separation from other people. You can feel very lonely in a crowded room. You can feel lonely in a bad marriage. You can feel lonely in a toxic friendship. And if you're nodding your head right now, thinking, wow, maybe it's not unhappiness. Maybe the core issue for me is I'm lonely. Well, 75% of adults feel moderate to high levels of loneliness. And loneliness is about the quality of your relationships. And I wanna tie this back to evolution.
Loneliness feels threatening because you're meant to survive in a tribe of people. You're meant to be connected with people that make you feel safe and warm. It's not only part of happiness. This goes down to your mind and body needing protection. And they've even proven that when life is really hard, when it can come at you in full-on attack mode, when you're in survival mode, warm, connected relationships protect you from the stress of life. So how do you do this? How do you tap into relationships? It sounds simple, but again, make the column warm and cold, and then call your friends, text them, arrange time to meet them. So when you feel a pang of loneliness, I want you to understand it's an alarm, just like anxiety. It's a signal that you're missing connection. Please do not ignore it. You may be surprised to hear that I felt this way for a very long time.
I kept saying out loud, I'm not happy. I don't feel fulfilled. But when I dug deep into what was really going on for me, the core issue was loneliness. I was having fun. I was really busy. I was doing meaningful work. But deep down inside, I was really lonely. And it may also surprise you to hear that it was during one of the most successful stretches in my career. I was on the road all the time. I was booked nonstop to give speeches. I was working on all kinds of projects with Audible. The business was booming.
I was making lots of money. And I have never been unhappier because I was lonely. I was traveling so much, chasing success, chasing achievement, going for the next thing, staying busy, that I never saw my friends. I barely saw Chris. I missed out on a ton of time with our daughters while they were in high school. It was just go, go, go. Now, I had a lot of fun on the business trips. I would laugh a lot. I was always traveling with colleagues. So I wasn't alone. And I was having fun in the waves of life. But when you talk about floating in the deep end of the ocean, I was profoundly lonely.
And that meant I was profoundly unhappy. And it can be powerful when you admit this to yourself. Because when you realize what you're dealing with is loneliness, that helps you identify the issue you need to improve, which is you need to start reaching out to people. We underestimate the impact that simply getting an unexpected text from an old friend can have on you. Think about how amazing it is when you have a birthday and everybody on social media that gets the kind of notification that it's your birthday, they come out of nowhere and they wish you happy birthday. It's like, that's unbelievable. It feels so good. You haven't talked to that person since high school. But it feels good to have somebody just give you a quick comment on your birthday. And so if you're sitting around saying, I'm really lonely, but you're not reaching out, you're not calling people, you're not the one making plans or inviting people over for dinner, guess what? You're going to stay lonely. Because when I really looked in the mirror and said, I'm lonely, I need to do something about this.
I never get invited anywhere. I don't see anybody. Well, I wasn't inviting anybody over. I wasn't making any plans.
It starts with you.
I wasn't inviting it. And look, it could be anybody. It could be friends, family, coworkers. All you need to do is identify old relationships or cold relationships or warm relationships where you haven't seen somebody in a long time and reach out. And by the way, it could be old relationships. It could be people you haven't seen in a long time. Just anybody at all that makes you feel warm, start putting energy into talking, texting, commenting and making plans to see them. Be careful of the cold people because research shows that spending time with the people in the cold column, it can actually make you feel more lonely and it even worsens your health to be around people like that. You've got your friend Mel Robbins permission to stop putting energy into draining relationships because that's only going to make you feel more lonely and spend more time with warm relationships. That brings me back to Jenna's question because she mentioned, did you notice that she felt happier when her kids were little? I suspect that when your kids were little, you were probably part of mom groups. You saw young moms all the time at drop off, at pick up, at play group, and you felt like you were part of something.
You had more warm relationships in your life. That's a sign that you're just missing connection. I know I said it already, but I can't highlight enough how profound of a difference it can make to simply admit to yourself that you're lonely. That was the turning point for me when I realized a couple of years ago, holy cow, I'm unhappy because I'm profoundly lonely. I don't see Chris enough, so I'm lonely in my marriage. I am lonely in my family because I'm not around. I'm working all the time. I never see my friends. Once I said it was loneliness, that was the cause of my unhappiness, I could do something about it. You want to know the first decision I made? I made a decision that I was going to change my work life, that I was going to get off the road, that Oakley being in high school was like a melting ice cube. Once the time was gone, I was not going to get it back.
I reorganized my entire career, my entire business. Instead of sitting on a plane, I'm now sitting above my garage talking to you in a microphone so that I can be home. It took a lot of work, but I'll tell you what. Something that traveling that much for work was making it hard to cultivate those warm relationships. That was a huge wake-up call because on the surface, it looked like I was having a great time. I was in the waves, but I sure as hell wasn't when it came to the deeper stuff. I know what you're thinking, well, Mel, at least you have friends to go back to. What if I don't have any friends or many friends? Well, I would say this, here's where you can start. Part of warm relationships and happiness is also cultivated by social interactions, the tiny ones you have every single day. Just talk to strangers. This is a great thing to do, by the way.
There's a study that was done by the University of Chicago that you have no clue how happy a random social interaction with a stranger can make you. You kind of inflate in your mind that it's going to be messy to talk to other people, but you underestimate the actual benefits of talking to other people. People who talk to strangers on a train or on a plane or at a bus stop or just at a coffee shop, they're much happier after they talk to the stranger, even if they don't think beforehand that they will be. You know who's great at this? My mother. I was just visiting my mom down in Florida, and when I was little, I used to think it was so annoying, but I now admire this about her, absolutely everywhere we go. My mom talks to everybody. She talks to everybody about everything. She's constantly commenting on, oh, I like that sweatshirt, or hey, how you doing? Or nice day? And people stop, and they talk. And next thing you know, they've made a connection, or they're talking about a restaurant recommendation.
It's just amazing, and the energy is immediately boosted, and if you're not good at this, here's a great tip. Always complement somebody's nails. If somebody is waiting on you or standing in front of you in line or you're sitting next to them, just complement their nails. If you see somebody reading, ask them what they're reading and if they like it, that's a simple way to complement somebody, to open up the dialogue, and it always boosts the energy. And one of the things that I'm really concerned about, and I've talked a lot about this on the podcast, and I know the researchers at Harvard are concerned about this too. And that's remote work, everybody being at home. When we're at home, we miss out on these tiny social interactions with co-workers, with the barista, with the lady at the checkout counter, with the guy that you always see at the grocery store, with the customers that you're used to seeing come into the store. These tiny social interactions go a long way to making you feel warm. So bottom line, relationships, relationships, relationships. Talk to that stranger in line, push yourself to reach out to people, text somebody every single day, and don't forget about reaching out to family. You kind of put family on the back burner, don't you, because you think they're always going to be there. Make an effort.
There's a lot of people in your family, maybe even cousins you haven't seen in a while, you have a warm relationship with, but you got to push yourself, okay? Let's make ourselves a promise that we're both going to do this, because you got the research and you now know why it matters. Now I want to talk about the third aspect of happiness, and we're going to unpack this with a question from a listener named Steve.
Hey, Mel, this is Steve. Mel, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being your authentic self right there in front of us, changing lives, and you truly are amazing, and I really want you to know that. I was wondering today if you could talk about inner peace and the difference between that as opposed to material possessions, money, status, job titles, you name it, and instead the feeling of happiness within yourself to be comfortable with.
Thank you, Mel. Steve, first of all, thank you for saying such kind and heartfelt things about how I'm showing up. I really, really appreciate it. Makes me feel warm. Second, this question about happiness with yourself, inner peace, as opposed to chasing those material possessions, job titles, this is really front and center in my life right now. I'm a friend who died recently, and so I've been thinking a lot about this person and what he means to me, the person that he was, how he made me feel as a friend. At the end of the day, that's what truly matters, right? Not the things he owned. Not his job title. I mean, you're never going to see a hearse pulling a U-Haul to a graveyard because we can't take all that shit that we've been chasing down in life with us, and it truly doesn't matter. What matters is how you feel about yourself, the kind of person that you are, the quality of the relationships that you have, and the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself, and that is very closely tied to inner peace. If you're beating the hell out of yourself, if your dialogue about yourself is super negative, that's not going to make you happy, and inner peace, the term that you used, it is defined as feeling content and secure.
Dr. Daniel Gilbert, who is a professor at Harvard, he did this huge study that close to half of our waking moments are spent thinking about something other than what we are doing in the moment. And so when you talk about inner peace, study after study shows that a wandering mind thinking ahead, worrying about what's next, I'll be happy when this happens, not being present, that a wandering mind is deeply connected to unhappiness. Because if you're always wandering ahead or worried about what's next or chasing down something that hasn't happened, I'll be happy when, you're never actually in your life. A wandering mind is the opposite of inner peace. And look, you are able to think ahead, you're able to look back, it's one of the amazing things about being human. But when you live in a state where you're never present, you rob yourself of the extraordinary moments in life, that inner peace, that contentment, that security, that you're okay, that you're aware of what's happening, that you're present to it. And here's where it gets even more interesting. Research shows that the amount of time that you think you have left to live, it shapes your priorities now. And if you think you have a ton of time, you're often thinking about the future. But you're not in the present right now, yet, research shows that the nearer you get to the end of your life, the more you begin to appreciate the presence. Which is why, despite the fact that most of us, you know, say, oh, old people are grumpy. That's actually not true.
That's a myth. Research shows that people are, they're happiest in the later years of their lives. Why? Because older people, everyone over 70, they're much more likely to be present and not worry about the bullshit that you and I wrap ourselves around the axle about. They're more present in the moment to just be happy with the extraordinary, ordinary aspects of life. You know, I was just with my parents. It's so funny because they're in their 70s and I noticed their life is very simple. They get up, they go for a walk, they see their friends for breakfast, they play golf, they play mahjong, they read a book, they watch the sunset, they go to a friend's house. They're in the moment. They don't need some big thing to chase. They're just in the moment enjoying the feeling of living. I want to say that again.
Part of inner peace and being present and being alert in your day-to-day life is the feeling of actually living. It means you're no longer an autopilot. You're able to pay attention to what's in front of you and the real superpower is being able to do that no matter how old you are. Mindfulness just means connecting with the present moment. Inner peace is just about being present. So how can you bring this into your life? There are two ways I'm going to suggest that you do this, okay? Number one, when you are around other people, actually listen to them. I didn't say hear them, I said listen to them. There's a big difference between hearing what somebody says and listening to them. Listening to someone is when you actively give the other person the experience that you are present and your attention is the most basic form of love that you could give somebody else. And practice listening and being present and making somebody feel like you are right there with them, not in your head, being in the moment.
It is an act of love and it is a way to cultivate mindfulness, to cultivate that warm connection. The second way that you can tap into this is that when you're doing a task, just something in your ordinary life, hyper focus on it. I call this moving meditation and I'll give you two examples. Number one, I love to eat nuts, okay? Little confession, I like the blistered peanuts salted from Trader Joe's and I love myself some smoked almonds. So I'll grab a handful of those and one way that I practice being present and mindful is I eat them one at a time and I try to notice the difference in taste between one nut and another and it's pretty surprising. You eat a handful of nuts, you don't really taste a big difference of anything. You eat them one at a time, it's amazing how it pulls you into the moment. The second thing that you can do is I love having a flower right at the kitchen sink because I love flowers and it pulls me right in and I will stare at that flower and be in the present moment. A third way that I practice this inner peace and this cultivating the eudaimonic type of happiness in my day to day life is savoring the moments. So last night I taught Oakley, our son, how to make his absolute favorite recipe which is from the cookbook Six Seasons that my mom bought me and it is called beef with lots and lots and lots of onions. It is the easiest thing on the planet to make.
You take a hunk of beef, you brown it, you throw some garlic in, you throw some thyme in, you throw a little butter, little wine in and lots and lots and lots and lots of onions. That's it. And then you bake that sucker at 300 for like five hours and the whole thing melts into this soupy, messy, amazing goop where the onions disintegrate and it's like shredded beef and a French onion such and such and we just had so much fun. I was so in it when we were cooking and because I was in the moment, I wasn't wandering ahead, I wasn't thinking about anything else, I was with him. I was happy. And so let's go back to our metaphor. Being in the present moment is a lot like walking on the beach. Whether it's a stormy day or the ocean is still, whether it's raining or the sun is rising or the sun is setting or there are amazing waves that you want to surf. When you're walking on the beach, a great walk is one where you are fully present. You feel the sand between your toes, the wind in your hair, the salt on your skin. You're staring at the ocean and gazing at the beauty no matter what kind of day it is. You're not thinking ahead.
You're not reflecting on the past. You're just in the moment, happy. That's what happiness is. And so when you are thinking about happiness, always come back to this metaphor because it embodies 84 years of research and studies around the world. The waves remind you to have fun. Get off that blanket of yours, grab your friends and jump in the waves and play. The big still ocean, swimming, floating, it reminds you to get into the deep end and it's way more fun in there if you're floating around with your friends, nothing like a warm day. You want those warm relationships, spend more time with them, invite them to the beach with you. That's who you want on the sand, on the towels, in the water with you, the people that make you feel warm. And finally, walking on the beach, being present, being in the moment, constantly coming back to these three fundamental things. And the fact is, you never know how much time you have. You just don't.
So now more than ever, I just want you to not only appreciate the moment, I want you to take these small steps to truly enjoy the moment and be happier in your life. And in case no one else tells you, I want to be sure to say, I love you, I believe in you and I believe in your ability to create a happier, more fulfilling and fucking fun life. Now go do it. Oh, one more thing. It's the legal language. This podcast is presented solely for educational and entertainment purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician, professional coach,
psychotherapist or other qualified professional stitcher.