Full text of psychologist Katarina Blom’s talk titled “You Don’t Find Happiness, You Create It” at TEDxGöteborg conference. In inspiring talk, Katarina lets you in on a few secrets of the mind and how you can cultivate happiness by befriending your brain.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: You Don’t Find Happiness, You Create It by Katarina Blom at TEDxGöteborg
I would like us to begin with a short exercise.
So can everybody place their hands like this? Reach out your hands. Thank you and I will count to three.
And when I say three, I want you to clap your hands, OK? 1…2…3…
So, I did this to show you that we don’t always do, as other people tell us to do. We rather do as other people do. And this is important when it comes to creating wellbeing in ourselves and in others.
I’m a psychologist, and I train organizations, teams and individuals in creating happiness and well-being. And a couple of years back, I co-authored a book on the Science of Happiness.
But when the book was published, I was actually in the middle of a life-crisis. I’d just broken up with the person who I thought I’d spend my life with. I had no place to live, and no job.
And I think this is a very common human experience. We all face problems. We end up in crisis, sometimes, and we struggle.
But at the same time, I think most of us we long for that other the kind of life that entails meaning and connection and happiness. But it’s kind of difficult to live this life to always be there in this happy place.
And today, I want to show you why your brain is not always on your side when it comes to creating happiness. But also, what we can do to counter this.
And it’s not going to be by just positive thinking. This takes positive action. Because happiness is a skill. We all can train and work on.
I want us to start here: how it’s not just about positive thinking?
So let’s begin with this. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re really worried about something and you kept worrying even though you knew that worrying won’t change the situation or help the situation anyway? And nevertheless, you just kept on worrying. Hands up. Right? We’re all doing this.
And if we could have total mind power, and just switched over toward these happy thoughts, we’d just have done that and get on with our lives. But that doesn’t really happen. That’s it
And did you know that, about half of the time that you’ve been listening to this speech, your mind has probably been wandering off thinking about other things?
According to a study by Daniel Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth: our minds wander 46.9% of the time we spend awake. So our thoughts are automatic, they have a life of their own. And to create happiness by just controlled positive thinking. I think it’s hard, if not even possible, impossible.
And I think it’s time that we start talking more about this: How can we take positive action, actually making the change in our lives?
Because if I would ask you to keep your focus on your breath, don’t think about anything else for five minutes, I doubt that anyone in this room would be able to do that.
But if I would ask you to please raise your hand like this for five minutes, I think we all would be better able to achieve this.
So it’s really difficult to control our thoughts, and we have a better chance of controlling our actions, our behavior. Therefore, wellbeing is better built by positive action and not positive thinking.
Also, we tend to look at ourselves as if we’re these objective, rational beings that perceive situations in this objective manner and we process information, almost like a computer. We just take information in.
But in reality, we’re far from objective. And that’s actually a good thing. Because if we would truly be able to process and perceive reality in all its nuanced complexity, we would be rather lost, it would be an overwhelming experience.
So therefore, our brains have evolved several cognitive biases that helps us categorize and prioritize and sort information, making it more easy for us to navigate. But these cognitive biases, this sorting and prioritizing is really affecting how we perceive life, how we perceive different situations.
And I’d like us to explore this further in a little thought experiment. So, I invite you all to think back at the last time that you had evaluated conversation with your boss or manager. And I’m quite sure that you got to hear a lot of good things, things like how you contribute to the workplace.