Thursday, July 01, 2010

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy

A 2008 article by by Jen Angel lists 10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy. The ten are:
(1) Savor Everyday Moments
(2) Avoid Comparisons
(3) Devalue Money
(4) Have Meaningful Goals
(5) Take Initiative at Work
(6) Make Friends and Treasure Family
(7) Smile
(8) Say Thank You
(9) Exercise
(10) Give Away
No surprises here, really--at least with what appears. I say "at least with what appears" because I think there are some curious omissions. I suppose meditation can fit under the "Savor the Everyday" category, but I noticed it was missing. Prayer is kind of like meditation; it can also be a vehicle for expressing thankfulness. So, like meditation, it can fit above, but is not explicitly mentioned. A big omission is music, either listening or playing. I wouldn't have been surprised if there was mention that people were happier when they liked music, but again maybe this is because music can fall under another category, such as "Savor the Everyday."

Many of the behaviors listed are the explicit focus of reflection in weekly religious gatherings and sermons. Indeed, the very exercise of a Shabbat service or a Sunday worship covers several of the behaviors at one time. Many religious services focus directly on savoring the everyday, on emphasizing self-fulfillment and avoiding comparisons, on devaluing money and so on.

No wonder people become so attached to their synagogues and churches! No wonder people believe so strongly that their religion is good and that it works. These people must be puzzled at Atheism, as if it rejects these ten behaviors.

But the truth is that Atheists support all of those behaviors. We too need to perform them, and we need to be reminded to do them because we too sometimes forget. The truth is that the ten behaviors are universal: there is nothing specifically religious about them.This list above, as I read it, itemizes ways to live a morally significant life. I think that anyone who regularly performs the ten behaviors will have the experience of living meaningfully and purposefully.

And yet we can agree on these ten, can't we? We can agree on wanting to be happy and on seeing these as ten ways to do it.

Surely, this is a start.


  1. What do you mean by "meaningful goals"? As far as I can tell, "meaningful" is a meaningless word.

  2. MC,

    I take "meaningful"--the word is used in the original article that I link to--to mean "of personal importance."

    If you don't like the word, you can change #4 to qualify "goals" however you wish.


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