The AMAGAZINE team flew out to Fitbit’s Barcelona boot camp to venture into the world of wellbeing. In between workouts, speaker and statistician Nic Marks shared his top tips for sustainable happiness with us.
What is sustainable happiness?
Happiness isn’t a beach you go lie on; it’s going to have ups and downs. Sustainable happiness to me really is more happy days, weeks and months than unhappy ones! There are different rhythms and types of happiness; there’s the immediate emotional experience of joy and enjoyment, and then there is longer term, more structural fulfilment which is how happy you are with life. Sustainable happiness for me is about having a good life, which is a pleasant life and a meaningful life.
Why do you think there’s a greater focus on wellbeing now than ever before?
I think that there is a big shift over the last ten to twenty years away from a post-materialistic world where experience is more important than consumption of goods. The natural extension of that is people start to think quite seriously about how they experience things and one of the ways is around health and wellbeing.
Choose people that care about you as your friends. We can get into draining relationships with people who are self-obsessed and not interested in us. We don’t listen to each other enough sometimes, so listening to other people and asking their interests is a way of building relationships. We should have a healthy selfishness in choosing friends who like us and care about us. Happiness is effortful. Relationships are effortful. If we think about things like economics and money, with relationships, the currency is time. The time we commit to other people is a choice we make over other commitments. How we choose that is really important.
There’s a certain vitality and zest that comes with physical fitness that some people value highly. Seeing as they are feedback looped, technologies like Fitbit are helping us see things that we haven’t seen before. I wear mine and it encourages me to commit to my 10,000 steps a day. I do look at my heart rate and I make sure I raise my heartbeat above one hundred sometime each day. Fitbit is helping us do something in real time to manage our lives better. I think if anything helps us to become more self-aware that can be useful.
We do have quite a lot of negativity where we think about what’s gone wrong. One of the ways to build happiness is to actually recognise what goes well and to give time to that every day. With Fitbit you’re seeing information you didn’t know, like how many steps you’ve done or what your heartbeat was. Mindfulness is about slowing down. Because we live so quickly today it’s really helpful to slow down. Apps like Headspace are very good for helping people with that.
“You can find happiness in small things straight away”
Obsession with ourselves is going to make us unhappy – that’s for sure – but I think it’s right to be very interested in ourselves. Where we place our attention and energy is one of the major resources we have in the world. The strongest strategy is what people call intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic is when we look at external people’s approval of you, while intrinsic is when it’s all about how you live your values. Luck plays a part in our lives. Qualities can be massive factors that can impact your happiness: what sort of family you were born to and whether you’re a part of a community or population that’s discriminated against. But I think that the more you can find ways of expressing yourself and contributing, the stronger you are on the ground for happiness.
Happiness is also about what we contribute and how much we give to other people – and I don’t mean money, I mean time or attention or compassion and empathy. I think people underestimate the power that has and so one of the wonderful things about giving is it’s always within our own power. Lots of people think ‘If I do this, I’ll be happy’, whereas actually you can find happiness now. You don’t need the extra money or the beautiful boyfriend or girlfriend, you can find happiness in small things straight away.
Find out more about Nic Marks at nicmarks.org