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This book is gold. It should be mandatory reading for anyone in the times we feel sad, lonely, hopeless, less fun, interesting, extroverted and able to enjoy life than others. If any of that resonates, please pick this book up.

The main thesis of this book is the “as if” principle - it isn’t our feelings that guide our actions (I’m happy so I laugh) but rather our actions that guide our feelings (I laugh so I know I’m happy). Although this can soon start to feel a bit ridiculous, the book brings forwards tens and hundreds of studies that show just that: our feelings are more us making sense rationally of what is happening to our body, rather than something set in stone that dictates our behaviour.

The book showed me just how fluid things like self confidence, self love, happiness and preferences in things are: rather than being set in stone, we can make them change with the simplest of experiments and therefore, we shouldn’t tie our identity to them too much and try to change them in the direction we like quite easily.

It was utterly refreshing to see this scientific, optimistic, turning-my-world-on-it’s head view to life:

Actionable takeaways:

  1. If you want to be happier, it’s much more effective to make yourself smile for a few minutes a day than to write in a gratitude journal - acting happy is the best way to become happy.

  2. We sense what happens in our body and interpret (or misinterpret it) for what we’re feeling. Men on a moving bridge found the same woman much more attractive than men on a stable bridge. In the moving bridge, their heart rate was going up so they misinterpreted that for feelings of attraction for the woman.

  3. Acting calm will make you feel and be calmer, letting your aggression out doesn’t work. People who are more verbally aggressive are also more likely to be physically aggressive.

  4. Botox in frown lines helped to reduce depression. If you can’t make the facial expression for sadness, it’s harder to feel sad.

  5. Behavioural changes (doing things you think you might enjoy) were much more effective than CBT or pharmaceutical interventions in overcoming depression.

  6. When children are rewarded for something, they assume it is something they don’t like doing so they need to get bonuses for it. If they are asked to do the same action repeatedly for no reward, they assume they must like it so they end up doing so.

  7. If you want to do something, role play the person who is likely to do that thing: either mentally, or speak their actions out loud, or write them down.

  8. Your sense of identity isn’t set in stone. If you write down the things you dislike about yourself with your non-dominant hand, you’re more likely to believe they aren’t true.

  9. The way you dress can greatly influence your behaviour. People dressed in black (even if just their video game characters were dressed in black and not themselves) were much more likely to be dominant and aggressive. When police dressed in civilian clothing, injuries caused by them to civilians dropped by 50%

  10. To relieve guilt or disgust, wash your hands.

Fave Quotes:

He who sings scares away his ills
If ignorance is bliss then it is a folly to be wise
This way we will always be in love, because we have to be separated
Action is the antidote to despair
When I read about the dangers of drinking, I stopped reading
No man can wear one face to himself and one to the rest of the world without at some point wondering which one is true

(Bonus) Try to answer these:

  • Name something you’ve always wanted to do and why you haven’t done it?

  • What advice would you give your 10yo self?

  • When was the last time you cried with laughter?

  • What do you like the most about your life?

  • What activities do you find enjoyable?



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