A Really Surprising Happiness Hack

Sea lions at The Sea Ranch, Image by Dan Solin

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Sometimes life is an endless exercise in trying to attain goals that are just slightly out of reach. Even when we reach those goals, we’re not satisfied. We set new ones and repeat the process.

What happens to our level of happiness? It gets lost in the mix, as anxiety about reaching the new goals suppresses contentment over achieving the old ones.

But I’ve found a surprising “happiness hack” that breaks this cycle.

A vacation epiphany

My wife and I recently spent a week at The Sea Ranch, a remote community in Northern California. We like it there because there are few distractions. We take long walks along the Pacific coast on some of the easily accessible hiking trails. There’s one spot where sea lions congregate. We went there every day.

We had quiet dinners in front of the fireplace. I spent a couple of hours a day working on the manuscript for my self-help book. My wife, an artist, did some sketching.

When we later reflected on why we enjoyed that trip so much, one factor stood out: We never turned on the television.

An experiment at home

When we returned home, we decided to do an experiment. No TV. No exceptions. We do watch streaming video on our iPads. We keep up with the news online.

It’s been two months since our trip. Here’s what we’ve found.

Our stress level is markedly lower. We spend much more time communicating with each other, reading, writing (for me) and painting (for my wife). We also enjoy our meals together more. We used to eat many of them in our family room with the television on. Now we eat in the dining room. Our meals last longer and are more enjoyable.