The happiest person alive in the world right now has some free advice for you. And it’s the simplest and best way to be happy.
If you want to be the happiest person you know, practice compassion. That’s the news coming out of University of Wisconsin today.
The University of Wisconsin knows a great deal about happiness. In Janurary, Researchers at the university completed a 12 year study into meditation and compassion.
Matthieu Ricard, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, was one of the study’s subjects. The 70 year old Frenchman lives in a monastery in Nepal and has spent many years of his life meditating. That meditation, it turns out, has had a very beneficial effect on his brain. And it proves (yet again) that there is nothing quite like meditation for happiness.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson hooked Matthieu Ricard up to 256 sensors while he was meditating on compassion. The results coming through the scanners amazed Davidson. Matthieu Ricard’s brain produced gamma waves never before reported in scientific literature. Those gamma waves reveal that Matthieu Ricard has extraordinary levels of consciousness, attention, learning, and memory (perhaps not surprising given that meditation does make you more intelligent). The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s prefrontal cortex, which tells us that he is much more inclined to think positively than negatively.
Because of those reports, the researchers determined Ricard to be the happiest man alive.
But in an interview with GQ this month, Ricard said that all this fuss is quite silly. “I know plenty of monks happier than me,” he said. He also pointed out that all those monks spent years meditating.
Ricard doesn’t think much of his newfound fame. After GQ released their article, Ricard received a hefty amount of attention from the press. But he was disinterested. He asked the Dalai Lama if he could go into a retreat to meditate. The Dalai Lama told him he is needed now, and that he could be an influential figure in the spiritual and psychological communities.
Interestingly, in the GQ interview, Ricard said there is one thing that makes him unhappy: comparing himself to others. That, he says, is one of the chief causes of unhappiness.
So what causes happiness? Why is Ricard the happiest man on Earth? He provides the answer on his own blog, on which he talks of loving kindness. When meditating, he says, “think: ‟May the positive energy of my actions, words and caring thoughts, past, present and future, help alleviate the suffering of beings in the short and long term.”
If you would like to know more about Matthieu Ricard’s thoughts on happiness. I recommend his book Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill