Ep. #1157: Arthur Brooks on How to Be Happier

Arthur: It’s it’s funny because almost everything that we learn in the gym, everybody who listens to fitness for life is because they’re committed to their physical wellbeing. They’re committed to it and not going to listen to you and use your supplements and read your books unless they’re committed to it.

And that’s great. Apply the same level of commitment to the other parts of your life. To your happiness, to your faith, to your relationships, start with commitment, then go to the belief and finally, sometimes you’ll get the feeling and then you’re on the right track to rebuilding your life and building your life in the way that’s going to give you the existence that you deserve.

Mike: Hello and welcome to a new episode of muscle for life. Thank you for joining me, Mike Matthews, your host today to learn about happiness. God bless. And specifically, to get some evidence based answers to questions like, What is happiness exactly? What does it really mean to be happy? And how do fitness and faith and relationships and daily routines contribute to happiness?

To happiness contribute to satisfaction contribute to the feeling that you are living a fulfilling life As well as what practical steps can you take to? Enhance your emotional well being what are some things you can start doing right away that you may not be doing now That can significantly improve your happiness, your satisfaction, your sense of fulfillment in your life.

And in this episode, you are going to be learning from Arthur Brooks, who is a renowned social scientist and expert on the science of happiness. He is a professor at Harvard where he runs the leadership and happiness laboratory. And he is a bestselling author of several books, including build the life you want, the art and science of getting happier.

And from strength to strength, finding success, happiness, and deep purpose in the second half of life. And so in this interview, you are going to learn the relationship between fitness and happiness and why it’s probably not what you think. You’re going to learn about the importance of relationships in dealing with stress.

How to understand and utilize negative emotions for growth, the role of faith and spirituality in happiness, and more. Before we get into it, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, then you will probably like my award winning fitness books for men and women of all ages and abilities, which have sold over 2 million copies, have received over 15, 000 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, And which have helped tens of thousands of people build their best body ever.

Now, a caveat, my books and programs cannot give you a lean and toned Hollywood body in 30 days. And they are not full of dubious diet and exercise hacks and shortcuts for gaining lean muscle and melting belly fat faster than a sneeze in a cyclone. Thanks But they will show you exactly how to eat and exercise to lose up to 35 pounds of fat or more if you need to lose more or want to lose more.

and gain eye catching amounts of muscle definition and strength. And even better, you will learn how to do those things without having to live in the gym, give up all the foods or drinks that you love, or do long, grueling workouts that you hate. And with my books and programs, you will do that. You will transform your physique faster than you probably think or I will give you your money back if you are unsatisfied.

With any of my books or programs, the results. Anything, for whatever reason, just let me know and you will get a full refund on the spot. Now, I do have several books and programs, including Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger, and Muscle for Life. And to help you understand which one is right for you, it’s pretty simple.

If you are a guy aged 18 to let’s say 40 to 45, Bigger, Leaner, Stronger is the book and program for you. If you are a gal, same age range, thinner, leaner, stronger is going to be for you. And if you are a guy or gal, 40 to maybe 45 plus muscle for life is for you. Hey Arthur, it’s nice to meet you. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Arthur: Yeah, thanks Mike. It’s I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time. You’ve been very helpful to me, so thanks. 

Mike: I appreciate that. I’m flattered. We’re here to talk about your work. We’re here to talk about the topic of your newest book, which is build the life you want. We, I had a little outline as I always put together for these for these talks and.

Just offline, you had mentioned maybe should we talk about specifically fitness and how this relates to happiness and being and of course, that is very relevant to everyone listening and I do want to get to some other material in the book, but I thought that maybe we start there and hear about how many people get this.

Wrong, because of course, many people listening are not surprised to hear, Oh, did you know that that getting into good shape and staying in good shape, it helps you feel better in general? Yes, but the God is in the details, as they say, right? 

Arthur: Yeah, sure enough. No, for sure. Anybody listened to fitness for life, they want fitness for life.

And part of fitness is happiness. Part of fitness is well being is really what it comes about. And a lot of people are looking for ultimate well being and sense of happiness through what they can actually do in the gym because they’re good at it and they like it is what it comes to. Check down to, and what they really want is love, but they really want functional relationships.

And, bad news. Look, I’m a gym rat. I’ve been doing 60 minutes in the gym, almost seven days a week for literally decades. That’s not why my wife loves me. She couldn’t care less. As a matter of fact, it’s annoying to her that I’m actually like, no, you got to work out. I’m not going to start my day this way every, but the reason that I do that is for something entirely differently.

And I think. It’s important for the audience to understand the relationship between happiness and fitness, and we actually know this based on science. I think my living is a social scientist. That’s my PhD is in policy analysis and behavioral economics and later in psychology, neuroscience, how it all fits together.

And one of the questions that I always had, and then people still give me today is, will I be happier if I’m healthier? Specifically, will I be happier if I’m in better shape? And the answer is no, you won’t, but you will be less unhappy. And that’s a very important distinction. Happiness and unhappiness are not opposites.

They’re set, they’re based on emotions that are in. Hemispherically lateralized, that’s just a fancy way of saying that they’re produced in different hemispheres of the brain. So you find that most of your negative emotions are produced in the right side of your brain, and most of your positive emotions are produced in the left side of your brain.

Now, why is that important? Because you can have unusually intense negative and positive emotions. That’s called being a high affect person. A quarter of the population is above average in both happiness and unhappiness. These are called mad scientists. You for sure are. Are a math scientist, Mike. I can tell just by talking to you that you’re a math scientist.

And a lot of people who are very intense. They’re like taking a bite at life, man. They’re into everything. Probably 65 percent of the fitness for life listeners. And you want to know this, by the way, if you go to my website, Arthur Brooks. com, there’s a free test. On your personality profile, where you can find out if you are this, or if you’re not what you are, it’s called a PANAS test, P A N A S test, the positive affect, negative affect sequence.

And you can take that test and find out, but the bottom line is anybody who’s above average and negative affect, negative emotions, they need a management technique for moderating their negative emotions. They want to have a lot of well being. And the single best way for you to manage high levels of negative emotion is getting into the gym and beating it up and doing it every day.

And we’re talking about high intensity interval training and resistance. Those are the single two best ways to do it. Now what’s the worst way to do it? Drinking alcohol is a terrible way for you to moderate your negative affect because all you’ll get is more negative affect tomorrow. Plus all kinds of bad problems with your relationships and work down the line.

Another terrible way to do it is workaholism is a terrible way to do this. Yeah. And people do this in the most counterproductive ways. What I would recommend is anybody who’s struggling with anxiety, sadness, and everybody has these things, but people who are, especially man, intense and, with a lot of, for example, anxiety is nothing more than unfocused fear.

Anybody who’s got a lot of stress in their life, you’ve got to be going to the gym. That’s it, not to get happier, but to moderate advantage that 

Mike: I’ve said many times that the more stressed you are, the more you have to prioritize getting your workouts in, and you have to understand exactly this point that you’re saying but it is counterintuitive because.

Training is also acutely stressful and it doesn’t necessarily follow that. If you feel overstressed going and doing a quote unquote, stressful workout is actually going to help you better deal with that stress. But that is how it works for basically everyone. 

Arthur: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. No, there’s a ton of research on stress itself, and the big difference is between voluntary and involuntary stress when it comes to your happiness and when it comes to your health.

For example, there are these animal studies on mice in which mice are stressed by the researchers involuntarily. They got Yeah. It’s basically what it comes down to, but mice who can get literally the same amount of physical stress voluntarily by running on a wheel, they live twice as long. In other words, they cut their lives dramatically by exposing them involuntarily, but the same amount of stress they’ll get voluntarily, and in which case they’ll extend their lives.

And they’ll even, these experiments, they’ll put a little, like an exercise wheel. In the middle of a field outside and field mice will come find it and run on it. Even mice out in the field want to come to the gym. It’s what it turns out. And so if you expose yourself to that cortisol and those cortisol spikes and the stress response, you get stronger, you get better, you get less unhappy, and you’re much better able to deal with the involuntary stresses that are inevitably going to come your way.

Mike: And just this is a little bit of a tangent. I’m just curious, though, as to your opinion. So we all have to deal with involuntary stresses, inevitably things that come into our life from one sector or another that are just in positions and range from obnoxious to ruinous. What are your thoughts on aside from And making regular exercise a constant, I think that makes a lot of sense.

Anything in addition to that, and I’m asking selfishly because I’ve read a fair amount of some of the more subjective about reframing and maybe in some ways I’ve always been decently good at that, but. How feasible is that really when you’re dealing with certain that I can tell you for sure, there are certain things like I’m building a house and this has been it’s been the most obnoxious, let’s just call it project that I’ve ever worked on the last couple of years, I can objectively say are probably the worst last couple of years of my life.

And I’m not even complaining about it. And it’s actually just amusing at this point. But I think about Could I just somehow reframe this in a way that would have made it less stressful or less of a problem? And it’s just, anyway, I’m going to stop there. I’m just curious. I’m just curious.

Arthur: So the general rule is that, exercise is one of my dealers, of course, but the most important thing you can have in your life with respect to the inevitable involuntary stress that you get is the quality of your relationships. This is really super important. And so loneliness. As all kinds of involuntary stress to your life and makes you exposed to the stressors that can come your way with having no real way to deal with it is what it comes down to.

So we’re talking about romance, family, friends is what it comes down to the people who deal with stress. The best armor. Are people who are happily married. This is true. People who have a, have really close friendships and or are really close to their siblings. Why? Because there’s somebody who understands you and who could help you reframe, okay, now what do these people who really love you have in common?

When you have these involuntary stresses, what they, what it is you talk to them about your issues and in so doing, you move them. You move these stresses from being something that’s a limbic, which is to say they’re a kind of a primordial part of your brain into your prefrontal cortex, where you can express what they really are.

If you experience your anxiety in your prefrontal cortex, then you’re able to talk about it and organize it in a very human way. And it doesn’t haunt you. It’s not just like a ghost rolling around in the more primitive parts of your brain. And in so doing, you realize that almost always the things that are freaking you out are less important than they would have been otherwise.

So the anxieties I mentioned before, it’s a form of unfocused fear. Fear is a basic negative emotion produced by the amygdala of your brain, which is part of your limbic system. That says something is a threat in the environment, fight or flight. Flight is based on fear. Fight is based on anger, but they’re parallel emotions that are based on the same set of stimuli.

And that runs an automatic signal through the hypothalamus of your brain to your pituitary glands, then your adrenal glands and your adrenal glands where you spit out stress hormones all day long. Is what this comes down to. You have to be able to manage that. The problem is when your fear is really unfocused and so you’re just freaked out.

Getting a little drip of cortisol all day long and feeling horrible and then going home and yelling at your wife for it is what happens. The best way to manage that, number one, is to have a wife understands you. It’s really nice to you. It helps. Focus your fear, but another way to deal with this, that’s a very practical way to cope with it, is to actually write down your fears, write them down, because you must move the experience then into your peripheral cortex where you can manage the emotions, say, okay, I’m really afraid that this house is literally never going to get built.

It’s not going to get built. I’m going to be 70 years old and it’s still not going to be finished in the whole thing, and then you’ll be able to look at and go, yeah, that’s not right. Because what would be the worst case scenario? What would I do? It would certainly not be waiting for it when I’m seven for the next 30 years.

So even the worst case scenario is not as bad as what’s haunting you before you actually. Put it, pencil in your hand, which is moving the experience to the right part of your brain, the C suite, your brain, where you actually make executive decisions. So that’s a different way to do it. So number one, you need relationships.

Number two. You need to make these things conscious what we say in my business metacognitive by writing your sources of anxiety down that will immediately dampen your stress response and that’s a good protocol. That’s the single best way to do it. People always say, make a gratitude list. Okay, fine. No, make an anxiety list.

It’s so good for you to actually do that. 

Mike: And that’s the place where we, Least want to look typically so many of the things it’s like a theme So many of the things that we need are in the places. We least want to look. 

Arthur: Yeah I’m going to write that down. I don’t want to pay attention to that pay attention to it, man Because it’s actually no big deal.

It’s the same thing’s happening. I just bought a house And it’s a beautiful, it’s a beautiful house. It’s the nicest house I’ve ever owned. And my wife really wanted it. And it’s, our, one of my sons and his wife and their son, they’re living with us right now, my grandson is near my other grandchild.

The whole thing is just perfect. And we move in and there’s a leak into the basement of a dishwasher that’s not working and a plumbing is backed up and I’m like, what? This is terrible. And I’m having trouble like going to sleep one night. My wife’s don’t you read your own work?

Mike: Don’t you eat your own dog 

Arthur: food? That’s come on, man. It’s didn’t you get a PhD in this stuff? 

Mike: But when you’re in, sometimes in the middle of it, that’s just not what pops into your mind. You do have to even force yourself to just zoom out. 

Arthur: They want that your brain wants to hijack that response and turn everything into DEF CON 5, but it can’t be that way.

Look, our brains are accustomed to the or accommodated for the place to see where fear is supposed to be episodic and intense. Fear is not supposed to be unfocused. It’s not supposed to be, geared toward a broken dishwasher. Who cares, right? It’s like God made plumbers. I get it. There’s no, 

Mike: And it will get fixed my house.

There was a time when I was suspecting that my builder was getting ready to walk away from the project. And I was right. And then I had to negotiate my way through that. Yeah, 

Arthur: and again, the worst part is, of course, these sources of stress are self imposed. Because you’ve convinced yourself that you’re really not going to be in a good living situation unless you have this house and then, okay, the whole thing is perspective taking and perspective taking requires neurophysiologically moving the experience of your emotions from the primitive limbic structures of your brain into the executive center, into the prefrontal cortex, right behind your forehead.

And the way that you do that is with meditation. Meditation. Meditation. You do that with journaling, you do that with making lists, you do that by explaining your problems to others, you do that with, in times of prayers and petition, which as a Christian, that’s super important for me. My prayers and petition are the best form of cognitive metacognition I could possibly be teaching.

Mike: And to get to a solution, you have to go through that process. However you get there, you mentioned several ways to get there, but at least that’s in my experience, is if you haven’t, Gotten over that emotional hump, so to speak, you’re probably not going to be able to solve the problem effectively.

Arthur: That’s correct. That’s correct. And the good news is that there’s tons that you can do. And most of my work most of my research and my popular writing in my books is about emotional self management. It’s about self management because it’s funny, we want to manage ourselves better, which is why I go to the gym.

We want to manage ourselves better, which is why we get 175 grams of protein. You do all this stuff, you can manage your brain to just like you can manage your biceps. Your brain is a lot more complicated than your biceps. But if you actually understand the underlying neurophysiology, you can manage your brain as well.

And that’s what my, that’s what my work is dedicated to doing. 

Mike: And I would argue that you can get a lot more out of those modalities if you’re taking care of your body, that the person who is taking care of their health and taking care of their fitness, on average, is probably going to see. A much better return on the time spent working on the inside, the brain, or the mind, or however you want to.

Arthur: Young guys just getting out of college who feel quite lost. I hear from them a lot because I’m a university professor. It’s a lot of what I do. And a lot of what I tell them is that, they want something like, how should I meditate or, What is it? Get up an hour and a half before dawn.

It’s very important to get up before the sun is up because that gives you a sense of self mastery. But it’s also a period in which neurocognitively we’re more attuned to learning and creativity. There’s a lot of research that goes into this that the ancient Hindus called the problem of Horta, which is the creators coming.

But neuroscience actually shows that there’s a lot to it’s getting up before dawn. Get up. Mhm. Get dressed, go walk for an hour in the dark with that device. It’s every day. Why? I think it’s then you’re, you are in control. You’ve done something that if your body wants to stay under the covers, man, and you said no, and you took control because you actually decided to make a decision.

That wasn’t the most comfortable decision. That’s your first win of the day. It’s actually new that it’s also good for your body and then the advanced course of this. And what I do, I’ve been doing this for decades. It’s now I get up and. Quarter to five. By five I’m in the gym. I work out from five to six every day.

Every single day, six, seven days a week. And I take maybe 10 days off a year because of travel, like something in the road a lot, and then I, shower, I don’t have any second stimulants yet, and then I go to, I’m a Catholic. I go to mass every day and I do that every day. So body and soul.

Then I come back and I, I use psycho stimulants liberally in the form of the coffee that I like. And then I get three hours of maximum dopamine in my prefrontal cortex for creativity. For my work, but I worked out and I’ve done my prayer. Then I have my coffee and breakfast and man, I am so ready to go.

And the reason is because I’ve managed myself aggressively. 

Mike: It’s a, it is a great morning routine, people listening you, whatever your version of that is, but that body and mind. 

Arthur: Yeah. I installed, man. Just get control, manage yourself. 

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No form and no return is even necessary. So you really can’t lose. Go to buylegion. com slash Triton, use the coupon code muscle at checkout and save 20 percent or get 6 percent cash back and try Triton risk free and see what you think. Let’s let’s shift gears and talk about happiness. And the first thing I wanted to ask you is in your newest book you talk about this concept that happiness is a direction, not a destination.

Can you explain what you mean by that? 

Arthur: Yeah. People always say, I want to be happy and they’re hoping that they’ll be cosmically happy. And when I get older, I hope I’ll be happy. When I get married, I’ll be happy. And when I have a job, I’ll be that kind of job. I really want to be happy. And when that house is finally finished, then I’ll be happy. 

Mike: I think of, I haven’t diluted myself into thinking that the house will make me happy, but not having to deal with a house under construction, that will, that’ll take something off of the other side of the scale. The thing that makes me unhappy. 

Arthur: And it’s true that getting rid of sources of annoyance are a good thing to do.

Because those are barriers to your happiness, to be sure. And so those are important. Yeah, for sure. You’re getting rid of, if you ever tricked me, get it operated on. Because that’s a source of annoyance. You don’t know if you’re going to fall down the stairs and be in a boat, et cetera. The truth is that some cosmic state of happiness is.

Completely unattainable and the reason is very simple. We have negative emotions for a reason. There’s no such thing as bad feelings. Negative emotions are nothing more than signal so that the most primitive parts of your brain in the brainstem cerebellum in the very back and bottom of your head are, they’re dedicated to detecting what’s going on.

And most of it’s below your level of consciousness. Those signals about, what you see that’s crossing the visual cortex, or what you smell or perceive, these are going into the limbic system, which is the structure of tissue that produces emotions. When you have negative emotions, and there’s only four negative emotions, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness, those are the only four.

When you’re feeling these negative emotions, it’s because you have perceived a threat. You need it to be negative so that you’ll try to be averse to these things and try to avoid these negative emotions by taking the threat out of your life. The threat might be that your girlfriend might run off on you.

It might be that a car is about to run you over. It might be that thing you pulled out of the refrigerator smells funny so that you probably shouldn’t eat it. There’s lots of these aversive emotions. And to say, I want to be positive. Happy is to say, I don’t want negative emotions. Mike, you’d be dead in a week without these negative emotions.

You’d need them. And furthermore, you don’t have to worry about getting rid of your negative emotions because you’re not going to. So therefore happiness, perfect happiness is not only not attainable, it’s not even a good goal. It’s a terrible goal for you. So the result is that what you want is to live in a particular way where you can avoid.

The negative experiences from which you don’t learn to grow, most you do learn to grow, and where you can avoid the negative emotions that are actually coming because of negative decisions, because of bad decisions that you make. So happiness is not a destination, happiness is a direction. You should learn such that you can get happier.

Understanding and accepting and celebrating the fact that you’re not perfectly happy 

Mike: and come to this point of negative emotions that, that we feel because of bad decisions that we’ve made, where this is something I’ve commented on that. And just reflecting with reflecting on myself, that in how I have tended to view negative emotions is often it’s appropriate.

It’s often I did something that maybe even at the time I figured Probably shouldn’t do this, or even no, definitely shouldn’t do this, did it anyway, and then minimally as a consequence felt bad about it or experienced the result of that was yes, it was negative, and that was easy to predict. And so just what you’re explaining, it’s just interesting that it’s not something I can’t remember explicitly studying this anywhere or learning this from a specific source, but it’s just been a useful psychological tool for me to help calibrate.

My decisions and help me retain a sense of, I guess you could say personal responsibility. And I like that concept Jocko’s book, extreme ownership. I like that concept, whether it’s ultimately true with a capital T, I think it’s useful. And so if I’m experiencing negative emotions, that’s really the 1st place I look is well.

Am I experiencing negative emotions because I should be because I’m doing things that should produce these reactions. And this is a part of me saying, Hey you might want to change course here, or you’re just going to feel worse and worse as opposed to seeing it as just being imposed upon me by the universe or just being some sort of random chemical reaction in my brain that has no real explanation.

Arthur: No, there’s a reason for it. There’s a reason for these feelings that you’re having, and you will, if you’re paying attention, get learning and growth from them. This is very important. It’s funny because a lot of people, a lot of gym rats that I know, they’re very comfortable with pain. And they’re, they expose themselves to pain all the time.

It’s not, if you’re going to do a deadlift, you’re going to feel pain. It’s going to be very uncomfortable to you. And you’re like, yeah, bring it on. Because they understand that the growth, physically the growth that comes from that actually has to pass through the pain. Jocko and I have talked about this actually, yet they don’t want to treat their emotional pain in the same way.

There’s something about emotional pain that they’ve been, especially young people under 30 today have been really miseducated on that. They’ve been taught that their emotional pain is evidence of a pathology, that they’re broken. 

Mike: Yeah, it always goes back to mental health. There must be something wrong with your mental health.

Arthur: There’s nothing wrong with unhappiness. There’s nothing wrong with sadness. There’s nothing wrong with anxiety, man. I teach at Harvard, and I tell my students, look, if you’re not sad and anxious, then you need therapy. You’re at Harvard. It’s, come on, man. It’s a hard thing that you’re actually doing.

And people don’t want to actually believe this because they’ve been told by Sort of the education establishment cons complex, the nanny complex that’s telling everybody, if you’re afraid, that’s bad, and we got to make you feel more secure. You got to get stronger.

And the only way to get stronger is going to the gym. Maybe it’s a physical gym. Maybe it’s a mental gym. Every time you’re feeling the sadness, anger, disgust, and fear saying to yourself, what am I learning? How am I gonna get stronger? How am I gonna overcome this particular thing? And once you get into that, or your mentality about your emotions, just like you do your lifts, then your life starts to change 

Mike: that.

That’s a great point. And something that again, I’ve tried to remind myself going through various trials and tribulations is similar to the gym. I go to the gym and I beat myself up in there. To get stronger physically here’s an opportunity. If nothing else, here’s an opportunity to get stronger mentally, emotionally, spiritually, however you want to look at it.

Arthur: Yeah, totally. Then you start, it’s weird because you know what the great philosophical and theological masters have been able to do. And some was weird because I remember when I was a younger guy, I would read, St. Thomas Aquinas or the words of the Buddha. With the Bhagavad Gita, these holy books and they would be grateful for the terrible things that were happening.

I’m like yeah, but it’s true. It’s true. It’s if I asked you to say, Mike, was today leg day and you’re like, yeah, it’s yeah, it’s like, how’d it feel? It’s it was brutal. It was awesome. That’s just the, the Buddha or somebody being grateful for these trials, these, these things that have happened because it’s the only way for you to get stronger is to go through these things.

And if you didn’t have any adverse experiences, you just get weaker and weaker. And that’s why we’re emotionally weakening young people today, because we’re removing all adversity as much as we possibly can and telling them that remaining adversity is the source of their, as the source of it’s due to pathology, as opposed to, And 

Mike: that you can medicate it away or meditate it away and that you should try to engineer your life to avoid adversity as much as you can.

And in speaking of young people, so that’s one element. And I totally agree. I see a lot of that. Another element is a lot of focus, and this is probably nothing new. It’s probably always been the case, but it might be a little bit worse now because of social media and just the state of that.

And that is the emphasis on. Money and on achieving success in one’s career and the connection to happiness and that, that word they might not say happiness, but that it’s a, it’s going to be a synonym and that how important. That is what are your thoughts on them? 

Arthur: Yeah, there’s a reason that we think that by the way, it’s a biological reason Believe it or not.

It’s not just because of capitalism or marketing or society Evolution mother nature puts imperatives in your brain and they have everything to do with survival and gene propagation In other words passing on your genes getting mates and surviving by getting your calories and staying alive and not getting attacked and killed That’s all mother nature cares about mother nature does not care about mike matthews happiness At all.

Zero. That’s your responsibility. But we have a tendency to say, Okay, the things that make me more fit in the mating market, for example, are more fit to bring in a gazelle, so I can feast for a couple of weeks. Since I have an urge to do those things, and I want to be happy, doing those things must make me happy.

That’s what people love a spot. So they thought, okay, I’m going to be a lot more successful if I can show excess income. This is one of the ways that men in particular and that they succeed in mating markets is by driving, for example, a fancy car. Why? Because that shows potential base that you have so much in resources that you can devote to a family and take care of your kids that you can even buy a Ferrari.

That’s just nothing more than peacocking. It’s nothing more than an advertisement about your excess resources is what it comes down to. That’s primordial. That’s caveman behavior is what it comes down to. And so you say to yourself, therefore, having the Ferrari is going to lead me to happiness because it’s going to get me love.

You make all these weird, logical connections that you make. There’s these funny videos out there, for example, that make fun of this, but they have this guy like, doing big lifts. He’s clearly, juice to his gills. And it’s you don’t need a personality. You don’t need to be a good person.

You don’t need to have a sense of humor. You just need slightly larger muscles. That’s all you need. And it’s very funny, but it’s the same thing as people are like, you just need a little bit more money. That’s really what you need. And that’s how people behave. 

Mike: It is true though, that not having enough money Can minimally maybe having money and at least over a certain threshold, isn’t going to add happiness, but not having enough money create friction that might be perceived as unhappiness.

Arthur: Yeah. Yeah. That’s very astute. You’ve been very subtle and astute point. Now, Mike you’re good. And you’ve got until you read carefully. So money can’t buy happiness, but it can’t eliminate sources of unhappiness. That’s what it can actually do and at relatively low levels. And so the sources of unhappiness are like.

The contractor on your house saying you can’t move in and you’ve got to deal with it when you wanted to do something else, it’s the annoyances, the irritations of the barriers to doing what actually brings happiness. Happiness comes from faith, family, friendship, and work. Those are the habits of the happiest people.

That’s most of the big things. Anything that distracts you from it or makes it harder for you to do that are barriers to your happiness. And those are the things that at very low levels, you can eliminate with proper resources, with enough friends within a little bit of social prestige or, frictionless environment and enough money to kick around.

So you’re not worried if your kids are going to get their caloric needs met. You don’t know if you’re going to get your, proper vaccines. You’re not going to die of whooping cough or something stupid like that. That’s what a little bit of money will do. And when we’re really young, we don’t have any money.

When I was a musician when I was in my twenties, I had, I was so poor, I can go to the dentist for six years at one time. And when I got a little bit of money, I went to the dentist and they filled 12 cavities and I felt better. And I incorrectly concluded that money about happiness, what money was doing at low levels was eliminating a source of my unhappiness.

And then if I didn’t pay attention to that, so I didn’t study this stuff, I’d go searching for that feeling again and again and again and again. And it wouldn’t come to me because I’m past that point. I’m getting a theory. I’m getting the, I’m getting the whole point wrong. 

Mike: And talking about coming back to the example of the Ferrari.

A lot of people associate money with status and for many people that they may be more in pursuit of status than money per se, where money is a proxy to achieve or it’s proxy for status. But coming, come to this point of status, that’s also many people think that they will be happy if they achieve status.

Status and and you have these two points here, money and status. If I were giving advice to a younger person based on my experience thus far, and they were trying to consider a career path I would warn them, Oh, not away from those things, but just be aware that there’s a cognitive trap here of the money.

And the status associated with something and these things, if you’re not aware of it, they might make a certain choice or a certain career path look very appealing, but it’s not going to play out the way that you are envisioning. 

Arthur: Yeah, I studied fame a lot and fame actually has a lot of different manifestations.

It might be prestige. So in a particular community, if you’re in the, the fitness community, for example, most people won’t know who you are, but the right people will. So they can be very local or it can be just the admiration of other people or just to be known, which is the case of, YouTube influences or something, which is a very big deal.

In an era where the internet can make anybody famous and fame is funny because fame really plays on these primordial urges of gene propagation and survival because the more people who know you compared to whom you know, the higher statuses and the more likely you are to be at a higher level in your kid in primitive societies.

Humans are a kin based hierarchical species. Made to live in tropical environments. Now you can avoid the tropics if you want, because we invented coats, but you’re still going to be driven toward, hierarchy and to be around kin. And so the result of it is that you don’t know why, but you want to be well known.

You don’t know why. And when you think about it, it’s like, why do I care? Cause I want to, why do I want to, because I’ve always wanted to, these are not arguments, but what’s going on is that there’s dopamine, which is a neuromodulator of your brain. And dopamine is the anticipation of reward. When you think that your prestige is going to rise, that people are going to admire you, that you’re going to rise in the hierarchy, it just releases all of this dopamine for a reward that you never get.

And that’s the reason that fame is the only one in the earthly rewards you can only ever be happy in spite of. Don’t talk to somebody who’s really famous. They have a hard life. If you can’t walk through an airport, If you can’t be in public without somebody harassing you, if you can’t do anything, it’s a total drag.

Mike: You try, you go out in disguises and people still pick you out like it. 

Arthur: Yeah. People that I work with, given the nature of my work and it’s extraordinary how different their lives are and how much better your life is if that’s not the case. And yet people, especially in the internet era and the social media era, they somehow want this.

It’s I’m relevant. You crave relevance in this sense of this sort of fame of notoriety because your brain is saying with a dopamine, you’ll get this reward. You will be happy. You won’t. Mother nature’s lying to you. 

Mike: And you commented on this point of admiration that does seem to be primordial to use your word that.

No matter who you are, it feels nice to be admired. It does. And no matter how balanced you are and no matter how much work you’ve done on yourself, it just, it does feel nice. And if we bring this to fitness it’s still, let’s just say at least half of the reason that you and I get in the gym, we work out every day.

Is there’s a bit of vanity there. We want to look a certain way and maybe we’re not doing it for necessarily for other people. We might just be doing it for ourselves, but it is nice when somebody recognizes that and says, Hey, you have a great arms, right? You just, you can’t help but, smile.

Who’s saying it? It’s going to be another man, of course. It’s not, it’s never going to be a woman. 

Arthur: But mother nature made you think that if you’ve got bigger biceps, that the female of the species is going to go, that guy could drag in a huge gazelle. I like them. And it turns out the only, they might notice, I don’t know, but look, I’ve been married 33 years and I get bigger, I get smaller, my wife’s dishwasher.

Mike: You ever joke with your wife? Do you appreciate like what I’m doing here? I’m 60 and I look better than your average 30 year old. Honey, 

Arthur: I’m doing this for you. It’s just no, come 

Mike: on, just play along with me a little bit. You’ve mentioned a couple of times how important your faith is.

Can you talk a bit more about faith and spirituality and how that can contribute to wellbeing and satisfaction? 

Arthur: Yeah, it’s one of the big four in terms of the habits of the happiest people, the happiness portfolio, faith, family, friendship, and work. But when I say faith, I actually don’t mean my faith. I’m a Catholic it’s the most important thing in my life. But, as a scientist, I have to recognize that the whole point in the happiness equation is transcendence, not a particular faith. Now again, I’m People disagree on which is the faith is the most true and most right or beneficially most accurate.

That’s not my point at all. I’m talking about happiness here. What you find is that left to your devices, once again, wicked mother nature is going to make you focus on the psycho drama of your life where you’re the star. All day long, my job, my commute, my car, my lunch, my boss. And it’s just like the most boring television show that you have to watch every single day for the rest of your life.

You need peace and perspective. You need to zoom out and you need to get small. Mother nature doesn’t want you to be small. Mother nature wants you to be the center of everything. You need to be small and the universe needs to be large and you need to stand in awe of it. And then. You’ll have peace. It’s the only way to have peace is the most unnatural thing.

And the only way to do that is in the vernacular faith, but maybe it’s not faith or even spirituality at all. Maybe it’s I have this friend, Ryan holiday, you had Ryan holiday on your show 

Mike: many years ago. 

Arthur: He’s great. And he’s, he’s a friend of mine. And every time I have a book, I do a show, but, he’s we’re, socially we like each other and he’s studied stoic.

He’s not religious. He studies stoic philosophy and a lot of lifters like stoic philosophy because it’s it’s a very muscular philosophy. Marcus Aurelius would have been a dead lifter. If you know that he would have written in his little journal, you’d like to stay under the covers.

But the weights are there waiting for you. And it was the only way to be fully alive today or something like that. Anyway, so he studies the stoics with same level of seriousness that a lot of people practice their religion and he gets the same benefits from it. Some people will walk in nature. Some people will study the fumes of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Some people will start a Vipassana meditation practice. And some people will study or practice the faith in their youth. You got to do your thing because you got to get small. That’s what I mean by that. 

Mike: And are there certain methods that seem to be more effective for that than others? You mentioned a few things that are, that’s a pretty large spectrum of activities.

Arthur: Yeah, it’s daily practice and seriousness. And that’s one of the reasons that, that the faith of your youth is so effective at doing that because it’s not like trying to make up your own physics. It’s a whole thing. Now, I get it. There’s a lot of people listening to yeah, faith in my youth, kidding me.

I’ve been running away from that for 20 years. I get it, right? But the whole point is that a lot of people, they have A notion of religion from still when they were in third grade. And so I’ve worked with a lot of people who they want it back, but they don’t want that version back. And so you have to, you gotta find it as a grownup is what it comes down to.

So I’ve worked with a lot of people about how to do that. And it’s interesting because the research on that is very different and how to find faith is very different than what your intuition tells you. Your intuition tells you gotta feel something, feel some religious impulse, and then you have to believe something, and then you have to practice something, right?

It’s exactly the opposite. Practice something, and then you will believe it, and finally, sometimes, you’ll feel it. And that turns out to be the right thing to do. And by the way, Mike, that’s exactly how we treat the gym. You practice it, then you believe it, and then sometimes you feel it. You don’t say, you know why I started working out?

Because I felt like it. Are you kidding me? That’s not it. That’s not how people start. They start because they actually, they make a commitment. 

Mike: Half of the workouts that I don’t do them because I feel like doing them. I’ve, I actually feel like working on some, I have so many other things to do.

I feel like doing something else actually. 

Arthur: Totally. Remember Jack LaLanne? Did you, were you old enough to know Jack LaLanne? 

Mike: Absolutely. Of course I know who he was. Yeah. 

Arthur: He was on TV when I was a kid. I’m old enough to, he was on TV. My mom had records and the whole thing. He hated fitness.

He hated it. He’s his whole life was this austerity thing. He says, if it tastes good, spit it out. It’s this is how this guy lived, right? And he said, the only happy time I have in a workout is when it’s over and the whole thing. Okay, we’re not that crazy. Working out is awesome.

Mike: Yeah, I still enjoy it. Yes. But again, there are many times I’m not looking forward to doing this thing. I would much rather just continue working on whatever I’m working on or do something else I need to do. And it’s nope, get up and let’s go. 

Arthur: Keep sleeping. What? And by the way, I hate cardio, but I do cardio because high intensity interval training, I’m committed to doing it.

And then after committed to it, I believe it’s gonna help. And then sometimes. I feel pretty darn good. And that’s the same way with religion. It’s it’s funny because almost everything that we learn in the gym, everybody who listens to fitness for life is because they’re committed to their physical wellbeing.

They’re committed to it. I’m not going to listen to you and use your supplements and read your books unless they’re committed to it. And that’s great. Apply the same level of commitment to the other parts of your life. To your happiness, to your faith, to your relationships, start with commitment. Then go to the belief and finally, sometimes you’ll get the feeling and then you’re on the right track to rebuilding your life and building your life in the way that’s going to give you the existence that you deserve.

Mike: And I think this point of taking action first is very important. It’s something I’ve spoken about and written about here and there, because I really do think it’s true and that you have to, let’s talk about motivation. So many people, their idea is they need to have enough motivation to need a critical mass of motivation to then.

Take the actions. Whereas it’s really the other way around. Like you have to start taking actions to feel motivated. And so however, you’re going to find that activation energy that’s a separate matter, but you have to start taking actions to feel motivated. Or if you want to change your behavior or change an attitude, the most effective thing that I, and I’ve read about this in various books, and I know this is supported by some research, but I found it very true.

For myself, at least is start taking the actions that would lead to the beliefs or the attitudes or the ideas that, that however, I’m trying to change my mind, so to speak, start acting like the type of person who thinks that way. Versus the other way around of just trying to struggle with it internally until I feel like I’m enough of the person or have adopted enough of the idea or the attitude to start taking the action.

Arthur: Completely. That’s called the as in principle and social scientists like me act as if you were that and you will become that person. It’s not overnight and it’s not perfect and you’re going to slip and all that act as if you were a great husband. You’ll be a better husband. Act as if you were a gym rat, you will become a gym rat act as if you are honest and Upstanding member of your community and you will be more so it’s amazing It’s the way that like, it’s funny because I give people like little pieces of advice that to use These empirical regularities that’s what nerds like us call, things that happen over and over again You know, you want to have a better time in the office We’re gonna have a better time in the office if you’re the kind of person that people like so go do the things notwithstanding your feelings That people like go to the break room and brew a fresh pot of coffee and bring it to the person in the next cubicle and say, you look like you could use a fresh cup of coffee and you’ll be the guy who did that.

However, you felt and you’ll see the look on his face and you’ll feel better. And it was the commitment that will lead you to the belief and that will give the feeling. Don’t just don’t run it in reverse all the time. And that’s what our society is telling people. If you feel it, do it. No.

Act in spite of your feelings. Then you’ll be a fully alive person who’s managing her himself, which is the best that we could be offered. 

Mike: And I like to pose it as a question too, where you can, what would this type of person do? If I were this type of person, how would I act in this situation? What would that person do here?

If I need to. Pause for a second before I do maybe just what is impulsive. 

Arthur: Yeah that’s the whole thing that you always hear really strong Christians always have that thing. What would Jesus do? Yeah, that’s the whole thing. That’s just what they’re doing. Basically. They’re using a very simple metacognitive technique to say, I want to decide first, I’ve got these feelings it’s in my limbic system, but I want my prefrontal cortex to be deciding.

So I’m going to ask a question about somebody who is the ideal for me, given my religion, and I’m going to imagine what that person is doing, and then I’m going to model that behavior, and then I’ve managed myself as a result. So if it’s not Jesus for you, I’m, what would my dad do? My dad depends on the dad, right?

Mike: Or, what would the person who works out consistently, what would that person do? Or, you really can, I think you can fit it to whatever circumstances you’re faced with. 

Arthur: Yeah, you can also do the opposite, by the way, you can think of somebody who screwed everything up and say, what would this person do and then not do that?

That’s actually called the via negativa in philosophy. Is to say not that pretty good way of doing things. 

Mike: That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of that. I think immediately to business and doing the post mortem, which I like to do when you’re laying out, okay, you have an objective that you’re going for here and you’re laying out your plan and you do your best that you can on your plan.

You try to foresee the ways go wrong, but Also, then assuming, okay, we fast forward. This has gone very poorly. Why did this go poorly? And that can help just find deficiencies in the plan, false assumptions and so forth. 

Arthur: Yeah. And the whole bottom line of this is that you’re living with your brain.

You’re managing your life actively. Your life is not managing you. You’re managing your life. And when you get that kind of empowerment, it’s great. It’s really great. This is like a Rubicon. That people cross, that a lot of people cross in their twenties, that they go from, feeling managed by life to feeling like in no small part, they’re managing life.

And the reason is because they’re doing the things that we’re talking about here. That’s why I teach this. I teach, happiness science class in a business school because I want people to be serious about the business of their lives. 

Mike: I love it. I know we’re coming up on time here, so I want to be respectful of that before we wrap up.

Is there anything else that maybe I should have asked or anything you want to. You want to say before we close out, 

Arthur: you do a good job, you do an excellent job. I have to say, there’s this happiness science is incredibly practical and totally accessible. That’s the reason I’ve dedicated myself to it is because I think that this is actually the secret to, rebuilding our country and to rebuilding our society on the basis of rebuilding ourselves with self reliance is actually using some of these principles.

And the bottom line of it is that. This is the perfect you have the perfect audience to really bring things back again by using the same ethos of I’m taking control of my life and my body And using and applying to all different parts of their own lives about their faith and their family life and their relationships and their emotions and Their job, their career, the trajectory.

It’s all the same is the way this turns out. So I love doing this work and I hope that it can be really helpful to the people that I really admire the most who are actually getting up at 4 30. And 

Mike: I second that, particularly that point of, if we look at our society, if you look at politics, I very much, it sounds like we align in that.

I think the solution is as far as we can solve any of these bigger issues, it has to be at the individual level. That’s my opinion. I don’t think that there’s some top down heavy handed political solution to a lot of these. Very human, particularly interpersonal, societal problems that we have. I think if we’re going to see a better trajectory in the future, it’s going to be because of individuals who have worked for Hard to improve themselves.

And then collectively you could say a lot of society has worked hard to improve itself, and then it just has a different character. I just, I don’t think that you can create anything. Maybe a utopia is never going to happen, but I don’t think you can even move in that direction without helping individuals get better.

In these things that you’re talking about, you can’t just institute the perfect political system or any other. Mass control system and achieve these types of results on an individual. Basis that you’ve been talking about 

Arthur: Totally it starts the solution to life’s problems starts within each of us And then we model it and then people will humans are prone like all primates are prone to mimicry Be the part of the solution that you want be the person you want your kids to grow up to be the person that you wish your neighbors were acting like and Be part of the solution.

There’s nothing actually more empowering than that And that’s the source of happiness and by the way, it’s also You This is not a selfish thing. It could be, this could be easily perceived as something of me, not on the contrary, when you take control of your life, what you’re doing is you’re showing respect for yourself and for other people, and this is an act of love, ultimately, at the end of the day, love is the source of happiness.

And it requires that we have a mutual respect, that we be able to manage ourselves to spite our own feelings, that we treat other people with respect that we wish that they treated us with, and that starts with how we’re actually living our own lives. 

Mike: I love it. That’s a great message to close out on.

Let’s wrap up with where people can find you find your work. Of course, I’ve mentioned your latest book, build the life you want a couple of times, but is there anything else specifically you want people to know about? 

Arthur: Yeah, I’m working on a lot of different projects right now, and all of it is it’s available at arthurbrooks.

com, which is, my website. It also gives links to my weekly column in the Atlantic. So I write about these topics about the science of happiness and human empowerment every Thursday morning at the Atlantic. And so you can get those columns. I can figure out where to read the other stuff that I’m writing, whatever books are coming out and I’m on the road 48 weeks a year.

I’m all over the country so I’m no matter where anybody lives I’m probably near you pretty soon giving a speech and I’d love to, I’d love to meet you. 

Mike: Awesome, yes I would offline I’ll connect with you on that. That would be, that’d be great. 

Arthur: Thanks Mike. 

Mike: Have you ever wondered what strength training split you should follow?

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To take this quiz and to get your free personalized training plan, go to muscleforlife. show, muscleforlife. show slash training quiz. Answer the questions and learn exactly what to do in the gym to gain more muscle and strength. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful. And if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.

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