A cupcake took Proust on a trip to his childhood. The brain is the mental palace where flavors, sounds, smells, stories are kept … The director of the Institute of Happiness tells in «The art of creating memories» (Dome Books) how to turn memory into an ally to be happier .
–Be handsome, have money, friends, health or live in a good house, do you give happiness?
–Well yes, but above all the part of the friends. The best predictor of whether people are happy or not have to do with human relationships. Biologically it also influences the place where one lives. Syria is on the list of most unfortunate countries for obvious reasons.
– Can studying happiness cause sadness or is it contagious?
–Ohhh! What I have seen and experience is that when you study happiness you feel inspired by the stories and try to incorporate them into your life. We usually evaluate our life compared to that of others.
–How are memories encoded?
–Using different ingredients. Attention is the basis of memory. We do not remember something if we have not paid attention to it and we also remember the first experiences; That makes it more memorable.
– Why are there more spiteful people and others who know how to forget and remember the good?
– It may have to do with the way our memory works, it is like a muscle: the more you think of a fact, the stronger the memory will become. Memory is not located only in the brain but everywhere. It influences how one felt, what he saw … If we focus on negative memories, that memory will be fixed more.
– Can sad memories be stored and be happy?
-Yes. I think we all have bad memories. We have all lost someone, we have had failures, felt shame … But how can we create positive memories that balance the negatives? That is the question.
– What did he do when he decided to work at the Institute of Happiness?
– I was less happy than I am now. I worked for a sustainability group and I was no longer passionate. I saw happiness studies from all over the world and wanted to know why Denmark occupied such good positions. One of my mentors, unfortunately, died at age 49 and I thought: what do I want to do until I turn 49?
– And why are the Danes happier?
–Health access, free university, low levels of government corruption, low unemployment rate, life safety. The Welfare State is important and when it is missing there is unhappiness.
– What is your Institute studying now?
– How the different diseases of a person impact in different ways on the satisfaction of their lives. In addition, we are creating the Happiness Museum in Copenhagen.
– What does that museum have?
– There will be different things. How the history of happiness has evolved over time. The policy on happiness, how governments use it as propaganda; the architecture of happiness: how the place influences the happiness of the people … In which direction technology will impact our happiness or how geography influences.
– Should there be a Ministry of Happiness?
–Some countries have happiness ministers, but I think it is better for each minister to think about how to improve people’s quality of life. That would be fantastic.
– How would the selection of personnel for your Institute of happiness?
– We have a group of international collaborators, we are nine in the team: Danish, German, English, Spanish, American, Canadian … six nationalities. We come from the fields of psychology, philosophy, anthropology, physics … We are looking for bright, talented people, but also with a good heart and with whom you like to work, who is humble, honest … We act as “headhunter” – talent scout – but also of “hearthunter” – hearthunters; good people-.
–Do social networks make us more unhappy?
– They can reduce our attention and bombard us with the lives of others who seem happy and we tend to compare. We should take a break from social networks.