About Emotional Mastery

5 lessons from physics for being happier

I’ve figured out many things about being a happier person. Learn how to increase your overall happiness, eliminate negative thoughts, and be more positive.

Ed Latimore, author, blogger, and retired pro boxer
Ed Latimore Author, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

Happy people, by definition, seem to know what it takes to have a happy life.

While some of them may have just been born with the right genetics, mindset, and circumstances to happy, there are a few people who have learned the secret to lasting happiness by enduring hard times and learning to find the silver lining in everything–not just their own lives.

Because I was born into a violent area, I had to learn how to take control of my own happiness.

I was poor, so spending money on things to make myself happy was out of the question. I didn’t have a lot of opportunities, so it wasn’t easy to surround myself with positive people in the hope that some of their positivity would rub off on me.

I knew that if I wanted lasting happiness in my life–not just a quick buzz from getting drunk or of endorphins from working out–I’d have to make some fundamental changes to my mindset, lifestyle, and the way I approached life.

It was while I was in college that I figured out many things about being a happier person. In one of the most unlikely places, I learned about increasing my overall happiness, eliminating negative thoughts, and finding positivity during the hard times.

The physics of how to be happy again

The greatest gift of my physics degree is not that it made me employable in every field that doesn’t require professional credentials.

What I love most about studying physics is that it’s given me a framework to understand everything about the world.

Prior to my studying physics, the best analogies I had for comprehending the world were centered around boxing, picking up girls, and drinking. These are fine for many things–especially boxing–but these are the basic bro lenses for viewing the world. Not only are they remarkably void of depth, but they force you to look at everything through a self-centered lens of hedonism and debauchery.

As the old saying goes, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. My book about my alcoholism explores how my lens for viewing the world was muddy with booze and self-importance. Physics changed all of this.

It gave me a new way to see the world, grasp subtle nuances about life, and get more out of my short time on this planet. Making the connection between the external world and my state of mind improved my mental health, well-being, and satisfaction with life.

Physics helped me understand happiness–not because studying the subject makes me happy (it does, but it has moments that break your self-esteem and make you feel like an idiot), but because it provides interesting analogies for the “secret” to happiness.

If you want to have a happy life, it’s important that you learn to do what makes you happy.

There really are no secrets, but thinking in terms of the calculus that drives physics has given me a valuable perspective for maximizing what’s important in this life.

Here are a few of my favorite analogies from Physics and Calculus that will increase your life satisfaction and fill you with positive thoughts, no matter how bad of a day you’re having.

1) Understand Rates of Change

An interesting fact about life: we’re better able to suffer lack than loss.

This is called “loss aversion”. Research shows that negative emotions are felt more intensely than positive emotions of the same time. We react more negatively to losing $10 than we positively do to finding $10.

This is why chronic poverty and loneliness are easier to manage than losing everything you have and getting dumped. On the flip side, few things increase your mood like a new lover or a bump in income. Your happiness isn’t so much dependent on where you are in life as it is on the change in your position.

The change in your life position is responsible for your mood, while the acceleration of this change determines how hard it hits you. This is F=M*A applied to your emotions.

A slow change, positive or negative, doesn’t generate much force. The sudden death of a romantic partner or winning a massive lottery jackpot will quickly and drastically alter your mind.

How to Use This To Have A Happier Life: Happiness in life is about constantly changing your position for the better. Improving yourself and conquering past challenges is the surest way to increase happiness. No matter how high you get, there’s always another comfort zone to step out of or another area to develop in.

2) The Integration Of Experience: From Then to Now

Individual moments don’t matter much.

If I look at any random point in your life, I can’t tell a thing about you or the journey you’ve been on. You could be having an off day in a life of greatness or a great day in a life of mediocrity. It’s only by seeing the whole person, over time, that I can gain any sense of a person’s life and depth of their experience.

If you take a singular experience–whether in or out of context–you won’t be able to accurately assess the quality of your life. A local minimum in your experience is viewed as the absolute and permanent bottom. Instead of considering the whole journey and the rate your position will change, you become fixated on one position.

This fixation makes movement impossible. Without movement, there can be no growth. Without growth, there can be no happiness

How to Use This To Have A Happier Life: I’ve essentially described gratitude. The ability to look at everything in your life and realize that it could be worse. Even if it truly is the worst position in your life, fixating on it not only prevents you from appreciating the past but also from planning your escape in the future.

3) Seeing Through The Illusion of Continuity Is How To Be Happy

This point will appear to contradict the last, but I assure you that’s not the case.

Rather, this is only a different perspective. Besides, this wouldn’t be a true calculus analogy if you couldn’t undo it and get some useful result that’s vital to understanding the whole thing.

Everything can be separated into smaller and smaller moments. In fact, no matter how big a problem is, it can be broken down into infinitesimally smaller parts. These smaller parts, in many instances, are much easier to deal with than the entire issue.

How to Use This To Have A Happier Life: Happiness is found in problem-solving, which means that your life must be focused around solving problems. To be an effective problem solver, break your problems down into the most simple components that you can. Each time you make progress and solve one of the smaller bits, you will experience an increase in happiness.

4) Relativity, Perspective, and Gratitude

Special and General Relativity lead us to a few interesting conclusions about the universe. The most relevant two to this discussion are:

  1. Nothing exists by itself. There is no such thing as a thing by itself because objects are always defined in terms of their relationship to something else.
  2. Two different people can objectively observe an event in a completely different way and because of their speed or position, both be correct.

These two ideas are powerful ideas that have the capacity to increase your happiness on this planet.

How to Use This To Have A Happier Life I: First, don’t forget that other people are the most important thing. Your social connections can have a tremendous impact on the quality of your life. Spend time with close friends and loved ones. You are happiest when you’re surrounded by other humans. Furthermore, know that you can never truly be alone.

In our darkest hour, it’s easy to believe that there is no one who understands our plight. This is untrue. Someone’s had it worse. Someone understands. Someone’s made it through and can teach you how to do the same.

Either for instruction or love, you’re never lacking in the universe. You are never alone.

How to Use This To Have A Happier Life II: The greatest waste of time is arguing with people to change how they feel about something. It’s perfectly reasonable for intelligent people to look at the same facts and have two different reactions to them.

Each moment spent in denial of this is a moment of unnecessary misery you inflict on yourself when you argue irrelevant points. You have less time on this planet than you think. Don’t waste it arguing

5) When Learning How To Be Happy, Remember: Forgiveness Is Not Impossible

Physics says that only two things are truly impossible:

  1. 100% efficiency (perpetual motion)
  2. Causality reversal (reversing the flow of time)

The first statement means that everything eventually runs out of energy and will need to be recharged or assisted. The second means that you can’t travel backwards through time. What’s done is done, and can’t be undone.

People hold a grudge because they genuinely believe that it will undo what’s already happened in the past.

The universe doesn’t work this way.

All you have is time and forgiveness. When correctly executed, the latter will accelerate the passage of the former.

If you distance yourself from things that trigger negative emotions, you can eventually get over anything. On the flipside, all positive emotions and good feelings require upkeep to ensure they stay strong and radiant.

How to Use This To Have A Happier Life: Commit to forgiving your enemies and nurturing the relationships with your friends. Deep relationships or forgiveness need not happen instantly. Committing to an attempt is more important than the accomplishment.

Summary Of The Best Ways To Be Happier

  1. Understand loss aversion and rates of change
  2. Look at the big picture
  3. Break down your problems to make them easier to solve
  4. Connect with other people
  5. Don’t argue over stupid stuff
  6. Forgive and get on with life

Getting these will take time, but all that matters is that you let go of the past and start living for the future.

The rest is up to you.

Ed Latimore, author, blogger, and retired pro boxer
Ed Latimore Author, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

Further Reading

Life’s not fair. How to deal with it.
Why people hate you (5 most common reasons)
How to give tough love
6 steps to letting go of a f*cked up past