If you Google who is the happiest man in the world, the name which pops up is “Matthieu Ricard”.
Originally from France, Ricard, 69, is a Tibetan Buddhist monk who scientists call “the world’s happiest man”.
Ricard participated in a 12-year brain study on meditation and compassion led by a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson.
Davidson hooked up Ricard’s head to 256 sensors and discovered that when Ricard was meditating on compassion, his mind was remarkably light.
According to Davidson, the scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves “never reported before in the neuroscience literature”.
“The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, allowing him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity,” said Davidson
Ricard, who says he sometimes meditates for entire days without getting bored, confesses he’s a generally happy person although he feels that the ‘happiest man’ title promoted by the media is an overstatement.
Here’s his advice for how to be happy:
Stop thinking about the ‘self’
For Ricard, the answer lies in altruism. He believes thinking about yourself all the time is exhausting and stressful and ultimately leads to unhappiness.
“It’s not the moral ground,” Ricard explains. “It’s simply that me, me, me all day long is very stuffy. And it’s quite miserable, because you instrumentalise the whole world as a threat, or as a potential sort of interest [to yourself].”
However, he adds: “If your mind is filled with benevolence, you know — the passion and solidarity … this is a very healthy state of mind that is conducive to flourishing,” Ricard says. “So you, yourself, are in a much better mental state. Your body will be healthier, so [it] has been shown. And also, people will perceive it as something nice.”
Train your mind like you would train for a marathon
“It’s like running. If I train, I might run a marathon. I might not become an Olympic champion, but there is a huge difference between training and not training. So why should that not apply to the mind?” he recommends.
Ricard believes everyone has the ability to have a lighter mind because every human being has a potential for goodness. However, people who want to be happier need to train their minds and Ricard’s preferred method of training is meditation.
Indulge in happy thoughts
Ricards suggests spending 15 continuous minutes a day thinking happy thoughts. Usually when we experience feelings of happiness and love its transitory and we move on or get distracted by the next thought. However, he recommends concentrating on not letting your mind get distracted and remaining focused on the positive emotions for the next stretch of time.
You can feel positive mental results as soon as two weeks after this type of brain training, according to Ricard, who has been practicing for 50 years.
This article originally appeared on Independent