High Five
NTU’s happiness expert, Asst Prof Nattavudh (Nick) Powdthavee, is on cloud nine and loving it. Want to be like him? Lester Kok extracts the high points...
A picture of absolute bliss? Asst Prof Powdthavee in high spirits on vacation, photographed by his happy wife
Happiness is not a fuzzy concept to Asst Prof Powdthavee, author of The Happiness Equation: The Surprising Economics of Our Most Valuable Asset. The Humanities & Social Sciences don was among the speakers who drew laughter at The Pursuit of Happiness conference organised by TEDxNTU in March. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a popular series of conferences that aims to share "ideas worth spreading", with TEDx events planned and organised independently.

1) Free and plenty
“Research on happiness shows that things that are free and plentiful in life, like friends and family, have the greatest impact on our happiness, as compared with things that are expensive and require a lot more effort to attain, such as nice cars, big houses, and even money itself.”

2) Money not enough
“After we have acquired money and status, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them on a daily basis. For example, when we get a pay rise, we may be happy from spending our day thinking about what it could buy, but that usually doesn't last. Soon, our attention will drift away… ”

3) Don’t focus on keeping up with the Tans
“The pursuit of status is a zero-sum game. When there's a winner, there's always a loser. And since we can't keep others from improving, it is quite likely that the race to the top will never end and we'd be stuck on what is known as the happiness treadmill. So, fill your days with the things that make you happy, regardless of whether other people have the same things as you do, such as a hobby or spending time with your loved ones.”

4) Try rather than buy
“If you really need to spend money to be happy, spend it on an experience, such as a holiday overseas, so you can try new things. Or simply spend it on someone else. The good feelings that come from these types of activities last a lot longer.”

5) Spread goodwill
“People tend to forget that good social relationships are extremely important for our happiness. Many of us take our relations with others for granted. To lead a truly happy life, don’t neglect your friends and family.”