59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute - by Richard Wiseman


  • Having people list three things that they are grateful for in life, or three events that have gone especially well over the past week, can significantly increase their level of happiness for about a month. This, in turn, can cause them to be more optimistic about the future and improve their physical health.

  • Buy Experiences Not Goods

  • 'Tis Better to Give Than Receive

  • Smile. There is a host of happy behaviours that can be quickly incorporated into your everyday life. Most important of all, smile more. Consider creating a signal to remind you to smile regularly. Set your watch, computer or PDA to beep on the hour, or use a more random cue, such as your telephone ringing. Maintain the expression for between 15 and 30 seconds.


  • When you gossip about another person, listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics being ‘transferred' to you. So, say positive and pleasant things about friends and colleagues and you are seen as a nice person.


  • To achieve your aims and ambitions, there are four key techniques that will help you succeed: having the right kind of plan; telling your friends and family; focusing on the benefits; and rewarding yourself each step of the way.

  • Asking people to spend just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at their funeral and reflecting on their personal and professional legacy helps them to identify their long-term goals, and assess the degree to which they are progressing towards making those goals a reality.

  • Visualize yourself doing, not achieving. People who visualize themselves taking the practical steps needed to achieve their goals are far more likely to succeed than those who simply fantasize about their dreams becoming a reality. One especially effective technique involves adopting a third-person perspective: those who visualize themselves as others see them are about 20 per cent more successful than those adopting a first-person view.


  • Adding plants to an office results in a 15 per cent boost in the number of creative ideas reported by male employees, and helps their female counterparts produce more original solutions to problems. The plants help reduce stress and induce good moods which, in turn, promote creativity.

  • There is a strong link between anxiety and creativity. When people feel worried, they become very focused, concentrate on the task at hand, become risk-averse, rely on well-established habits and routines and see the world through less creative eyes. In contrast, when people feel at ease in a situation, they are more likely to explore new and unusual ways of thinking and behaving, see the bigger picture, take risks, and think and act more creatively.


  • Lightly touching someone on their upper arm makes them far more likely to agree to a request because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of high status. In one dating study, the touch produced a 20 per cent increase in the number of people accepting the offer of a dance in a nightclub and a 10 per cent increase in people giving their telephone number to a stranger on the street.

  • When it comes to that all-important first date, go somewhere scary and don't be afraid of intimate conversation. Common sense says your date may find you a tad strange. Science suggests you will be irresistible.


  • The venting of anger does not extinguish the flame. In fact, it is far more likely to pour petrol onto the fire.

  • Benefit Finding: When you experience an event that has the potential to make you feel angry, try the following exercise to ease the pain and help you move on. Spend a few moments thinking about the positive aspects of the event you found hurtful. For example, did the event help you . . . grow stronger or become aware of personal strengths that you didn't realize you had? appreciate aspects of your life more than before? become a wiser person or strengthen important relationships? become more skilled at communicating your feelings, more confident or encourage you to end a bad relationship? develop into a more compassionate or forgiving person? strengthen your relationship with a person who hurt you? Write down how you have benefited from the experience, and how your life is better as a result of what happened. Do not withhold anything and be as honest as possible.


  • Ring-Fencing Regret: First, to help prevent regret in the first place, adopt a ‘will do' attitude to opportunity. Go to the effort. Invest the time. Write the letter. Make the apology. Take the trip. Purchase the gift. Do it. The seized opportunity renders joy. The neglected brings regret. Second, if you do regret not doing something, see if there is anything you can do to remedy the situation. Write the letter, make that telephone call, spend more time with the family, mend broken relationships, go back to college and get the grades. Use the regret as a wake-up call and way of motivating yourself. Finally, if it really isn't possible to do anything to make things better, make a mental picture of a ring fence round the imaginary ‘what might have been' benefits that might otherwise occupy your thoughts. Instead of dwelling on the positive things that might have happened, spend time thinking about three benefits of your current situation and three negative consequences that could have occurred had you taken the decision that's causing the regret.


  • Praising a child's effort rather than their ability (‘well done, you must have tried very hard') encourages them to try regardless of the consequences, therefore side-stepping any fear of failure. This, in turn, makes them especially likely to attempt challenging problems, find these problems more enjoyable, and try to solve them in their own time.


The five fundamental dimensions of personality (OCEAN).

  1. ‘Openness' represents the degree to which a person seeks and appreciates new, interesting and unusual experiences.

  2. ‘Conscientiousness' reflects the degree of organization, persistence and self-discipline employed to achieve goals.

  3. ‘Extraversion' reflects the need for stimulation from the outside world and other people.

  4. ‘Agreeableness' is the degree to which a person cares about others.

  5. ‘Neuroticism', reflects the degree to which a person is emotionally stable and able to cope with potentially stressful situations.