Oprah Winfrey has discovered a simple recipe for happiness – and it’s backed by scientific research, too.
Oprah Winfrey has a lot of strings to her bow: she’s a media proprietor, celebrated talk show host, critically-acclaimed actress, producer, and philanthropist.
She’s also the happiest person she knows.
“I don’t know anyone happier [than me],” she recently shared in a new interview.
“I don’t know anyone who has a better life, or had a better life. I look at other people and I think, they look happy. But not as happy as me.”
However, if you thought the secret to Winfrey’s contentment had something to do with her net worth of $2.8 billion, you’d be wrong. In fact, Winfrey insists that her happiness stems from the fact that she regularly sets time aside in her schedule to do nothing.
“I can go weeks and never turn on a television. I’ve gone a summer not having it on,” she told Vogue. “No, my guilty pleasure is, I do nothing. I live in a very beautiful space that I created, and every time I leave home and I’m driving out the back with the pond and the ducks, and I’m looking at the grass and I see the house on the hill, I have this moment where I think about when Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, ‘I learnt I didn’t have to look further than my own back yard.’
“Every time I think of that. Most people don’t even know what makes them happy. But I can just sit on my porch and I’ll start reading a book and then realise, OK, I’m not reading any more. I can just take it all in. I can just be.”
Winfrey is not the first to suggest that boredom is key to a happy life: some 90 years ago, esteemed philosopher Bertrand Russell suggested that ‘doing nothing’ is essential for our emotional wellbeing.
“A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure,” he said.
“Too little [excitement] may produce morbid cravings, too much will produce exhaustion. A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.”
Russell’s words have since been proven true by countless scientific studies. Indeed, as researcher and philosophy professor Andreas Elpidorou explains in a psychology journal article that cites numerous studies, boredom “acts as a regulatory state that keeps one in line with one’s projects”.
“In the absence of boredom, one would remain trapped in unfulfilling situations, and miss out on many emotionally, cognitively, and socially rewarding experiences,” writes Elpidorou.
“Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects.”
Hmm. When you consider the fact that happiness is proven to come from a steady progress towards meaningful goals, a dash of boredom sounds like just the tonic, doesn’t it?