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Live like the happiest 2% and master the art of being brilliant in 7 psychologist-approved steps

WHEN you’re juggling life’s curveballs, getting through the day without wanting to cry or hide can feel like a success.

So, it’s understandable that you might resent those who radiate positivity.

Beautiful, happy mixed race African American female girl child teenager young woman celebrating arms raised in sunshine wearing sunglasses and smiling with perfect teeth
We take a look at how you can become happier and master the art of being brilliant
Getty
Standing Out From The Crowd With Smiling Hexagon
Stand out from all the rest – Dr Andy Cope tells how you can be among the happiest two per cent of people
Getty

Psychologist and bestselling author Dr Andy Cope has scrutinised the happiest people – a small group he refers to as “the 2%ers” – to find out how they thrive.

“Psychologically, happy people have largely been ignored because they’re not depressed or anxious,” he says.

“I wanted to find out who these people are, what they are doing that allows them to flourish and, most importantly, what we can learn from them to upgrade our own wellbeing and resilience.”

In his new book, The Art Of Being Brilliant, an update on the original 2010 book, Dr Cope teaches you how.

What makes you happy?

You might feel exhausted at the thought of becoming your best self, but you’d be missing the point.

“Being a 2%er is not about trying to be something you’re not – it’s being more of who you are at your authentic best, which already exists,” explains Dr Cope.

“It is as if we forget who we are at our best when we’re too busy surviving in a stressful world.

“So, it’s about remembering and then putting that into practice.”

Begin by asking yourself: when, where, how and in whose company do you feel your best self?

“Shift the focus away from what’s not working to what is – and then do more of it.”

Aim for progress, not perfection

Getty
The 2%ers choose progress over perfection, acceptance over judgement, kindness over meanness and personal responsibility over blame[/caption]

It’s easy to look at the most positive people and think: “It’s just in their nature.”

But Dr Cope argues that we all have the choice to adopt their perspective.

“The 2%ers are not feeling brilliant by accident,” he says.

“They choose progress over perfection, acceptance over judgement, kindness over meanness and personal responsibility over blame.”

A simple way to pick positivity is to “choose Mondays over Fridays” – or in other words, allowing yourself to have a brilliant start to the week, rather than languishing in the idea that it will be bad.

Try not to wish time away

Happiness is often cited as the number-one wish people have for themselves and their loved ones.

“It means we’re all in this relentless mass pursuit of where we think happiness might be and, typically, that is looking for something external, like the weekend or a holiday.

“It’s why too many people are kicking their happiness into the long grass, waiting for the perfect day.

“But by discounting time, we are accidentally wishing life away,” says Dr Cope.

“The happiest people are not waiting weeks to be happy – they live in the present, they find those moments in the day that can go unnoticed, in what I call the ‘beautiful ordinary’.”

Connect with loved ones

a boy and a girl on a lunch break at school. A meal in front of the school during a coronavirus pandemic. New normal. Selective focus. High quality photo
Remember not to take relationships for granted – take the time out to be with someone else
Getty

Time and time again, studies have shown the importance of social connection and the harm in loneliness.

Leading anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar says we spend around 60% of our “social effort” on around 15 people and a close-knit group of just five friends.

These relationships require nurturing and should not be taken for granted.

“Paradoxically, in our hyper-connected world, more and more people are finding it harder to take the time to be with somebody else for a while,” says Dr Cope.

“How much time do you spend on your phone in their presence?”

When your partner gets home from work, instead of asking: “How was your day?” ask: “What’s been the best thing about today?”

Then, follow up with: “Tell me more,” and genuinely listen.

Be aware of negative bias

From social media apps and WhatsApp messages, to adverts and the radio, the amount of information we can process is astronomical.

Evidence suggests we consume, on average, 74GB per day – the equivalent of 16 films.

“The world today is unrelenting, and that isn’t going to change,” says Dr Cope.

The problem is, humans have a tendency towards negativity bias.

“For safety reasons, we’re built to spot problems or threats. It is why you’ll remember the one hurtful comment, not compliments.

“Search out new experiences and fresh views through what you watch, refocus your attention towards the everyday moments of magic.”

An easy task is to go on a familiar walk and notice 10 things you’ve never noticed before.

“Some might call it mindfulness,” says Dr Cope. “The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku – a walk with your senses switched to ‘wide-open mode’.

“For me, it’s the ‘beautiful ordinary’ and it’s everywhere.”

Be an energy provider

UK, London, two people doing fitness exercises together
Having a spring in your step an create a ripple effect – everyone around a 2%er feels good, too
Getty

Brits love a grumble, which can be a form of bonding if done with humour.

“But if we’re not careful, we can slip into a habit of low-level grumbling that can take everyone down with us,” Dr Cope says.

“The art of being brilliant is the opposite of that.

“When you have a genuine smile and a spring in your step, that creates a ripple effect reaching three degrees of people removed from you – for example, your children, their friends and your children’s friends’ families.

“It’s why when you are around a 2%er, you feel good.”

Catch negative thoughts before you blurt them out, think about how you’re entering a room and prompt positive conversations.

Don’t be afraid to stand out

As a society, we talk about living our best life, but as humans, we have a biological desire to fit in.

Being a 2%er means you’re going to stand out, which is scary, but do you want to look back on life and regret what you didn’t do?

“Life might be fine, but that’s a low bar to live by,” says Dr Cope.

“To live life as your best self, you have to push yourself and permit yourself to shine.” 

  • The Art Of Being Brilliant by Dr Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker (£12.99, Capstone) is out now. 
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