Should one decide to do an internet search to find who is the happiest man in the world, the name "Matthieu Ricard" would show up in the results.
Matthieu Ricard, 69, is a Tibetan Buddhist monk originally from France who has been called "the world's happiest man," reports the Independent.
The accolade comes as he 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 found that when Ricard was meditating on compassion, his mind was unusually light.
Ricard — who says he sometimes meditates for entire days without getting bored — admits he is a generally happy person. Although he feels his "happiest man" title is a media-driven overstatement.
He spoke with Business Insider at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Ricard's advice for how to be happy comes down to altruism.
The reason is because thinking about one's self, and how to make things better all the time, is exhausting, stressful, and ultimately leads to unhappiness.
"It's not the moral ground. It is simply that me, me, me all day long is very stuffy. And it's quite miserable, because you instrumentalize the whole world as a threat, or as a potential sort of interest [to yourself]," he said.
If one wants to be happy, Ricard says they should should strive to be "benevolent," which will not only make them feel better, but it will also make others like them better.
Ricard warns that's not to say one should let other people take advantage of them, but they should generally strive to be kind within reason.
"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 said.
"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."
Ricard believes everyone has the ability to have a lighter mind because there's a potential for goodness in every human. But, like a marathon runner who needs to train before he or she can run 26.2 miles, people who want to be happier need to train their minds. Ricard's preferred way of training his is meditation.
"With mental training, we can always bring [our level of happiness] to a different level," Ricard explained.
"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? ... There is [a] view that benevolence, attention, emotional balance and resilience are skills that can be trained. So if you put them all together, you could say that happiness is a skill that can be trained."
Start by thinking happy thoughts for 10 to 15 minutes per day, Ricard explained.
Typically when one experiences feelings of happiness and love, it is fleeting and then something else happens, and they move on to the next thought. However, Ricard says instead, one should concentrate on not letting their mind get distracted and keep focused on the positive emotions for the next stretch of time. He added that if one does that training every day, even just two weeks later they can feel positive mental results.
And if you practice that for 50 years like Ricard has, one can find an enduring happiness.
Neuroscientists support the claim. Davidson found from his study that even 20 minutes of daily meditation can make people much happier overall.