Update 9/23: I wrote this blog post a while ago. I no longer endorse the style and some of the content of this post. It still has some useful information, so it's still here. But you are probably better off checking out these slides (optimized to make sense on their own) to see my latest thinking on this topic.

 

Important Caveat: All of the following are true: I'm serious about this bet. I'm also trying to sell something with this bet. I think this post is very useful/has an important message even if you aren't interested at all in my service or in the bet per se.

The title says it all: I bet you 1000€ that I can dramatically improve your subjective well-being and psychological health as well as cure your depression if you have any, all in 3 months, with a significant part of the improvements persisting permanently.

How it works

  • You have to follow through with some version that works for you of a full-time brute-forcing happiness (BFH) program for at least 3 months. This program consists of a long list of meditation, introspection, self-therapy, lifestyle, and various other exercises and interventions, done more or less full-time. See details below.
  • I will be your "BFH buddy" for those 3 months. This means I will stay with you for most or all of the whole time - up to 24/7 if you want - and support you with this program in every possible way. I will be your personal:
    • accountability partner: I help you in whatever way works best for you to follow through with the program. This is my most important task.  
    • coach & mentor: I am pretty well knowledgeable and experienced with meditation, most self-therapy techniques, and everything else emotional work. I can answer all your questions, share advice, and devise the details of the program together with you based on your specific needs.
    • emotional support partner: I'm there to talk to you about everything, give you a hug whenever you want one, and listen emphatically to everything you want to talk about. I’m not a trained therapist and will not try to be yours, but I do have some experience in this regard. I also know a fair bit about re-traumatization prevention and practicing mindfulness safely.
    • personal assistant: I can do various small tasks for you (say, 1-2 hours/day) such that you can fully focus uninterruptedly on your mental health & the BFH program. For example, I can do various household chores like shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc; smaller life admin tasks like scheduling appointments, doing small errands for you; etc.
    • personal teacher: If you have no or little experience with meditation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or any of the introspective self-therapy techniques like Focusing, Internal Family Systems, etc., that's no problem at all. I can put together your personal "everything self-therapy & emotional work" curriculum and teach it to you 1-on-1 on the go as we do the program together.
  • Depending on what works best for you, I’ll stay with you some or most or all of the time, up to 24/7. Options include:
    • Staying at your place. I'll be a very uncomplicated, undemanding guest. I can sleep on the kitchen floor, in the hallway, or share your bedroom with you. Whatever works!
    • You can also stay with me in my room for the whole time. I have a pretty large room with 2 beds, in a flat of 4 people (all EAs/LWs) in the middle of Berlin, with a nice garden and a park nearby. It's not ideal, but we can make it work.
    • We could also rent an Airbnb or some other place together, paid for by you.
    • Unfortunately, for the next 12 months, I have to be in or within one hour of Berlin. I cannot be in another city.
    • Part-time or online solutions are also ok. E.g., we could set it up as some kind of online retreat. Or, we both stay at our own places (in Berlin, for now), but I will come to your place whenever and as much and long as you want. E.g., I could ring at your door each day at 8:00 to make sure you get up and start your morning routine.
  • I will charge you 2500€ for this "being your brute-forcing happiness buddy for three months" service. However, if you feel like the program didn't make any meaningful difference to you and was pretty much a waste of time, i.e. if you feel like I've lost the bet, then I'll pay you back 1000€. Otherwise, you owe me another 1000€!
    • 2500€ is extremely cheap for having me and all my skills, knowledge, etc., available basically full-time for 3 months! It will not stay that cheap for long. For now, I just want to get started with this quickly and gain some experience as a brute-forcing happiness/emotional work retreat buddy.
    • That said, if money is an issue for you, I am open to finding alternative ways for you to pay me or do it for less. If you have a lot of money, consider paying me a higher supporter fee.
  • It only needs to be 3 months if you want to do the 1000€ bet. I can also be your BFH retreat buddy for any length of time, including short weekend retreats. There also doesn’t have to be a bet at all. In general, I will charge 30€/day for my BFH buddy service, for now.
     

What does the brute-forcing happiness (BFH) program look like?

The BFH program is nothing mysterious or surprising. It's just taking all the energy and time that you would usually spend on a normal job or studying and instead spending it on a mix of the usual well-known proven to work mental health interventions: 4-6 hours of meditation a day, daily Cognitive Behavioural Therapy exercises, mindful walks, daily exercising, and various emotional growth techniques like Internal Family Systems, Focusing, etc. Throw in some fairly strict digital detox, good sleep hygiene, as many therapy sessions as possible, restricting yourself to only wholesome activities in your free time, plus a few more special tricks & interventions - and that's already the gist of it.

Here is what a typical 16-hour day might look like:

  • 8:00: get up, shower, get some sunlight, have breakfast, and get ready
  • 9:00: 1 hour of introspective emotional work: (self-administered) EMDR, Focusing, Ideal Parent Figures, Internal Family Systems, etc. If one hour is too long, you can always choose to do emotional work for just as long as you can/want - maybe just 15 minutes - and continue with normal meditation for the rest of the hour.
  • 10:00: 2x 1 hour meditation with 5 minutes break in between.
  • 12:00: one hour of exercising, Qi Gong, yoga, Ecstatic Dance, etc.
  • 13:00: lunch break
  • 14:00: therapy with a real therapist, someone else, or on your own, or deep talk with friends or family, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy exercises
  • 15:00: 1 hour mindful walk
  • 16:00: 3 hours of more emotional work or meditation
  • 19:00: dinner
  • 20:00: some wholesome fun activities, deep talk with friends or family, mindful walks, relaxing and reflecting on the day, etc.
  • 23:00: last hour before going to sleep: Just do nothing. For example, just sit on a bench and look at nature and let the impressions of the day sink in.
  • 24:00: Sleep. Non-Sleep Deep Rest if you struggle to fall asleep.

The above is what a standard day might look like when brute forcing your happiness. Call it “casual retreat mode”. For the bet, the further requirement is that for half of those three months you also go into "full-time retreat mode".  You can for example alternate 1-3 weeks of the former with the same length of the latter. In the latter you additionally:

  • Don't talk but remain (almost exclusively) silent, just as you would on a silent meditation retreat. The exception are therapy sessions and some small amount of talk dedicated only to emotional topics with friends or family.
  • You stick to at least some light form of a dopamine diet, i.e., you avoid any non-therapeutic activities (therapeutic activities are fine) that add too much unwanted disturbance to your mind, like watching a movie, listening to music, or reading anything unrelated to emotional work.
  • Basically, you just replace your "wholesome free time" periods of the day with even more meditation and emotional work and make some extra effort to work even more patiently, diligently, and persistently on just that. You do the full-time "living like an emotional work meditation monk" - thing!

As you can see, the BFH program is a full-time program. You cannot have a job or any other obligations at the same time.  At least not if you want to do the bet.

The BFH program is also extremely strict and very difficult to follow through! That's why my key task as BFH buddy is to do everything in my might to make sure you actually follow through with it. This includes talking about and finding solutions to various failure modes in advance, e.g. Murphy Jitsu style; coming up with a whole range of various accountability mechanisms together that work specifically for you; managing your motivation and willpower carefully throughout the program; etc. 

When does the bet count as successful?

In general, I won't be very nitty-gritty, and I would ask you to do the same. I will assume positive intent! It would be extremely difficult to precisely specify the conditions of the bet, so instead, I will simply trust your honour as a rationalist and count the bet as successful/failed if you say so at the end. With that said, here's an attempt to specify the bet in more detail:

  • The bet counts as successful if you follow through with the brute-forcing happiness program for 3 full months, and you are indeed dramatically happier and definitely not depressed afterwards, and it seems clear that at least some of the benefits persist permanently.
  • If you didn't follow through with the program, the bet counts as neither fail nor success.
  • "Following through with the program" means:
    • You made an honest and very hard attempt to really follow through with the program.
    • At least something like roughly 90% of the time, you were actually successfully following through with the program.
    • Most importantly, this includes that you - at least on average - meditated 4-6 hours a day, did 1-2 hours of emotional work a day, and managed to stick to all the healthy lifestyle interventions like very regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, etc.
    • You also more or less successfully stuck with some version of digital detox that makes sense for you, restricted your free time to pretty much only wholesome activities, and avoided all the usual "bad for your mental health" pitfalls. 
    • About half of the time, you went into "full-time emotional retreat mode" where you remained mostly silent and kept some kind of dopamine diet, and did even more meditation and emotional work than usual.
    • It's totally fine if you occasionally fail with something. Some "cheat days" or “jokers” might even be part of the plan. It also doesn't matter if you were sick for a few days or just couldn't do it for some other good reason. 
    • Ideally, you also have at least one - better three or more - therapy sessions with a trained therapist per week. I don't want to make this a hard requirement since I don't want to exclude you from the bet just because you can't afford it, but I strongly recommend it. 
      • By the way, here in Germany any health insurance pays for 3+ therapy sessions per week if you do a psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is not very fashionable, but I think that is not at all justified, and it actually works extremely well in conjunction with intense emotional work periods like this.
  • Being “dramatically happier & not depressed anymore, in some ways permanently so” means:
    • You had at least one big or several small "breakthrough moments" that clearly feel like some kind of major trauma/emotional schema has resolved itself. Something like unburdening an exile. A feeling of some heavy burden suddenly being lifted from your chest. A deep and lasting realization that some unhelpful belief you once had totally doesn't make sense. The kind of experience that makes you weep with joy afterwards.
    • You're just way happier, subjective well-being-wise. You have way more positive emotions, much less negative ones; you have a much happier outlook on your life, and you don't count yourself as depressed anymore.
    • 3+ months later, at least some of the positive effects of the BFH period still persist firmly.
  • If you do this with me, we'll talk about the individual details of our bet beforehand.

Can I just hire you as a retreat buddy for shorter or less strict versions of the program?

Yes you can! I'm currently exploring this as a business model of mine. You can hire me as your emotional work or brute-forcing happiness retreat buddy for any length of time, for whatever version of a retreat that works for you, full-time or part-time, for an incredibly cheap 30€/day. For certain part-time or online solutions, I might charge less. 

It's only if you want to do the 1000€ bet that you need to do the full strict three-month version of the program.

Since we're staying together anyway, you can also hire me for additional services at the same time, for additional fees. For example:

  • other personal assistant tasks unrelated to the emotional work retreat, up to several hours a day
  • optimizing your nutrition & health. I am a passionate biohacking, nootropics & longevity nerd. I'm also extremely knowledgeable with everything gut health & microbiome. In fact, I'm fairly optimistic I can radically improve your digestion in those 3 months. 
  • being your health manager for chronic illness, especially Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Long Covid. I've actually had CFS myself for the last 4 years. I've looked into and tried almost any chronic fatigue treatment out there. "Optimizing health" was basically my full-time job. It's only very recently that I'm in remission. This post is one of my ideas to get back to a more normal life, earn money & start some career. I am again pretty optimistic that I can significantly improve your health & fatigue. 
    • My bet holds even (especially!) if you have chronic illness. In that case I actually recommend doing something like what is outlined in this post even more! It's a great way to make good use of the time, and improving your mental health will also improve your physical health. It's what I did over the last few years. 
  • anything else you can think of.

For now, I need to be in Berlin every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday around noon. I can travel anywhere for the rest of the week. 

You can contact me at anton.rodenhauser{at}hotmail.com to schedule a call etc. with me.

Please also help me by giving me feedback on the content & writing, etc. of this post: https://www.admonymous.co/eternallyblissfulanton

See also my related post, Don’t waste your time meditating on meditation retreats.

Find some motivation to do this here: How I Attained Persistent Self-Love, or, I Demand Deep Okayness For Everyone.

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11 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:29 PM

This doesn't look like a bet. It looks like a service for which you charge €3500 and 3+ months of the customer's time, but will refund €2000 of that if they don't think you lived up to your claims.

Yeah, I agree that this is one (I feel a little bit too harsh) way to put it. But I feel that in a certain important sense it still is a bet.
Also, saying I "charge" 3+ months of people's time seems a bit missleading, like saying a restaurant charges their customers' time when they eat at that restaurant.

Anyway, I see lots of down votes, so apparently quite a few people are annoyed by my way of putting it!?
 

I agree that although it costs the customer 3 months, saying that you "charge" them 3 months doesn't sound fair. It's not like you get those 3 months somehow.

But it sounds also fair to tell the potential customer explicitly that even if it doesn't work, it will still cost them 3 months and €1500. And if it does, then it will cost them €3500.

The real (hidden) cost seems to be the 3 month without working. Looks like in Germany the average net wage is 2600€/month, thus, on top of the 1500€-3500€ price range, a user would face an opportunity cost of about 7800€. This is not factoring in the possible cost of the program, most notably therapy sessions, but also not factoring in the avoided costs of not working (fuel for example).

Which leads me to the following question: how does this opportunity compare to taking 3 month off? In particular, if someone is stressed or sleep-deprived because of work, then surely taking vacations will have positive effects.

if someone is stressed or sleep-deprived because of work, then surely taking vacations will have positive effects.

 

If someone’s mental health problems are caused only by insufficient free time/energy/sleep, then yes. I’d wager the majority of depression cases are caused by work-independent internal factors, and either would resolve on their own (even while working) or would not resolve even when taking three months off.

I suspect that there are many programs that would work on these terms.  If you can get people to do things, then you can get them to be happier. But adherance is actually quite hard, especially around behavioral interventions for depression.

It's all about creating the right conditions! For example, almost everyone can meditate 5+ hours a day in a silent meditation retreat centre. Yet very few can do it outside such a setting. 

Correction: almost everyone from a preselected group of people who 

1) are interested in meditation enough to try going to a retreat where they are supposed to meditate for 5+ hours.

and 

2) can afford it.

People frequently drop out of silent retreats, and they're already a self-selected group. Curious where you're getting you're data that almost everyone adheres in a silent retreat.

I've done 5 10 day long retreats and just eye-balling how many people were still there at the end, I'd say at least 95% managed to stay till the end.

I also know two people with ADHD who say they struggle a lot with discipline, yet they both managed to meditate 6+ hours everyday on said retreats.

My only data is personal anecdotes like this.

What's a better term for "brute-forcing happiness" program?