The Happiness Advantage
Our Research Assistant Helena blogs on happiness and setting yourself a challenge.
Barely a month/week/day goes by nowadays without it being another ‘National something-or-other’ effort, and the month of October is no different. Many of you may be taking on the challenge of Go Sober for October to raise funds for Macmillan cancer support and some of you might be trying Stoptober; the 28-day challenge to quit smoking. It is also National Breast Cancer awareness month, SIDS awareness month, ADHD awareness month and many more – a full list can be found here. On a yummier front, October also includes National Baking week, National Chocolate week and (my favourite) National Curry week!
While there are some great causes here, and a bit of fun also, soon the clocks will change and November will roll on and we will be confronted with a new list of date-restricted proceedings to focus on! So trying to think about how to make a difference slightly longer term, I would like to share some thoughts with you about a book I am currently reading called ‘The Happiness Advantage’ by Shawn Achor. This is a book which I feel gives a great insight into the human psyche and offers some simple ways to ensure you keep smiling – something I hope will help pull me through November, the rest of Winter and way beyond. Although I haven’t actually finished it yet, from what I’ve read so far, I would certainly recommend you all have a flick through if you get the chance! You can ask to borrow my copy once I’m done, but I have managed to squish a banana into the bottom of it which is a bit gross.
The list of happiness definitions is seemingly endless, and illustrates that happiness means something different to us all. The Happiness Advantage has prompted me to think about what my definition of happiness is – don’t get too excited, I haven’t had an epiphany yet, but I have certainly been thinking about what is important to me and I have intentions to put some of the ideas and tips from the book into practice.
The book flips the idea from ‘success makes you happy’ to ‘happiness promotes and aids succession’. “When we are happy – when our mindset and mood are positive – we are smarter, more motivated and thus more successful.” It also emphasises and illustrates the power that positive thinking has on your work ability and achievements, as well as your personal connections and wellbeing. This may seem obvious, but I think it’s something we lose sight of, with our daily routines and the pressures of what our achievements represent and how we feel others perceive us. Achor further argues that “common sense is not common action” and has been travelling worldwide to talk to audiences from a whole range of industries to spread the word of the ‘Happiness Advantage’ and how it can benefit them in their work and personal life.
Here are my top 5 tips that I have taken from the book…
1. Commit 5 conscious acts of kindness a day
These don’t need to be big gestures they could just be stopping to help someone who looks lost to give directions, paying for someone’s bus fare when they are short of change or letting someone pull out in busy traffic.
2. Positive Thinking
When you have a deadline approaching or a presentation to deliver or an interview to prove yourself in, “focus on the reasons you will succeed, rather than fail”. E.g. if you’re concerned about delivering some training to a large group, focus on how prepared you are and the research you have put into the material.
3. “Infuse positivity in your surroundings”
Creating a positive environment around you whether it’s with pictures of loved ones, master pieces created by your children or taking in some fresh air in a break can boost positive mood and broaden thinking.
4. List 3 things a day that you are happy or grateful for
“When you write down a list of three good things that happened in your day, your brain will be forced to scan the last 24 hours for potential positives – things that brought small or large laughs, feelings of accomplishment at work, strengthened connection with family, a glimmer of hope for the future”. These don’t need to be big, they can be as simple as ‘I had a lovely catch up with a friend’, ‘I helped a colleague at work respond to a difficult email’ or ‘I ate a delicious homemade cake’.
5. Invest in your social connections
The most successful people hold on tight to their social connections with colleagues, friends and family when going through stressful periods. It has been found that these people are “not only happier, but they are more productive, engaged, energetic and resilient.”
So while we all hope that happiness is something that will just fall into our laps, actually it might be something we need to focus on, in order to reach it. If you have areas in your life that you feel that you are not achieving what you want, whether that be career aspirations, or in relationships in and outside of work, the thing to take away from this is rather than focusing on these successes as ways to make you happy, if you focus on finding happiness in all the small things you do, success in the bigger things will surely follow!
Blog by Helena Kondziela