Good news, you can be happier by the time you’re done reading this. I watch Super Soul Sunday on OWN any chance I get. And if I miss it, it’s on my DVR. Oprah recently sat down with Shawn Achor, author and professor of happiness at Harvard. Yes, there is a course at Harvard where people study what makes people happy.
Apparently, many say we all have a “baseline” for happiness, and it has a bit to do with our genes. But, the study of positive psychology (which Achor advocates) says you can take steps to change that. So, in short, you can change your life. In fact, Achor says only 10% of our long term happiness is based on external factors, so 90% is up to you!
First, what does happiness look like to you? If you define happiness as pleasure, meaning we feel good in the moment, by definition Achor says that kind of “happiness” is too short lived. He defines happiness as the joy we feel striving towards our potential. Think about that. I once thought I could only be happy if I was thin enough, had a great relationship, and achieved my goal of working at the network level. I no longer believe that. I am happy every day that I get to write this blog, or tell a story that impacts someone in a meaningful way. I am happy when I am there for a friend, or I see the love grow in my relationship. See, many people believe that if they work hard, they’ll be successful, and happiness will follow. However, this is not accurate, because success is a moving target. Once you get one thing, you trade in when you’ll be happy for another. So, it never really happens. That kind of practice for happiness is flawed. And to prove it, Achor says research shows that being successful doesn’t make you happy, but being happy makes you more successful.
So, how do we achieve more happiness? Achor says his research shows that establishing a happiness habit makes a huge difference. Just like you get a certain number of hours sleep, brush your teeth every morning, and do other things daily, you need to partake in a habit based on happiness. It’s a 2-minute task that you do for 21 days.
- Say 3 things you are grateful for each day (has to be new things each day)
- Send a thank you to someone each day. Spend 2 minutes either emailing, calling or texting someone to praise or thank them. Reach out to a different person for 21 days. First, you’ll be happier immediately, and second, it will strengthen your social connections, which also increases happiness. Win, win!
- Exercise. 15 minutes of exercise trains your brain to believe that your behavior matters, which increases optimism, and, ultimately, happiness.
- Meditate. It’s so important to try and be still and in the moment to reflect and be calm. If you find it tough to focus, like me, Achor says then spend 2 minutes just watching your breath go in and out. It works!
There’s a part 2 to this Super Soul Sunday. I’ll watch it and let you know what I learn. But, I just couldn’t wait to share this with you. Watch this to learn why the glass doesn’t need to be half full or half empty: http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Shawn-Achor-Who-Cares-If-the-Glass-Is-Half-Full-Video