In 2011, Shawn Achor delivered his Ted Talk titled, “The Happy Secret to Better Work” and made the research of happiness a mainstream phenomenon. Given that 2020 has been one long and winding rollercoaster for all of us, it seems rather apropos that we have a reminder for how to adjust our happiness.
If you’ve not seen it already, you can check it out here:
Achor’s research focuses on the notion that our external world is not predictive of our happiness levels. In fact, he claims that if researchers knew only your external environment, they would only be able to “predict 10% of your long-term happiness.”
Achor argues that happiness is caused by changing the way we process information, not by altering our external reality. This means that money, cars, and big houses are not going to fundamentally change our happiness levels for any substantial period. (This assertion is based on individuals who have all of their basic needs met, not individuals living in substandard conditions.)
I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”Jim Carrey
According to Achor, we collectively push happiness on the other side of the cognitive horizon with arguments that we will be happy when circumstances are different. We often say that we will be happy when we get the job, land the promotion, buy the big house, own the fancy car, or get out of quarantine.
However, each time we achieve a particular goal, we “set the goalpost for happiness” a little further out. With each success, we say that “we will be happy when” something else happens. Unfortunately, we never actually get to “happiness” because our formula is broken.
The research shows that “our brains perform better when we are happy versus negative, neutral, or stressed” because we are able to “work harder, faster, and more intelligently,” which Achor coined “the happiness advantage.”
So, how do we reverse the broken formula and learn to be happy now, versus at a later date? To be happy, do these 5 things daily:
So, how do we reverse the broken formula and learn to be happy now, versus at a later date? To be happy, do these five things daily:
- Write about three things, events, or people you are grateful for each day. Searching for something we are thankful for daily trains our brains to seek out the positive in our lives.
- Journal about one positive experience. Journaling about specific experiences allows us to relive those happy emotions a second time when we write it and again when we read it.
- Exercise. No, really. Move your body because it releases endorphins and tricks your brain into feeling happy.
- Meditate. Learning how to sit with our emotions is fundamental to positive mental health. Be in the present moment instead of in a constant state of distraction. Learning how to meditate changed me from a frantic-go-go-go type of person to someone comfortable in the silence of my own thoughts.
- Engage in random acts of kindness. Sending thank-you emails, cards, or doing something nice for someone like buying their coffee or helping with a task makes you feel good. We are social creatures who long to connect–being of service to others releases endorphins that give you that warm fuzzy feeling.
It is unlikely that any of this information will be new to anyone. However, I know that It is unlikely that any of this information will be new to anyone. However, I know that when I personally find myself slipping into a saddened state, it’s not because I don’t know how to improve my own mental health, but because I’ve failed to do the tasks necessary to maintain a proper balance. Just like showering, we must regularly preserve and maintain our own happiness.