I’ve been reading a fantastic book, The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. It provides great insight into what makes us happy and how to be happier. For the next few weeks, I’ll share with you some of Achor’s strategies, but I’ll start off by setting the foundation.
Apparently, we have it all backwards. We have become accustomed to thinking that if we work hard, we will become successful, and if we become successful, we will be happy. Unfortunately, this thought process is flawed and completely backwards.
More than a decade of research has proven that happiness actually fuels performance and causes us to be more productive, efficient, resilient, and creative. Happiness also leads to success in nearly every area of our life, including work, health, friendship, sociability, creativity, and energy. In short, when we are happy, we are smarter, more motivated, and more successful.
Unfortunately, we are less happy than we’ve ever been. A Harvard study in 2010 found that only 45% of workers surveyed were happy at their jobs, the lowest in 22 years of polling. Depression rates today are ten times higher than they were in 1960.
We used to think happiness was a set point that you are born with, leaving you little room to determine your happiness fate. We now know based on extensive research, that that is simply not the case. Our brains are absolutely amazing, and can actually be changed, a process called self-directed neuro-plasticity. By improving our mood and implementing happiness strategies, we can improve our happiness and experience the happiness advantage.
Positive emotions cause our brain to create dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels.
What does this mean for us? People who put their head down and work hard, waiting for their success to drive their happiness are at a huge disadvantage, while people who capitalize on positivity are more successful and yes, happier.
Happiness is not a magical concept, and it does not need to occur in huge events. Something as small as a funny video clip or conversation with a friend can have an immediate boost in cognitive power and job performance.In fact, psychologists have found that positive emotions can “undo” physical stress and anxiety, a phenomenon they call the “undoing effect”.
Next week I’ll start exploring Achor’s strategies for improving your level of happiness, but in the meantime, here’s a great video clip that’s sure to get you going in the right direction.
If you’re having trouble viewing the video, click here.