Are you making the most of the Happiness Advantage?
After working with two clients this week I was struck by the similarity in their thinking about the way they see the world. They have experienced life in a way that they expected, following unhelpful patterns based on their belief system. That sense of gloom too easily takes over, something many of us feel at times when we tune into news reporting about the state of society, violence, corruption, politics and uncertainty. As a result, our brain begins to think this is normal and begins to expect it, noticing evidence that supports this view. This in turn affects our sense of reality.
Take the example of feeling great about getting a place on a professional course and feeling excited and proud, only to have the brain refocus once you’ve started to identify people better than you, the workload and other stressors. My client got a place on a prestigious course, her paid work was going well and she appeared bubbly in her extrovert behaviours. Outsiders would think she is happy. But reality is that she no longer felt the happiness from being successful. Instead, feelings of what next, and more significantly, feeling lonely, were clouding her brain. We’ve been working on changing her lens through which she is viewing the world and when I left her yesterday, she had a very genuine smile on her face!
If your workplace is taking wellbeing seriously, how are they approaching it?
Training on recognising poor mental health, coping with stress and resolving conflict highlights the negative aspects. Not surprising then that some employers are anxious about talking about mental health when it can have such negative connotations. The absence of such problems does not equate to positive mental health, where we thrive. Instead, when exploring wellbeing and engagement we need to focus on what makes us happy and in turn, successful.
According to Shawn Achor,
Only 25% of job success is based on IQ. 75% is based on your optimism level, social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.
This is all about your mindset. However, currently, most people buy into the view that if they work harder they’ll be more successful, which will lead to being happier. Yet the goalposts keep moving and we’re forever seeking the new role with more status, better pay, improved results. Who wakes up one day to tell themself that they are now successful and so they can now be happy? In contrast, I have friends who have woken up realising they are too ‘successful’ and have taken demotions to improve their happiness.
We need the happiness advantage of focusing on what makes us happy in the present for our brain to thrive so that we are more engaged and perform better. Dopamine that floods into our brain when we are happy helps us learn better. Lyubomirsky (2005) found that when businesses focus on happiness, every single business outcome improves:
- better secure jobs
- better keeping jobs
- superior productivity
- more resilient
- less burnout
- less turnover
- greater sales
Shawn Achor’s research shows that we can train our brain to be happier. For two minutes for twenty-one consecutive days, we can rewire the brain to be more optimistic:
- identify 3 new things you’re grateful for so that your brain establishes a new pattern of identifying positives
- keep a journal to note one positive experience you’ve had in last twenty-four hours to allow your brain to relive it
- exercise to teaches the brain that our physical behaviour matters
- meditate to allow your brain to refocus on the present and stop multi-tasking
- acts of kindness, random or conscious, daily by messaging someone in your support network to praise or thank them
This is all about life being meaningful now.
With events such as the Meaning Conference in Brighton in November, there is greater recognition than ever that we need to focus on the present. What makes you happy?