The field of positive psychology has been growing in popularity as people begin to recognize the correlation between happiness, productivity, and success. Developed by Martin Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness in 1998, positive psychologists seek “to find and nurture genius and talent” and “to make normal life more fulfilling”.
Seligman’s research concluded that happier people get better performance evaluations and higher pay. Other studies have shown that happy people are more positive, creative, tolerant, constructive, generous and non-defensive. They also have lower medical costs and less absenteeism.
While this seems obvious to many of us, finding that happiness can be a challenge in our society. In his popular Ted talk, The happy secret to better work, Shawn Acor says our culture has taught us that, “If I work harder, then I will be successful. If I’m successful, then I will be happier.” Putting happiness on the other side of success creates a moving target and your brain never gets there.
According to Acor, “If you can raise levels of positivity in the present, the brain experiences what is called the happiness advantage. When the brain is positive, it performs significantly better than when it’s negative, neutral, or stressed. When you’re positive, dopamine floods into your system which not only makes you happier, but it also turns on learning centers in your brain, allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.”
Acor goes on to say, “It’s not reality that shapes us, it’s the lens through which you view the world. If you can change the lens, not only can you change your happiness, you can change your world.”
21 Days to Improving Your Happiness and Productivity:
Acor also provides a formula for increasing your happiness and productivity in 21 days, the length of time it takes to create a new habit. Most of them only take a few minutes but the combination has been proven to be very effective. Over time, the brain retains the new pattern, allowing you to work more optimistically and successfully.
Take LifeOhm’s Happiness Challenge and commit to doing the following things for the next 21 days:
- Write three new things you are grateful for – This helps train your brain to scan the world for the positive things first, rather than focusing on the negative things. Gratitude has long been linked to increased happiness and it’s surprising how quickly your life can improve with this simple practice.
- Journal about one positive thing that has happened in the past 24 hours, this process allows your brain to relive the positive experience. There are many options for journaling, online with sites such as Penzu or a hand-written journal. Writing by hand, rather than digitally, has been shown to increase learning, which might be helpful when you’re trying to change thought patterns.
- Exercise for at least 15 minutes – exercise increases your levels of dopamine, energy, and helps improve your overall sense of well being.
- Meditation – There are many documented benefits to meditation including reducing the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. According to Acor, meditation also allows us to get over our cultural ADHD, that has us focusing on more than one thing at once. It allows the mind to quiet and opens us up to new possibilities.
- Random acts of kindness – In Acor’s study, he had participants write one positive email that praised someone in their social network, but there are many ways to perform random acts of kindness. Get creative and have fun, you will not only make someone else’s day, but it will improve your own.
What helps you improve your happiness and productivity? Are you participating in this challenge? Share your thoughts below.