Monday, December 24, 2012

Tip #52: Start with happiness

I recently recorded a PBS special called The Happiness Advantage with Shawn Achor. I had already seen a TED Talk of him (see Tip #19: Nourish your Friendships), so I decided to watch the episode and see what else I could learn. Well, although some of the things mentioned I (we) already knew, I still enjoyed hearing about many fascinating experiments that prove his theory, which is this: We don't have to seek happiness (in things, events, like "I"ll be happy when I retire") but we have to START with happiness. Or:

Be successful --> Be happy (WRONG)
Be happy --> Be successful (RIGHT)

But I want to write here about the exercises he recommends to be able to achieve that goal, so that we can rewire the brain in such a way that we start from a place of happiness when dealing with life. Because, according to him, this is possible even if you consider yourself an incorrigible pessimist. So, here we go. There are five exercises we can do. We have to choose only one of these, but do it for 21 days in a row.
  1. Three Gratitudes: Say or write three things that you are grateful for in the last 24 hour period. Try to be specific and say different things each day if possible.
  2. The doubler: Write for two minutes about a meaningful experience that you have had in your life. According to him, when we have this kind of experience, our brain gets already rewired but when we think about it, the same areas of the brain also get engaged, so we get double the effect.
  3. Fun Fifteen: Do a fun activity which involves movement for 15 minutes. He mentioned that this type of activity makes you feel so good about yourself that it leads you to do improvements in other areas as well (something he calls a cascade of success).
  4. Ripple effect: Add 3 smiles to your day, but to moments where you normally would not smile. The name of the activity comes from the fact that when you smile, people around you tend to smile too, and thus, everyone is happier. And if you cannot smile, put a pencil in your mouth as the men in my life demonstrate in the picture. You may not look happier, but you are actually releasing dopamine by doing it (and getting happier, whether you want it or not). He wisely suggests throwing a pencil at your spouse when you are having an argument. I'm keeping a pencil near by. :)
  5. Charge your battery: For this one, you have to spend two minutes writing a meaningful e-mail to someone in your life, a different person every day, telling them why they mattered to you. And the theory behind this one is that having many meaningful social connections is a more important factor to your longevity than, for example, smoking.So, you strengthen those connections with your e-mails but also feel really good when you do something like that.
What I liked about the talk is that many of these I have more or less adopted already, although I definitely do not do them often enough, so he did inspire me to try to do a specific one for three weeks, treat it like an experiment and see what happens.

So, what do you all think? Do you want to join me in this? Should we do another Google Doc? Let me know!

Happy Holidays!!
Thank you for always being there for me.
Without a doubt, I have the best audience in the world.