Happiness can feel like a magic bullet. Finding happiness is like trying to catching a unicorn. Does it really exist? And if I find happiness, how long will it be before it goes away?
And what is happiness anyway? Can we increase our happiness? Is happiness the stuff that only comes out on vacation or when we finally purchase that ONE thing we've always wanted?
Furthermore, what happiness means to you may not be it means to me. Happiness is a subjective feeling. It is personal and unique for me and YOU.
I picked up Shawn Achor's book The Happiness Advantage this spring. I was surprised to learn so many fantastic things about happiness. Shawn has spent years studying positive phycology at Harvard. He consults corporations about creating a culture of happiness. His Ted Talks are well known and this book is amazing.
Shawn's research links happiness to increased work performance and success. Simply put, people who are happier work harder and have MORE success.
This book is not just about the science of positive psychology. Shawn is funny and peppers his research with real-life stories. I was surprised to learn that anyone can increase their mood and happiness in 7 simple ways.
He talks in depth about using mediation, infusing positivity into your surrounding, exercise, and acts of kindness to increase happiness in your own life.
He says spending money, not on THINGS but on PEOPLE, increases positive psychology in your brain.
In sounds counter-intuitive, but I know it's true. After we paid off $18000 in debt in 18 months, we made a commitment to travel more. We made a decision to use our income to invest in our family, not in more things. We have traveled a lot (paying cash each time) for almost 8 years now. Our family is stronger. Our marriage is stronger. We are happier.
Another strategy is to finding something to look forward to.
Kids do this all the time. They push through those last weeks of school looking forward to summer break. They anticipate the next birthday or upcoming playdate with a good friend.
There is something to be said for living in the moment and being present. I get that. But there is also something powerful for our mood when we look forward to something in the future. A vacation, a good book waiting for us after a long day, time with our family, or a date night.
After reading this book, I am working to create small things in my life that you can look forward to each day. Recently, I put my current embroidery project in a basket for when we binge watch Netflix. I keep a stack of really good fiction on my nightstand. We have a standing pizza and movie date every Friday with our kids.
When we look forward to things, we increase our happiness. Simple.
The last tip Anchor gives for increasing happiness is to find something you are good at and DO IT. With all the pressures of home and work life, this can be a tricky one.
After 15 years in full-time ministry, Brad discovered a love for woodworking. He loves it and he is good at it. He is happier when is creating projects for the house or gifts for friends. As a bonus, I get really cool furniture!
I think there is fear in declaring "I am good at this." We don't want people to think we are full of ourselves. We can go years denying we have a natural talent in one thing or another. Scarier still, as we get older we don't learn new things. We use a million excuses to not try new things. Why? Fear.
I'm doing more evaluation of what I enjoy doing and what I am naturally good at. When someone compliments me on something I've done, I try not to play it down anymore. I am paying attention to what activities make me happy. What do I enjoy? What should I make more time for?
I surprised to learn that happiness isn't just throwing on a happy face. Shawn calls it a "work-ethic". Happiness is not ignoring your feelings. Happiness is a commitment to positivity. His research proves you can create more positive psychology in your life.
Want to learn more about the science of happiness and how to increase positivity into your life? Learn about these strategies and MORE in Achor's book. It was an entertaining and eye-opening read. Check out The Happiness Advantage!!
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