Or any other circumstance you find in your life.
Happiness seems like an ambiguous thing.
We have to wait for the right circumstances to come our way.
Or wait for a result.
And how do you measure it?
But Shawn Achor, a scientist who studies happiness, has found a way. And he has found four facts about happiness that make it evident of why we have much more control over it than we are raised to think.
1. Happiness is a choice
Aren't we just so used to thinking that we are forced into feeling things?
When I write it down, it sounds ridiculous, but have you ever said, "How else am I going to feel?"
And there have been times I have ticked off the list of why that question is justified.
Here are some of the ones I have heard:
How else should I feel if...
My kids act like that
She lied to me
My boss said that
He judged me like that
She talked behind my back
I can't eat "normal" food
I can't afford that
Shawn demonstrates that people who watch just 3 minutes of the news in the morning are 27% more likely to report a negative day in the evening.
That's 8 hours later!
Wayne Dyer puts it nicely when he says, "Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change."
2. Happiness Spreads
Like the yawn, there are mirror neurons in our brains that cause us to unintentionally take on an mimic the fatigue, stress, uncertainty, and anxiety of others. He used an experiment at the airport as an example.
The had an experiementor get in a line of people waiting to board and begin to tap his foot impatiently. Within 2 minutes, 7 to 12 of the other people will begin to mirror this action.
On the other side, the Ritz Carlton trains their employees to make eye contact when within 10 feet of someone and then smile when they get within 5 feet.
To use the techniques that worked so well with the Ritz, the experiment was given as a training in a hospital to raise satisfaction rates. The hospital employees were told to make eye contact when within 10 feet of someone and smile within 5 feet.
Within 6 months their satisfaction scores skyrocketed.
And as another added benefit, a new social script was written that could be taken outside of the hospital and into the worlds.
Dr. David Hawkins conducted experiments that concluded that one individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of optimism and a willingness to be nonjudgmental of others will counterbalance the negativity of 90,000 individuals who calibrate at the lower, weakening levels.
That means that I can smile and think kindly of one person today and affect a city.
One a lot bigger than the one I live in.
3. Happiness is an advantage
If you have ever coached with me, you will recognize the phrase, "You don't need to disapprove in order to improve."
Shawn's studies indicate that people are actually afraid of happiness.
Because if you are happy where you are at then you won't improve, right? Stagnation.
But the statistics say otherwise.
If we can be happy NOW. TODAY:
Our creativity triples
You are 40% more likely to get a promotion
Productivity rises 31%
You are 39% more likely to live to 94
WHAT COULD YOU DO WITH 31% MORE PRODUCTIVITY??
OR 3X CREATIVITY?
It is to our benefit to learn to be happy now.
4. Change is possible
It seems that there are people who are born high and low level optimists and high and low level pessimists.
Even though we are taught in school that the genes determine how we will be, the science is proving otherwise.
With some small, 2 minute practices, men who were identified as pessimists since childhood tested as low-level optimists within 21 days.
People with MS were able to drop their pain medication by 50% within 6 months.
15 minutes of enjoyable exercise a day have the same effects as using an antidepressant.
I left this evidence wanting to know what I could do to affect more of the world for good. How could I go for double, triple the number of people, or even just help the people around me that I love...the ones I work with, the ones I live with, the ones I pass on the street, and myself.
And so here are the exercises that Shawn suggested just starting with.
Journal a positive experience for 2 minutes a day
Meditate or practice mindfulness for 2 minutes a day
Take 2 minutes to email someone each day, letting them know how grateful you are for them and why.
If you think of the time we put in to eliminating bad habits, isn't it amazing that 2 minutes a day can help our environment trump our genes and help us use the power of positivity to change our lives and influence the lives of others for good?
The great news is that we don't have to wait for the stars to align, the scale to move, the jeans to fit, the symptoms to abate, the child to change, the spouse to remember in order to feel exactly like we want to.
Because we get to choose.
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