The Lollipop Effect, redux

Each Friday in May I will be reposting or adapting Wishful Thinking Works’ most popular posts. (New posts will still appear weekly on Monday or Tuesdays.) This post, first published over a year ago, is based on a study I read about in former Harvard professor, Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage. I hope you use the simple steps to give yourself, your children, and others you care about the advantage of happiness.

 

Good morning. Hope you are all set for a wonderful long weekend. Here’s some info that might make the summer weeks ahead even brighter.

What do sweet treats have to do with how our brains work?

Well, it turns out that positively priming your brain before attempting simple or complex tasks can improve your success on those tasks – big time. So how do we positively prime? In psychological circles it’s known as creating “positive affect”. In real world terms, it’s nothing more than giving yourself or others a boost of positive feelings or a shot of happiness, and that’s easier to do than you might imagine!

You can prime yourself to think more creatively and process information faster and more effectively by simply thinking of a happy memory or giving yourself a guilt-free treat such as a lollipop!

In his book, “The Happiness Advantage”, Harvard professor, Shawn Achor shares a study that reveals doctors, who were primed with lollipops, provided the correct diagnosis twice as fast as the doctors in the study’s control group. And, here’s the kicker – they didn’t even get to eat the suckers – they just received them!

That’s not all. Research shows that 4-year-old kids did better when asked to just think about something happy before starting a task. And, high-schoolers, who conjured up the happiest day of their lives before beginning a standardized math test (math-yikes!), scored higher than their fellow students.

Achor notes that much of this research is based on the positive psychology work of professor Barbara Fredrickson, which led to her “Broaden and Build Theory”. The “Broaden and Build Theory” represents the flip side of the “Flight or Fight Theory”.  The “Flight or Fight Theory” reflects the brain’s ability to focus and narrow our thoughts and actions in times of extreme fear or stress, which is a good thing in times of danger, but can deplete our resources when everything in our lives is perceived as stressful. Fredrickson’s work reveals that a happy brain broadens our perspective and thoughts, increasing creativity and stamina, which is a good thing!

Being relaxed and happy allows us to do better in most areas of our lives. Our brains are hard-wired to perform more successfully at “happy” than at neutral or unhappy.

Happiness matters! Feeling positive makes a huge difference on outcomes in educational, personal, and professional settings, and as the studies above and many others show – even the simplest things can make us happy.

Are you ready to get happy?

Start your weekend by priming your brain:

  • Think of something that makes you happy. Picture it. Relive it in your mind. Now, savor it for a few seconds – you know you are “there” when you are experiencing almost the same glow as when your happy moment  first occurred.
  • Listen to music you love on the way to work. (I know it’s too late for today, but consider jammin’ in the car on the way home.)
  • Enjoy a special treat each day when you arrive at work. Or, have one waiting for you when you get home. (Not all treats have to be high calorie or even food!)
  • Keep a joke or riddle book in the kitchen for the kids to share with you while you are making dinner.
  • Dance while doing the dishes.
  • Use summer nights for stargazing or sleeping out.
  • Think of ways to create an organization where fun is not a dirty word and buying the donuts is part of the strategic plan.
  • Create a toy corner where you and other staff can mingle and “play” with a variety of games and other fun stuff.
  • Color – keep a nice big box of Crayola’s on-hand.
  • Next week, encourage staff to swap stories about the fun they had over the weekend.
  • Allow physical distractions in the office such as: hall golf, desk-top football or cubicle badminton. Be creative. (Cubicle badminton:  wad a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper into a ball, use a steno pad or other spiral notebook to serve it over the net (cubicle wall) – discuss your latest project with your colleague while volleying back and forth.)

The options are endless for upping the happiness level of your home, office, or classroom. Keep your ideas simple, mix them up regularly, focus and savor the good stuff and then sit back and see what happens. I’d love to hear what works for you.

In my perfect world, orange Tootsie Roll Pops grow on trees; just thinking of it makes me smile. And, reaching up to pick one makes me very, very happy.

The Lollipop Effect

Good Monday morning. Hope you had a great weekend and are raring to go. Here’s some info that might make your Monday morning a bit brighter.

 

What do sweet treats have to do with how our brains work?

Well, it turns out that positively priming your brain before attempting simple or complex tasks can improve your success on those tasks – big time. So how do we positively prime? In psychological circles it’s known as creating “positive affect”. In real world terms, it’s nothing more than giving yourself or others a boost of positive feelings or a shot of happiness, and that’s easier to do than you might imagine!

You can prime yourself to think more creatively and process information faster and more effectively by simply thinking of a happy memory or giving yourself a guilt-free treat such as a lollipop!

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Harvard professor, Shawn Achor shares a study that reveals doctors, who were primed with lollipops, provided the correct diagnosis twice as fast as the doctors in the study’s control group. And, here’s the kicker – they didn’t even get to eat the suckers – they just received them!

That’s not all. Research shows that 4-year-old kids do better when asked to just think about something happy before starting a task. And, high-schoolers, who conjured up the happiest day of their lives before beginning a standardized math test (math-yikes!), scored higher than their fellow students. Achor notes that much of this research is based on Barbara Fredrickson’s “Broaden and Build Theory”, which represents the flip side of the “Flight or Fight Theory”.  The “Flight or Fight Theory” reflects the brain’s ability to focus and narrow our actions in times of fear or stress, which is a good thing in times of danger. Fredrickson’s work reveals that a happy brain broadens our perspective and thoughts, increasing creativity and stamina, which is a good thing pretty much the rest of the time.

Being relaxed and happy allows us to do better in most areas of our lives. Our brains are hard-wired to perform more successfully at “happy” than at neutral or unhappy.

Happiness matters! Feeling positive makes a huge difference on outcomes in educational, personal, and professional settings, and as the studies above and many others show – even the simplest things can make us happy.

Getting happy

Start your Monday morning by priming your brain: 

  • Think of something that makes you happy. Picture it. Relive it in your mind. Now, savor it for a few seconds – you know you are “there” when you are experiencing almost the same glow as when your happy moment  first occurred.
  • Listen to music you love on the way to work. (I know it’s too late for today, but consider jammin’ in the car on the way home.)
  • Enjoy a special treat when you arrive at work, and then think of ways to create an organization where fun is not a dirty word and buying the donuts is part of the strategic plan.
  • Create a toy corner where you and other staff can mingle and “play” with a variety of games and other fun stuff. (Toy corners work well at home, too.)
  • Color – keep a nice big box of Crayola’s on-hand. 
  • Encourage staff to swap stories about the fun they had over the weekend.
  • Allow physical distractions such as hall golf, desk-top football or cubicle badminton. Be creative. (Cubicle badminton:  wad a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper into a ball, use a steno pad or other spiral notebook to serve it over the net (cubicle wall) – discuss your latest project with your colleague while volleying back and forth.)

The options are endless for upping the happiness level of your office, classroom or home. Keep your ideas simple, mix them up regularly, look for the bright side and then sit back and see what happens. I’d love to hear what works for you.

In my perfect world, orange Tootsie Roll Pops grow on trees; just thinking of it makes me smile. And, reaching up to pick one makes me very, very happy.

PS I enjoyed reading The Happiness Advantage – it’s filled with great information, insights and ideas, I’ll be sharing more about it this month.

14 Valentine’s tips for a happier day

Patrice Koerper Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching Speaking

Would you like your sweetest Valentine’s Day ever? 

Here are 14 Wishful Thinking Works tips to make this year’s Valentine’s Day your best yet!.

Mix and match them to your heart’s desire. ♥

♥ Using even one can raise your happiness levels. 

 

  1. Plan ahead – having something to look forward will raise your spirits.
  2. Broaden your scope – you can celebrate being in love with anyone on Valentine’s Day – friends, family, your kids, your life, your job – whatever makes you smile!
  3. Expand your options  – restaurants can be overbooked and way too busy, flowers and candy can be pricey, so . . .
  4. Be creative – good times don’t require big budgets.
  5. Relax – even the most romantic evening can be ruined by letting our expectations outweigh our circumstances.
  6. Put the focus on others – this is a great time of year for Gratitude Letters, cards or notes to special aunts and uncles, neighbors, or co-workers anyone who has done something special for you – ever!
  7. Memories make great gifts – find ways to bring great moments alive again through Facebook posts, photos, calls or visits.
  8. Volunteer studies show this can brighten everyone’s day, and may even lengthen our lives.
  9. Babysit – If you don’t have big plans – help make someone else’s night great! 
  10. Share sweet surprises – Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to live the Lollipop Effect.
  11. Give an unexpected hug; it is good for everyone’s health!
  12. Ask for a do over – to undo something you said or did that you wish you hadn’t.
  13. Forgiveyourself or someone else!
  14. Give instead of receiving – A $25 donation to KIVA will create a loan that will empower a life. They have a 98.40% repayment rate, which means your one time donation can help again and again around the world. A $58 donation to the International Rescue Committee can send a girl to school for a year in Afghanistan or Africa.

Make the simple, special this Valentine’s Day and you will be making yourself and others happier.

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The magic of mindful eating

MP900177759Easter is just days way, and for many of us Easter baskets are wells of temptation. Instead on mindlessly chomping on handfuls of jelly beans or quickly biting off the head of a milk chocolate bunny, why not savor and enjoy each bite?

Studies show that paying attention to what we eat, how a food tastes and feels in our mouth and how we feel when eating it is not only is an effective weight loss tool, it is a great way to increase our happiness, especially if we consider the food we are eating a treat.

peeps1So, before you dive into that bowl of jelly beans or rip open a package of Peeps – take your time to pick out a few, put them on a special plate and then savor their color, aroma, texture and taste. Roll those babies around on your tongue and let your senses engage. Give those delectable delights your full attention, release those endorphins and enjoy every single second of  the experience.

Mindful eating can not only bring you sweet and satisfying moments, it can increase your happiness and your productivity.  It will raise your mood, and possibly interrupt the urge to eat more than you really want, which can reduce all those guilty feelings you might experience afterward.

It’ a win, win, win – enjoy!

wishyright

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Never underestimate the power of happiness . . .

International lecturer, author of the “Happiness Advantage”, and former Harvard instructor Shawn Achor recently shared the following research at the Commonwealth Bank’s two-day “Wired for Wonder” conference in Sydney, Australia. The figures are staggering, the research is interesting, and the impact amazing.

MH900448318Happiness matters.

“Ninety percent of our long-term level of happiness is . . . not based on the external world, but how your brain processes the external world,” Achor said. “If we could change that lens some incredible things could happen.”

“If you take four-year-old children, prime them to become more positive and have them put blocks of shapes together, it turns out the children in the positive category will put blocks together significantly faster than children in a negative/neutral category.”

IQ doesn’t matter as much as we think it does.

“If I know everyone’s IQ here in the room and I’m trying to predict your job successes, cross-industry, over the next five-year period, it turns out that IQ and technical skills are only responsible [for] and only predict 25 % of your job successes,” Achor told the conference.

The pattern has been observed again and again: “Happiness and optimism can be much better predictors of productivity than IQ and technical skills,” Achor said. According to research undertaken in the late 1990s, doctors who had been primed to be more positive were 19% faster and more accurate with coming up with a correct diagnosis and were more “intellectually flexible” when presented with a misdiagnosis.

Success and Happiness

MH900401133“… if you raise your levels of happiness, it turns out every single business and educational outcome improves. Our success rates rise dramatically. Raising success does not raise levels of happiness but raising levels of happiness dramatically increases your success rates.”

Before Happiness

Achor’s second book, “Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success” is due out in September, I’ll be sharing more info from it with you as soon as it’s available.

Have a great weekend, and make it even better by asking yourself each morning, what one thing can I do today to bring more joy into my life. . . and then do it!

Where are you sitting on the tree of life?

Patrice Koerper  Life Coach Wishful Thinking Blob Tree Pip Wilson

Where are you sitting on the tree of life?


Where do you want to be?


You can do it.


Don’t give up!


Other Wishful Thinking Works posts you might enjoy . . .

The Lollipop Effect

The Light Side of Life

Happy, Sad, Glad, Mad

For Wishful Thinking Works services that can help you change your life, click here.

Your positivity ratio and how to raise it!

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson is a leader in the positive psychology field; her work has been on my mind a lot lately. Her research on positive emotions is groundbreaking, and is really good stuff that can change your life – if you let it! I’ve been sharing her work at my Wishful Thinking Women Meetups and workshops and with clients. One year ago I shared it with you, here’s what we talked about . . .

I’ve mentioned Dr. Barbara Fredrickson a couple of times in previous posts. She’s the researcher, who developed the “Broaden and Build Theory” of positive psychology, which states that positive emotions broaden our awareness and perception thereby increasing our curiosity, creativity and choices.

The “Broaden and Build Theory” is the other side of the coin, so to speak, of the “Fight or Flight Theory”, which notes that we are designed to focus and narrow our vision and responses in short-term, quick-decision, dangerous situations. Both emotional responses have value – there are times when we need to react quickly, with precision and almost instinctual intent and when we need to allow ourselves the freedom to fully enjoy and explore life and its options.

The good news is, our brains are hard-wired for both. The bad news is, many of us have allowed the occasional need for fight and flight responses to spill over into many or all of life’s everyday activities. We are constantly on the lookout for emotional and physical threats, or have come to believe that bad news (i.e., psychological danger) is lurking around every corner. Our preoccupation with all things negative, stresses our bodies and may be leaving us feeling frustrated, angry or depressed.

Not to worry, after identifying and qualifying the value of positive emotions, Fredrickson took her research one step further and in her 2009 book Positivity, she quantified their value. Fredrickson and her team of researchers formulated the 3:1 positivity ratio of positive to negative emotions. The ratio is a simple but valid mathematical equation for revealing happiness levels. I like to think of it as the psychological tipping point between getting by and soaring high. 

“80% of Americans fall short of the ideal 3-to-1 positivity ratio.”

Yikes! According to Fredrickson, 80% of us are not at our best. That’s not to say we are miserable, we’re not, but we are also not as happy or fulfilled as we could be.

Fredrickson’s research shows that we need to have 3 positive emotions for every 1 negative emotion to flourish. Her work indicates that our world’s do not need to be perfect for us to flourish – negativity can still be present (as represented by the “1” in the 3:1 ratio), but as long as the ratio is 3 to 1 we are good to go.

Fredrickson notes that a 2:1 ratio means we are getting by. We might be happy, but not at our best and when faced with negativity or hard times, we can easily slide to a 1:1 ratio. Is the difference between 3:1 and 2:1 important? Here’s what Fredrickson has to say on the subject:

” . . . experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions leads people to achieve what they once could only imagine. Far from frivolous, tapping into one’s own unique sources of positivity is a wise and healthy investment in the future.”     

And, here is the truly important aspect of Fredrickson’s research, with simple changes and targeted tweaking we can move ourselves from a 2:1 to a 3:1 ratio, or higher, which improves the likelihood that we will create the lives we really want! You can improve your internal environment and enhance your external landscape by:

  • becoming more aware and savoring what is good in your life;
  • focusing on your strengths and what you and others do well;
  • predicting better for you and your loved ones;
  • adding a bit of mediation to your daily mix;
  • doing more of what you love – even the simplest little things,
  • and maintaining and enriching your relationships.

If you are interested in assessing your positivity ratio, Fredrickson has created a free online survey to help take our emotional “temperature”. (My word not her’s). To get a true “temperature” reading, Fredrickson suggests taking the survey once a day for two weeks. The survey only take three minutes to complete. If you would like to give it a try, click away. (Taking the survey even once, provides valuable insight because it shares specific examples of positive and emotional states; I highly recommend it.)

If you would like to learn more about the “Broaden and Build Theory” or the positivity ratio, click here to listen to an online interview with Barbara Fredrickson discussing her theories and research.

PS A super special shout-out to all the new Wishful Thinking Women in Tampa. Really enjoyed meeting and talking with you on Saturday – hope you are still feeling the glow – I am!

If you are ready to improve your or your organization’s positivity ratio, you do not have to do it alone. Contact Patrice Koerper; Wishful Thinking Works life coaching, workshops and seminars for help!

The light-side of life

I had a great gathering with some wonderful Wishful Thinking Women in Tampa, Florida on Saturday. We talked about identifying how we want to feel, before deciding where we want to go or who we want to be.

I believe one of the easiest ways to accomplish that is to begin recognizing and savoring the moments that make you feel happy, confident, or relaxed. These moments can lead you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Becoming aware of how you feel in those moments will help you build a reservoir of positive emotions, and may increase the likelihood that you will want to recreate them in the future. It’s like resetting your emotional compass to point to positive rather than negative, which positive psychology studies show can increase your creativity and your ability to think broadly.

For many of us, the most common feelings we recognize are frustration, sadness, worry or regret. We keep them close to the surface where we can retrieve them at a moment’s notice. We become so accustomed to falling-back on draining or taxing emotions that we don’t bother to notice or we downplay the energy-enhancing ones, such as happiness.

By becoming more adept at identifying and fully experiencing the positive moments in our lives, we can retrain our brains to key-in on them and reduce our attraction and attachment to the energy-sapping ones. Little-by-little our stockpile of positive moments will outweigh the heaviness of the negative ones and can tip us over to the light-side of life.

The light-side of life is where all the really good stuff develops as our more relaxed state-of-mind allows our brains to broaden and our options to grow, which is the perfect time for planning what we want to do and who we want to be.

You can reset your emotional compass by making it a habit to notice and savor the moments when you feel light, peaceful, proud or happy. Notice what makes you smile, laugh, or relaxes your shoulders. Catch yourself feeling good, and savor the moment. Savoring locks in the richness of the moment, and makes it easier to find and recall the positive emotions attached to it, which may lead you down a whole new path.

Don’t let the good moments slip by you. Learn to identify and savor what makes you happy. When you do you are “exercising” your happiness muscles, which may help you build the life you really want.

 

 Wishful Thinking Works life coaching can help you build your happiness muscles. Having a coach in your corner, is a great way to quickly move forward with the changes you want to make in your life. For more information, click here or contact Patrice Koerper at 813-719-0769.

Wishful Thinking Ways #8

 

 

Wow, so excited. This is our 8th Wishful Thinking Ways week, and the perfect time to get your ducks in a row! Week 8 is chockfull of great ideas and activities. I hope you are having as much fun as I am doing the exercises. (If you haven’t started, click here.) I complete each exercise before I post it, and then I redo the exercise before I start writing my next post. Why? Well, for 8 great Wishful Thinking Ways reasons: 

  1. I never ask readers or clients to do something I haven’t done.
  2. I’ve been there and know that doing the exercises make a difference.
  3. I like the exercises, at least once I get started. . .
  4. The exercise always lead me to new insights about myself.
  5. Gaining insight about myself makes me feel good.
  6. I like feeling good and feeling good is good for me.
  7. When I feel good it’s easier to make the changes necessary to create the life I really want.
  8. Creating the life I really want, is what I really want! (If you start to question if what you want is possible or if you have the right to want it – hold that thought and pay attention to your physiological tells – then write a sentence or two about what you are thinking and label your feelings. See Wishful Thinking Ways #3 & #4 for details.)

Oh, and before we go on, I want to make sure that you understand that creating the life you really want doesn’t mean you have to climb the highest mountain or swim the deepest sea, but it could. It doesn’t mean you have to become an entrepreneur, a millionaire or an American Idol, but it could. Change is in the eye of the beholder, and I want you to learn to trust your vision. And, that’s what we are working on, creating the vision of how you want your life to be.

So take out your drawing paper and colored pencils or markers, and take a quick look at your drawings from Wishful Thinking Ways week 7 and the answers to the questions from Wishful Thinking Ways week 6.  

Which question, answer or drawing did you notice first? Use it to create a Mind Map. Start by redrawing it in the center of a new, large, good quality piece of paper. If you are not in the mood to draw, use a word or symbol to represent it. Click here for a sample page you can use.

Now using your colored pencils or markers start writing down any ideas or thoughts that come to mind on the same page. Don’t censor yourself, just keep writing or drawing your ideas, thoughts and words. If you find yourself thinking or drawing negative responses  – no problem just stop for a second and verbalize a statement around your thought: “I didn’t realize I was still scared/worried/jealous/angry/sad, etc. about _____________. And, then continue drawing and writing. (The goal is not to let our fears or concerns distract us. If we do, it will delay or discard the possibility of change. Be brave, I know you can do it.)

Change takes change. So if you find this exercise difficult or uncomfortable, do it any way. It’s good practice for all the other things that might make you uncomfortable along your change path.

Do a new Mind Map everyday, or use one of the other Wishful Thinking Ways worksheets to explore more of your ideas and thoughts. (EX: What excites me or makes my heart sing? Be specific. When am I happiest? Why? When am I at my best at work or at home? What am I doing when I lose myself in the task?  What are my strengths, how do I use them? What have I wanted to do since I was a kid?)

Later this week, I would also like you to complete the exercise outlined in this post and complete Your Tower of Strengths worksheet mentioned in the post.

Yes, week #8 is filled with activities, but that’s good because the activities are a form of action and change takes action!

Thanks for making time for change in your life. If you have any questions or thoughts about this week’s exercises please let me know in Comments or email me at wishfulthinkingworks@gmail.com

Have a great weekend.

Wishful Thinking Ways #3

Hi, welcome back. This is the third post in the Wishful Thinking Ways for 2012 series. We are meeting on Fridays to make 2012 exciting and rewarding in new and different ways. Each Friday I will share tips and exercises based on positive psychology and Appreciative Inquiry to help you create the life you really want.

Here’s the plan:

January – Setting the stage.
February – Discovering your dreams.
March – Making them happen.

It’s always good to start at the very beginning, so click to read Wishful Thinking Ways week one and week two.  January is our warm-up month for our heads and hearts. When your heart and mind are aligned amazing things can happen. Don’t miss a single step in the process! 

I have written about Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory a couple of times – here’s why: The more relaxed and open our brains are the more responsive and creative we become. There is a direct link between how we feel and how our brain works. Our brains are hard-wired to respond in different ways to pleasure and pain, happiness and stress.

Being stressed and always in “Flight or Fight” mode drains our energy and reduces are ability to creatively address what’s happening around us. There are thousands of articles on the Internet about dealing with stress, but instead of reading them, I would like you to identifying how your body reacts to stress to figure out your physiological Flight or Fight tells.

Discovering your physiological tells

When you are worried or angry does your chest or throat tighten, your stomach churn, your jaw clench? Do you feel the tension in your hands, arms, shoulders, or back? Do you hold your breath? I’m a center of the chest gal, and I hold my breath way more than I never knew. Not the kid-like dramatic, “I’m going to hold my breath”, but what the medical world refers to as “inhibitory breathing.” Millions of people do it and it can lead to high-blood pressure and heart problems!

One of the first steps I take with many of my clients is to help them discover their Flight or Fight tells. Getting in touch with how you are feeling when you are feeling it is as important in life as knowing your tells is in poker. And, as smart as we are, most of us no clue how our bodies react to stress.

Checking your pulse, so to speak

Start by writing and reading aloud this sentence: “I will figure out my Flight or Fight tells this week. I will learn how my body reacts when I’m stressed or angry.”

Then notice how your body reacts when you are tense or angry. When you find yourself rushing to work; heading into the boss’s office; yelling at your spouse or kids; listening to your spouse or children yelling; sitting in traffic; trying to meet a deadline, not saying to someone what you want to say or saying something that you know you will regret late, etc.  – stop for a split second, or immediately after, and ask yourself: “What’s happening to my body right now? “What am I feeling and where?” I guarantee, if you keep at it, by week’s end, if not sooner, you will know your Flight or Fight tells.

Let me know how it goes. Next Friday we will talk about how knowing your physiological tells can help you create the life you really want.   

 

Being happy and satisfied, doesn’t mean you stop dreaming, and being unhappy doesn’t mean you can’t start dreaming. So, no matter where you are today, it is the perfect starting point for where you want to be next.      

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