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!

Gain “The Happiness Advantage” in just 21 days!

Positive Psychology studies show happy, positive people are healthier and enjoy more creativity, success and have better relationships. Are you interested in adding more happiness to your life? Would you like to gain a “Happiness Advantage”? If so, keep reading to learn about Shawn Achor’s 5 Steps for creating your Happiness Advantage and to get a free copy of my Wishful Thinking Works tracking sheet to make the process just that much easier!

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor “graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics. For seven years, Shawn also served as an Officer of Harvard, living in Harvard Yard and counseling students through the stresses of their first year. Though he now travels extensively for his work, Shawn continues to conduct original psychology research on happiness and organizational achievement in collaboration with Yale University and the Institute for Applied Positive Research. . . . By researching top performers at Harvard, the world’s largest banks, and Fortune 500 companies, Shawn discovered patterns, which create a happiness advantage for positive outliers—the highest performers at the company. Based on his book, The Happiness Advantage (2010 Random House), Shawn explains what positive psychology is, how much we can change, and practical applications for reaping the Happiness Advantage in the midst of change and challenge.”

Shawn understands “The Happiness Advantage” and has created “The 21 Day Challenge” to help each of us get started on a positive future. The 5 steps of the Challenge are free and easy to do. (Please note: Shawn’s notes are in bold and are from a Huffington Post article he wrote in 2011. My notes are in italics.)

1)    Bring gratitude to mind

Write down three new things you are grateful for each day . . . Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even six months later, and raises your success rates significantly.

You’ve probably heard it from Oprah and by now from dozens of other sources, but do you do it? If not don’t worry, you can start today. For more info on gratitudes and savoring them, click here, here, and here.

Here is a bit more from a Shawn Achor interview about why it works . . . “What they’re training their brain to do is to scan the world, not for the stresses, hassles, and complaints first, but actually training their brain, like an athlete, to look for the things that they are grateful for.  Now, you might assume that that advantage might only help them for about 45 seconds after writing down these three things that they are grateful for, or saying them out loud.  But what we found that after a period of 21 days, the pattern gets retained in the brain, it’s what I call the Tetris Effect where if an individual plays Tetris for five hours in a row, their brain retains this pattern where even when they’re not playing Tetris, it’s still parsing the world into how do I make straight lines, which is exactly what you do in that video game.”  

2)    Focus on the Positive

Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours.  This is a untitledstrategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker, to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos.  This dramatically increases work happiness.
This step really helps you key in on why something matters to you and can help you truly understand what makes you happy. Take time throughout the 21 days to review what you wrote about and see if there are any patterns emerging. 

3)   Exercise

Exercise for 15 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.

In a TED Talk Achor mentioned 15 minutes of cardio a day, which is I shoot for since it gives the most bang for its buck – BUT getting into the habit is the most important part, so if you need to start with 10 minutes, do it! Walking, stretching, working with weights, go for it!  No matter what you start with, get started and keep at it until the 15 minutes of cardio is a regular habit.  Exercise increases your mood by increasing the amount of endorphins and decreases cortisol levels – the stress hormone. So any exercise is a good thing, but remember 15 minutes a day, of cardio will have multiple pay-offs.

4)  Meditate

Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out.  This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. Research shows you get multiple tasks done faster if you do them one at a time.  It also decreases stress and raises happiness.

Two minutes makes a difference! If you are meditating longer, keep it up. If you aren’t meditating at all or never have, get started by thinking about one of your positives/gratitudes and why it mattered to you and then simply close your eyes, breathe in through your nose, out through your nose, in long, slow, deep, belly filling breathes . . . and release . . . and inhale . . . and exhale . . .

I call this Step “Take 2”; it’s amazing how refreshed you will feel, and it can quickly become a healthy habit. Use it as many times as you like throughout the day. I love to “Take 2” before I start a new task, and find it particularly refreshing before meetings, presentations, and working with clients. It helps me focus and really enjoy the moment and to redirect my energy exactly where I need it!

5)  Send A Positive Email

Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team.  This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which in my study at Harvard was the largest predictor of happiness for the students.

If you aren’t working, or run out of folks to email, no problem, share the love by including friends, family members or people from your past you think of, but have fallen out of touch with. The key is to reach out to those you care about in a detailed, positive way. And, if you are working, remember your “team” can include colleagues in your department or beyond, vendors, customers, etc.

Here’s the really great news about Achor’s 21 Day Challenge you can add all 5 Steps to your life for 21 days, or you can start by simply adding 1 Step to your life for 21 days, and then try another each new 21 day period! The choice is yours. And remember, any step in the direction of happiness will give you an advantage!

To make the process even easier I’ve created “Your 21 Day Happiness Advantage” tracking sheet. To receive your free copy, simply fill out the form below and I’ll email a copy to you. (Don’t forget to share this post with your family and friends so they can gain the Advantage, too.)

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

To “Like” Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook, click here.

 

 

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 head stand of happiness

 

The Happiness Advantage

Would you like to increase your productivity by 30% without sacrificing your happiness? If so, click The Happiness Advantage  to watch a 2:39 minute intro video as former Harvard lecturer, Shawn Achor explains how happiness is the key.

Achor is a positive psychology expert. He taught for years in one of Harvard’s most popular classes, “Positive Psychology”, conducted research in the field and travels the world lecturing on the topic. I will be sharing more from Achor’s great book, The Happiness Advantage in the weeks ahead.

WTW Dandelion

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.

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