Instead of the 12 days of Christmas, we’re talking about the 12 Qualities of Happiness as referenced in the book What Happy People Know. Happiness flows as a by-product from these qualities and is a much more positive by-product than those we are generally used to. Cultivate the following qualities and you will also be cultivating happiness. The more qualities you embrace; the more happiness springs forth and the more fear is pushed out of your life.
- Love is the opposite of fear both emotionally and neurologically. The antidote to fear is love and is the first step towards happiness.
- Optimism provides power over painful events and offers power over fear of the future and over regret for the past.
- Courage overcomes fear and helps you rise above the situation. Both fear and courage are pre-programmed into the neocortex of our brains. Courage is the quality that helps us survive and thrive.
- Freedom of choice
- Be Proactive and participate in your own destiny – create your future and your legacy.
- Security in who you are no matter what. Security in knowing that nothing lasts and that security is an inside job – not anything extrinsic which can be lost at any minute.
- Health and happiness are interdependent – we need both to sustain the other.
- Spirituality and the tranquility it brings to not be concerned about death but more concerned about not living fully.
- Altruism aids in giving you purpose and getting outside yourself – giving vs. getting mind-set.
- Perspective to see shades of gray and having the sense to turn problems into possibilities by not losing sight of the big picture in bad times.
- Sense of Humor to help shift our perspective.
- Sense of Purpose and knowing why you’re here on Earth. Doing the things you were meant to do. Did you know that we are all born with a life purpose? It is established in our fingerprints in utero and can be deciphered so you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing. If you’re interested in having a reading and knowing your true purpose through your personal GPS (Genetic Purpose System), contact me for details: Gaia@GaiaHart.com.
So why not cultivate these characteristics over the next few weeks. Why not take on some of them as your New Year’s challenge and see what happens next. I’m guessing a bit of happiness will come your way.
It’s a funny thing this happiness trend. Like when you buy a new car and then you keep noticing all the cars on the road like yours because it’s on your radar. I keep having these happiness studies, books, websites and articles drop into my lap while I wait at the car wash, doctor’s office, watching TV or on a teleclass where a book is referenced by my coach. I’m getting bombarded with happiness messages and just have to share the good news.
The latest one is a website called http://www.happify.com all about the science of happiness and how you can live a happier life be design. This website is no slouch, it was featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Redbook and Shape magazines and it has years of scientifically-based research behind it. Finally corporations are getting it that happy workers make for better business. When work is made fun, it gets done and good times lead to good business. Us folk in the recreation field have known that all along. I’m glad the corporate suits are getting clued in to how the bottom line is affected by how happy employees are in the workplace and at home. I write about it many years ago in How to Create a Happy Herd: the Contented Cow Syndrome as one of the cover stories in one of Stephen Covey’s magazines. I’m thinking of dusting it off and re-printing it for your reading pleasure.
Anywho…. back to the Happify website. They claim that spending a few minutes daily on fun, science-based activities and games can improve your life on many levels including: gaining confidence, boosting optimism, decreasing stress, building resilience to stress, improve relationships and conquer negative thoughts. Everybody seems to be getting on the gamifying bandwagon these days….like the website Lumosity – to train your brain to be smarter. Why not give it whirl and see how you can happify your life. There are lots and lots of articles for lots of areas of your life that can be happified. Happy reading….
It begins with happiness. Happiness is not the end state. Happiness is the starting point that leads to all kinds of positive things in your life including your health. Choosing to insert moments of happiness into your day (I call them holi-moments instead of holidays), is like a string of pearls of joy. Stringing together all the pearls of happiness each day creates a happy, healthier life. Here are some of the things stemming from happiness as a secret ingredient. Extensive research in the Positive Psychology movement of the past couple decades has proven that happy people:
- Have fewer strokes and heart attacks
- Get sick less often in general – fewer colds, viruses and flu incidents
- Have a stronger immune system in general
- Have less pain and inflammation
- Sleep better
- Develop resistance to stress and adversity
- Enjoy improved work performance and success
- Have more fulfilling and longer-lasting marriages
- Attract more friends and are more social
- Are more altruistic and have a greater positive impact on society
- Attract more wealth
- Are more connected and active in their communities
- Have a larger network
- Live longer
The research is very clear that these things don’t lead to happiness. The exact opposite is true – that happiness leads to these positive outcomes. Happiness is the first ingredient to living a better life all the way around. We’ve had it backward for many years – thinking that IF we have these other things, THEN we’ll be happy. Now we have scientific evidence that the polar opposite is true – happiness comes first to attract these other things. Happiness is something we can do right now to start attracting these other things to us. Albert Schweitzer summed it up well: Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”
The study of the science of happiness has just recently caught up with what generally happy people already intuitively knew. In the past couple decades the science of Positive Psychology has learned:
- Happiness does not come from genetics, luck or chance
- Happiness has a lot less to do with circumstances than we originally thought
- Happiness is not the result of some big, momentous occasion or event or goal attainment – it is realized by all the little small, daily things that add up moment by moment
- Happiness is created by thing simply, daily things we decide to do – how we choose to move through the world
- Unhappiness is created by NOT choosing to do those simple, daily things that we recognize as the things that create our happiness – we must identify the things that we are doing first so we know which things to keep doing and keep putting in our lives so maintain our happiness and be consciously aware of the things we add to our lives that bring us joy and happiness as well as those things that create unhappiness and delete those things.
- Happiness comes from conscious living and living purposefully – being in tune with what you allow in your life and deciding what you do and what you don’t, having the feeling of being in control of how you live your life
Some other rules of the road for creating happiness stemming from the scientific research as part of the Positive Psychology movement:
- Keep a positive mindset and speak in positive vs. negative terms
- Make a regular practice of counting your blessings and focus on gratitude and appreciation
- Do kind things for others and help make the world a better place in the service of others
Keeping a positive mindset and speaking positive words is more powerful than most people realize. There was some amazing evidence of this at the third World Congress on Positive Psychology as reported by the Center for Disease Control. They linked the incidence of atherosclerotic disease county by county of the northeastern United States with the amount of negative words used by those counties as evidenced by the Twitter posts. The study had analyzed 40,000 words in over 80 million tweets and when the results were overlaid with a county-by-county analysis of heart attacks, it was nearly an exact correlation. The words used that were predictive of illness were expressions of anger, hostility, aggression, disengagement and lack of social support.
The study also revealed the correlation of positive attitude and lower risk of heart attacks in a county-by-county study with these maps also being nearly identical – similar to the negative words and more heart attacks. The positive words that correlated with health included fabulous, helpful share, great, interesting, gratitude.
Being in the personal development field for over 30 years; this “new” scientific evidence only certifies what many of the thought leaders, motivational speakers and experts in the field of human performance have been saying for decades. I’m very grateful there is now science behind what we’ve been touting for a long time. It gives more intellectual weigh and credibility to what we’ve been sharing with our audiences on the positive side effects of positive thinking. It has opened doors and opened the minds of many in the corporate world, in government and in the general public about how their mindset and the mindset of an organization has a great deal to do with the morale of the people and their performance.
Combining Fun and Effectiveness is good business. Often, those of us in the personal development field have found roughly 10 % of those in our audience are really attuned to the positive thinking movement; but when you link that movement to the happiness movement, then the percentage of those who are willing to embrace it skyrockets to well over 50%. I haven’t yet met anybody who doesn’t want to be happy, though I’ve met many who want to be happier or even those who are happy, but didn’t know it because of their mindset and their choice of focus. How is your mindset? How are you choosing to be happy? Have you noticed what words you choose on a daily basis? Have you paid any attention to your tweets and Facebook posts and the type of words you are using? Try transforming your words and I bet you will begin to transform your life. I dare you…
You may have noticed a theme here this year. I’ve decided to offer an alternating series on Happiness and Personal Energy. I’ve been researching, studying, living and making a living from educating others about how to improve both for their personal and professional lives as well as showing organizations how to improve both to beef up their bottom line. The two are intricately intertwined because a large majority of our energy is emotional energy. If our mindset is set on negativity, sadness, dark drama, emotional baggage and such; no matter how many energy inserts we add to our lives, we will still feel drained of energy.
The Positive Psychology movement gained a foothold about 20 years ago and it’s been a very interesting thing to watch this shift in the science of psychology. Martin Seligman, a Philadelphia psychologist is the father of the field of positive psychology and happiness. He began by asking “what if happiness was more than the absence of sadness and what if we could have a kind of psychology that focused on the positive instead of on the negative and what has gone wrong?”
Since that time, in January 2005 TIME Magazine ran a cover story on The Science of Happiness, then Fortune 500 corporations, the military, Harvard, the Federal Government and a growing mass of the public began to run with this theory. In 2010, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh published his business memoir Delivering Happiness and it debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list at number 1. There is something to this happiness thing.
Contrary to what the Declaration of Independence says; happiness is not something we PURSUE, it’s something we DO…or rather an accumulation of the many little things we do every day. It’s HOW we decide to live our lives. One of the very best exercises I can share in pinpointing how to realize happiness in our lives is the Ideal Day writing assignment. I believe I’ve mentioned it before and it bears repeating because it is so powerful in its simplicity.
Find quiet time and get comfy to spend as long as you need to dream and visualize your Ideal Day and write it down in exquisite detail. Capture all the little things that bring you happiness such as fuzzy puppies, lush towels, down comforters, soothing smooth jazz music, fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice, 80% dark chocolate, cashmere…but I digress. Begin with when you wake up and move throughout your day and describe what your senses experience, what you do, how you do it and what your surroundings look like, sound like and feel like. Afterwards, do a gap analysis of your Ideal Day and your current life. What is missing? What can you easily insert into your current life from your Ideal Day? If you can’t focus on just one day. Do what I did and write down your Ideal Day for the Fall/Winter and one for the Spring/Summer because mine included skiing to sailing and I needed more than one day to capture it.
Next, look at your gap analysis and see what you already have in your current life from your Ideal Day? What can you celebrate? What do you have or what are you doing that already brings joy and happiness that you may be taking for granted? Often, we neglect to honor and enjoy certain things until we don’t have them. We think it’s just a normal thing. I’ve recently experienced this by having knee replacement surgery. Down for the count for several weeks with a walker and crutches and I knew immediately that mobility and absence of pain/vitality were things I didn’t savor nearly enough. Yep, being able to move through the world confidently that I won’t fall down is now on my list in my Ideal Day.
Once you find things from your Ideal Day that you don’t yet have; make a plan to be, do, have those things that would bring you joy and happiness and energy. When we are happier, we have more energy. Sadness brings lower energy. The research says that it’s not the big things that come around few and far between, it’s the smaller daily things that create the happiness. How you realize happiness and increased personal energy is by doing simple things and doing them often. Your assignment is to write down your Ideal Day. Your homework is then to make a list of what you already have or do from the Ideal Day and then make a list of what you can insert into your life from the exercise.
Meet me back here in a few weeks and get your next installment of the Happy Factor.
Seems like the happy factor is touching many sectors in our society. The popular catchy little tune Happy as sung by Pharrell Williams made an appearance at the Oscars earlier this year and has hit #1 on the charts in 24 countries. Indeed happiness has struck a chord with the world. Outside magazine recently offered a cover article on What Makes us Happy. I wanted to share some of the things that Outside Magazine says makes us happy with these simple habits that can change our lives.
Here is more scientifically proven methods for living more happy….if you need even more proof than I’ve supplied thus far:
- Wake up with the sun to get your dose of vitamin D and also ensure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. We need this amount of sleep for our bodies to do their thing and regenerate. Less than that and we are less sharp, heavier, cranky and perform less. Being awake with the sun and getting more daylight, according to Boston University medical researches boosts genes that play a role in resisting cancer, infections and auto-immune diseases.
- Enjoying freedom of choice – being more in control of our time and our life improves our happiness according to a 2010 University of Rochester study. Free time is important to our well-being and if we spend it with people we enjoy, we get a double dose of the good stuff that happiness brings.
- Play your favorite songs – crank up the tunes. Neuroscientists at McGill University in Canada cited in 2011 that brains create dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, when listening to favorite songs. They scanned music listeners’ brains while they played different types of music and the dopamine surge was greatest just before and during a favorite part of a song.
- The 2011 National Geographic True Happiness survey suggested that the happiest people were those who watched less than 1 hour of TV per day.
- The Boston Consulting Group working with a Harvard professor in 2009 who wrote the book Sleeping with Your Smartphone; agreed to unplug one night per week. No email, no texting or clients calls and no TV. After 5 weeks, the consultants were functioning better as a team, did more work in less time and now they have embraced the weekly disconnect as company policy.
Now that you’ve had time to digest all the holiday food and forget about the resolutions you made a week ago; I’m giving you more to chew on and more ideas for live-long revolutions as opposed to resolutions which you break in a matter of days or weeks. Here are eight more ideas to help you live happier, healthier and Hartier this year and into the future.
- Give your time and attention to something, somebody other than yourself. Volunteering for a favorite cause or charity brings us a feeling of doing good and that invites happiness and better health into our lives. The feeling of empathy that comes with volunteering produces better feelings than if we do other things such as give money, blood or other altruistic behavior says a study published in the journal of Social Science and Medicine.
- In relation to #5 in the last posting about feeling a sense of calm and having more order in your life; outsourcing the things that don’t bring you joy can leave you feeling a sense of happiness by employing others to do those duties. I’ve bought back several hours per month by outsourcing grocery shopping, regular shopping and errands at the drug store through online purchasing. There’s something very satisfying about having my food brought to my door without me needing to endure crowded parking lots, long cashier lines, and too many carts in the aisles. Doing my grocery shopping in about 7 minutes with delivery the next day makes me very, very happy and allows more free time for fun and play. Outsourcing cleaning, taxes, car repair, landscaping and some cooking also makes me giggle with glee when I don’t have to do those things. One of my mentors outsources the gassing up and cleaning of his car and another hires somebody to pack out, and put together her home including groceries in the fridge for a household move while she goes on vacation. She has found a way to outsource her stress. I say BRAVO!
- Find your flow. How often do you notice that you’re in the flow and in the groove of something that you don’t notice time flying by? Being in the zone of flow where your talents and skills match the challenge of the activity is what professor Mihaly Czikszentimihalyi called flow when your full attention is enveloped and engaged in the activity you’re doing right now. I find myself in flow when I’m writing, creating, skiing, doggie walking, hiking in the forest our mountains, talking with friends, reading, being artsy, teaching and problem solving. What puts you in flow?
- As a Certified Laughter Leader, I’ve studied the effects of laughter on our central nervous system and the effect on others around us. In the book Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins found that 10 minutes of good belly laughter can produce enough positive endorphins to produce 2 hours of restful sleep in those with chronic pain without any medication. Laughing stimulates the thymus gland which aids in the production of T cells which helps fight diseases. So laughter not only connects people, it stimulates oxygen in the blood and helps make you more healthy and more fun to be around. Laugh for the health and happiness of it all. Find your sense of humor about your situations and you will become more happy and healthy.
- Practicing the art of gratitude and being in a constant state of being grateful helps boost our happiness factor. A few years ago, one of my mentors suggested answering the ubiquitous question of “How are you doing?” with “Grateful! And you?” I’ve been using that response ever since to remind myself that I’m in a constant state of gratitude and gratitude brings good vibes. Try writing in a gratitude journal to get you started on focusing what is good in your life. What we focus on expands and where our thoughts go, energy flows. Focus on gratitude. Take the Gratitude Challenge here.
- Add beauty, joyful things, and pleasantries into your day and delete things that cause you concern or stress. This means taking a look at your spaces at home and at work or your home office. Do your surroundings inspire you? Does the view out your windows represent beauty? Do you have fresh flowers? Is your furniture comfy and working for you? Do you have a favorite mug, great music playing in your space, a short commute, a job you love that is on purpose and in alignment with your personal purpose?
- Get some sleep. Reuters news service reported on a study published in the journal of Science that sleep quality has a greater influence on the ability to enjoy your day than household income and even marital status. Other research I’ve seen says that we must get at least 8 hours of REM sleep in order for the good hormones to kick in and for our bodies to regenerate what it needs in order to make us more effective. I’m a personal fan of naps, especially with my fuzzy little doxi dog, Fozzi who converts to my nap hat. Shown in photo above. Another twofer – fuzzy puppies and sleep. Aaaaaahhhhh, life’s simple pleasures offer such joy.
- Are you with a partner that brings you joy, what about your other relationships? Do you have love in your life on many levels? Happiness is linked to the strength of the bonds in our lives. Put things you love in your line of sight to lift your mood. Those who have better or more intimacy with their life partner report higher happiness levels than those with multiple partners or those without partners. Being with the wrong partner conversely affects your happiness….. Duh! Not sure a big study was needed for that finding?!
There you have it. A kick start to your year of living happier, healthier and Hartier for 2014 and for years to come. If you have other ideas or have found other research to improve the happiness factor, let me know. I’ll be sharing more in the months to come. Stay tuned as I’ll be sharing monthly Keys to Energize, Practice Safe Stress and Pump Up Your Productivity and Have More Fun. Happy New Year!
In America and many other countries the generations seem to be making more and more money than their parents and grandparents did, yet their happiness and health doesn’t keep up with the upward trend in income. There are many researchers out there on the topic of happiness and what it takes to create happiness in our lives. Some chalk it up partially to genetics and circumstances and all agree that it is a choice in mindset, outlook and lifestyle. From my work with entrepreneurs, executives and employees all over the world; I would say it is first and foremost a personal choice and about the choices we make from the mindset we’ve decided to have and the way we choose to view the world, our circumstances and how we’ve chosen to move through the world. We may not have absolute, total control of our circumstances, but we certainly do have control over how we react to them. We can’t be inspired leaders if we don’t feel inspired. We can’t give what we don’t have and as you’ll see in one of the following tips; folks need to be around other happy and inspired people. Leaders first need to take charge of their own lives and get themselves to a happy and inspired place before they can even begin to think of leading and inspiring others.
Here are some insights from researchers and from moi on how to live your life happier, healthier and Hartier this coming year and in years to come.
- Mashing up the mindset of an Optimist with the pragmatic insight of a Realist is what psychology researcher Sophia Chou found to be the happy medium to being happier. The blending of a clear view of present circumstances with the creative outlook of an Optimist brings about more positive ways of dealing with situations.
- I’ve found studies where being in the presence of negative ions helps with our happiness, mood and health. The places that produce negative ions is in a pine forest where the pine needles bristle against each other in the wind and create the reaction and the smell we love. Also being at the beach or near a waterfall where the water is crashing onto itself releasing the negative ions. The sights, sounds, whole body experience along with the ionic atmosphere help elevate our moods.
- Choosing to spend money on multiple small pleasures versus splurging on a couple larger ones gives people the feeling of being more in control of how they treat themselves. When we treat ourselves to treats more often, we feel more cared for and loving, even if that pleasure is one piece of divine dark chocolate per week as opposed to a trip to the islands every few years. A 2011 study published by the Journal of consumer Psychology found that happiness is more strongly associated with the frequency than the intensity of people’s positive affective experiences. So go ahead and break up the pedicure and manicure into two visits to get more bang for your happiness buck.
- Eat lunch outside, at the park, near the beach, in view of pleasant scenery, at a sidewalk café… anywhere but at your desk or inside a corporate cafeteria. Scientists from the University of Sussex measured the happiness of employees after they ate lunch. And you guessed it, those who ate at their desks failed miserably on the happiness factor. So get outdoors, take a walk, take in some sun and fresh air and dine with friends to up your levels of happy during your lunch hour. I personally love to walk my dog and dine al fresco for lunch for a double shot of oomph during my day. Now there’s a twofer – puppies, play, and outdoor eating.
- Having a sense of order, calm and feeling that we’re in control and powerful beings brings us more happiness. It’s the act of FEELING in control, though we may not be in control, which brings us more joy. Doing activities such as keeping to somewhat of a schedule, making our beds, having our desks and our home and our lives more in order while allowing wiggle room for error and spontaneity allows for happiness to flow to us. Order contributes to inner calm according to Gretchin Rubin, the creator of The Happiness Project and the feeling of being powerful over your time and your life leads to feeling more satisfied with your life.
- BE HERE NOW and keeping focused on the present and exactly what is happening to you right now… oh look, a SQUIRREL! Brings on more happiness than those with a wandering or worrying mind or those with Shiny Object Syndrome according to research from Harvard psychologists. Eckhart Tolle’s books on being focused on the now and his insight into how to BE in the world advance this aspect of being harmonious with the moment. As I’ve coached supervisors for discussing performance appraisals: to focus on the past fixes blame and to focus on the future fixes the problem. Be present with the team member and deal with the behavior that is happening right now and then move toward the future while being mindful of what can be done right now to fix the issue.
- I’ve heard from many sources and mentors that we usually earn the average income of the five people we most hang out with. Hmmmmm. A similar thing happens to us when we hang around happy people. Surrounding yourself with positive, happy, healthy people who choose to have a sense of humor about circumstances, choose healthier living habits such as eating their fruits and veggies and not smoke, tend to rub off on you as well. Also having close friends with whom you can confide and share experiences is also a key happiness factor. Not to mention an activity partner to help kick your butt into gear on the ski slopes, tennis courts, the gym or bike path. A little friendly rivalry or egging on doesn’t hurt when you know somebody is counting on you to show up with workout clothes and ready to go. This is a twofer: exercise and friendship.
- You already got two twofer in #4 and #7 making that 9 tips in total for this posting…. Under promise and over-deliver. Watch for the next posting for 8 more happy, healthy and Harty tips for the New Year and years to come.
I’ll leave you with this thought by the great Dale Carnegie: Success is getting what you want and happiness is wanting what you get. I hope you get both.