Three Simple Steps to immediately experience the Happiness Advantage
‘The happiness advantage – because positive brains have a biological advantage over brains that are neutral or negative, this principle teaches us how to retrain our brains to capitalize on positivity and improve our productivity and performance.’
Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
If you are like me, and about 18 million other people, you have watched Shawn Achor’s TED talk on “The happy secret to better work”. (Actually, I think I have been at least 20 of the views — just watching it makes me happy! I’m also in awe of his flawless presentation.)
So of course, I went out and bought a copy of Shawn’s book, The Happiness Advantage. Throughout the book he shares techniques and the supporting research to building and creating happiness. As with many things in life, most of them are easy to do. But they are also easy not to do.
One of the most accessible exercises he suggests is to focus on 3 good things that have happened in the last 24 hours. As a facilitator and a coach, I often prime my sessions by asking participants for something positive that has happened. As Shawn points out in his book, research has shown that this simple act “trains the brain to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on the possibilities for personal and professional growth and seizing opportunities to act on them.”
THE CCS HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE
You may like to use the CCS to reflect on 3 good things that have happened to recently. Ask a topic like this:
‘Go through your pack and find 3 cards to describe some positive things in your life right now.’
Or you could try this simple topic to get you focused on the positive:
‘Go through your pack and find 3 cards that make you feel happy.’
The topic alone sets the brain into scanning for the good. Immediately there’s a sense of ‘oooh, how fun’. Next, you have a few moments of reflection to sort through your pack with the topic in mind. Having a positively framed topic, that is incredibly simple, is enjoyable in and of itself … and … (again from Shawn)
“… because we can only focus on so much at once, our brains push out those small annoyances and frustrations that used to loom large into the background, even out of our visual field entirely. This exercise has staying power. One study found that participants who wrote down three good things each day for a week were happier, and less depressed at the one month, three month and six month follow ups. More amazing – even after stopping the exercise they remained significantly happier and showed higher levels of optimism. They got better at scanning the world for the good.”
Choosing the cards feels good
Taking time to reflect about things that make you happy is rewarding. As you choose the cards, you are not only having the positive feelings, you now have visual examples in front of you that make you happy.
Share your ‘happy’ cards!
Speaking about why you chose the cards that you did reinforces the feeling of happiness for yourself, and also spreads the happy feeling Remember: sometimes we don’t know what we think until we hear what we say, so saying it out loud helps you to articulate the feeling and sense you had about happiness — further reinforcing the feeling.
Sharing also connects you with the person you are sharing with. Connection has been shown to increase our levels of Oxycontin, that makes us feel good. Double wham! Quoting again from The Happiness Advantage …
“Researchers found that social bonds weren’t just predictive of overall happiness, but also of eventual career achievement, occupational success, and income.”
“To make a difference to work performance and job satisfaction, social contact need not always be deep to be effective. Organisational psychologists have found that even brief encounters can form ‘high quality connections’, which fuel openness, energy and authenticity among co-workers, and in turn lead to a whole host of measurable, tangible gains in performance. Jane Dutton, a psychologist who specialises in this subject at the University of Michigan Business School, explains that ‘any point of contact with another person can potentially be a high-quality connection. One conversation … one moment of connecting in a meeting can infuse both participants with a great sense of vitality, giving them a bounce in their steps and greater capacity to act.”
Record your choices
Record your choices and reasons (you might like to use some CCS Vision Stickers) — as taking time to create a visual record of your happy choices further reinforces your positive feelings and makes them easier to share.
Research conducted by Chad Burton and Laura King found that journaling about positive experiences has a powerful effect. They found people had large spikes in happiness, and 3 months later had fewer symptoms of illness than control groups.
Beyond The Happiness Advantage
And if that isn’t convincing enough, Clifford Nass, in his ground-breaking book, The Man Who Lied To His Laptop (you have to read this if you haven’t!), presents another great reason for purposely generating positive thoughts and feelings:
“… once people are happy, their positive state actually self perpetuates to a certain degree. This occurs because after an emotion-causing stimulus has come and gone, the physiological correlates of emotion take some time to return to their neutral state. That is, the physical processes of our bodies have much greater inertia than the thinking processes of our brain. Just as forced smiling makes television shows seem funnier, a physiologically happy body leads you to see the world through ‘rose-coloured glasses’, which helps sustain your positive feelings. As a result, it takes much less effort to keep generally happy employees happy as compared to trying to cheer up generally morose employees.”
So, what are you waiting for — grab your CCS cards and feel the happiness advantage!