The Happy Secret to Better Work

The formula is clear: work harder, then you’ll be successful, then you’ll be happier.

Our society’s formula for success and happiness is broken.

Now for the good news. Based on the findings in The Happiness Advantage: if you reverse the order of the formula, you end up with greater happiness and greater success rates. If you cultivate happiness while in the midst of your struggles, work, at school, while unemployed or single, you increase your chances of attaining all the goals you are pursuing… including happiness.

So how can we pursue happiness right now? When I was counseling overwrought Harvard students, one of the first things I would tell them is to stop equating a future success with happiness. Empirically, we know success does not lead to happiness. Is everyone with a job happy? Is every rich person happy? Then step one is to stop thinking that finding a job, getting a promotion, etc. is the only thing that can brings happiness. Success does not mean happiness. Check out any celebrity magazine to look for examples to disabuse you of thinking that being beautiful, successful or rich will make you happy.

Second, realize that happiness is a work ethic. Happiness is not a mystery. Try an experiment right now called the 21 Day Challenge. Pick one of the five researched habits and try it out for 21 days in a row to create a positive habit, then comment on this blog or Facebook me and tell us your results.

1. Write down three new things you are grateful for each day into a blank word document or into the free app/journal. Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even 6 months later, and raises your success rates significantly

2. Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours. This is a strategy 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.

3. Exercise for 10 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.

4. Meditate for 2 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.

5. 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 are having trouble getting started, at the end of my TED talk I describe how to make those habits even easier to start by managing activation energy.

Happiness is an advantage, and the precursor to greater success. Every single relationship, business and educational outcome improves when the brain is positive first.  You have to train your brain to be positive just like you work out your body. We not only need to work happy, we need to work at being happy. If you reverse the formula, you can turn happiness into a success advantage, raising every business and educational outcome. Start by doing one of these habits.  And once and for all, stop yourself and others from saying, “I’ll be happy when…”  Finding happiness now leads to greater success.

From Shawn Achor; August 23, 2011

Take it further, with 10 Simple, Science-Backed Ways to Be Happier Today from Fast Company

1. Exercise More – Try the 7 Minute Workout

– Exercise can cure depression, help you relax, increase your brain power, and improve your body image (even without losing weight); and releases endorphins in the brain that make us happier

– No time? Try the scientific 7 minute workout

2. Sleep More – Enough Rest Creates Fewer Negative Emotions

– Less sleep means you’ll recall more bad emotions than good; won’t be able to remember pleasant memories, only gloomy ones. Less sleep also means you’re more sensitive to negative emotions such as fear and anger

– No more 8 hour night – people live best when they sleep between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night, and women need, on average, about 20 more minutes of sleep than men

3. Move Closer to Work – Choose the Smaller House and Shorter Commute

– Commuting makes us (and our partners) less happy: it takes away time from your family, costs money, and stresses you out

– The longer the commute, the more likely you are to have back and neck pain, a high cholesterol and a BMI that labels you as obese

4. Spend Time with Friends & Family – Don’t Regret it on Your Deathbed

– All other happiness revolves around our relationships with other people

– Social relationships are worth up to $100,000 in life satisfaction, while a larger income improves very little happiness

5. Go Outside – Happiness is maximized at 57°F

– Spending only 20 minutes outside can boost a positive mood, broaden thinking, and improve working memory, creativity, curiosity, and problem solving skills

– Going outside can also decrease depression, anxiety, and stress, lowers the risk of diabetes, increases energy, immunity, and fitness, and reduces symptoms of A.D.D.

6. Help Others – Performing an Act of Kindness Gives an Immediate Mood Boost

– In a study about purchases, money spent on activities and others brought the most happiness. Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise scientists have studied.

– Volunteering results higher life satisfaction – 100 hours a year is the magic number.

7. Smile More – It Makes You Happier, More Likeable and Better Looking!

– Real smiling, with positive thoughts backing it up, can make us happier and more positive about life in general. It helps improve attention and performance on cognitive tasks and can reduce pain and stress.

– Smiling can also reduce stress hormone levels, increase mood and health enhancing hormone levels, and lower blood pressure

8. Plan a Trip – Have Something to Look Forward To

– Vacation anticipation can boost your happiness for up to 8 weeks

– ‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ concept, daydreaming releases almost the same amount of ‘feel good’ chemicals the real experience would

9. Meditate – Rewire Your Brain for Happiness in 10 Minutes a Day

– Meditating clears your mind and calms you down and is proven to be one of the most effective ways to increase happiness in your life

– Regular meditation has shown to rewire our brain structure, increasing concentration, focus and performance; it decreases blood pressure and can help you lose weight; it reduces pain, anxiety and depression; it leaves you calm and content with more awareness and empathy.

10. Practice Gratitude – Increase Life Happiness & Satisfaction

– Simply taking note of things you are grateful for can improve your happiness, decrease depressive symptoms and improve positive thoughts while making you more aware of happiness in your life

– Create a list of ‘100 Things You are Thankful For’ or take gratitude walks to practice gratitude.