For most of us, happiness is a habit
HAPPINESS isn't just about feeling good, it's about the joy we feel while striving after our potential.
Researcher Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, has found that choosing simple happiness habits that take no longer than brushing your teeth can boost your mood, make you happier and, as a result, healthier, more productive and creative at work and closer to those you love at home.
1. Three acts of gratitude
Spend two minutes a day scanning the world for three new things you're grateful for. And do that for 21 days. The reason why that's powerful is you're training your brain to scan the world in a new pattern: you're scanning for positives, instead of scanning for threats. It's the fastest way of teaching optimism.
2. The doubler
For two minutes a day, think of one positive experience that's occurred during the past 24 hours. Bullet point each detail you can remember. It works, because the brain can't tell the difference between visualisation and actual experience. So you've just doubled the most meaningful experience in your brain. Do it for 21 days, your brain starts connecting the dots for you, then you have this trajectory of meaning running throughout life.
3. The fun 15
Fifteen minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day. It's the equivalent of taking an anti-depressant for the first six months, but with a 30% lower relapse rate over the next two years.
We did this at Google. We had them take their hands off their keyboards two minutes a day. And go from multitasking, to simply watching their breath go in and out. This raises accuracy rates. Improves levels of happiness. Drops their stress levels. And it takes two minutes.
5. Conscious acts of kindness
The final habit is the most powerful that we've seen so far. For two minutes each day, start work by writing a two-minute positive email or text praising or thanking one person you know. And do it for a different person each day. People who do this not only get great emails and texts back and are perceived as positive leaders because of the praise and recognition, but their social connection score is at the top end of the scale. Social connection is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness - the study I did at Harvard is 0.7 correlation, which doesn't sound very sexy, but is stronger than the connection between smoking and cancer.
Q: Can these little, two-minute habits really make a difference?
Achor: So many people are struggling to create happiness while their brain is inundated by noise. If your brain is receiving too much information, it automatically thinks you're under threat and scans the world for the negative first. Because the brain is limited, whatever you attend to first becomes your reality. What we're finding is that it's not the macro things that matter, but it's the micro choices for happiness that actually sustain happiness the best.