Growing up, I admired my Mom for being in a great mood every day. I once asked her how she did it, how she managed to never be grumpy, and she told me, “I choose to be happy.” I think of those words often, and try to emulate her (“try” being the operative word). This morning, this choice is proving to be particularly challenging, given how the AFC Championship game ended last night. However, I have extra motivation, and extra inspiration to get me there, thanks to Shawn Achor.
Yesterday, in addition to being a huge football day and the day President Obama was sworn in to his second term, was the first day of Serious Business. My highlight of the conference was hearing a Harvard academic confirm what my mother told me all these years. Indeed, Shawn Achor’s research proves that:
1. Scientifically, happiness is a choice.
2. Happiness spreads.
3. Happiness is an advantage.
Achor challenged us to switch our thinking from believing that hard work will lead to success which will lead to happiness, and start raising our optimism level in order to be more successful. Happiness should not be on the opposite side of success; happiness is not the result of success. Instead, success is easier to achieve when one is happy; apparently, the human brain works much better when it is happy.
So how can one be happier? Achor gave us some exercises to do to retrain our brain and raise our happiness levels. He proposed five habits we could choose from, and made us pick one and promise to do it 21 days in a row, at the start of the day:
- 3 Gratitudes: Write down 3 new things you are grateful for each day; be specific. (Rewires brain for greater optimism)
- Journaling: For 2 minutes, describe a meaningful experience from over the past 24 hours. (Doubles the meaning in your life)
- Fun Fifteen: Add 15 minutes of fun, active cardio. (Creates a cascade of success)
- Meditation: Invest 2 minutes to train your brain to just watch your breath. (Undoes negative effects of multitasking)
- Conscious Act of Kindness: 2 minute email, thanking one person in your social support network. (Increases greatest predictor of happiness)
I chose the Conscious Act of Kindness, and not because he said that a brain scan shows that the brain looks like it is on cocaine while doing this! This morning, before reading my emails, looking at Facebook, or listening to the Patriots post-game press conferences that I couldn’t handle last night, I emailed my favorite sports journalist, Andrea Kremer, to thank her for making so many football games, over so many years, so much fun to watch.