by David Bork
The previous column discussed the benefits of focusing on the good things in your life, the 85-95% of your life that is working for you, rather than the negative experience you may have had today. It underscored the concept that attitude is a choice. You can choose to have a good day if you wish. If something unpleasant happens to change your positive mind-set, you can say to yourself, “That was ugly, even upsetting,” then you can elect to return to your positive mind-set for the day.
You may wonder if there are measurable benefits from the Happiness Advantage.
“…results of over 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people found that happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity and, in particular, our jobs, careers, and businesses.” 1
The overwhelming conclusion from the data is that happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, receive higher performance ratings and higher pay. They are less likely to take sick days, to quit or become burned out. Happy CEOs make for teams of employees who are happy, healthy and more productive. 2
It is clear from all the data that happiness causes success and achievement, not the
opposite. What executive would not want these kinds of outcomes?
The first thing to consider is how to establish and elevate your Happiness Baseline. To do this you begin with establishing a positive outlook. This was addressed in the previous column – the instructions for developing a Gratitude List – do it for 21 days and you have a habit. (See previous column) Readers who have done this will attest to the positive impact of the exercise.
Next are a number of activities that are proven to give a quick boost to one’s positive emotions, and if done regularly, will raise your baseline. Here are a few suggestions:
Meditate – The merits of meditation are well known. Regular meditation helps to “quiet the mind,” enhance one’s focus and increase a sense of peace. To try it, find a quiet place. Sit in a comfortable chair with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, arms hanging from the shoulders, hands on thighs with palms up. Set timer for 5 minutes, and then close your eyes. Breath in at a relaxed rate, and when doing so, try to be aware of your lungs filling up with air. Then, gently exhale with the same awareness. Don’t rush – simply proceed, always focused on air moving in, air moving out. When you are just beginning to meditate, it is likely you will have a host of other thoughts, such as your “To Do” list, your shopping list or the work on your desk. When these thoughts show up, try to detach from them by saying to yourself, “Oh, there is my shopping list going by,” as if you are observing it move before your eyes. Go back to being aware of your breath moving in and out of your lungs. After you have done this on a daily basis for a week or two, up the time to ten minutes. Don’t be discouraged if the lists keep coming up as that is quite common. At first the 5 minutes seems like a lifetime but when you get up to 20 minutes or more, it will seem like only a few moments has passed.
Find something to look forward to – “Often the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. 3 One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.” 3 Think about being on a sail boat off the coast of Bodrum, the sky is brilliant blue with not a cloud to be seen, the sun is warm and the breezes are moving the boat along with great ease. (Already you are feeling better, correct?)
Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness – A leading researcher and author of The How of Happiness, found that individuals who completed five acts of kindness over the course of a day report feeling much happier than control groups and that the feeling lasts for many subsequent days, far after the exercise is over. The reality of my life includes a great deal of time in airports and on airlines. I have taken to telling airline agents and flight attendants, “I really appreciate what you do. It makes my life go more smoothly.” Every time I do this, their faces light up and invariably they tell me a story about their lives. It leads to a connection and I go away feeling better and less resentful of the time I spend in the airport and in the air.
Exercise – When we exercise, we generate endorphins which elevate our spirits. The benefits of exercise are extensive and well known. Persons who exercise a minimum of three times a week experience a more positive outlook on their work, their relationships and life in general. Often they eat a healthier diet and drink less alcohol, both of which contributes to their general well being.
These are some of the things a person can do to elevate their Happiness baseline.
The Losada Line – Remember this number: 2.9013!
Marcial Losada is a psychologist and business consultant. After a decade of research on high and low performance of teams he discovered that the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make the team successful was 2.9013 to 1. Further, for teams to do their best work, the optimum ratio was 6:1. That means a manager or supervisor needs to make six positive statements or interventions for every negative statement they make. Losada’s research further validates the Happiness Advantage.
So many studies of human behavior focus on the average of population that is being studied. Making the active decision to raise the baseline of your attitude is the same as electing, no insisting, that you will begin ABOVE the average and rise from there! It is your choice.
- Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Siener, E. (2005) The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131,803-855
- “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor, ISBN 978-0-307-59154-8
- Ibid, p52
- Lyubomirsky, et al.
- Losada, M. (1999). The complex dynamics of high performance teams. Mathematical and Computer modeling, 30, 179-192; Losada, M., & Heaphy,E. (2004)
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