You have to train your brain to be positive just like you work out your body. — Shawn Achor
I’ve read numerous books written by several happiness specialists, PhD’s, psychologists and layman, on the subject (and talked with them as well) and implemented many of their suggestions regarding happiness into my life. What’s become quite apparent from my conversations and my reading is that happiness, like most things, is a learned skill. It’s something that you actively have to work at.
Psychologist Robert Emmons, who has spent nearly his entire career studying gratitude, has found that few things in life are as integral to our well-being. Countless other studies have shown that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely. And it’s not that people are only grateful because they are happier; gratitude has proven to be a significant cause of positive outcomes. When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.” — Shawn Achor
A daily gratitude practice can have a profound impact on your life. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to be grateful for the massive raise you got, the round of funding your company just received, or the book that sold a million copies. If that’s all you’re ever grateful for, you’ll be continually dissatisfied. It can be as simple as being grateful for the shorter line at Starbucks this morning. “I don’t have time for gratitude” say some. But quite simply, first thing in the morning when you wake, just say a prayer or to yourself a few things you’re grateful for and watch your world begin to change.
- A Good Night’s Sleep
While we sleep, the brain is able to get rid of toxins, including proteins that are associate with Alzheimer’s disease. — Arianna Huffington
After twice having collapsed from sheer exhaustion, sleep is not a luxury to me but an absolute necessity. When I don’t sleep well, my productivity, creativity, and overall level of performance don’t just suffer the next day, but for multiple days after. And those around me take the brunt of my foul mood. A good night’s sleep might be the most underrated life hack at our disposal. Gone are the days where you brag about only needed 5 hours of sleep or hearing at a dinner party, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” because, frankly, if they don’t get enough sleep, they may be dead sooner than they think.
In his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Fitness, John Raty cites exercise as one of the major cures for nearly every mental health ailment we face. If you’ve ever gone to the gym when your comfy couch kept calling you to stay, you’ve probably noticed that you come home feeling much better. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make us happier. It’s not a coincidence that many of the world’s most successful and happy people are extremely physically active.
Neuroscientists have found that monks who spend years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy. But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend years in sequestered, celibate silence to experience a boost. Take just five minutes each day to watch your breath go in and out.” — Shawn Achor
Quite frequently our anxiety and unhappiness are a result of dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. That’s where meditation comes in. It teaches us to be present, even if it is just for a brief window of time each day. What you’ll notice however is that as you meditate more, you’ll be able to stay present and focused for longer periods of time. And if you think you don’t have time for meditation, read 10% Happier by Dan Harris. Dan is the co-anchor of Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America. He regularly reports for 20/20, World News with Diane Sawyer and the weekday editions of Good Morning America. If he can find time to meditate…so can you. Get it here
- Do Deep Work
A workday drive by the shallow, from a neurological perspective, is likely to be a draining and upsetting day, even if most the shallow things that capture your attention seem harmless and fun- Cal Newport
All you have to do is compare a day spent mindlessly binging on social media to a day deeply immersed in something you care about, and it becomes clear why deep work makes us happier people. When you do deep work (something that fuels you, that you have passion for or being in service of others), you spend more time in flow, which in turn will make you much happier.
In my experience, doing these things doesn’t just make you happier. They make you more productive, creative, focused and successful. Give them a try for 21 days and let me know what happens.
Thanks for the cool pics: