Five habits for creating long-term happiness.

Shawn Achor and I chatting at the final EO dinner in Istanbul

#TBT – Over a ‘lunch n learn’ session with the Redii team on Tuesday we re-watched Shawn Achor’s TEDx talk, and it reminded us all on what is important in this life.  I’m off to buy the team a gratitude journal each, and I encourage you to read on and ‘re-set the compass’.

Shawn Achor concluded his presentation, after telling why happiness is important, and sharing what happiness looks like – by telling the group actions that we can take to create long term happiness. He did warn; all the knowledge in the world does not necessarily mean that we will be in action. (We all know to stay healthy we need to be active and eat well – knowing this does not mean that we actually do it.)

To create a habit – the action should be done for at least 21 days and then you may have cracked the code by reprogramming the neuro-pathways in your brain.

A big trick to creating new habits is to make it easy. He called it the 20 second rule, make it really easy to do the new habit and it is far more likely to happen. (He used the example of leaving your gym clothes right by the bed – or sleeping in them, so that in the morning it is really easy to get out and do the exercise.)

Shawn suggested the following five habits that he has gleaned from his years of research.

  1. Three acts of gratitude a day (Emmons & McCullogh, 2003). I have a lovely little iPhone app called Gratitude Journal which makes it easy to contemplate what was great about the day.
  2. The Doubler (Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006). When you have a great experience – then share it. Tell someone else (You get just as much pleasure when you tell the story again – effectively doubling the impact.)
  3. The Fun Fifteen (Babyak et al. 2000) – set aside 15 minutes in a day for a good laugh – For me I watch something funny on the iPad… there are plenty of funny clips on Youtube.
  4. Meditation (Shapiro & Schwartz, 2005) as per my post of last week. Having a moment to listen to your breathing, center yourself and visualize – even if it is only one minute a day – but every day, then build it up to 2, then 3.
  5. Conscious Acts of Kindness – Kindness includes many things, gifts, volunteering, a smile – and of course an authentic Thank you.

I had a moment to chat with Shawn about the ‘Five Thanks a Day’ project. He said anything that helps make these things a habit is a great idea. Whilst a ‘thank-you’ is just a small part of the science of happiness, it is simple, costs nothing, does not take long and really helps us connect to other people.

If you are interested in more about the ‘Five Thanks a Day’ project – join us in the Linkedin Group – and share what you have learned about these.

In summary:

  • Happiness is a choice
  • What you attend to first happens
  • Happiness spreads – there is  a ripple effect
  • Happiness is a work ethic
  • and of course – Happiness is an advantage

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