The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. ~ William James, Science of Happiness
Take a second to think about your workplace. Think about the employees who work there and think about their overall level of happiness. It is quite likely you can imagine your co-workers along a continuum. Some individuals seem to have a natural gift of happiness, viewing the world in a positive light, while others seem to carry extra weight on their shoulders, overcome with negativity and the roadblocks that stand between them and happiness. We all know someone who seems to suffer with Monday Misery. The person who walks in Monday morning only to ask if it’s Friday yet. Imagine choosing to hate one out of every seven days just because it’s Monday. It’s like choosing to be grumpy for twelve years, if we assume the average life span is just less than 85 years of age.
I own a water bottle that is covered in inspiring quotes on the outside. One quote, which receives some debate, states “The pursuit of happiness is the root of unhappiness.” I like it for two reasons: First, I like it because I agree with this idea, and second, I like it because there is an element of awareness that arises once you take responsibility for your own happiness level, and recognize how flooded our society is with others who don’t. Just this morning I read a front page newspaper headline quoting a teenager who claimed the actions of others have ruined her life. If only the teen could recognize that viewing her life as ruined is actually a thought she has full control over. When we attribute happiness to external factors, we create a moving target that we are always running towards. To stop and find happiness within allows us to be present and enjoy life now.
Shawn Achor, gives a fantastic TED Talk outlining The Happy Secret to Better Work. Achor recognizes “It’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single business and educational outcome at the same time.” When our brains are happy we produce more dopamine which stimulates learning, creativity and energy levels. Creating this environment in our schools and teaching students how to be happy has positive impact in the classroom and beyond. According to Achor, our external world only predicts 10% of our long term happiness in life. The other 90% is determined by how our brain processes information. The great news is that we can re-train our brains, once we recognize how to be happy. I know that when I am stressed the habit of happiness is something I need to be conscious of and sometimes I need to schedule strategies into my day. While psychologists of happiness may have a variety of tricks, these are my favourites that work best for me.
1) Exercise. I know that when I work out in the morning, I am a better mom, a better wife, and a better educator. When life becomes busy this is often the first habit to quit, yet it most needed during stressful times.
2) Gratitude. I like to end each day thinking of five things I am grateful for. I need to make effort to share this gratitude with others. I love the quote “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
3)Journal. Writing thoughts down always feels therapeutic to me. Not only does it allow me to release emotions, it allows me to put things in perspective and ask myself why I feel the way I do.
4) Sleep. I hate to admit this one as it makes me feel old. I used to live on 5 hours sleep per night. Lately I really recognize that a little extra sleep has an amazing ability to shift the lens of how I view the world. A tad ironic that I’m typing this tip at 1 AM.
5) Be Still. While I love the chance to talk with friends and family, especially when I am feeling unhappy, I also recognize that the final conversation needs to be a chat with myself. The answers are within. Happiness does not come from pleasing others but rather from listening and trusting our inner voice.
6) Take Responsibility. There will be days, weeks and perhaps years that are more difficult than others for each and everyone of us. As we face adversity, challenge and change, our sense of belonging and well being shifts. I like to remind myself regularly that although I do not have total control over what happens to me, I always have control over how I react. I can choose to embrace the habit of happiness.
Happy BC Family Day Long Weekend! I hope you choose to make it a happy one!