Understanding what makes you happy is a skill everybody should want and take the time to master. One of the best ways to learn a new skill such as this is through reading books that are backed up with scientific evidence, stories, and personal experience.
This post will outline the lessons that you need to become happier in your life and start inspiring other people. The author of The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, does a great job at simplifying complex lessons about our psychology, and turning them into bite-sized lessons that we can take action on straight away.
Here are 15 exhilarating lessons from The Happiness Advantage Book:
1. Success orbits around happiness (not the other way round)
Start thinking of your life as the universe. The sun is your happiness, and the Earth is your success that orbits around it. When you focus your life on being happy first and foremost, this creates the foundation you need to grow from. Just like a bamboo tree, all the growth happens underground, until one day, the bamboo grows very tall.
The book demonstrates that the outdated model of the world is that we become super successful, and then we get to experience happiness; this has proven to be wrong, it’s the other way round.
2. Happiness is the cause of good health, not the result
We’ve all worked in companies that are full of people that get sick every three months.
The Happiness Advantage teaches us that by being happy, we will statistically take less sick days, and be better at fighting viruses like the flu. (I hope that’s why I haven’t personally had the flu in three years!)
3. Happiness amplifies our ability to learn
Positive emotions that come from happiness allow us to get the best chemicals known to humankind such as dopamine and serotonin, which make us feel awesome. This doesn’t come as a shock but what will take you by surprise is that increased happiness increases the learning parts of our brain.
When this occurs, our brains are able to sort through new information better, hold onto the information longer, and be able to access information with speed. The result of these Superman like skills is that we can think far quicker on the spot, and our ideas are more creative.
These faster, more advanced tools that we get the benefit of because of happiness allow us to complete more complex tasks and solve bigger problems. For us entrepreneurs, being able to solve bigger and more complex problems should be at the top of our list. I’m hooked like an addict already.
4. Meditation rewires the brains happiness levels
Everywhere you go, people are talking about meditation. Don’t let the word bamboozle you. The easiest form of meditation as described in the book is to close your eyes, breathe in and out, and concentrate on your stomach going up and down.
By doing this for 5 minutes a day it’s shown to increase your happiness, and you will experience feelings of calmness and contentment. Your level of awareness and empathy towards others will also increase. If you meditate regularly, it can even permanently rewire your brain so you’ll be happier.
5. Future events can make you happy in the now
While reading the book, I was looking for a quick happiness hack that I had forgotten about which I could use instantly. The happiness hack I chose, which you should try, is to use future events to make you happy in the present.
This is not a brand new concept, but it’s one that is quickly forgotten. For me, I am using my upcoming USA holiday as a way to increase my happiness right now. According to the book, just thinking about a favorite activity you love can raise your endorphin levels by 27% (geeeeeez).
The book reminded me that the most enjoyable part of an activity is actually the anticipation of what is going to occur, and not the event itself. What can you be happy about right now that hasn’t happened yet, and that you’re pumped about?
6. Break up your day with a short burst of time outdoors
Rather than being stuck in front of a computer in an office all day you should try using twenty minutes of the time you have blocked out for lunch to go outdoors. A startup that promotes this daily task will find employees having a more positive mood, broader thinking, and an ability to retain information better.
Plus, why would you not want to go outside anyway? It’s a great way to escape your paradigm and get a fresh look at your day. It could be the inspiration you need to make the next significant change in your life that you have been putting off. The smallest of things can trigger you to be happy and change the way you think.
7. Adjust your fulcrum and lever
Human potential is explained in The Happiness Advantage through a brilliantly simple model of the world.
If you think of your potential as being adjusted by the lever and the way to adjust it is determined by how much power and possibility you have, and if you think of the position of the fulcrum as being your mindset which generates your power, you have a brand new way to look at life.
Now all of a sudden a growth mindset has an exact formula in which you can use to increase your rate of success and the potential you have. This concept alone makes the entire book worth reading.
8. Turn tedious moments into your own objective
We’ve all sat through tedious events like a movie we don’t like and often thought that we would never get those two hours back. The book introduced me to the idea of turning these seemingly wasted moments into your own gamified objective.
What if while you were being forced to watch that zombie movie that your best friend loves so much, you made it a must to learn three new things? If the dialogue is meaningless, you could start to look at vocal pronunciation, sports ability, or even posture. Maybe the zombies posture will teach you to always sit up straight otherwise you might just begin to look like them.
“Turning negative or boring events into empowering stories is how a growth mindset can help you win at life” – Tim Denning
9. Develop a growth mindset
The phrase “growth mindset” has become a common saying in the corporate world but many don’t understand the meaning or practice it’s intent regularly. In the book, a growth mindset is the understanding that all of us have very different skills, talents, and interests. However, everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Going through businesses that haven’t worked out, I have applied a growth mindset to overcome the fear and doubt that somehow things could have been different. A growth mindset has caused me to see these events as part of the journey to unlocking my full potential.
A growth mindset is heavily linked to the stories you tell yourself about a situation that occurs. Try to look at every negative event with a growth mindset and be mindful of other people’s interpretations. Always look for the lessons and how you can do better next time. Believe that you can be better and that there is more of you to unlock.
“You can have the best job in the world, but if you can’t find the meaning in it, you won’t enjoy it, whether you are a movie maker or an NFL playmaker”
10. Interrupt the pattern or suffer “The Tetris Effect”
The way we see the word around us has a lot to do with the wiring of the brain. Our brain can be wired to produce negative outcomes if we unconsciously practice negative patterns. The book describes a study where gamers played Tetris repeatedly and then when the test subjects went back into the real world they couldn’t stop seeing shapes falling from the sky.
These gamers also began to think of real world objects as Tetris pieces from the game. The Tetris effect in this scenario has a negative effect, but quite simply, you could use the same strategy to ingrain positive mental patterns, so you automatically perform tasks that increase your human potential as well as your value.
This whole idea gave me the feeling that our brains really are computers and we can insert our own programs into them once we understand the techniques. Have you got an old MS-Dos program of the world that needs replacing?
11. Create a positive Tetris Effect
An easy hack that you will learn in the book is to form a habit of scanning the world for everything that is positive. Make this task into a game if need be. When you play this game as described, you will experience advantages in your life such as happiness, gratitude, and optimism.
As these positive outcomes continue to occur on a frequent basis, you’ll begin to automatically expect these positive outcomes to continue because this entire habit has created this pattern by default. What a great way to increase your happiness!
12. Journal or blog to create happiness
A tool for increasing your happiness is to journal or blog on a weekly basis. This practice will make you fall into a Positive Tetris Effect. Your writing must contain references to positive thoughts or events and should focus on things you’re grateful for.
As the poster boy for this whole blogging and happiness experiment, I can gladly tell you it works more than you think it would. My entire life is now in a continuous paradigm of looking for the positive in everything so that I can share it with all of you. Try it for yourself or even just do the exercise by writing shorts posts on Twitter and Facebook.
13. Hard work increases our belief
There is one new belief the book recommends we adopt, and it’s as follows: our actions determine our fate, and this can only encourage us to work harder. As the hard work starts to show us the fruits of our labor, our belief in ourselves increases at the same time.
This positive new pattern then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and leads us to even greater success. The book then points out that the more we do something, and the harder we work at it, the more connections we form between the corresponding neurons.
Essentially, this means that the stronger the link becomes in our brain, the faster the messages can travel down the neural pathway. This process is what makes certain actions in your life become second nature, like driving a car.
I’m still flabbergasted at how basic this idea is, yet how incredibly valuable it is to our success. Give this new belief a shot!
14. Lower the activation energy for positive habits
Every task you attempt to complete requires a certain amount of energy to activate it. If you want to read more then rather than hide the book you want to read on a bookshelf, leave it somewhere like on the couch where there is no energy required to find it or start reading,
Likewise, increase the activation energy on tasks such as waking up early to an alarm clock going off. If the alarm clock is right next to you, then you are likely to hit snooze, as it requires no effort. If the alarm clock is on the other side of the room, then there is a fair amount of activation energy required to get up, walk over, and turn it off. This will allow you to wake up early.
15. Bring on the drugs (the positive ones)
The best drug you can give yourself is a hit of oxytocin. What you probably didn’t know until now is that when you make positive social connections the hormone oxytocin is released into your body. The positive effects of this hormone are incredibly beneficial. You will experience reduced anxiety, improved concentration, and many other health benefits.
So, if you’re feeling unhappy, lonely, or any other negative state, go out and make some new social connections and let the people around you feed your happiness with their ability to induce the oxytocin drug.
“Relationships are the greatest predictor of both happiness and high performance”
What lesson did you learn from The Happiness Advantage? Let me know in the comments section below or on my website timdenning.net and my Facebook.
If You Want to Avoid Failure Once and for All, Ask Yourself These 4 Questions
You just invested in yourself and in your business. You are taking massive action but the results are just not clicking yet. While everyone is making 10X, 20X, and even 100X ROI on their initial investment, you have made $0 return. Failure is starting to overcast your bright shining positive attitude and you are feeling the pain and shame of it. (more…)
3 Simple Hacks That Can Recharge Your Willpower and Help You Perform Better at Work
How many times did you wake up feeling like you could conquer the world? You set ambitious goals for the day, you put on your best attire and walked out the door with a big smile on your face but eventually, life took over. Traffic, emails, work, family, and everything else you have around slowly but steadily started to drain your energy and made you feel exhausted.
You run out of battery, and the only solution that seemed viable was to rely on more caffeine. When that stopped working, all the temptations around you started to look much more appealing, and that sense of drive and commitment you had before slowly faded away. This is you running out of willpower.
Willpower: what is it? Why is it limited?
The American Psychology Association describes willpower as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” In the book “The Willpower Instinct”, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, explains how every person’s willpower is limited, and slowly depletes throughout the day. The more “willpower challenges” you face, the quicker your reserve drains. Dr. McGonigal divided the different types of willpower challenges you might encounter in three categories:
- I will: We face this type of challenge whenever we should do something, but we simply don’t feel like getting it done right now.
- I won’t: We face this challenge when we try to resist temptation, or we try to keep cool in stressful situations.
- I want: This is a particular type of challenge where we keep track of our long term goals, dreams, and desires. In this instance, we feel like we should take action right now to come one step closer to the goal.
It’s easy to recognize it when you face a willpower challenge because you literally “feel it in your body.” Imagine being really hungry and walking in front of a bakery. The sight and the smell of pastries quickly triggers an “I won’t” type of challenge, and it takes a severe amount of effort and energy to walk away.
Every time you manage to win one of those challenges, a little bit of your willpower reserve gets used. The more challenges you face daily, the harder it will be to stay true to your goals.
Can you train or recharge your willpower?
A growing body of research suggests that willpower should be considered a muscle. To strengthen it, you should exercise it regularly, but you should not overwork it. Therefore, we shouldn’t try to “be good” at all times. Instead, we should learn how to relax and recharge our willpower.
The general advice on how to improve willpower involves sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. This broad and general recommendation is often not downright applicable by most, because it consists of changing various daily habits. Luckily, three very effective hacks have been discovered, that have an immediate effect on our willpower and take just a few minutes to apply.
Here are the 3 ways to refill your willpower reserves:
1. Focused breathing
Breathing, when done correctly, can stimulate the release of calming hormones while reducing the release of stress hormones like cortisol and catecholamines. To make this effective, you should deeply and slowly inhale through the nose for at least five seconds. Fill your belly with air first, then your chest, and when there’s no more space for air, still try to do tiny inhalations through the nose.
You should feel a pulling sensation around your neck and trapezius muscles. Once your lungs are full, try to hold the breath for five seconds, then slowly exhale through the mouth for at least five seconds. If you repeat this process ten to twenty times, you should feel dramatically more relaxed. Use this method several times a day, especially when you’re experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety.
2. Reward yourself when you accomplish a micro goal
According to a recent study, frequent instant rewards can boost motivation, and therefore, willpower. Creating your own reward system can help you to accomplish your to-do list, and also resist temptations. Since every individual has different tastes, you should come up with creative ideas about the small and frequent rewards you will give yourself upon winning any willpower challenge.
You can see this hack in practice in Apps like the popular Duolinguo, where after completing each lesson you get presented with a chance to open a treasure chest. This rewarding system seems to keep the users much more likely to keep learning new lessons.
Your body has an autonomic response to cold water. Getting into a cold shower is a difficult (but minor) willpower challenge on its own. As I previously mentioned, winning a willpower challenge strengthens your willpower muscle. Having a morning cold shower, on top of having multiple health benefits, will set you up for a positive winning streak of further challenges.
High performance is the sum of many small habits. Successful people don’t have an unlimited reserve of willpower, but they do have a set of daily rituals that made them succeed. These three hacks are some of the most effective techniques to develop willpower, but some of them may not fit every individual. You should try to find the perfect mix of daily practices that best fits your lifestyle and likes, so that you can strengthen your willpower muscle and perform better at work.
3 Inspiring Lessons We Can Learn From Jim Carrey About the Law of Attraction
You’ve more than likely heard of Jim Carrey before. Over the years, he has starred in many popular films including The Truman Show, The Mask, and Bruce Almighty (just to name a few.)
But his personality goes a lot deeper than just his comedic persona and movie star charisma. In fact, Jim Carrey is probably one of the most philosophical individuals on the planet!
Although he isn’t in the spotlight as much anymore, throughout the years, he has credited his success and fortunes by applying the Law of attraction into his life. What’s even more inspiring is that Jim Carrey, like you and I, came from humble beginnings. No silver spoon or easy ticket. In fact, his family was very poor throughout his childhood. So what made him so successful in attracting such an extravagant and self-fulfilling life?
Here are 3 lessons you can learn from Jim Carrey when it comes to manifesting your dreams into a reality:
1. You Have To Take Action
“You can’t just visualize then go eat a sandwich”, Jim Carrey says. It goes without saying that the law of attraction does require action. You cannot simply rely on visualizing and expect to see results, especially when it comes to manifesting desires that other people would like to achieve also. E.g. Careers, scholarships, competitions, anything that involves another individual.
Visualization and positive thinking are crucial when it comes to using the law of attraction, but you have to meet the universe halfway with the steps you take as well. We are physical beings that require physical steps to get physical results. The real key is to make daily plans/goals in order to get you closer towards achieving your desires. So after that sandwich, make sure start taking action toward your dreams!
This could be working on your hobbies or passion, applying for that dream job or studying to get better grades. As long as you are moving toward your goals then there’s no reason why it can’t happen. So get out there and kick some butt.
2. Double Down On What You Love
“My father could have been a great comedian but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant and when I was 12 years old he was let go from that safe job, and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father. Not the least of which was that: You can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
If this story of Jim Carrey’s father doesn’t pull on your heartstrings and inspire you at the same time, nothing else will! This is such an undeniable life lesson that everyone needs to learn. A lesson to take risks, push comfort zones and go all-in on what you love doing. So if your dreams, hobbies or goals seem far fetched to the majority, then you are already beating the other 99%.
Be that 1% that’s willing to dream big and rise above the norm. Unfortunately, in today’s society, our ancestral instincts still rule our everyday life. Fear is one of them and controls the majority of our population. It’s scary to push comfort zones and try something new, the thought of failure is often paralyzing to many. But my question to you is, will you look back one day and regret the chances you didn’t take?
3. Keep Your Eye On The Prize
“As far as I can tell, it’s just about letting the universe know what you want and working toward it, while letting go of how it comes to pass.” Holding onto every little detail when it comes to manifesting, can conjure up more harm than good. The reason is that the universe will deliver in ways you might not expect.
If you are too busy wondering when your desires will manifest, comparing yourself to others, or ignoring every sign that doesn’t look like your detailed plan you’ve written down, then you may be missing out on opportunities that are right in front of you! Your visualizations don’t have to be perfect, in fact, it’s better to just let go altogether and focus on the result itself rather than dwelling on every little detail. This doesn’t mean to simply forget about what you want but instead having the confidence it will happen in time.
An example of this is when Jim Carrey wrote himself a check for 30 million dollars. The only detail he knew was that he would earn it through his acting career, and he did indeed achieve this goal! So make sure to tell the universe what you want, but try not to hold onto every little detail!
Jim Carrey is just another person like you and me, with his own personal ups and downs in his road to success. He is someone to look up to when applying the law of attraction in your life too. It doesn’t matter if your goals or desires are different because the core foundation will always stay the same. You can and will do this if you think, feel and act as if it will happen!
Meditation for Beginners: How It Works and Where to Start
Meditation was first developed in India many years ago (around 5000-3500 BCE). It took quite some time to become popular in the western world, but today, it is celebrated as a therapeutic tool to ease stress, anxiety, depression, and addictions. In the past years, it has also become recognized as helping to improve mental performance, and consequently became a multi-billion dollar business. If you’ve never tried it, you may be wondering how something so simple as sitting with your eyes closed could deliver such incredible benefits.
How meditation works
Meditation is about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective over one’s thoughts. Many think that meditating is about trying to achieve a zen state of mind, but that’s not the point. Observing one’s thoughts, and then letting go of them so that eventually you may start to better understand them, is the real goal of each meditation practice.
There are different techniques to go through this mental process. Some focus on the breath and bodily sensation, others make you visualize an object, and others help you to channel your thoughts towards acts of love and kindness.
A typical meditation session involves you sitting on a chair or cross-legged on the floor with your eyes closed. Once you assume a comfortable position and focus on your breath, you should start noticing your thoughts. At this point, according to what type of technique you’re using, you will try to let those thoughts go away by focusing on something else (this could be your breath or a mental image you created).
With time and practice, you may be able to reach a state of mind where very few thoughts (or none) are present. Despite the simplicity of this process, meditating for more than ten minutes is extremely tough for most. Many people that try meditation get discouraged by the fact that “they can’t stop thinking.” In fact, it has been proven that people spend most of their days being anything but mindful and peaceful.
In a 2010 study, Harvard researchers asked more than 2000 adults about their thoughts and actions at random moments throughout their day via an iPhone app. People’s minds wandered 47% of the time, and mind wandering often triggered unhappiness, the scientists reported.
They also observed that spending time observing our thoughts without getting stuck on them, may help to better understand oneself, and possibly being able to reduce the number of negative thoughts one experiences.
“The mind is definitely something that can be transformed, and meditation is a means to transform it.” – Dalai Lama
What science says about meditation
People have practiced meditation for thousands of years, but scientists have studied its effects for only a dozen. In the past few years, many studies have been published about the neurological benefits of meditation, proving it to improve brain function in many different ways.
Meditation’s benefits range from preserving the aging brain, to improving happiness by reducing the activity of the brain’s “me center” (monkey mind). A more recent study has even proven that meditation is as powerful as antidepressants in treating depression, anxiety, and pain. Many more studies are being conducted every day on meditation, and we can expect to gain a lot more insight in the near future.
Can anyone meditate?
Millions of people are practicing mindfulness meditation every day with great results, but there are also as many people that have tried meditating and didn’t like it or didn’t manage to be consistent with their practice. The most important part of developing a meditation practice is consistency. You don’t have to meditate every single day, but the benefits are tied to regular, consistent practice.
Some studies claim that some benefits of meditation such as improved mood, decreased stress and decreased blood pressure, can be felt after a single session. Some other benefits like increased focus and decreased anxiety may be experienced after a few weeks and others take longer to develop.
Some people claim that as little as five minutes of meditation per day can make miracles, but research shows that a regular practice associated with benefits involves 10-20 minutes of meditation at least three times per week.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” – Mother Teresa
What’s the best way to begin a meditation practice?
A good place to start for aspiring mediators is Headspace. Andy Puddicombe, a former English student in sport science, dropped his studies to travel to Asia and trained as a Buddhist monk. He created Headspace with the goal of helping millions of people to live a more mindful life. Over 30 million people have downloaded and use headspace. This is due to his simplicity and its beautiful design and animations.
Do you meditate? If so, what’s your favorite aspect of it? Share your thoughts below!
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