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The book demonstrates that the outdated model of the world is that we become super successful, and then we get to experience happiness; this has proven to be wrong, it’s the other way round.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.
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Many people are ashamed of failure. If they so much as smell a whiff of failure, they quit instantly because the public notices it quickly. But you shouldn’t be ashamed of failure. A lot of people have failed. I’ve failed over and over again in my career, business, relationships and more. Yet, I keep trying because failure isn’t the final verdict. (more…)
How to Move Forward When All Seems Lost
A few weeks ago, the relationship of my venture with a long-term client turned rocky. Losing them would mean a huge loss for my business, but it appeared like that’s where we were headed. My mind raced with unpleasant thoughts. Maybe the client had figured out that I couldn’t lead my team well. Maybe I was not good enough to be an entrepreneur. Maybe I was not good enough to do anything.
Why was the world so unfair?! Within moments, my anxiety had shot through the roof and my heart was racing faster than an F1 car engine. But I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.
Why Problems Overwhelm Us
As human beings, we’re good at solving problems, so they shouldn’t stress us out. Yet, they do just that. Why?
Consider some of these situations in life. When a relationship is headed for troubled waters, we wonder whether our partner loves us anymore. Our mind unearths memories of when we got dumped or rejected. We blame ourselves for falling for the wrong people and tell ourselves that we’re not worth receiving love.
How do you think the relationship will steer after that? If we cannot stick to a diet, we think of other times when we gave up. We remember what people said about things that we couldn’t do and ask ourselves, “were they right?” We tell ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to succeed at anything.
Do you think we’ll find the grit to stick to the diet after this? So here we are… thinking we’re not good enough to be entrepreneurs, to be loved, to get promoted, or to achieve our personal goals. Notice a pattern yet? We move in the wrong direction. The destination is to achieve the goal. And unless we stop giving into emotions and start addressing situations, we’ll keep failing to get there.
Negative emotions (and even extremely positive ones) blur our vision. The more we focus on them, the deeper we go into how we feel. We either get angry because things aren’t the way we want them to be, or get paralyzed by the fear of the worst possible outcome. This means we pull away from the one thing we must do to set things right — take action.
“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” – Dale Carnegie
How to Take Action in the Face of Problems
Most human beings are good at solving problems. Where we get blindsided is at diagnosing the right problem. To diagnose the right problem, we must address the situation instead of emotions. We must see things for what they are, collect facts on what we’re worrying about, and then ask ourselves, “What should I do next?”
In his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, Dale Carnegie wrote: “Neither you nor I nor Einstein nor the Supreme Court of the United States is brilliant enough to reach an intelligent decision on any problem without first getting the facts.”
To address the tricky situation with my client, I took the following three steps:
1. First, I acknowledged the feeling
Solving a problem doesn’t mean ignoring emotions. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel because it reveals the path, but domesticating your emotions is more important. I acknowledged how I felt by saying, “I feel anxious because the client might not want to work with us anymore and this will be a financial loss for us.”
Note how I said “I feel anxious” and not “I’m a loser.” If I had given into negative chatter, I wouldn’t have uncovered the direction to move in (the part after “because”). This is why domesticating emotions is crucial.
2. Next, I prepared for the worst
We often run from our worst fears rather than facing them despite knowing that the worst outcome rarely comes true. The result is that we stay stuck in fear instead of pushing beyond it. And we never discover what we’re really capable of, which sucks.
In my case, the worst meant losing the client. It would hurt but it was the truth. However, we could get more clients. Plus we already had other clients who helped us pay the bills. In other words, I wouldn’t have to live on the street.
The moment I accepted this, a huge weight got lifted off my chest. This prepared me for the third and final step.
“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” – Zig Ziglar
3. Lastly, I examined the situation
Examining a situation means setting aside your emotional baggage and focusing on facts. When you trust that you’ll be okay, you become better at diagnosing the real problem. Once I felt lighter, I could see things clearly.
I used the 5 Whys Technique (asking “why” five times) to figure out the real reason for the client’s dissatisfaction. Then I collected data on the issue and on what we had previously delivered.
Finally, I reached out to the CEO of the client and held a detailed and constructive discussion based on my findings. Within four days, the CEO and I were back to the way things were before.
The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to give today your best. I’m not sure whether the issue with the client got resolved for good or whether the client won’t pack up and leave one day. However, I am sure that I’m prepared to handle such cases better today than I was yesterday.
Control your emotions instead of letting them run amok. Accept things for what they are instead of what you want them to be. Be realistic instead of delusional. Address the situation instead of succumbing to emotions.
Don’t preempt what lies ten miles ahead and get paralyzed by fear. Address what lies clearly in front of you and keep moving. One day you’ll be surprised about how close to your destination you are.
How do you move forward when all hope seems to be lost? Share your advice below!
8 Effective Tips to Improve Your Emotional Wellbeing
You know what they say, “Health Is Wealth”. But, more often than not, we only mean it in the context of physical health. There’s no question that being fit is the world’s greatest treasure. Unfortunately, not a lot of us take time out to look after our emotional health and wellbeing.
Let’s not forget – it’s ‘Mind Over Matter’. So, if you are able to take control of your emotions, thoughts, how you feel through the day and how you respond to myriad situations; there’s nothing quite like it. When you become the master of your emotions; health, prosperity, and basically all good things are bound to follow you.
With that said, here are 8 surefire ways that will improve your emotional wellbeing:
1. Practice Mindfulness
Half the time, we don’t even know what we’re thinking or how we’re feeling. That’s because we let our minds operate on autopilot. It’s time to take control of your mind. Be aware of what and how you feel throughout the day. The upside to this practice is that you can detect negative emotions right on the onset and quickly change them and their corresponding feeling.
Feelings of anger, jealousy, hatred; they are not good for the mind, soul, or the body. Paying close attention to the spectrum of emotions you experience throughout the day, will help you detect the negative ones and kick them away before they fester deep enough to take away your happiness and emotional health.
2. Stay Physically Active
As you engage in physical activities, your brain produces a whole bunch of feel-good hormones such as endorphins and dopamine. These hormones are what causes the ‘elated’ or ‘euphoric’ feeling. Being physically active uplifts your mood and your outlook towards life. It readies you to take the challenges more head-on instead of becoming overwhelmed by the littlest of inconvenience.
You are better able to analyze tough situations and take a more proactive rather than a reactive approach. It’s no question physical health is in direct proportion with emotional health. A healthy mind resides in a healthy body and vice versa.
“Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.” – Sid Garza-Hillman
3. Get Sufficient Sleep
Ever noticed how you feel depressed and cranky, and just out of focus the day you fail to get a good night’s sleep? Well, if you fail to get sufficient sleep for a couple of days, you are bound to feel more depressed, cranky and eventually more prone to a host of negative emotions. Research shows that sleep deprivation sends amygdala – our brain’s emotional response center into overdrive.
Amygdala controls our immediate emotional responses. When it becomes overactive, we become more reactive rather than active. We become more irritable, angry and anxious. A good night’s sleep is vital to improving your emotional wellbeing.
4. Develop a New Hobby
Learn to swim. Try arts and crafts. How about painting? Swimming is a ‘happy’ activity. You get to make new friends and stay fit. Arts and crafts, as we all know, tends to have a relaxing effect on the mind and the nerves.
Just the process of creating something from scratch makes you confident and gets those creative juices flowing. Similarly, painting helps you express yourself. All these factors together create a ‘happy you’. The one who likes to engage in new things instead of resisting change or difficult situations.
5. Eat Healthy
Ever heard of the phrase, “You are what you eat”? Well, it’s true to the last syllable. When you eat foods rich in salt, sodium, fat – you are bound to feel lethargic. It takes longer for the body to digest such foods. That means the body is forced to deprive organs of blood and use it for the digestion purpose.
Result? You become lazy, moody, not ready to take any responsibility which leads to feeling cranky and irritable. On the other hand, eating fibrous vegetables, fruits, salads, and complex sugars keeps you upbeat and healthy.
6. Laugh Your Heart Out
Laughter is the best medicine. That is why they have a dedicated ‘laughter session’ in yoga studios. You don’t even have to mean it. The simple act of spreading your cheeks and pretending to laugh sends a signal to your body that you are happy.
And what happens when you are happy? Your brain releases happy hormones like dopamine, serotonin and what not. In fact, many studies have gone so far as to stipulate that laughter alone is capable of treating all kinds of physical ailments. Why should emotional ailments be any different?
7. Try Relaxation Techniques
‘’Visualization technique’’ where you imagine yourself in a happy place is a surefire way to calm your nerves if you find yourself distressed. You may also try praying to elate yourself. Praying is good for the mind and the soul.
Controlled breathing or ‘biofeedback technique’ are some other relaxation techniques that can tame how you feel and even your bodily functions. Try surrounding yourself with aromatherapy or scented candles because the smell is a big factor in governing how we feel.
“Positive emotional energy is the key to health, happiness and wellbeing. The more positive you are, the better your life will be in every area.” – Brian Tracy
8. Count Your Blessings
We all have so much to be thankful for. It could be a friend who stands by you or a happy family. Good health. Financial freedom. Make a list of all the things that you feel grateful for in your life. If it’s a person, be sure to communicate your feelings and express your gratitude.
You will feel so much happier. Happiness is the diet of a healthy mind and an intelligent emotional response mechanism. You could also try writing a poem or simply expressing your gratitude through the power of prayers.
There are so many ways to become emotionally intelligent and not one of them requires any investment or special skills. Practically anyone and everyone can do it. All you need is the will and the desire.
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