Happiness: The Key to Success? [Part 2]
In Happiness: The Key to Success? [Part 1] I shared research from Shawn Achor that showed that by choosing happiness first, our brains work better, and we’re more likely to be successful.
But what if you’re not a naturally happy person? Can rational optimism be learned?
[I can already hear the naysayers out there. “I’m not negative. I’m a realist.” Or “I always see the glass half-empty and there’s nothing I can do about it.” Which reminds me – fixed vs. growth mindset will make a great future topic!]
The answer is YES – you can develop it. That’s right – actions you take can form new habits, which then rewire your brain. This is not just some new-age “believe and you can achieve” thing. There’s scientific proof.
I first read about this in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. He told the story of an overweight, chain-smoking woman named Lisa who traded her cigarette habit for jogging. This one change triggered her to make other, healthier choices. Her transformation was so remarkable that scientists decided to study her brain. Not only could they see the neural pathways of her old habits, they could see the new pathways as well – and the parts of her brain responsible for self-discipline had gotten stronger!
Turns out we have more agency and power than we might imagine – all we have to do is harness it and apply it. Ready to get started? Here are five habits Shawn Achor recommends for developing rational optimism. Just choose one and stick to it for 21 days!
- Daily Gratitude Reflection. Each day, take some time to reflect on three specific things you’re grateful for – not just food or a roof over your head. Hunt the good stuff! (I like to ask this question when we’re sitting down to a family dinner).
- Exercise. Even 15 minutes a day will boost your happiness.
- Conscious Acts of Kindness. Send a thoughtful email or text to someone you’ve been thinking about. Pick a new person each day. You’ll add some joy to their day, and yours, too!
- Positive Journaling. Find something wonderful that happened in the last 24 hours and take two minutes to jot down as much as you can remember about it. The act of thinking about it makes it more meaningful and magnifies the positivity!
- Meditation. Take two minutes each day to clear your mind and focus on your breathing.
Start simply, and see what happens.