Conventional wisdom says that if you work hard, you will become successful, and then you will be happy. What science has proven is that happiness and optimism fuel performance and achievement. We are all being told to do what we love and the money will follow. If you are an entrepreneur or the owner of a young company or a student just getting started or a young mom getting back into the work force, you proabaly feel like you just need to earn some money. So how does happiness fix that?
FACT 1- The better your brain is at identifying positives, the greater your chance at success.
Input comes to us in 11 million pieces of stimulus every day. Our brain doesn’t just see things like a still photo from a camera. It is tasked with interpreting and processing all that input. Our brain has to decide what focus on. Thus your reality is a choice. Most of us are excellent at finding the negative things. We edit work looking for mistakes. At school the answers that were marked with a big red X were the wrong answers. Over time our brain gets really good at seeing the negative.
The better your brain is at using its energy to focus on the positive, the greater your chance at success. But this doesn’t mean you only have happy thoughts and experiences at work. It means you can choose to interpret most input as positive.
FACT 2- This optimism must be rational.
What this means is no matter how much cold calling and following up and meeting and greeting and networking if you do, if you don’t have a great product, it won’t be effective. When you have a great product or service being happy and optimistic is the fast track to success.
I am sure you have heard the stories of Michael Jordan not making his high school basketball team and of Thomas Edison having 10,000 unsuccessful attempts before inventing the lightbulb. The attitude here is the key. It wasn’t failure – it was one step closer to success.
This is not the same as ignoring your weaknesses or chanting affirmations, it is a mindset that says “ I may not currently have that skill but I can change through experience and application”.
In Maya Angelou’s words” You may encounter many defeats but you must not be defeated.”
FACT 3- It is often the perception of stress and not the actual stress that derails you.
You know it’s a vicious circle when you have so much stress that you are stressed about being stressed. The definition we use at the Chopra center for stress is what happens to you when something comes between you and something you want. The average person encounters a minimum of 8 sources of stress in a day. So how do we stop being stressed?
SHORTCUTS TO HAPPINESS
Make these quick, stress releasing, happiness increasing habits part of your day and you will begin to reset your basline of happiness and I guarantee you will feel great!
Gratitude is the attitude. Taking time to count your blessings and to see the glass as half full really highlights all the things you already have to be happy about. And what you focus on gets bigger so why not carve out a few minutes each day to be grateful. A daily joy journal where you can list all the good things that happened is a fabulous way to wrap up each day.
Be present. The future is uncertain and we cannot change the past. Living in the present is our only opportunity to create the life we want. Why waste any of that precious time on worry or regret. Worry is like paying the interest on a loan before you’ve been approved. Enjoy every moment of every day to its fullest.
Spend time in nature. Sit on the beach. Walk in the forest. Get out on the rooftop and watch the stars. Find the awe inspiring beauty of our world. We are all interconnected with our environment. Find new ways to enjoy yours.
Spend time with happy people. The attitude is contagious. Find friends who inspire you. Leave behind the complainers and the gossips. Spending time with friends who share your attitude, lifestyle, and sense of purpose is invigorating. It feels way better to be part of an energetic tribe who have big dreams and adventurous attitudes.
Be Part of Something Bigger. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Collect money for a charity. Sponsor a foster child. March for a cause. No matter where you live or what your circumstances, there will always be someone needing your help. Feeling connected feels good!
Meditate During meditation, the brain produces dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin & endorphins to counteract stress. All these are naturally released by our bodies and contribute to the physiology of happiness. So many people are choosing medication when we can chose meditation. And the side effects of meditating are all positive, like increased immunity and lower blood pressure.
Fake It Until You Make It. Studies published in the Psychological Science journal have shown that people who concentrate on having a smile on their face actually become happier. So when life has you feeling stressed or flustered, even the most forced of smiles can genuinely decrease your stress and make you happier.
What we used to think about being happy :
IF I work hard & become successful THEN I will be happy.
Years of scientific research in the field of positive psychology has proven that the way it actually works is ;
If I am happy & optimistic I am more likely to be successful.
Here's a link to my recent article for The Chopra Centered Lifestyle about Shortcuts to Happiness.
The art of seeing positively
Every single thing that happens in your life is stimulus. You filter it through a belief and this creates a response. For example, if someone tells you that you look slim and you have been trying to lose weight your response might be to feel proud and successful. Through your filter slim=good. But for a person struggling to stay healthy as they fight cancer, hearing the exact same sentence might be cause for alarm and increased stress since for them slim=unhealthy. So when we reframe we are examining our belief to see if it works for us in a positive way.
David Brinkley said "A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation from bricks others throw at him". This is an excellent example of reframing. When someone throws bricks you can choose to see it as an attack and cower in the corner or you can see the bricks as a gift with which to build something wonderful.
If you have been thinking negatively for a long time, how do you change your pattern? Habits take 21 days to form so when we strive to create a new habit it takes 21 days of work followed by a lifetime of reward. Here are a few quick tips to get started.
1) Notice the good things already in your life- Start a joy journal either online or in a diary. At the end of each day jot down three things you had to be happy about. These can be as simple as the sunrise, morning coffee and a text from your favourite friend. What you focus on in life gets bigger and according to the laws of attraction, just by expressing gratitude for the good in your day, you encourage more joyful experiences.
2) Turn you frown upside down- When you find yourself being negative in your speech or thoughts do an immediate auto-correct. For example if you are in traffic and you start to worry about being late or you feel frustration with the other drivers, acknowledge that this feeling isn't helping to increase your happiness. Then change your belief to something that will. When I sit in traffic I practice thinking that because of this slow down, I have avoided a potential collision ahead. May or may not be true, but I feel better.
3) Spend extra time doing the things that make you feel great.- We tend to be creatures of habit, which means if you feel great, have stimulating conversations, sleep well, and spend time learning new things you will feel motivated and inspired. If you are feeling less vital than you would like plan for more of the experiences that you know bring you happiness. And if you can't actually ski, skydive, or lay on the beach, visualizing these activities for 2-3 minutes creates the same response in your brain that actually participating does. As you remind your body what it feels like to be joyful, it will actually seek out more opportunities for fun.
In the words of Thoreau "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."