I just read a great article by Shawn Achor on the CNN site called “Is happiness the secret of success?” . Achor cites studies and figures to make the case that it does, indeed, pay off to be more happy than not.
For someone who suffers from depression like me this isn’t earth-shattering news, but it should hit home some more when I am wondering why I can’t get better and can’t get ahead. As a recovering drug addict, I most often found my happiness in a pill or some other substance to get high. Fighting every day to NOT abuse prescription pills or do any drugs is a Herculean struggle and one that has granted me nearly a year of serenity.
I face a struggle every day unlike so many others who live in a reality where happiness must be bought and ingested. This would suggest drug addicts and depressives are missing out on reality, focusing instead on what they DON’T have. But Achor posits that people aren’t “blind to reality,” instead “when we research it, happiness actually raises every single business and educational outcome for the brain.”
Achor argues that “happiness is a choice,” that we only have so many neurons firing to make a decision to be happy or not. “If you scan for the negative first, your brain literally has no resources left over to see the things you are grateful for or the meaning embedded in your work,” says Achor. I know personally I am a pessimistic thinker and this brings me down every day before I have a chance to decide to BE happy. It makes sense. The brain can only hold so much information at one time, and happy and sad don’t play nice together.
So how do I change the name of this blog from Sadblogger to “Happyblogger”? It seems like a formidable task given what I go through on a given day. But Achor importantly points out that there is “new research on neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to change even as an adult — reveals that moderate actions can rewire the brain as you create ‘life habits.’” So there is hope! Just like training your muscles to get in better physical shape, you need to train your brain to improve your cognitive functioning.
Behavioral change is imperative behind any transformation of information, Achor states, and he suggests the following steps to be done once a day for 21 days to become a transformational habit and hopefully improve your daily successes. I find all five of Achor’s “happy” ideas to be eminently doable and I plan to engage in them starting today and report back to you with my findings. Here they are:
• Write down three new things you are grateful for each day;
• Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours;
• Exercise for 10 minutes a day;
• Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out;
• Write one quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising someone in your social support network (family member, friend, old teacher).
Prioritizing happiness in your life can lead to all kinds of daily improvements and both small and large successes. Achor did the research and his article, in black and white, says it can be done. I feel better just writing this post and hopefully it will carry over to a happier and more productive night. Dear readers, I wish you the same.
Please leave a comment below to tell me what you think of the study and how it may help you or one you love!