Monthly Archives: July 2014

Keep an Open Mind

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928  After reading Principle #1, The Happiness Advantage, I realized that I needed to change my own thinking.  Most of us believe:  if you are successful, you will be happy.  My thinking needed to change to:  if you are happy, success will follow.  Decades of research has proven this, but we are still stuck in the other belief.

We all have experienced negative emotions causing physical changes in our bodies (upset stomach, back pain, increase of stress) well, positive emotions also affect our brain and body, but in a positive way.  Therefore, changing your thinking and realizing the importance to focus and practice happiness first, and probably foremost, changes how your brain works and body feels. Daily focus and practice towards a more positive attitude will cause you not only to feel better but to experience things like clearer thinking, more creativity, being more open to new ideas, and my favorite, happiness is catchy!  I posted that I am trying to “Lead by Example” because if I become happier and feel better, so will the people around me. Who doesn’t want that?

Even more interesting to me was the experiment I read about where scientists primed their subjects before hand. One group was primed to experience something happy and positive and the other was primed with something causing stress and anxiety. Not surprisingly, the happier group did better, but not only did they do better,  they were better able to problem solve, were more creative and more open-minded.

Positive emotions release chemicals in our brains that make us feel good.  Studies also show that these chemicals also increase our learning potential. The way we organize information, quicker and more creative thinking, the ability to see things in a new way, and longer lasting retrieval. Feeling happier also helps us to see more positives in our environment.

Some companies that Shawn mentioned who use this advantage are Yahoo! and Google. Obviously, very successful! They know that happier employees lead to a more successful company.

Shawn advises the following to use the Happiness Advantage in our lives:

Meditate
Looking forward to something (vacations are nice )
Acts of Kindness
Create positivity in your life
Exercise
Plan and use your money on activities that bring happiness
Exercise a signature strength

In my next post I will write more about these areas.

 

Please Read “The Happiness Advantage” By Shawn Achor

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The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

One night I happen to catch Shawn Achor on PBS speaking about Happiness.  I learned that he wrote the book “The Happiness Advantage”.  My interest was sparked and I decided to read his book.  I mentioned catching Shawn’s talk on t.v.  to my husband who just smiled and nodded.   A few weeks later his company had Shawn as a speaker. He too, thought Shawn was a terrific speaker.  I was even more convinced that I should read this book.

Shawn speaks to companies worldwide about his 7 principles of positive psychology to fuel success and performance at work. Having a minor in business, myself, and a few years working in the business environment, I understood the relationship between having more positive leadership and employees creates a more successful business.  Having experience as a classroom teacher and parent, I also have an understanding that classrooms and households are much like running a business in that the teacher or caregiver is a manager/facilitator of the students/children and it is important for the children to have positive attitudes and be supportive of each other to have a successful environment (classroom or home).  Shawn states, “Waiting to be happy limits our brain’s potential for success, whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative, and productive, which drives performance upward.”  Not only does this research help individuals and companies, but it can help parents, teachers, and students. After reading Shawn’s book and using some of his advice in my own life, I became very motivated to share this amazing research.  I do highly encourage you to read the book on your own, but I realize I needed to do more than just encourage friends and family to read the book.  I want to explain the principles and then give examples of how they can be used by your family and in classrooms.

The Happiness Advantage:  Positive brains have a biological advantage over brains that are neutral or negative.  When we train our brains (which is possible) to seek out positives in our world we create biological changes that improve our productivity and performance.

The Fulcrum and the Lever:  Shawn discusses our mindset here. We can adjust our mindset to give us more control over our world. (Be sure to look at Carol Dweck’s Fixed vs. Growth Mindset on my Happiness Page.)

The Tetris Effect:  When our brains get stuck in a pattern that focuses on stress, negativity, and failure, we set ourselves up to fail.  This is where Shawn discusses focusing on positives in our lives will help us to see more positives and have more successful outcomes.

Falling Up:  When we face difficult times our brains have different paths to help us cope.  This principle shows us that failure can lead to learning and we can be lifted up out of these challenges.

The Zorro Circle:  When we face an overwhelming challenge, task, or life situation our brains get hijacked by our emotions. Shawn explains that we can gain our focus by looking at the smallest circle first. Once we have managed to take on a small section of the challenge we will then be able to slowly take on bigger and bigger circles.

The 20-Second Rule:  Our willpower is limited. Shawn explains that if we make a small change to help us end a bad habit or begin a new habit we will be successful.

Social Investment:  Successful and Resilient people know the importance in investing and nurturing their support system of family, friends, and colleagues.

“Together, these Seven Principles helped Harvard students (and later, tens of thousands of people in the “real world”) overcome obstacles, reverse bad habits, become more efficient and productive, make the most of opportunities, conquer their most ambitious goals, and reach their fullest potential.” …Shawn Achor

I will be explaining all these principles further and sharing how I used them for myself and my children.  I will also be “connecting the dots” with the  terrific material from other positive psychologists and also giving information that I found very complimentary to what Shawn has discussed.

 

Aside

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”…Maya Angelou

You might be wondering why I am blogging about happiness…isn’t it just an emotion we feel naturally? Why do we need to be purposeful about it? What I am writing about is common sense, but it is not always common action.   I am writing about things that seem natural or common sense to some, but may not be to others. I am also sharing information about science based research that supports all these ideas.  I have used this information to improve my own happiness and I want to help others, especially children.

Still Wondering?

“The Past Is History, The Future’s A Mystery, The Present Is A Gift”

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 “The past is history, the future’s a mystery, the present is a gift” (origin unknown)

Mindfulness is a meditative practice which originates in Buddhism, but has gained worldwide popularity as a distinctive method to handle emotions. (definition from Wikipedia)

There are many thoughts on this subject and ideas of how to be mindful. They range from a complete mindfulness experience training for two weeks, workshops, and counseling sessions, graduate courses, and books.  I encourage you to try any of those offerings, but If you feel like this is not for you or your kids,  I will let you in on how I understand and try being mindful.  To be mindful is to be in the moment. It is simply paying attention and staying focused on the present moment. This also usually helps me to feel grateful for each experience I have, ordinary or extraordinary.  Your time to make a difference is NOW. Try not to think about things that happened in the past when you are enjoying your day. Try not to worry about things that are coming up in your future when you are enjoying your now.   I know this is easier said then done.  It takes practice.

Some things that have worked for me to be more in the moment:

Visualization has worked for me to keep my past in its place.

Creative visualization (sports visualization) refers to the practice of seeking to affect the outer world by changing one’s thoughts and expectations. Creative visualization is the basic technique underlying positive thinking and is frequently used by athletes to enhance their performance. (definition from Wikipedia)

Visualizing can be used to help start your day, do well on a test, or to help yourself manage your thoughts. Managing your thoughts can help you stay in the moment. An example of this is when I was experiencing some memories that were interfering with my daily life. I took a moment to visualize the memories being placed into a box. I then visualized storing the box in a way that was meaningful to me. If you try this “box” you can store it like you do your belongings….in an attic or closet. Some people may choose to use what they believe in spiritually to help them store their box. Visualizing is like dreaming which you do purposefully. After doing this, the memories stopped coming up in my daily life and I felt more at peace to be myself in the moment.

Affirmations is another way I have been able to be mindful.

Affirmations in New Thought and New Age terminology refers primarily to the practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment—fostering a belief that “a positive mental attitude supported by affirmations will achieve success in anything.” More specifically, an affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that should be repeated to one’s self and written down frequently. For an affirmation to be effective, it needs to be present tense, positive, personal and specific. (definition by Wikipedia)

I have tried using very simple affirmations that help me to focus on what I want. The first one that was successful for me and my family is simply “Happy, Healthy, Strong”.  I began this one with myself and would try to say it everyday. I then taught it to my children and we say it at specific moments daily. It has become part of our family cheer! My children now say it on their own and it has become a “Happy Habit”.  Writing it down and having it displayed somewhere you and your family will see it also reinforces its purpose.

Another affirmation I use helps me to push unwanted thoughts out. When I have a thought that is negative and I know it is probably not true,  I say a statement to myself to keep that thought at bay and focus on my positive thoughts instead. This kind of statement is really unique to you depending much on your beliefs. I use a simple “I intend to be ______________________.” You can fill in the blank for yourself. Some examples are good, calm, or more focused. I would be interested to receive feedback on a statement that has worked well for you or your children when and if you try using affirmations.