By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services
We all go through points in our lives where we feel a bit stagnant. This might come just a few times for some people; for others, it may feel like a permanent state – always looking ahead, wondering what’s over the horizon, and hoping that the next change in our lives will bring about a feeling that often escapes us: happiness.
In this Ted Talk, Shawn Achor explains with humor and well-researched data the problem that happens when we fall into the habit of romanticizing the “happiness horizon.” Take a look – when you come back, we’ll talk about the key points from this speech and how we can use this information to improve our own moods and productivity.
In this talk, Shawn emphasizes the importance of embracing happiness in the moment – not allowing a promise of happiness to motivate us, but using this feeling in the present. He backs up this assertion not just with the reassurance that being happy feels better, but with facts supporting the notion that our brain is more effective when we are happy. Instead of treating happiness like something we must strive for, a feeling that is contingent on our success, we can achieve success more readily by feeling happy now and using that feeling to empower our own triumphs in life.
As with most things, it isn’t enough for us to say, “Okay, so if happiness is better for me, that’s what I will choose to feel today.” (Actually, while this shouldn’t be the only thing we do, this kind of verbalization CAN be effective in helping us to feel more happy). But what else should we keep in mind if we want to start living with the happiness advantage versus seeking out the happiness horizon?
- Build daily rituals that support happiness: These involve spending just a few minutes engaging in activity each day that boosts our mood and encourages happier thinking, like exercise, meditation, and acts of kindness. How often do you do these things? How can you work their presence into your daily activities?
- Share gratitudes: This might seem like a small thing, but it’s -one of the most effective techniques for “looking on the bright side,” boosting your mood, and connecting with others in a positive way. Every day, as often as you can, share with others the things that make you grateful for them. Tell your partner how grateful you are for their support, your co-workers for their assistance on projects, your children for how hard they try in school. This doesn’t just leave others with a positive impact on their own day, but it begins to switch your own thinking as well – instead of looking for what others are doing wrong, we instead see the ways that others leave a positive impact on our lives.
- Shift to positive thinking: While this is a difficult task, it isn’t that complicated. It means catching our thoughts when we engage in negative thinking, and switching our brains to processing events in a positive light. It means seeing the joy in our daily lives and focusing less on what could or has gone wrong. If you are living in a cycle of negative thinking, start by journaling each day – record your thoughts and feelings, without judging or filtering as you write. After a few days, look back at your entries – for those that emanate negativity, challenge yourself to see the positive and reframe. Once you’ve had some practice, try doing this in the moment – catching yourself with a negative thought and reframing as you experience it.
We are all capable of taking small actions to rewire our brains into thinking within a positive framework. By understanding the benefits and importance of this, we can commit ourselves to taking action that helps us feel better in the moment and more productive in the long-term.