The Science of Happiness
Last fall, Rick and I had the opportunity to attend a conference hosted by eMoney (our financial planning software company). I expected excellent technical training and information; I did not expect the keynote speakers’ focus on human psychology. I came away from the conference not only with tools to become a better financial planner but also a better parent, spouse and person. It was truly a transformative experience.
The speaker that was most impactful was Shawn Achor, an expert in the field of positive psychology or the “science of happiness”. He spent 10 years teaching and researching happiness and potential at Harvard University and now has a happiness consulting business (GoodThink). His talk gave a brief overview of seven principles of happiness, which are detailed in his book The Happiness Advantage. After the conference, I read that book to delve deeper into making concrete changes in my mindset. The bottom line of the research is that we have the ability to re-wire our brain to become more positive, which in turn will make us feel happier. One key factor is creating new habits – below are a few tips from his research that I found most impactful.
- Small acts of kindness: Take time each day to send a text or email to someone praising them; just a short “thank you for your friendship” text will make you happier and over time, your brain will become addicted to making others feel good.
- Practice Gratitude: Write down three things every day for which you are grateful; these can be small things like a hot cup of coffee or a smile from a coworker.
- The Fun Fifteen: Spend 15 minutes each day in some form of cardio activity; I love going for a short walk with family. I immediately feel happier when I take the time to do that.
- 20 Second Rule: This is simply the concept of removing a small obstacle to a healthy habit. Just eliminating an extra 20 seconds of effort, makes a habit more likely to stick. For example, setting out gym clothes the night before makes people more likely to exercise daily.
The science behind positive psychology is fascinating and I highly recommend reading The Happiness Advantage. If you have about 12 minutes and need something to quickly lift your mood, check out his talk from TEDx Bloomington.
As always, we are here for you. Please email or call if you want to set up a Zoom videoconference meeting or talk by phone.
Mary McCraw, CFP®
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