At the end of a long day, there are usually a few things I want: quiet time to relax, a bite of chocolate, a glass of wine, maybe a mindless TV show or the chance to go for a walk outside. When I’m grumpy and tired, I’m convinced one or two of those things will make everything better.
It’s a common pattern of thinking: if I get this thing, then I’ll be happy.
We do it with big life goals and achievements, too. At work, we think about how much happier we’ll be once we get the next promotion or finish that big project. There is always that thing in the distance, that mile marker, that we just need to get to. The problem is, the goalpost always moves. Once we accomplish what we set out to, then we come up with the next thing.
So when do we get to be happy?
We need to reverse the formula and start with happiness. Happiness researcher Shawn Achor explains:
Every single relationship, business, and educational outcome improves when the brain is positive first. If you cultivate happiness while in the midst of your struggles, at work, at school, while unemployed or single, you increase your chances of attaining all the goals you are pursuing… including happiness.
So: we need to be happy to get happy. But how? Achor, whose TED Talk recently blew me away (watch it!), recommends starting with one or more of these 5 researched habits to create lasting positive change:
Write down 3 new things you’re grateful for every day. Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even 6 months later, and raises your success rates significantly.
Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours. This is a strategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos. This dramatically increases work happiness.
Exercise for 10 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.
Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out. This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. It also decreases stress and raises happiness.
Random acts of kindness
Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising someone you know. This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which is a predictor of happiness.
It’s exciting to think we can start to rewire our brains for lasting happiness with simple habits. Meditation has been on my list for a while, so I'm going to start there. What about you?
This post is written by Kelly, a writer and producer who can't resist a good TED Talk.