My wish is that your answer is, “Yes!” But, if you aren’t as happy as you’d like to be, you are not alone. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that Anxiety Disorders is up by 25.6% and Major Depressive Disorders by 27.6%. Moreover, the prescription of antidepressants has increased 400% in the past decade. Daily, I hear people telling me they feel overwhelmed, overworked and/or unhappy. What can we do about it? We can glean and practise some great techniques from positive psychology, which (by the way) shows that only 10% of our happiness is determined by external circumstances. We have important internal work to do, so let’s explore Key Steps we can take to be happy and…
‘be the difference that makes the difference.’
- Remember that happiness is an inside job. Focusing on external circumstances often just increases our unhappiness. Rather focus on what you can control, which is your thinking and your behaviour. Don’t wait to be happy or leave your happiness in other people’s hands, rather…
- Change your formula for success and leverage the happiness advantage. Most of us have the formula for success backwards. If you think that you’ll be happy once you’ve finished your MBA, paid off your house, got through month end, achieved a promotion and so on, you keep pushing happiness over the cognitive horizon. Your formula is that you have to be successful in order to be happy. Yet, research shows that doctors who are primed to be happy are 19% quicker at giving a correct diagnosis, workers are 31% more productive, sales consultants are 37% better at sales… This shows that we have the formula for success backwards. Once you get a new job, you need to get a better job. Once you get through month end, you have another one just around the corner. The science shows that when we choose to be happy, we are then more successful! So don’t sacrifice your happiness to work harder, thinking that success will make you happy because – in the long run – it won’t. Reverse your formula and…
- Engage in daily happiness exercises. Shawn Achor is one of my favourite positive psychologists. In his TED Talk, he invites us to create a happiness revolution by trying the following:
3.1 Practise gratitude. We have all heard this before, but do you do it daily? All you need to do is write down three new things that you are grateful for. It is that simple! They do not have to be profound things either; they can be as simple as being grateful hearing a child laugh or for a good cup of coffee.
3.2. Deepen positive experiences. Take one positive experience from the past 24 hours and write down as much detail surrounding it as you can and share it with someone else if appropriate. This allows your brain to relive it and get all the chemical benefits (oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine) all over again.
3.3 Take time for “mindfulness moments”. All you need it 30 to 60 seconds of intentional focus on your breath. It mops up your cortisol, regulated your blood pressure and increases all your feel good chemicals. Plus, doing this every hour for 30 seconds teaches your brain that you can feel good instantly… you don’t have to wait to have 10 or 20 minutes to meditate.
3.4 Engage in conscious acts of kindness. Studies show that if you are given some money and told to spend it on yourself, your happiness levels do rise but go back when tested the next day. Whereas, if you used the money to do something for someone else, your happiness levels rise for over a week! Plus, you have added value to your community. Kindness does not require money; it can be giving time, energy and/or kindness. Think abundantly and make a difference.
3.5 Exercise, exercise, exercise! Numerous studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as anit-depressants approximately 50% of the time. This does not mean that you should swap meds for exercise without consulting your doctor. But it could be an option and psychiatrists are not prescribing exercise as an important aspect of treatment. If you don’t currently exercise, start small – just include 15 to 20 minutes of something fun three to five times a week. Go for a brisk walk, bounce on a trampoline, do some gardening. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to stick with it. I love running and dancing – the benefits of the endorphins released are immeasurable.
3.6 Deepen social connection. This has been tricky with physical distancing through the pandemic. Thankfully, we can meet in person again. Hybrid working makes this an ongoing to challenge though so we really need to plan social connection as it is less likely to happen sporadically. I know I have got out of the habit of meeting with friends in person and really need to be very intentional about deepening social connection.
My wish for you is health and happiness! What Key Steps are you taking to be happy and…
‘be the difference that makes the difference.’
NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.
About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides
Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.
Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of
Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.
Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’