I generally consider myself to be a happy, go-lucky person. I have a passion for creativity, play, travel, new experiences, and the rosy wash of optimism. But like so many things, happiness is like a muscle… it can start to deteriorate over time if not flexed properly.
It starts, perhaps, with too much time spent watching the news or looking at social media, and the negativity slowly builds up and begins to weigh heavier and heavier on the mind and heart. Then maybe one day you listen to yourself while talking to a friend or loved one and hear complaints, gossip, or other negativity spilling from your lips. Before long, all you can think about is how unhappy you are at work, how lonely you feel, or how lazy or stuck in a rut you’ve become.
Just writing and reading those two paragraphs bring me down, as true as they might be. There is a quote that I love from the poet Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
It is true that I have allowed a lot of the “muscles” in my life to atrophy, my happiness, many of my relationships, my writing and creativity, pursuit of my dreams, and my actual muscles (particularly a strong core built from years of dance), but it is also true that I’m no longer willing to let them continue to deteriorate. I am determined to make a change, to blossom.
When I think about happiness and productivity, the first thing that comes to mind is one of my favorite TedTalk videos: The Happy Secret to Better Work with Shawn Achor. It is funny, inspiring, and motivational, as any good TedTalk should be. But I feel this is truly one of the best:
I highly recommend watching video above, it is absolutely worth the roughly 12 minutes it takes to watch it, but in case you’re pressed for time or are in a place where you can’t watch, the general idea is this: happiness inspires productivity in our lives much more than productivity inspires happiness.
Achor suggests that studies show 5 ways we can create more happiness and positivity in our lives daily:
- Expressing 3 Gratitudes (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
- Journaling about a positive experience that happened in the last 24 hours (Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006)
- Exercise (Babyak et al., 2000)
- Meditation (Dweck, 2007)
- Random Acts of Kindness (Lyubomirsky, 2005)
They all sound reasonable to me. I’m ready to jump in, so I challenge YOU to join me! Pick 1 or 3 or all of the suggestions above and complete them on a daily basis for 21 days. Notice how your thoughts begin to shift toward positivity. And then embrace it and keep it up!
3 Things I’m Grateful for Today:
- Listening to my inner voice telling me to go for it!
- The video above suggesting a great place to start.
- A sunny, warm day outside.
Positive Experience Journal:
Yesterday I was doing a grammar exercise with my classes. It’s a timed exercise requiring them to determine if short (often unintentionally funny) sentences are using the proper form of often misspelled words (your/you’re, there/their/they’re, etc.). I like this exercise because of the timed nature, the going over it together, the immediate feedback, and the energy it usually creates (unusual for a grammar exercise). Yesterday was no exception. We worked, we laughed, and one student in particular joined in on my goofy treatment of the subject matter by over exaggerating the ‘h’ sound in “where.” We all laughed and had a great time!
Awesome! Now I’m off to tackle a few more of the items on the list. Let me know in the comments what your gratitudes or positive experience is today!