Big Smile: Is Happiness Worth the Pursuit?

Earlier this month, TIME magazine ran a cover story on a topic that’s increasingly gaining attention within the health/wellness, research and business communities; Happiness. And as Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project continued to climb the New York Times bestseller list, coincidentally, (or maybe not) last week we were visited by longtime BigSpeak friend and speaker Jonathan Robinson about this very subject. Robinson, a well-known psychotherapist and best-selling author, presented us with some interesting findings and statistics:

  • Happy people on average, live nine years longer than their unhappy counterparts.
  • Happy people tend to earn more (approx. $750,000 more) over their lifetime.
  • Happiness is a skill that is partly learnable.
  • 10% of the US population is currently on antidepressants.
  • The two most popular undergraduate courses at Harvard University are on Happiness.

According to a report published by Columbia University, on a 50-country happiness index, the US ranks a distant 23rd, well behind first-place Iceland, New Zealand (#2) and Denmark (#3). So why the long faces in the land of opportunity? Happiness revolves around the 7 dimensions of wellness: physical, spiritual, emotional, environmental, occupational, intellectual, and social. The TIME article surmises a combination of biology, history, environment and a culture of constant comparison are the primary culprits (the magazine’s poll found that 60% of respondents report feeling worse about themselves after spending time on social media channels).

TimeHapinessCoverBut most of all, the research suggests, it’s all in our heads and it’s taking a toll, resulting in increased health-related problems, divorce rates and decreased productivity levels in the workplace. “We cannot buy, or demand happiness,” humorist and stress management expert Loretta LaRoche points out, “It is how we go about life that has helped create the epidemic of self-entitlement, depression, lack of humor and outbursts of anger that permeate the culture, “through the “self-chatter” or inner dialogue and stories we tell ourselves.

Happiness in the workplace has traditionally been seen as a by-product of positive results on the job. However, a growing number of scholars are taking the opposite view; that happiness actually precedes productivity and is a major source of positive outcomes in the workplace, finding that companies with higher than average employee happiness exhibit better financial performance and customer satisfaction.

What are the best ways to get a head start in the pursuit of happiness? According to Robinson, one of the best methods can be performed in the middle of daily life -in under a minute. Briefly, the technique is to ask yourself a simple question anytime you encounter something you don’t like – a traffic jam, a problem at work, or a mate that is argumentative. The question is, “What could be good about this?” In addition to this “silver-lining” approach he also recommends:

  • Exercise: Even if only for a few minutes. Take a brisk walk, do jumping jacks or whatever gets your heart pumping and lungs breathing more deeply. Within one minute you’ll begin to feel better.
  • 90 Second Heart Meditation: Take a deep breath and exhale out he center of your chest, while closing your eyes and imagining someone you love (pet, child, friend) basking in the gratitude that they’re in your life. This simple method can take you from stressed to blissed in 90 seconds.
  • Perform an Act of Kindness: When you do a small act of kindness for a stranger or friend, you feel better, they feel better, it’s a win-win. Even something as simple as saying what you appreciate about someone will boost your well-being, as well as theirs.

With the power of positive psychology becoming more prevalent within the business, personal growth and work/life balance sectors, BigSpeak has a number of top experts including Jonathan Robinson, Shawn AchorLoretta LaRocheAmanda GoreJudy Carter and Marilyn Tam, who can help you counter stress, reduce negative self-chatter, increase positive emotions and communication, and  integrate happiness into your organization. Call us for details. 
AND as an added bonus for BigSpeak subscribers Jonathan Robinson has provided three FREE “Finding Happiness” audio downloads to get you started here.