If you are more productive, can this really increase your happiness? The answer is a resounding yes from scientific studies. If you are more productive at work, and in social and personal relationships, the rewards multiply over and over. Read on for seven things you can do to boost your happiness.
1. You see stress as a challenge.
Instead of trying to reduce your to do list in hectic times and stressful periods, try to see it as a challenge. This is the advice that Shawn Archor gives in his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. He quotes research which shows that when people changed their mindset with regards to stress, they had 23% fewer stress-related symptoms such as backache, exhaustion and headaches. The next time you are going crazy about organizing a dinner party or a holiday, just reflect on the opportunities to connect with people and places, rather than thinking of all the negative factors which are elbowing their way into your mindset. Meeting people again will strengthen and deepen your relationships.
2. You practise gratitude.
Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California has done a lot of research on how to be more productive and happier. One way is to practise gratitude, especially when on holiday. You should make a list of the positive, wonderful things that are surrounding you, such as loved ones and beautiful places. You have extra time on your hands so send an email expressing your appreciation or perform a simple act of kindness. This regular brain training helps to keep you optimistic in the months ahead.
3. You learn how to be self-compassionate.
“When bad things happen to a friend, you wouldn’t yell at him.” – Prof. Mike Leary, Duke University
We are often so hard on ourselves and yet we tend to be more compassionate with others than with ourselves! We set incredibly high standards for our work and relationships, and then start beating ourselves up when we face problems and setbacks. Studies done by Professor Meredith Terry at Duke University on those over 65 showed that when they were more tolerant about their own loss of memory and arthritic pains, they were better able to manage the aging process.
4. You invest in friendships.
Real friends are like pure gold. They require time and effort, though. We all know that good friends are a bulwark when we suffer loss, sorrow and loneliness. They are also great company when we have to celebrate. Developing a prime quality friendship is neither easy nor automatic. But it is well worth it. Experts have even put a price tag on quality friendshipand at the moment each one is worth $133,000, in terms of life satisfaction and happiness. Imagine that sum as a pay rise, yet it is friendship which is worth so much more. Friends will always be there for you. Looking at your bank balance when lonely will not make you any happier.
5. You move your body.
Have you ever felt a high after a workout or brisk walk? There is a biological reason for this but you do not need to know all the chemical details. You just have to know that exercise releases endorphins in the brain. This is like a natural dose of morphine. They reduce pain, lift your mood, have an energizing effect on your mind and body and also increase self confidence. Check out this great infographic to see how much exercise you should be getting for the right dose of happiness. Lots of wonderful insights from research, led by Dr. Daniel Landers at Arizona State University, will also convince you.
6. You know the four-to-one ratio.
Yes, that is the ratio of positive emotions versus negative ones. You need at least four of those positives to overcome just one negative thought. The half full glass is not enough, it should be at least three quarters full. The work by Elaine Fox, a neuroscientist at Oxford University in this regard is fascinating and they are outlined in her book, Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain.
You have to be productive in getting these to dominate your mind. If you think negatively all the time, the neural pathways become embedded in your brain. Worries, anxiety and depression can take hold. Fox calls these the ‘fear brain’. It is time to forge new neural pathways so that the ‘pleasure brain’ can dominate by looking at the positive elements and helping them to win the match and, later on, the championship. The secret is being able to experience a wide range of emotions without letting either pleasure of fear dominate too much. Fox found that people who were depressed had barely one positive emotion for each negative one.
7. You know when and how to say no.
When we are bombarded with information, we have to learn how to say ‘no’ and concentrate on what is going to be our top priority. Did you know that we are now bombarded with 60% more information across our phones, computers and tablets than we had in 1980? We have a menu of TV, games, emails, images, text messages, statistics, and music to keep us distracted from the real tasks at hand. In the 1980s, we spent up to 7 hours getting through all that stuff. In 2008, that figure jumped to almost 12 hours, excluding working hours, according to researchers at the UC San Diego.
You see the problem. The wrong things are coming into focus and that is a barrier to being more productive and happier at work. Once you master the art of putting the non-urgent tasks down the list, you can get much more done. The secret is, of course, in your ability to say ‘no’ when these tasks come in the form of requests for help, meetings, and trivial distractions. The satisfaction of staying on track and developing your essential skills is worth its weight in gold.