What is Happiness?
Happiness researches are finding that emotions such as happiness “can pulse through social networks,” spreading from person to person. In other words, happiness is contagious! Of the many strategies investigated for their potential to spark happiness, gratitude is a top contender. Having strong, healthy relationships with others is another, and perhaps the most important factor for happiness. Happiness also has a physiological effect on your body, lowering inflammatory genes expression and strengthening antiviral and antibody responses.
As leaders, our mental state greatly affects those we work with - for good or for bad. Prep yourself for the holidays by intentionally focusing on your state of happiness. Here are some tips.
Make happiness your goal
The first step toward greater happiness is to choose it. You need to believe that happiness is possible, and that you deserve it. (Hint: Everyone does!) Research shows that the mere INTENTION to become happier actually makes a big difference.
Identify that which makes you happy
If it's been awhile since you've felt truly happy (that carefree joyous state you had as a child), you may have but also little things, hobbies, interests).
Make happiness a priority
If you have a free hour, do you spend it doing something fun, or otherwise working, doing housework, or tackling and extra project. The latter is a "minor form of insanity," according to happiness researchers, and leads to dissatisfaction. Break free of this trap, by scheduling your weeks around events (or ordinary activities) that make you feel happy and alive.
Savor pleasant moments
People who take the time to savor pleasant moments report higher levels of happiness, regardless of where the day takes them. If you don't already do this, keeping a daily diary of pleasant moments. You’ll be surprised at how much happiness is to be had in everyday life. Little things like the smell of morning coffee, signs of the season, playing with a pet are things to relish.
Ditch unnecessary, joyless distractions
There's only so much time in a day; be sure to protect your attention and time from unnecessary and unproductive distractions. This includes texts, tweets and emails, which rob us of the true pleasures in life. If you think keeping tabs on Facebook friends equates to happiness, think again. Research suggests the more time people spend on Facebook, the more their moment-to-moment happiness declines and the less satisfied with life they become.
Let every thought be a positive thought
Simply thinking about something positive, and smiling as a result, can make you happier and more upbeat. A genuine smile includes the facial muscles around your eyes, and can actually prompt brain changes linked to improved mood.
Prioritize experiences over things
Research suggests experiences make us happier than possessions; the "newness" of possessions wears off, as does the joy they bring, but experiences improve your sense of vitality and "being alive," both during the experience and when you reflect back on it.
Have a back-up plan for bad days
When you're having a bad day and your mood is sinking, have a plan in place to lift it back up. This could be calling a close friend, watching a comedy or going out for a jog — whatever works best for you.
Identify your sense of purpose
Happiness isn't about pleasure alone; it's also about having a sense of purpose. The term "eudaimonic well-being" originated with Aristotle, and describes the form of happiness that comes from activities that bring a greater sense of purpose, life meaning or self-actualization. This could be your career, or it could be gleaned from volunteering or even taking a course in something you enjoy.
Socialize — Even with strangers
Having meaningful social relationships is important for happiness, but even people who engage in "social snacking" report greater happiness. Social snacking describes little ways to connect with others, preferably on a daily basis. The more you mingle and chat with people around you, the more cheerful and brighter your mood is likely to be.
Take time away from the daily grind to recharge. A weekend getaway can give you a boost; longer trips crate meaningful memories, which can be tapped into later to help boost happiness. Experts recommend a two-week vacation, even if it's to a locale close to home.
Spend more time outdoors
Exposure to bright outdoor light is crucial for a positive mood, in part because regular exposure to sunlight will helps to enhance your mood and energy through the release of endorphins. Getting sun exposure outdoors optimized Vitamin D levels; deficiencies in this crucial Vitamin are associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and chronic depression.
Research shows that when people make a point to conduct three to five acts of kindness a week, they become happier. Simple kind acts — a compliment, letting someone ahead of you in line, paying for someone's coffee — are contagious and tend to make all involved feel good.
Reflect on what makes you happy - and drive more of that, with intention, into your life.