Did you know one of the most popular courses of all time at Harvard is about happiness? It started in 2006 with more than 1,400 students enrolling in Psy 1504: Positive Psychology. There are multiple joy-centered Harvard courses offered today for students, and at least one business course, Managing Happiness, accessed online for free, for us non-Harvard admits (the next one starts in March!). The latter is taught by Harvard professor, Arthur Brooks, who also has a series of podcasts, books and weekly writings in The Atlantic on the topic of building a happy life.
The Happy Math
Learning how to be happy is a hot topic right now, and, as a society, it seems we need the lesson. CNN reported in 2022, that the General Social Survey saw a record-low number of respondents (19%) say they were “very happy” and a record-high number (24%) say they were “not too happy.” For perspective, in every poll since 1972, up until the pandemic, the percentage of people who reported being very happy was higher than those who said they were not too happy.
Harvard’s Professor Brooks says people can learn to find joy, rather than angst. He talked to The Harvard Gazette recently about his brand new Leadership & Happiness Laboratory which investigates the science behind achieving happiness and spreading it. Brooks says positivity can be split into three parts:
- 50% genetics
- 25% circumstances
- 25% habits
By tweaking your habits, says Brooks, you can change your circumstances and manage your genetics. In a fall 2022 GQ article, Brooks declared he’s actually not a naturally happy person, but he puts theory into practice daily to improve his outlook. He says happy people observe their desires, emotions and cravings without reacting to them immediately. They’re in control, rather than being controlled.
Take Our Advice
Here at Motivation Excellence, we focus on improving performance through a variety of solutions. The end result not only happens to be a financial gain for our clients, but also a positive improvement in relationships with employees, sales teams and channel partners. If someone is happy to be connected to your company, the positive vibe can spread, increasing productivity, sales and retention.
For this blog, I decided to reach out to some of my coworkers to give tips on how they find joy, or keep a positive outlook, as often as they can. After all, we spend the majority of our time helping our clients and their participants to be happy, so, perhaps we can help you too!
Mark Bondy, Vice President, Chief Transition Officer: “I like to get down on the floor to play with my grandkids or dog. It really simplifies life and allows me to forget about stress and enjoy the moment.”
Jillian Fehrenbach, Customer Service Specialist: “I’ve been focusing on personal growth a lot lately. I switch between a couple of books that help me cultivate positive thoughts—with the goal of being better tomorrow than I was today. One of those books is A Gift of Peace: Selections from A Course in Miracles. A summary of topics include:
- Choosing happiness with purpose,
- Making a mind shift and selecting a new path,
- Sharing happiness with others,
- Correcting perception by rejecting illusions.”
Tim Merriman, Independent Strategic Account Director: “I work on a few things on a consistent basis which include:
- Count my blessings and practice abundant gratitude,
- Be more aware of my surroundings and others,
- Encourage others through random acts of kindness, and
- Listen more, talk less.”
Mark Houska, Strategic Account Director: “As a member of our sales team I try to be very methodical in my approach to prospecting and building a pipeline. You know there’s a lot of rejection in sales, but the numbers will bear out through consistent effort. There’s satisfaction in remaining positive and making progress with both small and big wins. Celebrate both!”
Sky Capriolo, Senior Marketing Manager & Brand Ambassador, and your author: As someone who has struggled with depression, I absolutely believe there are things I can do consistently to help alleviate the downward tug and give myself positive momentum.
- Exercise is key for me. I try to get my heart pumping for at least 30 minutes, 5-7 days a week.
- Nutrition – I always feel better when I know I’m eating well.
- Being in the moment – my husband had cancer a few years ago and that really put a lot into perspective. We absolutely practiced appreciating each day, and continue to do so.
- Spreading kindness and compliments. If I think something nice about someone – a stranger or a friend – I make it a point to say something. Making others feel happy, makes me feel happy too!
Live a Long, Happy Life
It’s easier to fall down than get back up, that’s just plain physics. The mental struggle is similar. It just seems easier to fall into that negative thought loop spiral, than push ourselves up with positive affirmations. According to PyschCentral, there are impactful characteristics happy people share that we can all work on.
- Like themselves
- Have personal control
- Expect good things to happen
- Have meaningful relationships
- Enjoy balanced lives
Here’s one more very interesting fact about people with positive outlooks; Happy people live longer. The Harvard Health Blog (back to Harvard; full circle storytelling makes me happy!) shared a study showing people with higher levels of optimism had a greater chance of living past the age of 85. There are also studies that show happy people have fewer chronic illnesses and lower health-related costs.
If you need more convincing to strike out and try living a happier life, remember, some say it takes more muscles to frown than smile. And, having laugh lines on your face, shows you’ve lived a great life (and got the last laugh)!