Shawn Achor gave a great (and probably the funniest) TED talk on the happy secret to better work. His main thesis was that we don’t need to succeed to become happy; we need to be happy to succeed. It is hard to find happiness after success if the goalposts for success keep changing. Here is his advice for a happier life.
- Write down three new things you are grateful for each day into a blank word document. Research shows this will significantly improve your optimism even 6 months later, and raises your success rates significantly.
- Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours. This is a strategy to help transform you from a task-based thinker, to a meaning based thinker who scans the world for meaning instead of endless to-dos. This dramatically increases work happiness.
- Exercise for 10 minutes a day. This trains your brain to believe your behavior matters, which causes a cascade of success throughout the rest of the day.
- Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out. This will help you undo the negative effects of multitasking. Research shows you get multiple tasks done faster if you do them one at a time. It also decreases stress and raises happiness.
- Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team. This significantly increases your feeling of social support, which in my study at Harvard was the largest predictor of happiness for the students.
I have observed that adopting even one of the above habits has far reaching positive consequences. You can watch his talk below, or read his book The Happiness Advantage.