7 Actionable Tips for Creating More Happiness
Productivity is a hot topic for us at Prodoscore and we often talk with customers and prospects about some of the things that can affect engagement throughout the workday.
While employers are anxious to drive productivity and engagement, it’s important that this is done in a positive and healthy way.
Toward that end, Prodoscore joined forces earlier this year with Michelle Wax, founder of American Happiness and the American Happiness Project. Over the course of four workshops we brought together an exclusive group of professionals from across the country to tackle ideas and practices focused on mental wellness, happiness, positive mindset, channeling resilience and other topics related to mental and emotional well-being.
During the very first workshop, Wax shared that - based on interviews with hundreds of people across the country - the number 1 factor for a happy and fulfilling life is a positive mindset. However, there are many ways to create more happiness, generate energy, and develop positive habits.
Here are our top seven learnings from the workshops to help you get started.
1. Track your thoughts
Every time we have a thought, neurons are firing in our brains, creating and reinforcing neural pathways. Those pathways direct our habits of feeling, thinking and acting. In order to build neural pathways that lead to things like happiness and gratitude, confidence, appreciation, and other positive emotions, we need to become more self aware.
The first step in this journey towards self awareness is better understanding our thoughts. To train the brain to have a positive mindset, we need to identify our most persistent thoughts and how they make us feel. By writing down some of those thoughts and feelings, you can start directing your habits in a more positive direction. Ask yourself things like:
What’s my first thought when I wake up in the morning? What’s going through my mind during the last meeting of the day? What am I thinking about while eating my lunch?
The next step is asking questions like: How do I feel about those thoughts? Am I happy or sad? Drained and stressed? Anxious or energized?
With answers to questions like those above we will be empowered to build more positivity into our lives.
2. If you appreciate someone, tell them
Taking a moment to write a note, send an email, or shoot a text to a person in your life that you appreciate will have a significant impact on the recipient. Lighting up their day will in turn make you feel good. Make it a habit to tell people something positive. What have you got to lose? If you’re lucky someone will make your day, too.
3. Actively work on creating positive habits
We’ve all heard the phrase “that’s just the way she is.” That statement is not true --our brains are constantly adapting and evolving. Our brains have the ability to change continuously throughout the course of our lives. That means we can always modify our habits but it takes patience, willpower, and a little help from our subconscious mind.
When trying to create a new positive habit, focus first on what you can control (some goals may be out of your hands). The two things you can control are yourself and your response. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, whether or not the gym is open should not play a role in you accomplishing that goal since that’s outside of your control.
Be consistent about it. To reshape a habit will take effort. Start with small shifts but be diligent and repetitive so it sticks. It sometimes helps to track your progress, both to keep you on track and also to serve as a reminder of your end goal.
Also, make sure the habit you are trying to create is aligned with who you are as a person. Understanding why a particular habit is important to you, why it matters, and how it aligns with your identity, will make it easier to adopt and more likely to stick. Good habits make rational sense, but if they conflict with your identity you will fail to put them into action.
4. Start your day on your own terms
There are so many recommendations out there for how to start the day. I’ve heard things like, take a few minutes to stretch when you get up, start by meditating, eat protein, drink a cup of water, listen to calming music...the list goes on. What really matters most is to start your day off in a way that makes sense for YOU. Experiment until you find the best routine and then try sticking to it. Do keep in mind that starting your day proactively will keep you energized.
If the first thing you do in the morning is scroll through social media or the news, check your emails, or catch up on texts, you’re starting off reactively and will have a harder time setting intentions for your day.
Once you nail down a proactive rhythm that works for you you’ll feel a lot better getting out of bed each day.
5. Don’t ignore the importance of sleep
Sleep keeps us healthy, alert, and energized. Good sleep contributes to improved concentration and productivity, it helps mitigate disease and depression, and improves immune function, among other things. So, how can you get better sleep? Maintaining a sleep schedule (waking up and going to sleep at roughly the same time) can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep - our bodies like routine - it’s like building a positive habit!
Another great reminder is to ditch the screens at least 30 minutes before bed (that means phones and TVs!). Exposure to blue light at night can have negative effects on health in general but as it relates to sleep, the light can interfere with our circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion, making it more difficult to fall, and stay, asleep. And, as much as you can, try not to look at your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night.
In the morning, a really great way to jolt yourself out of that groggy, drowsy state is to do something cold - like taking a cold shower!
6. Find your energy drivers and drainers
Our bodies are constantly converting and generating energy. Work on understanding what generates energy for you and what, in contrast, drains it. What do those high energy moments have in common? A specific time of day? Meal? Certain person? Once you understand high energy versus low energy behaviors you can shift your schedule so you’re spending more time on things that create energy for you and less time on the things that drain it.
The foods you eat can affect your energy levels - whole and unprocessed foods tend to be better for generating energy than processed and fried foods, for example. Digestion takes up a lot of energy and things like alcohol, carbs, processed foods, etc. require more energy to digest. Look at ingredient labels to make sure you know what you’re eating. Expert tip: the front of the packaging is far less regulated than the back so “healthy” marketing messaging can be deceiving!
If you’re feeling low energy, check your posture, maybe take a quick movement break. People who are high energy tend to move more throughout the day.
Balancing your day with activities you enjoy and activities you don’t will help keep your energy levels steady. And as you become more self aware, focus on incorporating energy drivers into your day to make you as productive as possible.
7. Transform bad stress to good stress
It’s easier said than done, but there are ways to reduce stress and help achieve inner peace. Something as simple as breathing is a great place to start. If it seems like things are getting out of hand, take a minute and just breathe. Deep conscious breathing can help you reset, and relieve any tension in your body.
When we allow our bodies to restore balance and alleviate stress a number of other benefits result including mental clarity, improvements in immune function, less inflammation, lower blood pressure, and fewer migraines.
Another idea is to focus on the present moment. “When you’re fully engaged in the present moment, it’s almost impossible to feel stress because you’re engaged in the present,” said Wax. Stress and worry often come from dwelling on the past or even the future. It’s a lot harder to be stressed when you're immersed in the present moment.
Can you incorporate meditation into your routine? How about exercise? Even a 15-minute walk can help calm nerves.
Remember, stress is not forever; it’s just a moment in time.
“We’re human beings - stress will always exist! But, having the ability to restore that balance quickly is very powerful,” said Wax.
We hope you are able to use these suggestions as a guide to begin your own Happiness Project. Remember, you don’t have to tackle all seven at once. Start with one and build from there.
“Think of your mind as a forest - we’re constantly blazing new paths in that forest, forming new habits around thinking, feeling, and acting,” said Wax.
Byline originally published in HR.com here.