Mindful Break: Guess Who Is Happiest?

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yearbook-photosI stood in an airport security line waiting to fly home.

My ears perked up when I heard the TSA airport security guy say, “How come nobody smiles anymore?”

He had a good point.

We go to great lengths to look beautiful, dress nicely, and renovate our homes and bodies… but if you can’t smile, what’s the point?

A dour person with a great physique? Booooring.

A frowner with stylish clothes? Booooooooo.

A long face in a fancy home? Something ain’t right!

A SMILE CHANGES EVERYTHING!

If you’re terribly out of shape, but have a great smile, you get 9 out of 10 points on my scale of attraction… for what it’s worth.

If your career is at a standstill, make others feel happy with your smile and watch a work freeze melt in the warm glow of your heart.

Are you feeling like you are not accepted in your social circle? Just smile at the doubters and haters who will wrack their brains trying to figure out your secret to happiness.

Author Tim Sanders says that an average person in the US is smiled at over 15 times a day, but we are so blocked that we smile back less than 6 times.

Medical expert Jonathan Levine writes that “babies smile an average of 200 times a day. The average woman smiles 62 times a day and the average man only 8.”

In the famous “Yearbook Study,” researchers analyzed 114 pictures from the 1958 and 1960 yearbooks of a women’s college in the Bay Area. Young women who expressed genuine smiles (happiness) in yearbook photos, as middle-aged women, had better marriages and fewer setbacks. (See above photo and judge for yourself)

So how can we smile more often?

You don’t necessarily need to have a happy day or a period of good fortune in order to bust out an authentic smile… which is the way most people think of it.

There is a rip cord in every human heart.

Pull it and, at least for one glorious moment, say BYE BYE to your doubts, your fears, your darkness… and send your smiley-self exploding upon the world!

Maybe it’s thinking of something delicious you will enjoy today, or pondering the unconditional love of your children, or tilting your mind upward toward your life’s greatest possible dream scenario. Remember, as a sacred text says, “Vision is Creation.”

The infinite light of your soul is searching for a crack in your armor, dying to bust loose!

So take a moment to let go, break down, and let the angels of light blow through the seams of your heart.

There is nothing like a smile to heal your troubles and change your day.

As Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hahn said, “Sometimes joy is the source of your smile. BUT SOMETIMES a smile is the source of your joy.”

In other words, fake it til you make it.

Happier Jump-Starts: Learn, baby, learn!

happier-jump-start-7-21-14Did you have a great weekend? I know we’re all supposed to grumble about Mondays, but… once I’ve gotten up and had my coffee, I kind of dig ‘em. If I had a great break from work, I’m ready to get back to it. If I had a stressful weekend, I’m ready to start a new week. I feel you, Monday.

Monday is also cool with me because it’s time for this week’s Happier Challenge. Ready?

This week, think about something new that you learned recently.

This one is super easy because unless you’ve been hibernating, chances are excellent that you’re learning new stuff all the time. It turns out that learning new things is proven to make us happier, so if you can’t think of anything, consider exploring something about which you’ve always wanted to know more!

Here, I’ve even help you cheat—surely some of the following reading/viewing will be new to you. You might learn something, and it’s a great way to make your week even more awesome. Check these out:

Have a happier week, and don’t forget to report back on the Happier Challenge!

Happier Jump-Starts: You look fabulous, dahling!

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It’s Monday, and you know what that means! It means that… it’s the day after Sunday. Obviously. (Haaaa! Humor makes you happier, you know.)

Okay, no, that’s not what I meant. Monday means it’s time for this week’s Happier Challenge! Ready? (Today’s post title was a clue.) Here you go:

This week, pay someone a sincere compliment.

Easy, right? It’ll make the target of your words happier, of course, but science also shows that it will make you happier, too! (We think you can handle this challenge without any problems, but if you need a little inspiration, check out Five Compliments Guaranteed to Make Someone’s Day for ideas.)

Need a little reading/viewing material to make your week even more awesome? Check these out:

Have a happier week, and don’t forget to report back on the Happier Challenge!

Yes, money can make you happier, says Mike Norton

MikeNortonLike me, you’ve probably read about research showing that money doesn’t make us happy (above a certain baseline). In fact, household income in the US has gone up for the last 30 years while life satisfaction has decreased.

But Mike Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School, has done a lot of research to show that in fact, money CAN make you happier if you spend it the right way. I was so inspired by reading about it that I went to meet him when I was thinking about starting Happier. I can report that in addition to being really smart he is also just awesome.

Happy MoneyI recently interviewed Mike about what makes him happier and how we can spend money in ways that makes us more satisfied. He also has a new book called Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, which he co-authored with Elizabeth Dunn. It’s decidedly unboring and has inspired me to think about and change some of the ways I prioritize spending money.

So, Mike, what makes you happier?
Ideas! Nothing is more fun than meeting new people and coming up with new ideas about how “the humans” (as we social scientists call them) work. And the very best ideas are those that have the potential to give people guidance on how to inject more happiness into their lives – a topic my co-author Liz Dunn and I have been studying for a decade now.

You’ve studied money and happiness for a long time now. What’s the biggest myth people believe about how money can make them happy?
The biggest myth is also the most pervasive and hardest to shake: more is better. Research shows that after people hit a certain amount of income (some estimates say around $75,000 a year), the next few thousand bucks really doesn’t affect their day to day happiness all that much. What we suggest people should think is not “Do I have enough money to be happy?” but rather “Am I using the money I have now in the best way to wring the most happiness from every dollar?”

If I have $20 to spend, what would you suggest I do spend it on to feel happier?
This one is easy. Buy an experience for someone you care about, and, geez, since that person is going, why not tag along with them? Not only does spending our money on others make us happier than spending on ourselves, but buying experiences makes us much happier than buying stuff. And spending time with loved ones is a huge happiness booster.

What’s the last thing you purchased that made you happier?
The last thing I purchased that made me happier was actually something I didn’t purchase. I got all wrapped up in wanting to buy a new fancy flat screen TV, spent hours comparing models, and then remembered my own advice – quit buying stuff. In fact one of the best ways to use your money to get happy is simply to stop using it to buy stuff that doesn’t pay off in happiness. I can’t say I always catch myself before I click ‘Buy,” though.

 

Research shows trying to be happy makes you unhappy — and we agree!

A few days ago I opened my inbox to find a dozen emails from worried friends. They all sounded a bit like this:

Hey, just saw this article about how trying to be happy is actually making people miserable. You should read it. Worried about how this will reflect on what you guys are doing with Happier.

Here’s the article everyone was sending me: The Problem With Happiness.

It talks about several studies in which researchers showed that trying to be happy is actually making people less happy. For example:

In one study, people were asked a number of questions about how much they value happiness and how much they believe it is important to work toward being happy. People putting the greatest emphasis on being happy reported 50% less frequent positive emotions, 35% less satisfaction about their life, and 75% more depressive symptoms than people that had their priorities elsewhere.

I might have surprised my worried friends when I wrote back to each of them to say that actually, I couldn’t agree with the article more. You see, we created Happier based on the idea that chasing some big nirvana state of happiness does absolutely nothing to make us happier — and sometimes, like researchers have shown, achieves the opposite.

Focusing on small happy moments in every day life and appreciating them, connecting with friends and people you care about, doing nice things for others, spending time with positive people — these are the behaviors that multiple studies have shown actually do make people happier, more positive and optimistic. At Happier, our mission is to inspire millions of people to do just that and hearing from so many of our users about how doing this makes them happier is more powerful than any research study I can imagine.

 

 

 

How to be happier: Love more.

howtobehappier2A 75-year study that followed 268 male Harvard graduates since 1938 has found a powerful connection between the warmth of your relationships and your happiness as you age.

Warm childhood relations with fathers correlated with lower rates of adult anxiety, greater enjoyment of vacations, and increased “life satisfaction” at age 75.

(The study’s data also showed that men who had warm relationships with their parents early on in their lives made more money and did better at work when they were older than those who had poor relationships.)

The lead researcher of the study is quoted as saying: “The Grant Study points … to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.”

So here’s a happier challenge for your Monday: Find a way, however small or big, to tell someone important in your life you love them. Leave a sweet note for your spouse. Send a thank you text or email to your friend. Find a card that will make your mom or dad smile and send it to them without an occasion. Surprise your kids with a Monday night fun activity (that can be as simple as playing a game together or going out for ice cream). What you do doesn’t matter as much as letting the people you love know that in some way.

How to be happier: Stop multitasking.

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If you think you’re a multitasking hero, think again. When you switch away from what you’re doing to do something else – like say, answer an email during a meeting, which we’ve all done – you’re increasing the time it will take you to finish your primary activity by 25 percent.

Getting stuff done is an awesome feeling — it makes you happier. So here’s something to try this Monday:

Focus on doing just one thing at a time.

Don’t check your email while you’re working on something else. If you need to take a call step away from your computer. If you’re going out to grab coffee let yourself have a few minutes to just drink the coffee, not check email or talk on the phone at the same time. Give multitasking a break and see how you feel. It might turn out you get more done.

How to be happier: Bring out your inner sports fan

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Remember the last time you cheered for your fave team? Most likely you felt pretty good and energized. Turns out bringing out your inner sports fan actually makes you happier. (Yes, even if your team loses.) According to a recent article in the New York Times:

A growing body of scientific research and some compelling empirical evidence suggest that sports fans are less prone to depression and alienation.

Now there’s some inspiration to spend a few hours getting your blood flowing, fists pumping and endorphins charging up!

Mondays made happier: Go see a friend!

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Here’s something really simple you can do to instantly be happier: Go see a friend. If you can’t see them in person, give them a call.

We probably don’t need to tell you that spending time with friends makes you happier but new research shows just how important that is:

…low social interaction has the equivalent lifespan impact as smoking 15 cigarettes daily, or being a raging alcoholic. Cutting yourself off from others is worse, even, than inactivity. And twice as bad as obesity.

Can you find a half hour to catch up with a friend for coffee today? If not, even making plans to see them can boost your (and probably their) happiness.

 

Smile, it’s good for you!

You’ve probably heard that smiling can positively affect your mood, right? Well there’s some new research to confirm that something as simple as a smile can impact how you feel:

A study published in the journal Psychological Science in November found that people who smiled after engaging in stress-inducing tasks showed a greater reduction in heart rate than people who maintained a neutral facial expression.

A reduced heart rate means lower stress and anxiety, both of which we would all like to feel less than more. It also turns out that even a fake smile can have significant benefits, although studies have shown that when you actually find something to smile about, they are greater.