Happiness At Work #65 ~ practising gratitude: the little thing we can all do to make a big difference

photo credit: dtarpennation via photopin cc

photo credit: dtarpennation via photopin cc

World Gratitude Day is over for another year (it was on 21st September).  But, because practising gratitude seems to keep turning up as one of the surest things we can do to increase our happiness and build our resilience when time are hard,  here are some ways that gratitude can help to build our happiness and resilience between now and next year’s day of celebration…

UN World Gratitude Day – September 21st

BY 

World Gratitude Day was started in 1977 by the United Nations Meditation Group. It’s a time to celebrate your existence, passions, local hero’s, relatives, friends and all the little things that bring joy into your everyday existence. What do you value? Who do you appreciate? How do you express your gratitude to others?

Here are some ways you can incorporate gratitude into your life.

Life’s Challenges – If you’re having a hard time understanding why a particular situation might be happening to you, realize this is an opportunity for you to grow and learn. …This mentality can help transform you from an obsessive complainer into a more motivated and positive individual…

Outstanding Qualities – Try your best to focus on people’s good qualities instead of their negative traits. … This can help improve your relationships with others by letting them know you appreciate them by taking notice of their admirable personality traits…

Donate Your Time – Putting the needs of other people ahead of your own can be very satisfying. … You can make the world a better place by bringing joy to others and helping people realise that they are not alone. There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude…

Gratitude Journal – Purchase a journal and begin writing down the things you are grateful for each day. Make a commitment to write and review your journal entries either first thing in the morning or at night before you go to bed. Your journal can come in handy if you are having a bad day by reminding you to view life’s obstacles as opportunities for growth. Consider writing down your struggles for the day and overcome them by listing positive angles for each one. Personalise your journal by including pictures of your loved ones or your pets, along with famous quotes that help motivate or inspire you.

Thoughtful Gesture – Show your appreciation by surprising someone with a thoughtful gift when they least expect it. There are many ways you can surprise someone without draining your bank account and the impact can last a lifetime…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: tedeytan via photopin cc

 

Gratitude Is About the Future, Not the Past

 writes…

When life’s got you down, gratitude can seem like a chore. Sure, you’ll go through the motions and say the right things — you’ll thank people for help they’ve provided or try to muster a sense of thanks that things aren’t worse. But you might not truly feel grateful in your heart. It can be like saying “I’m happy for you” to someone who just got the job you wanted. The words and the feelings often don’t match.

This disconnect is unfortunate, though. It comes from a somewhat misguided view that gratitude is all about looking backward — back to what has already been. But in reality, that’s not how gratitude truly works. At a psychological level, gratitude isn’t about passive reflection, it’s about building resilience. It’s not about being thankful for things that have already occurred and, thus, can’t be changed; it’s about ensuring the benefits of what comes next. It’s about making sure that tomorrow, and the day after, you will have something to be grateful for.

One of the central findings to emerge from psychological science over the past decade is that certain emotions serve socially adaptive functions. When we experience emotions like compassion, admiration, and shame, they drive us to alter our behaviors toward others. As Adam Smith intuited long ago, these innate feelings, or moral sentiments, impel us to act in ways that benefit our fellow humans — to engage with them in behaviors that foster the common good. And in the case of gratitude, the evidence couldn’t be clearer. In the face of loss, tragedy, or disaster, few psychological mechanisms can do more to benefit an individual’s or a society’s ability to thrive…

The more gratitude people feel, the more likely it is they’ll help anyone, even if it’s someone they’ve never laid eyes on before.

These benefits aren’t limited to direct face-to-face encounters. Given the option, grateful people will make financial decisions that “lift all boats” even when offered options to increase their own profit at another’s expense. In these times, where the click of a button can move funds to anywhere in the world where they’re needed, gratitude-induced giving can have a powerful effect.

Such occurrences of indirect reciprocity — the extending of help to new people — is known to kick cooperation in a group into high gear. In the face of individual or societal tragedies, then, any phenomenon that can enhance such indiscriminate paying-it-forward stands as a key to resilience.

So next time you have the opportunity to say “thank you,” don’t let it ring hollow. Embrace the gratitude; feel it as deeply as you can, because in so doing, you’re actually increasing the odds that in the future we’ll all have more for which to be grateful. On the deepest, unconscious level, gratitude is really about being grateful for the actions that are yet to come.

Link to read the full article 

photo credit: elycefeliz via photopin cc

photo credit: elycefeliz via photopin cc

 

Science Shows That Saying Thanks Can Improve Your Health and Happiness

…Colour me surprised to find that some of the claims about gratitude are backed up by good science. Below are the three most compelling reasons that I found to start a gratitude practice.

1. Practicing Gratitude Makes You Happier

…research shows that 90% of happiness is actually determined by the way the brain processes the world.

Thus, changing the way we see the world can change our reality and even make us happier. Professor, author, and happiness researcher Shawn Achor works with people in many different contexts to determine what constitutes happiness and how to cultivate that. He’s discovered that simply listing three new things to be grateful each day for 21 days can change the way the brain works.

Creating a gratitude list begins to reprogram the human brain for positivity. This releases brain chemicals like dopamine, which allow the brain to perform better. This improvement happens across the board, causing people to be more creative, better at problem solving, etc.

As it turns out, a positive, well-performing brain is a happy brain, and a happy brain makes for a happy life. Achor discusses his research in more depth in his TED talk, which is well worth a listen.

2. Gratitude Gives Us Purpose

Do you ever wonder where you’re going in life, or why you were put on this earth, anyway? Practicing gratitude can help you find answers to those questions.

It may seem a bit naive to say that simply giving thanks for the good things in your life will help you find your life’s purpose. However, practicing gratitude highlights the good things in our lives. It makes us stop and take a look at them, and spend at least a little time dwelling on the things we already have that make us happy.

There’s not too much distance between happiness and purpose. Often, gratitude serves not so much to help us discover a new purpose, but rather to see the purpose our lives already contain. When we are thankful for our family members, we can develop a renewed sense of purpose in caring for them, helping them, and cultivating those relationships on a deeper level. When we are thankful for our work, we can remember why we chose that work in the first place, what drove us there, etc…

3. Gratitude Is Good for Our Bodies

If happiness and a renewed sense of purpose are not enough, cultivating gratitude is also good for our bodies. It helps us sleep better, improves anxiety and depression, improves immune functioning, lessens symptoms of illness, lowers blood pressure, and more.

Some people think it sounds crazy that something as simple as including gratitude practice in our daily lives can improve our health, but the research all shows that it can. It makes a bit more sense if you think about it in terms of happiness.

We’ve already talked about how being grateful can make the brain function better and, thus, make you happier. A happy, well-functioning brain is going to do a better job of managing the rest of the body and working more efficiently and easily, which means that your whole physical being will be stronger…

How to Practice Gratefulness Daily

There are so many ways to practice gratitude. Many people do what Achor suggests and list at least three new things that they’re grateful for every day. Some have dedicated notebooks for the task. Others use a new piece of paper every day and simply stack them together. Some just list each item in a few words or a sentence, while others journal about them, writing a paragraph or even a page for each one.

Still other people find that their gratitude practice looks different. Some photograph the things they’re grateful for, while others draw them. Some say their lists out loud, because hearing their own voice helps cement the feeling of gratitude. Others try to legitimately compliment the people around them every day, so that they can share their gratefulness. (See also: 21 Ways to Say Thanks)

To ensure daily practice, set aside some time each day for giving thanks. Keep your notebook or other materials someplace where you’ll see them, so you remember your practice. And stick with it — even if you feel silly or you have a particularly bad day, give gratefulness a chance.

Link to the full article

photo credit: NCM3 via photopin cc

photo credit: NCM3 via photopin cc

 

Happiness Habits: Psychological hygiene for modern life

Fifty years ago we were being told that ‘you’ve never had it so good’ and the arrival of mod cons was going to usher us into an Age of Leisure. Instead we’ve entered an era where so many of the certainties and foundations of life are crumbling – relationships, jobs, communities. And whereas previous centuries brought epidemics of physical disease, the 21st century is experiencing an epidemic of stress & depression – overwork or no work, constant juggling, job insecurity, redundancy, divorce and the demands of caring for children and families. Whatever happened to work/life balance?

Mostly we pay attention to our physical health and let our psychological health look after itself. But just as there are things like diet and exercise that support our physical well-being, there are also actions that can support our mental and emotional well-being so that we feel better and function well.  The Happiness Habits are like a form of psychological hygiene – scientifically-grounded practices that build resilience to help you cope with the stresses of life, overcome the tendency to anxiety and depression and stop the downwards spiral into something worse.

Here is a preview of the 8 habits of happiness, which Positive Psychology are teaching in an evening class that runs from September 30thuntil November 18th in Bristol.

Savour Positive Experiences. This is about deepening the enjoyment of life’s good times so that you squeeze all the juice out of a positive experience.
Practise Gratitude. Appreciating what’s good in life and what’s going well so that you can overcome the mind’s negativity bias which makes us notice what’s wrong before we notice what’s right.
Use your Strengths. Identifying and playing to your strengths rather than focusing on your weaknesses – one of the best ways to build well-being and reduce symptoms of depression.
Live Life with Meaning & Purpose. This is about the deeper form of happiness. The things that give you a sense of fulfilment.
Nurture Relationships. Our connections to others are the no1 source of happiness which is precisely why they need tender loving care.
Learn Optimism. Optimism is psychological self-defence, thinking strategies that can protect you from the pessimistic thinking that drags you down.
Build your Resilience. The good news is that resilience is ‘ordinary magic’ there are many everyday things that help you bounce back from difficulty.
Positive Directions. Having a goal in mind gives you a sense of progress and achievement.

Link to Positive Psychology website

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photo credit: rversde23 via photopin cc

 

How Making a Gratitude List Can Change Your Life

by OolaGuru

How to Get Started With Your List

As with any new habit, start small: Decide that every day, starting today, you’re going to write down five things you’re grateful for. Eventually, you can make your list any length you want, but to start, set a goal of coming up with at least five things a day.

There are only two rules to getting gratitude right:

First, pick a place to keep all your lists, so it’s easy to refer back to them—and chart how you’ve changed. You can use a journal, a Google document or even a notepad program on your phone.

Second, when writing your list, make each item a full sentence that begins, “I’m grateful for …” or “I’m grateful that …” This way, it’s a complete thought, and you’re not just listing things or people, but actively associating them with giving thanks.

Other than that, it’s up to you: Your list can be composed of specific things—honeycrisp apples with almond butter, cabs, an upcoming trip to Iceland—or abstract—courage, perspective, help in all its forms. It can be about small things—funny things people write on your Facebook wall—or big ones—friends and their love. Just go with what comes to you. Also, consider sharing your list with others. Each morning I email my list out to a few like-minded friends, and we share our gratitude lists with each other.

How Being Thankful Can Help You

There are many benefits associated with cultivating gratitude. In “The Happiness Project,” author Gretchen Rubin cited studies showing that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives—they even feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising.

 And that’s not all. She also points out ways gratitude can improve how we feel about our financial picture:

It makes us unlikely to feel envy, because you’re grateful for what we have instead of pining for something else

It makes it easier for us to live within our means

It makes it easier for us to be generous to others

Once you start seeing the extra goodness your list brings to your life, you may find one more thing to be grateful for: the very practice of gratitude itself.

Link to the full article

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photo credit: juliejordanscott via photopin cc

 

How To Create A Gratitude Jar

BY NICOLA JANE HOBBS

Sometimes I wake up and my first thought is I didn’t get enough sleep. I get to the fridge to find that I don’t have enough fruit to make my smoothie. And then I look at my to-do list and realize I don’t have enough time to get even half way through it.

I get in my car and discover that I don’t have enough gas to get to the yoga studio. Later, I come home to a letter from my bank manager telling me I don’t earn enough for a mortgage.

And I spend the rest of the day feeling like I’m just not good enough.

The Never Enough Problem

Never good enough.
Never thin enough.
Never clever enough.
Never pretty enough.
Never rich enough.
Never successful enough.
We could all fill in the blank of “never __________ enough.”

We spend our lives calculating how much we have, how much we want, and how much we don’t have. And we compare this to what everyone else has (or to the visions of perfection we get from the media) – a self-defeating cycle that will always ends with the same conclusion: We are lacking. We never have enough. We never are enough.

But there is an answer to the Never Enough Problem: Gratitude.

Gratitude is what makes the glass half full. It reminds you that you have enough and that you are enough.

I created a Gratitude Jar a couple of months ago. It started as nothing special, just an old-fashioned glass jar with a ribbon tied around the rim. Every day, sometimes several times a day, I write down what I am grateful for and add these “Gratitude Notes” to my jar.

And remarkable things have happened.

My outlook on life has shifted. I no longer feel like I am inadequate and lacking from the moment I wake up or berate myself for not getting through my to-do list. I appreciate the food that I have, the time that I have, the people that I have.

Appreciating yourself for your strengths AND your imperfections (not in spite of them), allows you to find a sense of belonging and to feel more connected to life.

When I have a down day (we all have them!), a quick glance at my Gratitude Jar reminds me that life is full of wonderful things to be grateful for and I have the strength and support to overcome anything.

But having gratitude doesn’t just happen! It’s a practice we have to foster every day. You wouldn’t expect a flower to grow without water, and you wouldn’t expect your body to get healthier without nourishing it. So you can’t expect to feel like you have enough and you are enough, without nurturing a gratitude for life and an appreciation of yourself…

Link to the full article

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photo credit: JosephGilbert.org via photopin cc

 

How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times

by Robert Emmons

A decade’s worth of research on gratitude has shown me that when life is going well, gratitude allows us to celebrate and magnify the goodness. But what about when life goes badly? In the midst of the economic maelstrom that has gripped our country, I have often been asked if people can—or even should—feel grateful under such dire circumstances.

My response is that not only will a grateful attitude help—it is essential. In fact, it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that gratitude will come easily or naturally in a crisis. It’s easy to feel grateful for the good things. No one “feels” grateful that he or she has lost a job or a home or good health or has taken a devastating hit on his or her retirement portfolio.

But it is vital to make a distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. We don’t have total control over our emotions. We cannot easily will ourselves to feel grateful, less depressed, or happy. Feelings follow from the way we look at the world, thoughts we have about the way things are, the way things should be, and the distance between these two points.

But being grateful is a choice, a prevailing attitude that endures and is relatively immune to the gains and losses that flow in and out of our lives. When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. Yes, this perspective is hard to achieve—but my research says it is worth the effort.

To say that gratitude is a helpful strategy to handle hurt feelings does not mean that we should try to ignore or deny suffering and pain.

The field of positive psychology has at times been criticized for failing to acknowledge the value of negative emotions. Barbara Held of Bowdoin College in Maine, for example, contends that positive psychology has been too negative about negativity and too positive about positivity. To deny that life has its share of disappointments, frustrations, losses, hurts, setbacks, and sadness would be unrealistic and untenable. Life is suffering. No amount of positive thinking exercises will change this truth.

So telling people simply to buck up, count their blessings, and remember how much they still have to be grateful for can certainly do much harm. Processing a life experience through a grateful lens does not mean denying negativity. It is not a form of superficial happiology. Instead, it means realizing the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity. It means reframing a loss into a potential gain, recasting negativity into positive channels for gratitude.

If you are troubled by an open memory or a past unpleasant experience, you might consider trying to reframe how you think about it using the language of thankfulness. The unpleasant experiences in our lives don’t have to be of the traumatic variety in order for us to gratefully benefit from them. Whether it is a large or small event, here are some additional questions to ask yourself:

What lessons did the experience teach me?

Can I find ways to be thankful for what happened to me now even though I was not at the time it happened?

What ability did the experience draw out of me that surprised me?

How am I now more the person I want to be because of it? Have my negative feelings about the experience limited or prevented my ability to feel gratitude in the time since it occurred?

Has the experience removed a personal obstacle that previously prevented me from feeling grateful?

Remember, your goal is not to relive the experience but rather to get a new perspective on it. Simply rehearsing an upsetting event makes us feel worse about it. That is why catharsis has rarely been effective. Emotional venting without accompanying insight does not produce change. No amount of writing about the event will help unless you are able to take a fresh, redemptive perspective on it. This is an advantage that grateful people have—and it is a skill that anyone can learn.

Link the full article

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photo credit: honor the gift via photopin cc

 

Be Thankful: 6 Quotes to Express Gratitude

by Loren Ridinger

Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.

I’ve seen better days, but I’ve also seen worse. I don’t have everything I want, but I do have all I need. I woke up with some aches and pains, but I woke up. My life may not be perfect, but I am blessed.

If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.

When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is better, say thank you and grow.

When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.

Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside. No matter what is going on outside of us, there’s always something we could be grateful for.

Link to this article

photo credit: Dowlesan via photopin cc

photo credit: Dowlesan via photopin cc

 

Gratitude: The Revolutionary New Sleeping Pill

 writes

As a 10 year old, it was plain and simple (i.e. thank you for my mom and dad; thank you for my dog Nikki; thank you for my friends; thank you for the s’more I got to eat today), but who says it can’t be now?

This technique often takes longer as an adult than the 60 seconds that it took as little girl, but there are still some nights that within several minutes and bam!..I’m out like a light.

So cheesy it may be, but this is why I consider gratitude to be the revolutionary new sleeping pills…

…in my newfound zeal for finding comfortable and regular sleep, I’ve compiled a list of techniques that have helped me and numerous others to settle into dreamland oh so nicely.

1. Gratitude.

As I mentioned above. It doesn’t have to be anything complex. On the days when it’s really rough and it’s hard to find much to be grateful for, sometimes I just say ‘I’m thankful for my ability to lay here, breathing in and breathing out.’ Usually after that, plenty more blessings come to mind. It’s ok to repeat.

2. Deep Belly Breathing.

Easy peasy lemon schneezy. Place a hand on the belly. Breathe into your hand. Feel it rise with your inhale and fall with your exhale. Enjoy.

3. Count Breath Downwards.

Inhale Nine…Exhale Nine. Inhale eight…Exhale eight. All the way down to zero. If you lose track, start over again. If you get to one, begin again at nine.

4. Body awareness.

This is a technique I often apply in the Yoga Nidra classes I teach. Yoga Nidra is the yoga of sleep, putting you into a state of deep relaxation somewhere between asleep and awake. The idea is to move through certain parts of your body and allow them to relax completely. ‘Breathing in, I relax my toes (fingers, forehead, legs, stomach, ankles, etc.), breathing out my toes are completely relaxed.’ One of my favorite Yoga Nidra exercises for full body awareness and relaxation can be found here.

5. Don’t think about falling asleep, just try to relax.

A brilliant sleep doctor once told me that half the battle with sleep deprivation is the anxiety that stems from a bad sleep cycle. She suggests lying down and simply focusing on relaxing, in whatever ways work for you. When the pressure is off from trying to fall asleep and the focus is solely on unwinding, most people find slumber after all simply because they are no longer in their heads about it. How refreshing is that? To simply take the pressure off and just relax!

There are a million other ways to get good sleep including a balanced diet, yoga, and regular exercise. But no matter the lifestyle, the above techniques are here to help. And when trying them out, remember that there’s nowhere to go or nowhere to be, just the opportunity to keep coming back to it.

Link to the full article 

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

 

Compassion Is A Trainable Skill

by Tom Jacobs

Can people be taught to act more altruistically? Newly published research, measuring both brain activity and behavior, suggests the answer just may be yes.

“Our findings support the possibility that compassion and altruism can be viewed as trainable skills rather than stable traits,” a research team led by Richard J. Davidson and Helen Weng of the University of Wisconsin-Madison writes in the journal Psychological Science.

Specifically, they report that taking a course in compassion leads to increased engagement of certain neural systems, which prompts higher levels of altruistic behaviour..

Those who received the compassion training spent nearly twice as much of their own money to try to rectify the unfairness: $1.14, as opposed to 62 cents for those who had taken the emotional reappraisal strategy. “This demonstrates that purely mental training in compassion can result in observable altruistic changes toward a victim,” the researchers write.

The brain scans revealed “a pattern of neural changes” in those who had received compassion training, including “neural systems implicated in understanding the suffering of other people, executive and emotional control, and reward processing.”

“If the signal of other people’s suffering is indeed increased by compassion training,” the researchers write, this apparently compels them to “approach rather than avoid suffering, in order to engage in pro-social behavior.”…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: elycefeliz via photopin cc

photo credit: elycefeliz via photopin cc

 

Wisdom From The Dalai Lama: “Keep Working On It.”

 reports:

I got to see the Dalai Lama recently. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was in the U.S. for several appearances…

When I try to distill all the wisdom that the Dalai Lama shared, all the examples and specific practices that I heard, it boils down to this:

Keep working on it…

If the idea that you’re never really done comes across as bad news, here’s some good news. The very idea of looking for the answer is part of the answer. If you want to be happier, however you construe the specifics of that, you can take actions to be happier. When you take those actions, you learn and improve and move forward. The act of cultivating happiness, in and of itself, leads you to more happiness.

There is an increasing amount of hard science validating that happiness — sometimes characterized as well-being — makes you more likely to be successful in your work, in your personal relationships, as a parent, and in other critical life roles. Focusing on your happiness, then, ends up having an impact on the roles that define you and on the important people in your life.

Just like learning any new skill, it will not be a linear progression. If you are learning to golf or to play the piano or speak new language, you know that you are going to have good days and not-so-good days. You can expect resistance, even failure, on any single day or at any particular time. Over time, however, you will see improvement. So goes the progress of achieving happiness. Even if you haven’t reached a goal of ultimate transcendent happiness, you will be getting happier.

Getting happier doesn’t mean that all hurt or disappointment or anger will automatically go away. The Dalai Lama’s message is that by allowing yourself to experience those negative feelings, you begin understand them and figure out how to transform them. Don’t drown or ignore or block the negative feelings, but use them to move forward. Keep working on it…

Link to read this article in full

Scientists Discover One Of The Greatest Contributing Factors To Happiness

We all want joy in our lives right? It sure beats feeling down doesn’t it?

A scientific study looking thankfulness and gratitude revealed that both are a key factor to happiness and they are very often forgotten about when considering the feeling of joy. In fact, people who share gratitude on a regular basis experience a greater amount of happiness in their lives. Perhaps it is because we tap into our own internal love when we share gratitude and in turn that affects our overall state -or maybe it is the union that is created when you express gratitude to someone. Either way, it is clear that gratitude is key to experiencing joy in your life.

Having a down day? Thank someone for something and see how it makes you feel -it can’t hurt to try.

Check out the powerful video above for some examples.

photo credit: massdistraction via photopin cc

photo credit: massdistraction via photopin cc

 

Steve McCurry’s Blog: Two Of Us

To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.
– Mark Twain

Steve McCurry’s new photo collection feature people in pairs showing togetherness.

I think they contribute much to this theme of gratitude.

I hope you enjoy them as much as we always do.

Link to Steve McCurry’s: Two Of Us

Happiness At Work #65

For all of these stories, and more, see this week’s new collection

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

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Happiness At Work #64 – happiness & the working woman

In this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #64 we have put the spotlight on some of the conditions, trends and issues that affect women’s happiness at work.  In doing this, in no way am I trying to suggest any kind of comprehensive study of the many conflicting and complex issues that might be specific to a woman’s happiness at work.  Rather, I have pulled together stories that relate to this theme and happen to be part of this week’s collection of stories.  It is a snapshot, and like any photo, it is incomplete, but not necessarily any less revealing because of this.

See what you think…

photo credit: TMAB2003 via photopin cc

photo credit: TMAB2003 via photopin cc

The Problem With A Masculine Corporate Culture

By Tina Vasquez

Robin Ely’s recent study, a collaboration with her colleague, Stanford University consulting professor Debra Meyerson, proves without a shadow of a doubt that an entire culture can dramatically shift when stripped of its traditional masculine identity.

Unmasking Manly Men: The Organizational Reconstruction of Men’s Identity” took Ely and Meyerson 130 miles off the coast of Southern Louisiana, landing them smack-dab in the middle of one of the toughest, most male-dominated work environments imaginable: an offshore oil platform. The manager of the oil rig had implemented innovative approaches to leadership development in order to reduce unsafe behaviors stereotypically associated with “macho” men, such as taking unnecessary risks, refusing to ask questions that make them appear vulnerable, and pressuring coworkers to prove themselves through acts of physical bravery. However, he wasn’t achieving an effective result.

He found that by stripping the oil rig away of its traditional masculine identity, there was a noticeable shift in the entire culture of the rig: communication improved, men listened to each other more, they learned from their mistakes, and placed more emphasis on teamwork.

So what does work on an oil rig have to do with corporate America? The concept of not just pushing against masculine leadership stereotypes, but dismantling them entirely can be transferred to the corporate landscape. This could be necessary if organizations continue conflating concepts of leadership competence with images of masculinity.

Ely says the research speaks to the question of how men construct identities in the workplace and the larger role organizations play in shaping this process. “In other research,” she says, “we have seen that conventional masculinity often becomes the performance standard, even when an alternative standard would be more beneficial to the organization, not to mention to women employees with an interest in career advancement.”

…As the only woman in a company, Rosalind has worked in environments where misogynistic behaviors permeate the workplace. Despite considering herself “one of the guys,” Rosalind has been in situations that were deeply upsetting and demeaning, like when a company president would call her into his office asking her to discuss a specific topic during a meeting, only to tear her apart during the meeting over the topic he privately asked her to discuss, embarrassing her in front of her peers.

“Unfortunately, putting up with this kind of behavior as a woman in the tech industry has become the cost of doing business,” Rosalind says. “Being one of the guys has been beneficial to my career, but just because it’s become normal for me, doesn’t mean other women will find this behavior normal. So many women leave because they can’t take it – and they shouldn’t have to. It’s not that women aren’t interested in science and technology as reports seem to suggest; it’s that they don’t like the constant feeling of being offended and denigrated. We’re training women to adapt or get out.”…

When the oil rigs in Ely and Meyerson’s study were stripped of masculine culture, productivity, efficiency, and reliability all increased dramatically, leaving us to wonder about the possibilities of masculine culture-free corporate workplaces. Upholding masculine culture, despite its potentially harmful effects, seems even more egregious when you consider that teams featuring an equal number of women are more productive, efficient, and cost-effective.

Ely says it’s the higher value we place on the attributes conventionally associated with men and masculinity and our association of such attributes with leadership that adversely affect women in the workplace…

“Organizations should ask themselves: To what extent do our norms and practices encourage men to prove their manhood, and how does such behavior, in fact, undermine what we are trying to accomplish?” Ely said. “Then and only then, companies need to change their cultures to reinforce behaviors that promote rather than undermine effectiveness and make what they are trying to accomplish so compelling and engaging for their employees that they want to make the shift.”

Link to read the story about this fascinating research in full

photo credit: Ken Lund via photopin cc

photo credit: Ken Lund via photopin cc

Retain Women – Retrain Brains!

by 

It’s no secret that guys and gals lead differently. Less evident though is how to garner more female leader IQ.  Research affirms that guy-gal brains differ even during rest. We also see how teams with more women offer higher IQ.

So why does upper management often include men only? A better question perhaps, how can we retain gifted women leaders?

Here are 10 tips to higher leadership IQ:

1. Invent New Runways rather than Criticize Old Ruts. No question, it takes female facilitation skills to help mesh together gender differences…

2.  Inspire Wisdom for Blended Views. From boardrooms, to halls of government, to higher education, women tend to use and lead language processing skills in ways that motivate more symmetric activation across brain hemispheres…

3. Mentor for Mutual Benefits. …imagine a better balance as women leaders guide multiple intelligences into the mentoring mix…

4. Integrate Hard and Soft Skills.  Successful leaders craft insights with theiremotional intelligence, and also add logical action plans for mind-bending results…

5. Collaborate for Cross-Gender Solutions. …Imagine universities that attract more men to fill gender gaps and remove test bias for female access…

6. Shift Training from Delivery to Interactive. …through consistent interaction, women tend to hook complex facts onto people’s familiar experiences, so that more learning occurs in less time…

7. Act on New Discoveries. Hebbian workers wire their brains to kill incentives, limit focus or even shrink mental capacity with sameness, such as males only in top leader positions. Plasticity enables people of all ages and backgrounds to rewire the human brain by acting on new insights…

8. Listen with Your Brain. See how women emulate logical nuances from men they respect.  In similar ways, watch men navigate conflicts after observing women’s intrapersonal or emotional intelligence in action. New research shows hunches that power both men and women’s brains…

9. Capitalize on Research. Men and women lead differently, partly because hormones play a large part in cognitive operations. And new high-tech scientific study shows we can learn from marked differences between men and women under stress…

10. Risk Differences. …Brain imaging techniques show that even when men and women perform the same tasks equally well, they draw on different parts of the brain to do so. Let’s risk leadership that includes as many women as men as our starting ground…

Link to read this story in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

The Rise of Compassionate Management (Finally)

by Bronwyn Frye

Don’t look now, but all of a sudden the topic of compassionate management is becoming trendy.

A growing number of business conferences are focusing in on the topic of compassion at work…

While the importance of compassion at work has long been touted by scholars like Peter Senge,Fred KofmanJane Dutton and others as a foundational precept of good management, managers of the traditional, critical, efficiency-at-all-costs stripe have scoffed. This isn’t surprising: given the number of nasty managers still sitting at the top of organizations, it’s easy to assume that the compassionate ones don’t often get hired, let alone encouraged and promoted. In fact, a Notre Dame study found that nice guys really do finish last, with more agreeable people earning less than those who are willing to be disagreeable. And all too often, compassionate people lack boundaries, thus allowing themselves to be used and abused; they become “toxic handlers” who absorb the organizational pain without much personal gain.

But something in the zeitgeist is changing…

To manage compassionately doesn’t come naturally to most managers. It requires spending the time to walk in someone else’s shoes — to understand what kind of baggage that person is bringing to work; what kinds of stresses she’s under; what her strengths and weaknesses are. In high-pressure environments, such a time investment is anathema to most of us. But such an investment is analogous to the work of a carpenter who carefully measures a piece of wood three times before cutting once: spending such “compassion time” with an employee pays off in that person’s much greater efficiency, productivity and effectiveness (and obviates later regrets).

It’s not just altruism: as it turns out, companies that practice conscious capitalism perform ten times better than companies that don’t…

Link to read this story in full

photo credit: Abi Booth via photopin cc

photo credit: Abi Booth via photopin cc

The Woman Problem and the Future of Business

 writes…

…With every passing year, each new piece of research adds detail to what most people in the corporate world know already: there are not enough women in senior leadership positions.  The larger the organization, the more true this fact is.  In recent years in America and England, amongst other developed economies, it seems to be getting worse, not better.

…Why do so many excellent women choose to take the career off-ramp, and why are so many of them paid less than their male counterparts for the same work?  There are some compelling answers available, including how women don’t negotiate as well as men for their salaries and how they still sacrifice more than men when they have children and families.

As a father of three daughters and husband of one brilliant wife, this issue is of more than mere passing interest to me.  But my interest is not so much in the causes and effects, but rather in what it tells us about the state of business and what it might portend for the future.  This is more than just an issue of justice or equality: it gets to the heart of future success and viability for many organizations.

…To help companies make sense of the world they’re in, our team looks for key trends that are defining the near future.  Some recent research by the Hawaii Research Center for Future Studies (http://www.futures.hawaii.edu/), led by world-renowned futurist, Jim Dator, identified four key megatrends for 2020:

  1. Accelerating non-linear change
  2. Increasing inter-dependence
  3. Increasing complexity
  4. Expanding emphasis on difference.

…One of the main reasons that women are not making it into senior leadership positions is because they don’t want to.  It’s not a capability issue; it’s a choice.  And the reason they’re choosing not to is because they don’t want to play a man’s game in a man’s world.

…many women who have made it to the top understand that this is a man’s world and that they have to think and act like men to get to the top.  There’s nothing wrong with this choice, and well done to them for doing this so well.  But the problem is for their companies.  If you accept, as I do, that having different worldviews represented on a team is a good and valuable thing, then the danger is to look around a team and think you have diversity when in fact you do not.  Having three women, two Asians, one homosexual, two French speakers, three youths, five Catholics, or whatever other categories you’re measuring is no good if all of those people are actually thinking and acting like middle-aged, middle-class, private school educated white men (or whatever your company’s prevailing culture happens to be).

This type of cultural hegemony is too common in organizations.  And I believe it is one of the main reasons that organizations are battling to adjust to this new world we’re living in now, where uncertainty and turbulence are the new normal.

When it comes to leadership in the world, women have always had a rough deal.  But the tide is turning.  As we head further into the uncharted waters of the 21st century, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a new set of skills and attitudes is required to be successful in leading an organization.  And many women seem to naturally possess these skills.  The workplace is changing fast.  A new generation of employees is looking for something different at work.  A new generation of customers is looking for something different in the marketplace.  And that difference will be disproportionately enhanced by the feminine touch.  And that’s why it’s a problem if women are compelled to act like men.

…It’s time to ensure that we implement strategies to make the board rooms and executive suites of our companies conducive to a feminine influence.  This is not easy work, but it is vital. Its time to let the ladies lead their way.  How we achieve this will look different in different contexts, and there is no simple 1-2-3 approach that will work everywhere.  But the first step is to accept that women not making it into senior leadership positions in significant numbers is a problem and a strategic issue your company needs to address, not just because you’re trying to fulfill some diversity checklist, but because the very future of your business is at stake.  Make this a strategic issue for the right reasons, and you will reap a fine – and feminine – reward in the future.

Link to read the full unedited version of this article

Following Your Passion: The Happy Truth About the Gender Pay Gap

by 

…If you want true professional fulfillment, choose a field or a job because it is your passion. And then, work to be paid equitably. Unless you are born into a wealthy family or marry rich, you will spend the majority of your life working. The average full-time employee spends 65-75% of a year working, and that is far too much time to be doing something you don’t love. And I am a firm believer that if you follow your passion, the money will come.

The ideal balance is a job that is fulfilling AND pays a competitive wage. Closing the gender pay gap is not about taking the most high-paying job, it is about ensuring that women are paid commensurately with their male counterparts in whatever they chose to do.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

Boards Remain Pale, Male and Stale – Old Boys’ Club Alive and Well

Mike Myatt, writes

…In 2012, women held just 16.6 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies. Given this number, is it possible CEOs and boards see no value in diversity? I don’t think so, but it is very possible they are all too comfortable with the status quo. Absent outside pressure, why would a CEO want to disrupt a compliant board they have likely gone to great pains to assemble? Well, therein lies the problem. Sound board governance isn’t about making life easy; it’s about challenging the status quo.

In my new book, Hacking Leadership I spend a great deal of time discussing how to improve culture, performance and sustainability by dismantling the status quo at every level of the organization – particularly at the top of the house.  Embracing status quo quickly leads to mediocrity, and my contention has always been leadership exists to disrupt mediocrity. Great leadership abhors tunnel vision and values diversity of thought and experience.

…My bottom line is this – corporations cannot appropriately represent the constituencies they serve until they are representatively led by members of those same constituencies. It is impossible to understand and engage in a meaningful fashion where those deserving a voice are denied a seat at the table. I’m not advocating for selecting directors who are anything other than the best person for the job, but we should all recognize the best person for the job is not universally a 56 year old, Ivy League educated, white male.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

Three Steps To A Shorter Working Week

ANNA COOTE writes in the new economics foundation blog

What’s a ‘normal’ working week? Forty hours is pretty standard for full-time workers in the UK, but suppose it were 30 hours instead?

Our new book, Time on Our Sideargues that a shorter, more flexible working week would be good for people, for the environment and for the economy. Why? Because it is often extremely stressful to work long hours and that is bad for health. For many of us, our working hours leave us too little time to be parents, carers and active citizens. There’s strong evidence that people who work longer hours have a larger ecological footprint.

As well as the personal benefits, cutting the length of the working week would help to safeguard natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It would also help to manage a sustainable economy by creating more jobs and cutting unemployment…

Link to read this article in full

Step Away From The Roller-Coaster

by 

…I realize it’s easy in a way; this endless doing, doing, doing. It’s easy to sit in the constant process of connecting, responding, replying and reaching in, because in a way, it makes us feel that if we’re not here, things would crumble without us. And who doesn’t want to feel that their part in it all is absolutely critical and irreplaceable?

What’s not so easy is being still.

Of course as a working mother of four, there is always a lot that needs to be done. The list is ever-present, never-ending. But at the same time, there is no “done.” And whether we work for ourselves or for a company or work at home, that is true and is made more true by our incessant ability to connect. But I realize too, for both my work and my parenting, it’s necessary to also not do. It’s necessary to stop my buzzing body, mind, hands and fill my proverbial cup with quiet, calm, breath after breath after breath, new ideas, solutions that only come from stillness and answers that arrive only when they are granted space.

From this lesson I am calling myself a revelationist. I am trying more and more to create these moments of stillness so that I can have more revelations about the ways, whys and hows of everything I do — whether it’s parenting or writing or creating or any of it. It’s hard, sometimes, to convince myself of the merits of not “doing” all the time. But when I do? It fills me, which in turn fills my family and my work and my head and my total overall well-being.

I urge you, if just once in your busy day, where there is so much to do and there are so many people to see and endless tasks on your list, I urge you to look for that tiny window of time that can be filled with nothing at all.

And you can be a revelationist too.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: halle via photopin cc

photo credit: halle via photopin cc

Multitasking: What’s the Productivity Cost?

Jan Hills writes…

The multitasking myth

Neuroscience has shown that the concept of multitasking is a myth. What we are actually doing is jumping between two or more tasks. When we shift back and forth there is a productivity cost for each shift. If you don’t believe me try this test. With a stop watch measure how long it takes you to count from one to 10. Now do the same thing except saying the alphabet from A to J. Now put the two together, alternately saying a letter and a number.A1, B2, etc. Measure your time. It will be more than twice as much as the single task because the brain slows down when it has to keep switching between numbers and letters. For most people the first two tasks probably took about two seconds each. For the mixed, switching task it typically takes fifteen to twenty seconds. On top of slowing down working memory gets fatigued and you may find you also forget where you were in the task depending on how stressed or how much you have been using your brain today. If you are not convinced here are examples of research…

Link to read this story in full

photo credit: drewleavy via photopin cc

photo credit: drewleavy via photopin cc

Do You Worry Too Much?  7 Ways Worrying Sabotages Your Career

Melanie Haiken writes…

If women  want to be seen as a strong leaders in the workplace, they need to stop worrying so much. That’s the conclusion of a recent report by CDR Assessment Group, which creates leadership assessment tools for executive management. The report and its related white paper, titled “Cracking the Code to the Glass Ceiling,” purport to measure risk factors that can affect success in the workplace.

The assessment found that a large percentage of women – close to 65 percent – fall into the risk category CDR calls the “Worrier,” a risk that the report suggests may contribute to women’s seeming inability to break through the so-called glass ceiling.

Men, meanwhile, commonly fall into other risk categories such as “egotists,” “rule breakers” and “upstagers.” The problem, according to CDR’s analysis, is that those risk factors don’t necessarily hamper career success the way being a worrier does…

…despite the non-scientific nature of this rather opinionated report, let’s accept for now that women do tend to be plagued by more worry and self-doubt than men. Why is that such a problem? Here are seven possible reasons that worry may be hindering your climb to the top….

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: MTSOfan via photopin cc

photo credit: MTSOfan via photopin cc

Have Things Gotten Worse For Working Women?

…A lot of women my age and in my position who want to have children — or even, like me, think maybe they’ll want to someday — have a similar schedule in the back of their minds. I have more than one friend whose mother has hinted that she should think about freezing her eggs. I know the many people who tell young women to plan the timing of their pregnancies carefully mean well. But I resent it.

Not only is it stressful to feel like I’m in a race for success against my own body, but it also reinforces the very gender dynamics that put professional women in such a tough spot. Telling women — and only women — that they need to start planning for their families 10 years in advance assumes the current structure of the workplace as a given and lets men off the hook. Things really will get worse if we keep telling ambitious women about how hard their future will be at the same time that we leave the underlying gender dynamics and cultural expectations that make things so hard unexamined.

I understand why women in the generation before me felt betrayed. They were told they could have everything and then found that they were expected to do everything. But I really hope the best solution to that problem isn’t just to warn young women to gird themselves against the upcoming battle. It’s discouraging, and it risks sidelining women long before they face any concrete challenges. Maybe it’s because I’m young, but I’m still optimistic that we can find an alternative solution in strengthening men’s stake in work-family issues and developing a realistic model of professional commitment. While men may not have the same biological constraints as me, many of them love women who do. It’s not fair to expect young women to deal with the weight of this issue on our own, and it’s frankly unrealistic to expect that we can do so and also compete on equal footing with men….

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: zabethanne via photopin cc

photo credit: zabethanne via photopin cc

In the Name of Honour: Artists Speak Out On Gender-Based Violence in New Exhibition

High profile artists from around the world including Tracey Emin, Chris Ofili and Paula Rego have donated artworks to an exhibition in aid of raising money for victims of domestic abuse.

The exhibition, titled In the Name of Honour, addresses gender issues including the representation of the female body, human trafficking and honour-based violence.

In the Name of Honour runs from 19-22 September at One Mayfair, 13A N Audley Street, London W1; admission free.

Click here for rest of story plus images from the exhibition

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

The Science and Philosophy of Friendship: Lessons from Aristotle on the Art of Connecting

by 

…in today’s cultural landscape of muddled relationships scattered across various platforms for connecting, amidst constant debates about whether our Facebook “friendships” are making us more or less happy, it pays to consider what friendship actually is. That’s precisely what CUNY philosophy professor Massimo Pigliucci explores in Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life…

…The way friendship enhances well-being, it turns out, has nothing to do with quantity and everything to do with quality — researchers confirm that it isn’t the number of friends (or, in the case of Facebook, “friends”) we have, but the nature of those relationships:

In particular, what makes for a good happiness-enhancing friendship is the degree of companionship (when you do things together with your friends) and of self-validation (when your friends reassure you that you are a good, worthy individual).

This is where Aristotle comes in: He recognized three types of love — agape,eros, and philia — which endure as an insightful model for illuminating the nature of our relationships. Pigliucci describes the taxonomy:

Agape is a broad kind of love, the kind that religious people feel that God has for us, or that a secular person may have for humanity at large. Eros, naturally, is more concerned with the type of love we have for sexual partners, though the Greeks meant it more broadly than we do. Philia is the type of love that concerns us here because it includes the sort of feelings we have for friends, family, and even business partners.

…what it really boils down to is that friendship affords us a more dimensional way of looking at ourselves and at the world, thus enhancing our understanding of the meaning of life. Once again, Pigliucci takes us back to Aristotle:

Aristotle’s opinion was that friends hold a mirror up to each other; through that mirror they can see each other in ways that would not otherwise be accessible to them, and it is this (reciprocal) mirroring that helps them improve themselves as persons. Friends, then, share a similar concept of eudaimonia[Greek for “having a good demon,” often translated as “happiness”] and help each other achieve it. So it is not just that friends are instrumentally good because they enrich our lives, but that they are an integral part of what it means to live the good life, according to Aristotle and other ancient Greek philosophers (like Epicurus). Of course, another reason to value the idea of friendship is its social dimension. In the words of philosopher Elizabeth Telfer, friendship provides “a degree and kind of consideration for others’ welfare which cannot exist outside…

Link to read this story in full

Sallie Krawcheck Is Back

Sallie Krawcheck talks to Forbes about success, failure and what it takes to start over. From the Forbes Women’s Summit in NYC.

Does being happy help you earn more?

An economist at the University of Western Sydney has analysed the effect of happiness on income inequality

 by 

Does being happy make you more likely to earn more? The answer is yes, according to Professor Satya Paul, an economist at the University of Western Sydney.

…Extrapolated to percentages, he suggests that for every 1% increase in happiness there’s a 0.056% increase in income.

Interestingly, there’s also a negative effect of happiness on income – the number of hours worked. A one point rise in happiness results in a loss of $27.41 because of fewer hours worked – that is, people who are more satisfied with life are willing to trade work for leisure.

Paul suggests the increase in income resulting from higher happiness is a result of happier people being more efficient in earning activities. Or, to put it more simply, happier people are better workers.

And here is some irresistible fun for all of us who have some knowledge of our Myers-Briggs Profile:

Harry Potter Characters’ Myers-Briggs Types: Which One Are You?!

…an awesome infographic that covers all of the “Harry Potter” characters’ Myers-Briggs personality types..

photo credit: Jesse Draper via photopin cc

photo credit: Jesse Draper via photopin cc

Link to where you can find all of these stories, and many more, this week’s new collection; Happiness At Work Edition #64

Happiness At Work #63 ~ the fine art of living happily in 2013

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

In the week that the new World Happiness Report 2013 is published, we are highlighting stories from our latest Happiness At Work Edition #63 that clue us in to some of the art and artfulness that can help us to live and work more happily in our 2013 settings.

WORLD HAPPINESS REPORT 2013

REPORT CALLS ON POLICY MAKERS TO MAKE HAPPINESS A KEY MEASURE AND TARGET OF DEVELOPMENT

Report ranks the happiest countries, with Northern Europe in the lead

…“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” said Professor Jeffery Sachs. “More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development.”

The Report shows significant changes in happiness in countries over time, with some countries rising and others falling over the past five years. There is some evidence of global convergence of happiness levels, with happiness gains more common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and losses more common among the industrial countries. For the 130 countries with data available, happiness (as measured by people’s own evaluations of their lives) significantly improved in 60 countries and worsened in 41 (Figure 2.5).

For policy makers, the key issue is what affects happiness. Some studies show mental health to be the single most important determinant of whether a person is happy or not. Yet, even in rich countries, less than a third of mentally ill people are in treatment. Good, cost-effective treatments exist for depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis, and the happiness of the world would be greatly increased if they were more widely available.

The Report also shows the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more, and are also better citizens. Well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its side-effects.

Governments are increasingly measuring well-being with the goal of making well-being an objective of policy. One chapter of the Report, written by Lord Gus O’Donnell, former UK Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, shows just how this can be done. It shows how different are the policy conclusions when health, transport and education are viewed in this light…

photo credit: greekadman via photopin cc

photo credit: greekadman via photopin cc

Improving Wellbeing Should Be Our Global Priority

Action For Happiness directorDr Mark Williamson makes a compelling case for concentrating more of our energies, resources and resourcefulness on increasing wellbeing across our planet:

People’s daily experiences and concerns differ enormously around the world. While a farmer in Angola prays for a good harvest, a manager in Greece worries about losing her job. And while a mother in Egypt comes to terms with life in a conflict zone, a doctor in Denmark struggles with work-related stress.

But there is one thing that unites people’s experiences in every country: they all involve human beings who want their experience of life to be good rather than bad. We share a universal desire for wellbeing. This is more than just a survival instinct; we want to be happy and have the best possible lives for ourselves and those we love.

Whether we’re aiming to alleviate poverty in Africa, end conflict in Syria or reduce stress in US workplaces, the fundamental reason we care about these things is that they are bad for human wellbeing. They cause suffering and pain. Similarly, if we’re aiming to boost economic activity, reform our education system or cut public sector spending, we should only do so if we believe this will ultimately be good for people’s wellbeing. Wellbeing provides a common lens through which we can look at the many challenges and opportunities in our world and decide on our collective priorities.

This is the central idea behind a groundbreaking report published today – the World Happiness Report. Launched in the midst of a major debate about what the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be for 2015-2030, the report argues that people’s ‘subjective wellbeing’ – their self-reported sense of happiness with life – should be a central measure of progress for every nation. It is a substantial piece of work edited by, among others, the influential development economist Jeff Sachs.

Recent years have seen a huge growth in wellbeing research and we now have valuable data from all around the world about people’s levels of life satisfaction. Not only can wellbeing be measured in a reliable and meaningful way, the findings have great relevance for public policy and global priorities. What was once seen as a sideshow is now a mainstream movement, with support from influential figures such as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon and former head of the UK civil service, Lord Gus O’Donnell.

To illustrate how relevant the wellbeing data is for global issues, let’s return to those four examples in my introduction, as they all relate to countries with interesting findings. Firstly, the farmer in Angola. Although Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the lowest wellbeing (it is home to 9 of the bottom 10 countries, the other being Syria), there are a few green shoots. Over the last five years, Angola has actually seen the largest improvement in wellbeing globally, as it continues to regain stability after its terrible 27 year civil war.

However, for the manager in Greece and mother in Egypt, the trends are less encouraging. Unsurprisingly, these are the two countries that have seen the largest falls in wellbeing over the last five years. Of all the countries affected by the Eurozone crisis, Greece has been the hardest hit. Its drop in wellbeing is greater than would be predicted simply from falls in income, reflecting wider problems from loss of trust and social cohesion. And in Egypt, the significantly lower wellbeing surely reflects the Egyptian people’s suffering under the Mubarak regime and the ongoing struggles since the 2011 uprising.

Finally, what about the Danish doctor? Well, she’s at least fortunate to live in Denmark, the country which once again tops the world wellbeing league, closely followed by Norway. With Sweden also in the top 5, we might well ask how these Northern European nations always seem to deliver world-beating levels of wellbeing. Yes they have fairly high GDP per capita, but they’re far from the top of that league. More tellingly, they have some of the highest levels of interpersonal trust and lowest levels of inequality.

The World Happiness Report also provides another extremely compelling reason to prioritise wellbeing, and the research here is really quite startling. It shows that happier people tend to be healthier, recover from illness more quickly and live longer. At work, they perform better, exhibit more creativity, are absent less often and are better at cooperation and collaboration. And in wider society, they have better relationships, exhibit more pro-social behaviour, have greater self-control, engage in less risk-taking behaviour and are more likely to have a positive impact on others. So happier people are not lazy, naïve, inward-looking or selfish, as some sceptics suggest; they are actually more economically productive, healthy, socially-minded and generous.

So what practical changes might we make if we adopted wellbeing as a global priority? Of all the suggestions in the report, the most notable is the call for a fundamental shift in our approach to mental health. Worldwide, depression and anxiety disorders account for up to a fifth of the entire burden of illness…Making treatment for mental illness more widely available may well be the single most reliable and cost effective way to improve national wellbeing.

What then should be the world’s development goals for the coming years? Making wellbeing our global priority would surely underpin, rather than undermine, existing sustainable development aims. It would also provide a consistent means to track how successful countries are in delivering improvements in people’s quality of life. The reason that existing goals like universal education, gender equality, maternal health and sustainability matter so much is because they are all fundamental to human wellbeing.

Wellbeing isn’t some luxury for the privileged few, it’s the thing all of us want most for ourselves and the people we care about – whether in a field in Angola or an office in London. It should be at the heart of every discussion of local, national or global priorities.

Link to the original article 

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photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

Happiness: The Next Key Performance Indicator

Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more and are better citizens, according to the second “World Happiness Report.”

by 

Most industrialized nations track their gross domestic product, exports and unemployment rates, among other key economic and social metrics that help quantify their standing in the world.

A new report calls on policymakers to include happiness in the mix.

Authored by leading experts in economics, psychology, survey analysis and national statistics, the second “World Happiness Report” describes how measurements of wellbeing can be used to assess the progress of nations.

Published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the report “further strengthens the case that wellbeing is a critical component of economic and social development,” according to the report’s editors…

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Bonnie Greer 2013 Opening Lecture (Audio)

https://soundcloud.com/lahf/to-save-our-lives

Theatre maker and cultural commentator Bonnie Greer deliverers the second annual lecture to open the 2013 Creativity and Wellbeing Week on the evening of 17 June 2013 in a collaboration with Community Learning at Tate Modern.

In this talk, Bonnie uses a story about how art saved her own life to make  the case for the necessity of artists, arts and culture for  wellbeing in our contemporary lives.

Here are the definitions for wellbeing that Bonnie offers (from 9’10”):

…a positive outcome that is meaningful for people, and for many sectors of society as well.  People have to see and feel that their lives are going well.

Wellbeing is also what people think, and what they feel, bout their lives, such as the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions, their resilience, and the possibility of the realisation of their human potential, along with their overall satisfaction with life.

Another definition of wellbeing is a valid population measure that is beyond morbidity, mortality and economic status that tells us how people perceive their life is going from their own perspective.

And wellbeing is also associated with other realities like self-perceived health, longevity, healthy behaviours, mental and physical illness, social connectedness, productivity, factors in the social and physical environment…

Positive emotion, I’ve learned, is not just the opposite of negative emotion.  Positive emotion is a measurable dimension – we can actually see its effects.  It’s a dimension in which your job, your family, your health and your economic environment are as you want them to be.  Also as you imagine them to be.  Also as you think you deserve them to be based on your qualifications, your hard work, your mental and emotional capacity.  Positive emotion is a dimension in which you feel that you are understood and you are appreciated and you can function, you can make a contribution.

So wellbeing has to encompass positive emotions.  And these have been measured and shown in various health studies to decrease the risk of illness, of injury, and recovery is faster.  Studies have also been shown that the human immune system functions better with positive emotions.

So positive emotions keep us healthy and they keep us happy.

These ideas are developed and enriched during a vital, dynamic and defiantly optimistic Q&A session with the audience, which includes Damian Hebron from London Arts Health Forum (LAHF) (from 42’58”):

Bonnie Greer: I know a one-year-old who is showing me how to do an iPad.  And of course that means we’re in a revolution.  We haven’t got the tools yet to gauge how that human being is perceiving the world.  There will also be a place for live performance, live engagement, because we need the one-on-one, the body needs the one-on-one.  And we’re going to have to be more fierce about that.  I think what’s going to happen, in the next 10 years or so, as generations do, they’re going to be in technology but they’re going to turn around and look for the lie…  We’re losing empathy as human beings.  We’re losing the ability to look one another in the eye, to talk to one another, to listen to one another, to engage with one another.  And it’s affecting our health.  It’s affecting our mental health and it’s affecting our physical health.  So one of the things that culture can do is stand in the juncture of this revolution and create forms and new engagements and new links by which these two – the live and the technological can come together … We need to see technology as a way to enable empathy to be created.  That’s our first thing.

(from 50’56”)

We may be forced to define human capability, to measure human capability.  That may be one of the things those of us in culture.  And in a very tangible way I don’t how you begin to do that.  We’re going to need to make that case.  But in a strange way I am optimistic.  Because there is so much independence now … there’s a lot of independence-mindeness where people are breaking out and doing what they need to do, doing what they want to do in order to create these forms.  What we have to do is to make language to speak to those people who we have to justify what we do…

(from 53’15” in response to a question about what leadership skills we now need to engage people with power and resources: what is it that we need to do in terms of individual leadership, leadership as a group, leadership as a nation, to reach the people we need?

Damian Hebron:  One thing is what Bonnie was talking about: to speak the language that people are used to hearing. The other thing is what is unique about the arts and that is stories.  The things that really reach people is the storytelling.  One thing that artists can do well is to tell stories.  And that is something that will always be powerful and that people will always crave.  It can be easy to forget what we do so well which is to tell spell-binding stories in interesting and magical ways that actually speak to the whole human experience… to tell the stories of all human beings…  all of the side range of voices in contemporary society that you don’t always get to hear from other quarters.

Bonnie Greer:  One of the things that I love about the UK and that is really exciting about the UK is that you guys are rebels… It may not look like it or feel like it sometimes, but people want to make their own work in their own words, do their own work in their own way…  People make culture very easily here, and are open to it, and know how to do it, and naturally feel the links between culture and wellbeing…  We need to learn to shape stories to make a picture of how a community is functioning as a political entity, and also as a health entity… We mustn’t be put off by people who want to put us in the back of a bus, or call us all kinds of names, or say we don’t rate.  Culture, and we know this, is what saves people’s lives and it holds a community together.  And we must keep finding the language for saying this over and over and over and over and over.

(from 58’55”)

We have to make a case for cultural GDP.  We have to make a case for culture in our work and in our lives .  We have to say to policy makers: “If we weren’t here what would it look like?  What would community look like?  …

(from 1:07:05)

Maybe we need to go back to what the Ancient Greeks thought about culture and art.  It wasn’t just about decoration.  It wasn’t just a way to pass time.  It was a way in which human beings were able to understand the environment in which they were in, and to understand each other.  But not only that, it kept them well.  And one the things that we can do as cultural practitioners, is maybe we’re the people who have to use the word ‘wellbeing’.  Maybe we’re the people who have to define wellbeing and not be afraid to do it, not be ashamed to do it, not be embarrassed to do it.

Because, in the end, wellbeing is what we’re all striving for.  Wellbeing is what is going to cut those bills down.  Wellbeing is what is going to allow us all to go forward.  And culture becomes a way in which people can make and keep themselves well…  

Being well is about being able to see the possibilities for yourself as a human being…

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Work Isn’t Life – Reprise

This is a superb article in which Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants asks some really great questions about happiness at work in our contemporary lives:

The historian and author, Studs Terkel, famously wrote, “Most of us have jobs that are too small for  our spirits.” 

 A few of you might be reacting to the title of this article thinking, Hey, my work is my life,” or My job is the most fulfilling thing in my life.

But that’s not what this article is about. Because life isn’t work. Yes, it can be a Big part of life, but it isn’t life.  In fact, in the recent popular news of a palliative nurses’ summary of the regrets of those who are dying, the only mention of work was, “I wish I had not worked so hard,” especially from men.

While it is thought that Freud said  Work and love are the cornerstones of our humanness, it is true that work is the primary activity in most people’s lives.   Work and love (however we define it) still are the primary forces that drive most of our actions.

For many, the role of work has changed dramatically in modern life.  The way we work is being redefined. The meaning of work is in the process of global redefinition. Yet, in many ways work’s deeper meanings still form the underlying basis for how work motivates us.

David Whyte, the inspiring author of “The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship, writes, All of us living at this time are descended from a long line of survivors who lived through the difficulties of history and prehistory: most of whom had to do a great deal of work to keep the wolf, the cold and the neighboring tribe from the door. Work was necessity: work meant food, shelter, survival and a sense of power over circumstances. Work was, and still is, endless.”

While the need for “food, shelter and survival” remains, the meaning of how we define work – and the context of work as part of life is changing.  And an important part of that equation is our constantly evolving sense of our “power over circumstances.” How that power is defined and who determines it is a critical aspect of the meaning of work – and life.

70 hour standard work weeks have, sadly, become the norm for many [us].  Even though there have been some gains in corporate policies (over half of companies surveyed say they offer some form of flex-time) research shows that employee experience doesn’t match corporate reports.  In many cases, employers send their workers double-messages about expectations about the hours and ways they work.

We don’t discuss “work addiction” much anymore because it has become endemic in the [our] work culture.

We tend to think that the  “movement” for work-life balance is simply about the real need to manage stress in this culture.  Even though recent studies all point to the workplace as the single greatest source of stress in the culture, the desire for more life outside of work and more life at work, goes beyond “stress management.”

A growing body of research has revealed that as many women are approaching “mid-life” (technically these women are  the upper percentages of the  Gen X  30- 44-year-old age cohort ) they are “becoming on average, sicker and sadder.” Results from six recent major happiness studies show that this drop in happiness occurs regardless of marital or child status, economic conditions or work-life factors.

Marcus Buckingham, author of Find Your Most Successful Life: What the Most Successful and Resilient Women Do Differently writes, Over the last 50 years, women have secured greater opportunity, greater achievement, greater influence and more money. But over the same period, have become less happy, more anxious, more stressed and, in ever-increasing numbers, self-medicating.” 

For those juggling the real demands of family and work, they do so in many workplaces that are still sorely lacking in support of life outside of work…

photo credit: Thomas Tolkien via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Tolkien via photopin cc

The Need to Ask New and Different Questions

If how we define work – and how we do that work is going through a major transition –  then we need to start asking a whole new set of questions about meaning.

  • Is work still expected to be drudgery? 
  • Do the demands of a job supersede our “personal” needs and desires?
  • How does the crumbling model of authoritarian command and control organizations impact the new mindset of work? 
  • How much emotional and creative freedom should we expect from our work?

Again, author David Whyte offers some illuminating thoughts, “The great questions that touch on personal happiness in work have to do with an ability to hold our own conversation amid the constant background of shouted needs, hectoring advice and received wisdom. In work, we have to find high ground safe from the arriving tsunami of expectations concerning what I am going to DO. Work is a place you can lose yourself more easily perhaps than finding yourself. It is a place of powerful undercurrents, a place to find ourselves, but also, a place to drown, losing all sense of our own voice, our own contribution and conversation.”

After hundreds of years of working in the shadow of a “Protestant” ethic, we are redefining work. But in the process, we are also redefining what makes a fully human life.  To do that, we must challenge every assumption that underpins the public and corporate policies that govern work.  But we also have to face our own thinking about what we believe about work, success and of course – money.  Money is a big elephant in our mental room.

Our own personal beliefs often justify work without adequate life as much as weak public policy or self-serving corporate practices do.  We may not (now) have the economic freedom to fully realize the balance of work and life – but we can reclaim what that means for us. It must begin there.

Link to read this article in its entirety

Seek Work-Life Harmony, Not Balance – 5 Key Strategies

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Randy Conley advises a re-think about the now perhaps outdated notion of work-life balance:

Work-life balance is a fallacy.

The very term is an oxymoron. Is “work” something you do apart from your “life?” Does your “life” not consist of your “work?” And think about the definition of the word balance – “a state of equilibrium or equal distribution of weight or amount.” We have bought into the idea that having fulfillment in our personal and professional lives means we have to give them equal weight and priority. It sets up a false dichotomy between the two choices and leads to perpetual feelings of guilt and remorse because we never feel like we’re giving 100% in either area.

Instead, we need to seek work-life harmony. Consider the definition of harmony – “a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.” Work-life harmony is rooted in an integrated and holistic approach to life where work and play blend together in combinations unique to each individual. I can’t define what harmony looks like for you, but I can share five ways to help you discover it for yourself.

1. Be clear about your purpose in life ~ clarifying your purpose provides focus, direction, and energy to every area of your life

2. Seek contentment, not happiness ~ happiness is fine, but true work-life harmony comes when you find contentment….

3. Understand the seasons of life ~ our focus areas will ebb and flow. When driven by our sense of purpose, they all fit harmoniously together at the right time in the right way…

4. Establish reasonable boundaries ~ the banks of a river provide the boundaries that support the direction and flow of the water. Without those boundaries, the river becomes nothing more than a large puddle…

5. Be present ~ operating from a mindset of work-life balance instead of harmony … creates stress, tension, and guilt, because we always feel we’re out of balance, spending too much energy on one aspect of our lives at the expense of another. The result is we’re never fully present and invested in all areas of our life….

Achieving work-life harmony isn’t easy. It involves trial and error, learning what works and what doesn’t. There is constant assessment and re-calibration of how you’re investing your time and energy, but the payoff is less stress, peace of mind, and increased devotion and passion toward all you do in life.

Link to read  Randy Conley’s guidance in full

Don’t Send Yet! 9 Email Mistakes You’re Probably Making – and how to fix them

Are your emails too long?  Too short?  Sent to too many people?  Or at the wrong time?  Learn how to say exactly what you want – without annoying those on the receiving end

BY: 

Email. The bane of your existence, a tool that seems to define many of your waking hours, a mode of communication invented only two decades ago.

We all use it, some of us love it, and many of us dread it.

There are plenty of tips and tricks about making email more efficient–using specifictools like boomerang, limiting yourself to certain hours per day and chasing the dream of inbox zero…

Are your emails getting the results you want?

When you improve the way you write and learn how to design better messages, you will resonate with the reader, improve sharability, and increase the bottom line.

Last week, I caught up with writer, designer, and strategist Sarah Peck, who teaches workshops on developing effective communication skills. We talked about using email to get more of what you want and what mistakes everyone is making in this commonplace communication form.

Here are nine common mistakes you might be making:

1. Sending emails only when you need something.

The best time to build any relationship is before you need something, not waiting until the moment you need something…

2. Forgetting that there’s a person on the other side of your email.

Just as you wouldn’t walk into a friend’s house for dinner and bark out a command, often those little niceties in the intro and end of a message can go a long way. Social cues aren’t dated constructs; they’re valuable warm-up phrases in communication. Start by saying hi, comment on someone’s latest achievements, and wish the other person well…

3. Using the first person too much.

Many emails–and essays–are written exclusively in first person. Shift the focus to the recipient and consider what they want, need, or would like to hear. After writing an email, scan it quickly for how many times you use the word “I.” See if you can edit some of them out…

4. Sending the email at the wrong time.

Just because you’ve written it now doesn’t mean it needs to be sent at this exact moment. Delaying the send is one of the most powerful and underutilized tools of emailing.

Evaluate whether or not the message is urgent and needs to be replied to immediately. If you’re cleaning up your inbox during your scheduled time, fire off the messages that are urgent and consider sending messages in the morning…

5. Sending to too many people.

More recipients in the “To” field does not mean that you’ll necessarily get more answers. In the age of digital marketing, people who blast messages in broadcast form without understanding who is in the “to” line can erode their chances of a message being opened. A perfect email is one that’s sent to exactly who it needs to go to, with a specified desired outcome…

6. Knowing nothing about the person receiving your email.

Do your homework on the recipient. One great tool to glean fast information about who you’re talking to is Rapportive, a sidebar that lets you see the latest public posts (and a picture) of the person you’re communicating to.

7. Forgetting to send updates or interim messages.

If you’re waiting for an important message from someone, the time spent waiting for a delivery can seem interminable. If there’s a long delay in sending an item that’s highly anticipated or expected, or you’ve experienced a few hiccups–send a one-liner email to update your receiver on the status of the project. You’ll know that you need to send a quick note when you start to get anxious about not delivering or they seem to be a bit flippant.

8. Making messages too long.

Depending on the nature of the message, emails can vary from a few words to thousands of words. The longer the email, the less likely that someone will read the entire thing. Long emails generally mean that a larger strategy, framework, or document might be in order…

9. Using email exclusively.

Efficiency does not necessarily mean one single system. Often, redundancy in communication can be extremely helpful, as each tool (video, chat, email, Skype) adds a layer of human nuance back into the correspondence that’s happening…

Now: 4 ways to focus on writing better emails:

Tell sticky stories. Everything makes more sense with an illustration. Highlight and example, illustrate an ideal customer avatar, or tell a specific instance of a problem you had. Setting the context and the stage (that seems obvious to you, the writer), makes it easier for people to understand the pain point, the context, and the reason why you’re writing. When people can see your story–who you are, where you come from, why you’re doing what you’re doing–it’s easier for them to become a part of it.

Use the four-sentence, one-link rule: Keep your email to under four sentences (or five!). Focus on the pain point or problem you’re solving. Limit yourself to only one link. If you have to, make that link a document.

Be responsive and reflective: Observe how others communicate and adapt your style to meet them midway. Customize your communication by mirroring the style of a received message. Does someone send short messages with formal addresses? Respond in style.

Bookmark emails that you love with Evernote. Use the vast number of emails in front of you (and in your inbox) as clues to great messaging. Watch what emails you open first and are most excited about. Create a few folders in your mailbox system for great introductions, sample short messages, and thank-you notes that you like. Keep these for future use if you’re ever in a bind. In any art, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel–and paying attention to great writers (and what we personally enjoy) is a great way to get started.

Email is our number one form of communication, which means that everyone is a writer. The most powerful thing you can do in both your personal and business life is learn how to write well and tell great stories. Messages that persuade, content that converts, and language that inspires action are critical for getting what you want.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: wakingphotolife: via photopin cc

photo credit: wakingphotolife: via photopin cc

How To Maintain Your Creativity When Working From Home

Andra writes in PIXEL77

There are a great many benefits to working from home, including flexibility of working hours, taking unscheduled days off, waving goodbye to working in formal business wear and spending more quality time with the family. However, working from home can also produce challenges, including reduced creativity…

Fortunately, you need not despair as there are a number of strategies to help you maintain your creativity.

Have a Change of Scenery…

Do Something Different…

Start a Pet Project…

Get Some Exercise…

Analyse Why Your Creativity is Waning…

Take A Nap…

Seek Help From Your Peers…

Take Time for Laughter….

Link to read Andra’s suggestions in full

photo credit: mrbill78636 via photopin cc

photo credit: mrbill78636 via photopin cc

You’re Doing What?? (Part 2)

Rosella Hart remembers the good and the bad aspects of directing a show with Shaky Isles Theatre and her 7 month old son in the room:

Baby is not really welcome in most places in fact. Not truly…perhaps if they are impossibly well behaved the whole time.. perhaps in certain social settings… but I am not aware of any model in our society that allows for the mum/baby unit to exist together in a working or professional context (if they WANT to; a crucial point and another topic)

So having an opportunity to work creatively in a company that would welcome us as a unit was something I really had to do, knowing I might not get another chance for a long time…

OK, so the bad stuff first…for me, it was stressful to split my focus, I had moments of feeling like a bad parent and honestly it was a relief when he was taken out for a few hours. I wasn’t able to be at opening night, and promptly broke out in stress hives the next day (which I have never had before) and by the time the show opened I was pretty much at the end of my physical endurance regarding sleep. In retrospect, probably the biggest down-side was that rehearsals began just as he was starting to get better at sleeping, and the combination of disrupted daytimes and a knackered mother once the show was up and running, did put us on a bad sleep cycle which we have only just now started to kick (now being a year later)

BUT, I got to do something else with my brain, and socialise, which I wasn’t doing before; partly because I was too tired, disorganised and unmotivated to get out the house, but also not having family or close friends in London. My theatre family filled that gap (as it always has done). Although my physical health suffered, I think my mental health was better for it, and if I had the choice to make again, I would do it again.

For Jasper it was definitely a positive experience. Socialising every day all day with other adults, in that specific environment, listening to and watching actors work (he was particularly fascinated by the ‘yes-no’ game in improvisation) and also to be taken away from me for a bit and have some time with other (wonderful, creative) people was great for his development. The negative impact on his sleep after being fed, held and prammed to sleep all day every day for a few months, was a big price to pay, but really it was me that paid it…

It’s funny how often the word ‘inclusion’ is bandied around, usually in terms of disability or minority, seldom in regard to babies and children, who must be among the most excluded groups out there. Or perhaps ghettoised; there is plenty for kids, but it is a world apart. So many gigs and interesting things start after bed time, which means that if, like me, your wee one isn’t really sleeping reliably at night without you, as an adult you are suddenly cut off from a huge part of adult life, especially if you have no aunties, uncles, grandparents etc around to help out. Not something you can really appreciate or factor in before having kids. One of the best things for me about being in the production was the opportunity to do something normal and not about ‘baby’, and to be enabled to do that by the support of people who believed that I should be able to…

So… thinking of doing it yourself? A few ideas…

Link to get Rosella’s suggestions and read her story in full 

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

Making Awesome People Happy At Work (and stopping them from quitting)

Taro Fukuyama, co-founder and CEO of AnyPerk writes about happiness at work and his take on why it matters so much:

It’s fairly common knowledge that happy employees are simply better at their jobs. No matter the industry, hours, or education required, individuals perform better when their spirits are high. They are more engaged, more motivated, more likely to be pleasant to one another and any customers they encounter, and are thinking more creatively to solve problems and improve company operations.

This makes perfect sense, and the opposite is equally true. Employees who are miserable, angry, depressed, or just generally unhappy do not perform to the best of their abilities. They are disengaged and easily distracted, they cut corners and deflect responsibility, and simply don’t care about the quality of work they produce.

And yet a great deal of businesses just don’t do it. They think that extra investment in perks, or making their employees happier won’t get them anything other than in the red.

They’re wrong. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Noelle Nelson, you can literally Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy. I’d have to agree – when CEOs and managers can put their egos aside and focus on making the actual workers happier, they’ll be richer too.

The challenge? Well, because every company, and every individual, is different, there’s no steadfast rulebook for making employees happy and engaged. It’s interpretive at best, and most companies will have to reflect on their own internal processes and workflow to determine how to make the company a more enjoyable place to work.

While this is vague at best, there are a few principles to follow. And they’re obvious to some – but you’d be surprised how many companies (startups and Fortune 500′s alike) fail to provide them:

1. Recognition

People want to know when they are doing something right. They want to receive credit for their accomplishments, and they want to know that their contributions to goals of the company are seen and appreciated…

2. Individuality

This goes hand in hand with recognition, but on an even more individualized level. People don’t like to feel like cogs in a machine, with no identity beyond their job description. The best way to avoid this is to get to know employees individually, and, more importantly, to understand the complex and unique lives that each and every one of them lead…

3. Perks

People want to be proud of the place they work, not just of the company’s end product or service, but also proud of what it means to be an employee of that particular company. One of the best ways to add prestige to particular job is to include bonuses that go beyond a standard paycheck…

4. Understanding

…As a CEO, a manager, or anyone ordering around other people, you have to understand, use and work on your own product. I don’t care if you’ve got a million meetings. I don’t care if you like your comfy chair and the lack of stress. As a manager you should be as or more stressed as the employees. If they’re not, they’re probably a crappy manager.

This also means that if someone makes a mistake you cannot and should not skewer them. Disciplining an employee is a necessary and painful evil. Making an example of them and breaking them on a personal level is worthless. I’d also wager it makes you worthless too.

5. Ignorance of “Company Culture”

Your company culture should not be complex. It should be about doing good work, making your customers happy and executing on an idea. This may come with a few elements of stress. This may involve the eventual firing of people. This should not at any point involve not taking someone on because they’re not a good cultural fit.

“Culture” in companies has become an abused term to ostracize and oust those who might disagree with the incumbent staff. It’s very easy to be upset when someone says that something that everyone does is wrong, or that someone who has been around for a while is doing wrong. You have to be wiling to review every process and element of your company with a critical eye…

Conclusion

Much of this boils down to respect, and just taking steps to foster a work environment that radiates positivity. When individuals are surrounded by smiling, happy people, they tend to feel that way themselves. Happiness has a way of breeding more happiness, and when each employee feels like an asset to the company, those feelings of value multiply upon themselves.

Value really is the key principle here – what can companies do make employees feel valued?

By treating each worker with respect, recognizing their individuality, and trying to make sure that whatever the job may be, it fits in with the other aspects of their lives as best it can, businesses can build a mutual commitment between workplace and employee…

When a company legitimately cares about its employees (and shows it), it’s much easier for the employee to care about the wellbeing of the company, and put in the effort to help it flourish.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

photo credit: Photosightfaces via photopin cc

Smiling In Facebook Photos Can Predict Wellbeing For Years Down-The-Line

Turns out your smiley Facebook friends really are happier than you

By 

Take a quick look at your current Facebook profile picture. Are you posing alone? Is is a boisterous group picture? A professional-looking headshot? Is there duckface involved?Whether you’re teetering with a Coors Light in your hand or sitting serenely in a tasteful pose, a new study says there’s only one thing that really matters: Are you smiling?

According to researchers at the University of Virginia, the intensity of smiles in Facebook profile pictures can accurately predict the well-being of undergraduates over the course of their college careers.

“One implication of my paper is that you can get a fairly accurate indication by looking at people’s Facebook photos based on how intensely they’re smiling in the photos how good those people are socially,” says one of the researchers, post-doctoral instructor Patrick Seder. The paper, titled “Intensity of Smiling in Facebook Photos Predicts Future Life Satisfaction” explains that it took authentic looking photos with smiles (no “jokey” pictures allowed) to make these predictions…

The researchers looked at two groups of Facebook users, taking their first assessments in 2005 and 2006. They selected users were freshman in their first semester at the University of Virginia, and had profile picture photographs that could be analyzed for smile intensity. They measured the intensity of the sample groups’ smiles after taking them through a series of tests to gauge their general well-being and levels of extroversion. The researchers checked back in with their subjects at the end of their college careers and looked at their contentment levels again.

They found that the students who had the most intense smiles in their profile pictures during the first semester of school reported more happiness both in that first semester as well as 3.5 years later. They also found that they could predict whether these students would increase their reported well-being based on the smile intensity.

To boil it down, the students with bigger grins in Facebook photos posted at the beginning of college reported more life satisfaction both during the time period they posted the photos, and at the end of their college careers…

the researchers noted that people who express positive emotions tend to elicit positive emotions in other people (in simpler terms, smiling is contagious). Since people value those who make them smile, a Facebook photo that reinforces the image of someone as a smiley, happy person could strengthen relationships.

It’s a sort of “the chicken or the egg?” conundrum. Do you smile because you’re happy or do you smile and become happy? Either way, there’s a correlation. And since these researchers ran the test twice and got the same results, you’re probably better off playing it safe and deleting that sourpuss face profile picture.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

Put On A Happy Face(book)

By 

…Although many people believe we self-aggrandize on Facebook, research finds that for the most part, what we see is who we are; our Facebook profiles tend to be pretty accurate expressions of our personalities.

But we all know that even people whose lives appear to be thrill a minute on Facebook sometimes get cranky; sprout zits; have boring evenings; fight with their significant others; have bad hair days; and other not super-duper fun things. They just choose not to share those moments.

Let us consider instead the positive power of Facebook for making us feel good about ourselves: We can do the same thing. We can make ourselves look fun and fascinating on Facebook by selective posting. What’s more, if we do it without making stuff up, then we are actually the person we appear to be on Facebook.

Maybe you’re not as dull as you think. There’s a really good chance you look as cool to other people as other people do to you. While you’re busy envying other people’s lives, maybe other people are envying yours…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

photo credit: toodlepip via photopin cc

What happens To Your Brain When People Like Your Facebook Status

THORIN KLOSOWSKI reports on more new research using Facebook to understand more about what might help to make us happy:

In research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers found that they could predict people’s Facebook use by looking at how their brain reacted to positive social feedback in a scanner:P

Specifically, a region called the nucleus accumbens, which processes rewarding feelings about food, sex, money and social acceptance became more active in response to praise for oneself compared to praise of others.  And that activation was associated with more time on the social media site.

As it turns out, the social affirmation that comes when people like your status updates is addictive, which might help explain why people tend to spend so much time on Facebook:

On the social media site, the pleasure deriving from attention, kind words, likes, and LOLs from others occurs only sporadically.  Such a pattern for rewards is far more addictive than receiving a prize every time, in part because the brain likes to predict rewards, and if it can’t find a pattern, it will fuel a behavior until it finds one. So if the rewards are random, the quest may continue compulsively.

The research is still fresh, but it makes sense that social media addiction is tied to the reward center of the brain…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: andyi via photopin cc

And this research throws upside down some of the conclusions many us of us might have been making about the effects on young people of video gaming…

New video game research concludes gaming improves emotional, social, psychological well-being

BY 

A research group comprised of members from various Australian universities has concluded a review showing strong positive effects on the well-being of young people across key areas.

The review analysed over 200 papers from various research teams across the world and revealed strong patterns that show many of the negative myths surrounding video games are, well, exactly that.

Among the key findings from the analysis are that:

  • There are many creative, social and emotional benefits from playing videogames, including violent games (Kutner & Olson 2008).
  • Although ‘excessive’ gamers showed mild increases in problematic behaviors (such as somatic symptoms; anxiety and insomnia; social dysfunction, and general mental health status), it was nongamers who were associated with the poorest mental health correlates (Allahverdipour et al 2010).
  • Frequency of play does not significantly relate to body mass index or academic grade point average (Wack & Tentelett-Dunn 2009)
  • Videogames have been found to be an effective play therapy tool. Children can be helped to change their views of themselves and the world around through metaphors in games, e.g., ‘the force’ in Lego Star Wars, gaining ‘attributes’ in SSX-3 (snowboarding), and conquering ‘quests’ in RuneScape (Hull 2009).

“We found that playing video games positively influences young people’s emotional state, vitality, engagement, competence and self-acceptance,” explain the authors of the review on The Conversation, saying that it is “associated with higher self-esteem, optimism, resilience, healthy relationships and social connections and functioning”.

“Emerging research suggests that how young people play, as well as with whom they play, may be more important in terms of well-being than what they play. Feelings of relatedness or flow while playing, and playing with people you know are better predictors of well-being than the genre of game played.”

You can read the full story and analyse the findings for yourself over at The Conversation.

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photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth In Ancient Wisdom by Joanthan Haidt

abduzeedo recommends this book is about positive psychology, the title is The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, which I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying:

In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the world’s philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims – like Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, or What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – can enrich and even transform our lives.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, lamented St. Paul, and this engrossing scientific interpretation of traditional lore backs him up with hard data. Citing Plato, Buddha and modern brain science, psychologist Haidt notes the mind is like an “elephant” of automatic desires and impulses atop which conscious intention is an ineffectual “rider.”

Haidt sifts Eastern and Western religious and philosophical traditions for other nuggets of wisdom to substantiate—and sometimes critique—with the findings of neurology and cognitive psychology. The Buddhist-Stoic injunction to cast off worldly attachments in pursuit of happiness, for example, is backed up by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s studies into pleasure. And Nietzsche’s contention that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger is considered against research into post-traumatic growth.

An exponent of the “positive psychology” movement, Haidt also offers practical advice on finding happiness and meaning. Riches don’t matter much, he observes, but close relationships, quiet surroundings and short commutes help a lot, while meditation, cognitive psychotherapy and Prozac are equally valid remedies for constitutional unhappiness.

Haidt sometimes seems reductionist, but his is an erudite, fluently written, stimulating reassessment of age-old issues

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photo credit: Ano Lobb. @healthyrx via photopin cc

Empathy + Placebo = Healing?

Psychotherapy, voodoo, and complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) are all cut from the same cloth; they are ‘healing methods’ that relieve symptoms because they provide two key things: empathy and the placebo effect (E&P).

…Belgian physicians Mommaerts and Devroey in a new paper: From “Does it work?” to “What is it?” … say that, given that Empathy + Placebo effect are a powerful psychological force, it makes little sense to ask of any particular complementary/alternative medicine, “Does it work?”.  So long as it provides non-specific Empathy + Placebo effect, just about any intervention will work…

Empathy + Placebo effect is often the only thing people need.  But it can be hard to find it in mainstream medicine. The authors write:

Complementary/alternative medicine represents a failing of scientific medicine, in that complementary/alternative medicine seeks to address patients’ needs that are lost in the technologically focused interactions of modern medicine. Complementary/alternative medicine represents many patients’ search for empathy.

Perhaps there’s a solution: more empathy in mainstream medicine, or in general, some kind of ‘pure’ Empathy + Placebo effect that doesn’t rely on unscientific foundations? This is what the authors suggest….

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

There Is No App For Happiness

 writes in The Huffington Post Blog

“No poet is ever going to write about gazing into his lover’s emoticons.”

I bought a perfectly good flip phone three years ago, but lately people tease me about it as if I’m using something from the Victorian Era. Before that, I had a different flip phone, which followed an analog cell phone. Remember those? And before that, I had a telephone with a wire that stuck in a wall. You want to know which one had the best sound quality? The one that stuck in the wall. But I digress… What I want to talk about is what hasn’t been upgraded: the quality of human communication. The quality of our conversations with friends and loved ones hasn’t improved one bit. In fact, many people now send text messages instead of conversing at all. We have far greater access, but far less intimacy.

Information technology is expanding at such a rate that nearly every aspect of our world has been impacted, yet there has been no corresponding expansion of personal happiness. Instead, we find that we have become anxious, sleep-deprived, depressed, and over-medicated. For example, one in four women in the United States takes antidepressants and/or anti anxiety medication, with men not far behind. And for sleep? The Center for Disease Control has declared that insufficient sleep is an epidemic.

My premise is not that technology is supposed to increase our happiness but that our society now believes it does. We have become confused as to the difference between happiness and entertainment. The constant glancing into our smart phone to see if anyone has pinged us, while a friend is sitting across the table speaking to us, are indicators that we are addicted to something that is making us less considerate and more alienated.

Here is one of the most important statistics you may ever read that explains the clash of human happiness with text-based technology. According to research from 1981, approximately 90 percent of human communication is nonverbal. So although we are more connected than ever, when we communicate with text, it is only 10 percent of us that is connected. It is no wonder we feel more alienated. The overuse of social media, texting, and gaming is causing our society, especially young people, to develop symptoms that remind me of Asperger syndrome — verbal difficulties, avoiding eye contact, inability to understand social rules and read body language, and difficulty in forming true friendships.

Emotional intimacy requires personal knowledge of the deeper dimensions of another being and is developed through trust. Trust can begin, or end, with a first glance, because, like other animals, we inherently know a great deal about each other through body language and tone of voice. In fact, we often ascertain the trustworthiness of a person in mere seconds, without a word spoken. Based on nonverbal communication we regularly make life-altering decisions; whether or not to begin a business relationship, accept a date with someone, or allow someone to look after your child. We rely on nonverbal communication at the deepest level of our being.

Innovators are making great strides in programing humanoid-type robots that have faces and can produce human expressions. These robots are programmed to make eye contact and to read and respond to human emotional expressions, tone of voice, and body language. The strange and perhaps history-bending irony is that we are teaching robots to make eye contact and watch for nonverbal cues, but meanwhile, we humans are now avoiding these things, opting instead to send texts and then adding smiley faces to crudely humanize the message. We are humanizing robots as we voluntarily dehumanize ourselves.

In my new book, There is No App for Happiness, (Skyhorse August 2013) I introduce readers to three imperatives that accelerate change from the inside out, humanizing change that I believe can make us happier. The one I will mention here is Life-Span Management. We have an incongruous schism between the concepts of our time and our life as if they were two completely separate things. In one hand we have a precious short life, and in the other hand we have time to kill. Time is not only money, it is much more than that; it is the minutes and seconds of our mortal life. Your time is the finite resource from which you experience this world — everyone, everything, and especially that which you are devoted to and live for. Because it is a finite resource, whether we are aware of it or not, we all purchase each time-event at the cost of another. When we come to this realization, a giant bell rings as we comprehend how much of our life-span we have been wasting on meaningless activities that serve no one and nothing. Happiness costs something. What are you willing to sacrifice to have more life/time? And what is stealing your time?

Remember Steve Job’s famous quote? “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

I am sharing this quote not because it is unique, because it isn’t. I share this particular quote because these words were spoken by the icon of tech success. Jobs achieved great wealth, power, and fame, only to discover that his favorite things in life were free — and not made from silicon.

To be clear, I am not anti-technology. Quite the contrary, I am even an advocate of self-driving cars. But I think that we have to select our technology wisely. If we bring technology into our life, it should simplify our life and give us more free time, not take it away. If it doesn’t make your current life run more seamlessly, get rid of it. Everything new is not better.

Maybe it’s time we start applying Silicon Valley style innovation to ourselves so that we find a path to a more meaningful experience of living, and a more sane world.

Link to read this  article in its original

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photo credit: Don J Schulte via photopin cc

20 Poets on the Meaning of Poetry

Alison Nastasi gives a few brief definitions of poetry by famous poets:

We’ve been thinking about poet Meena Alexander’s incredible address to the Yale Political Union, in which she refers to Shelley’s 1821 essay, A Defence of Poetry. The English poet’s work famously stated, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Alexander concludes:

“The poem is an invention that exists in spite of history…In a time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness and grace with which to exist… Poetry’s task is to reconcile us to the world — not to accept it at face value or to assent to things that are wrong, but to reconcile one in a larger sense, to return us in love, the province of the imagination, to the scope of our mortal lives.”

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photo credit: Denis Collette…!!! via photopin cc

Other poets have attempted to interpret “what is deeply felt and is essentially unsayable.” …

Percy Bysshe Shelley

There are a few more choice snippets from Shelley’s 1821 essay, A Defence of Poetry, that articulated the essence of poetry:

“Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.”

“Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be ‘the expression of the imagination’: and poetry is connate with the origin of man.”

Emily Dickinson

“If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?”

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photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc

Robert Frost

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”

Salvatore Quasimodo

“Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.”

Mary Oliver

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”

William Wordsworth

“I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.”

John Cage

“There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.”

Kahlil Gibran

“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.”

William Hazlitt

“Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.”

Edith Sitwell

“Poetry is the deification of reality.”

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photo credit: youngdoo via photopin cc

Marianne Moore

“Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.”

Theodore Roethke

“You must believe: a poem is a holy thing — a good poem, that is.”

James K. Baxter

“The poem is a plank laid over the lion’s den.”

Link to read the full set of quotations

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photo credit: Cali4beach via photopin cc

STEM Subjects versus the arts: why languages are just as important

Lucy Jeynes writes in Guardian Professional:

…I confess that I myself wondered whether reading 19th century French novels could honestly be considered study and not pure indulgence. When I first entered the world of work, I felt that perhaps I should have studied something more “useful”. It has taken the perspective of a 20-year-career in a fairly technical, male-dominated field to appreciate the enormous benefits of my degree.

Living and studying in other countries has helped me to understand cultural cues, essential in today’s global economy. The study of other languages has given me a deep understanding of the richness of English, which enables me to say precisely what I mean.

Studying languages has helped me to write compelling proposals, unambiguous tender specifications, complex arbitrations, engaging conference speeches and insightful trade press articles – all of which have helped me to reach the top of my career in facilities management.

In a profession filled with engineers and surveyors, the ability to communicate technical content effectively and quickly has turned out to be a valuable skill…

…Belinda Parmar is right to highlight the gender bias: only 33% of university languages students are male. We need more men to study languages, just as we need more women to study STEM subjects. In our technological age, we still need thinkers, writers and artists. Otherwise, who will develop the content for all the wonderful devices that geeks are inventing?

Study what you love and you will do well. You will find a way to build it into your career: learning anything is never a waste.

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: rAmmoRRison via photopin cc

To Change The World (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
– Nelson Mandela

Steve McCurry’s new collection celebrates moments of people learning, and, as always,, his photos are powerful testimony to the very best of what it can mean to be human and alive in today’s world across our blue planet.

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled. 
– Plutarch

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photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
– John Steinbeck

Follow this link to feast your eyes and your soul on Steve McCurry’s images

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photo credit: .craig via photopin cc

Transitions

Mary O’Connor reflects in the Shaky Isles Theatre blog about change and moving on:

Etymology:- 1550s, from Latin transitionem (nominative transitio) “a going across or over,” noun of action from past participle stem of transire “go or cross over”

“I’m not very good at transitions” I say to myself, to others…

“it’s just this bit, I’ll be ok when Autumn comes with leaves , conkers, apples , Halloween, golden light and a promise of Christmas” is not an end.

I’m on a bridge. From one experience to the next. So, I’m not good at bridges? This bridge feels a little bit rickety right now?

Ok ,  so I’m going to have to let go, and hold onto the bridge. Look where I’m going. Look ahead.

Link to read Mary’s piece in full

Happiness At Work Edition #63

You will find all of these stories, and many more, in this week’s  Happiness At Work Edition #63 of 13the September 2013

We hope you enjoy…

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photo credit: mysza831 via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #62 ~ considering the disciplines, habits and practice of self-mastery

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photo credit: Nasser Nouri via photopin cc

Self-mastery: the ability to take control of your life without being blown off course by feelings, urges, circumstances etc (Collins English Dictionary)

I take self-mastery to be the dynamic and shifting balance between knowing and playing to our strengths – doing the things that come ‘naturally’ to us in the ways that feel right and easy for us – in combination with practising and honing those things that are not our preferred way of working, but which extend our range, reach and influence and so are vital to both our professionalism as much as to our success.  Over time, and with enough practice, these less easy skills become so automatic and honed that they grow into what we can call our second nature responses.

Peter Senge includes Personal Mastery as their first of five essential disciplines for constantly adaptive and evolving Learning Organisations – the other four being Mental Modelling, Shared Vision, Team Learning and the all important 5th Discipline, Systems Thinking.

And I tend to think that all learning starts and centres around self-awareness and expanding our repertoire of different things we can deliberately choose to do and things we can deliberately choose to do differently.

And so it follows that any consideration of how we might become happier, or more resilient, or more creative, or more successful, must also begin and centre around ways to expand, practise and ultimately master new ways of thinking, doing and being.  And this calls upon our discipline – by which I mean all of these connotations (taken from Collins English Dictionary):

  1. training or conditions imposed for the improvement of physical powers, self-control, etc
  2. systematic training in obedience to regulations and authority
  3. the state of improved behaviour, etc, resulting from such training or conditions
  4. a system of rules for behaviour, methods of practice, etc
  5. a branch of learning or instruction
  6. (vb.) to improve or attempt to improve the behaviour, orderliness, etc, of by training, conditions, or rules

Discipline is foundation stone of self-mastery just as practise is the foundation stone of discipline.

The following articles from this this week’s new Happiness At Work collection #62 are all related to this theme of self-mastery:

  • what motivates and drives us to want to learn more?
  • what are some of the elements and aspects of disciplined practice?
  • and how can we get a better balance between playing to our strengths and preferred ways of acting and developing new less easy ways of doing things?
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photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Abraham Maslow and the pyramid that beguiled business

The psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation is 70 years old but continues to have a strong influence on the world of business. William Kremer and Claudia Hammond ask: what is it, and is it right?

In 1943, the US psychologist Abraham Maslow published a paper called A Theory of Human Motivation, in which he said that people had five sets of needs, which come in a particular order. As each level of needs is satisfied, the desire to fulfil the next set kicks in.First, we have the basic needs for bodily functioning – fulfilled by eating, drinking and going to the toilet. Maslow also included sexual needs in this group.Then there is the desire to be safe, and secure in the knowledge that those basic needs will be fulfilled in the future too. After that comes our need for love, friendship and company. At this stage, Maslow writes, the individual “may even forget that once, when he was hungry, he sneered at love”.  The next stage is all about social recognition, status and respect.

And the final stage, represented in the graphic as the topmost tip of the triangle, Maslow labelled with the psychologists’ term “self-actualisation”.

It’s about fulfilment – doing the thing that you were put on the planet to do. “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy,” wrote Maslow. “What a man can be, he must be.”

While there were no pyramids or triangles in the original paper, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is now usually illustrated with the symbol. And although the paper was written as pure psychology it has found its main application in management theory.

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photo credit: pshegubj via photopin cc

…In the second half of the 20th Century, bosses began to realise that employees’ hopes, feelings and needs had an impact on performance. In 1960, Douglas McGregor published The Human Side of Enterprise, which contrasted traditional managerial styles with a people-centred approach inspired by Maslow. It became a best-seller.

Some managers began to move away from a purely “transactional” contract with a company’s staff, in which they received money in exchange for doing a job, to a complex “relational” one, where a company offered opportunities for an individual to feel fulfilled, but expected more in return.

…But critics point to dozens of counter-examples. What about the famished poet? Or the person who withdraws from society to become a hermit? Or the mountaineer who disregards safety in his determination to reach the summit?

Muddying things slightly, Maslow said that for some people, needs may appear in a different order or be absent altogether. Moreover, people felt a mix of needs from different levels at any one time, but they varied in degree.

…after Maslow’s death in 1970, researchers did undertake a more detailed investigation, with attitude-based surveys and field studies testing out the Hierarchy of Needs.  “When you analyse them, the five needs just don’t drop out,” says Hodgkinson. “The actual structure of motivation doesn’t fit the theory. And that led to a lot of discussion and debate, and new theories evolved as a consequence.”

In 1972, Clayton Alderfer whittled Maslow’s five groups of needs down to three, labelled Existence, Relatedness and Growth. Although elements of a hierarchy remain, “ERG theory” held that human beings need to be satisfied in all three areas – if that’s not possible then their energies are redoubled in a lower category. So for example, if it is impossible to get a promotion, an employee might talk more to colleagues and get more out of the social side of work.

More sophisticated theories followed. Maslow’s triangle was chopped up, flipped on its head and pulled apart into flow diagrams. Hodgkinson says that one business textbook has just been published which doesn’t mention Maslow, and there is a campaign afoot to have him removed from the next editions of others.

The absence of solid evidence has tarnished Maslow’s status within psychology too. But as a result, Lachman says, people miss seeing that he was responsible for a major shift of focus within the discipline.

“He really was ground-breaking in his thinking,” Lachman says. “He was saying that you weren’t acting on the basis of these uncontrollable, unconscious desires. Your behaviour was not just influenced by external rewards and reinforcement, but there were these internal needs and motivations.”

Unlike the psychoanalysts and behaviourists who preceded him, Maslow was not that interested in mental illness – instead of finding out what went wrong with people, he wanted to find out what could go right with them. This opened the door for later movements such as humanistic psychology and positive psychology, and the “happiness agenda” that preoccupies the current UK government.

Maslow’s friend, management guru Warren Bennis, believes the quality underlying all Maslow’s thinking was his striking optimism about human nature and society…

Link to read this original BBC World Service article in full

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photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

5 Leadership Tips for Introverts

Thinking about ways for Introverts to play more to their strengths in a highly extravert-favoured world, Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader, explains how to turn solitary tendencies into business strengths:

Most of the time, the business world is no place for shy folk. As Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leaderexplains on LeanIn.org, “Many organizational cultures support those who talk about their accomplishments, who spend more time out and about networking instead of alone deep in thought, and who make sure they are the first to get their ideas heard.”

…you can learn to make your love of solitude and keen observational skills work for you. Kahnweiler offered some helpful tips on how introverts can use their unique strengths to excel.

1. Spend Solo Time Thinking About Strategy

Your desire for time away from people can useful, if you can use the space … to deeply consider where others are coming from, what their secret motivations are, and how you can influence them or help them achieve their goals…

2. Use the Power of One-on-One Conversations

Big meetings, which can be intimidating for introverts, aren’t the only place to get things done. … Consider placing an emphasis on smaller conversations, which can be a powerful force…

3. Notice Who the Other ‘Quiet Influencers’ Are

When people are constantly talking or at the center of the conversation, it’s easy to miss the quiet influencers lingering on the edges. … Use your highly developed observational skills to find those who may not speak the loudest, but who … may have some of the most interesting, well-developed opinions and ideas….

4. Identify What You Want to Change

…One of Kahnweiler’s clients realized that she needed to change how others were perceiving her, so she incorporated techniques from actors. “She slowed her breath down, raised her voice a level and increased her eye contact with others throughout the day,” writes Kahnweiler, which helped people see her as “a highly competent and strong contributor.”…

5. Make the Most of Social Networking

…Introverts may take more naturally to social media, where “others can get to know as much about you as you care to share. Developing a robust online presence “also helps you to achieve visibility that might be difficult to gain in person,” Kahnweiler concludes. …

Here is the link to read this article in full

photo credit: Zarko Drincic via photopin cc

photo credit: Zarko Drincic via photopin cc

Happiness In Meditation: how does it happen

by Tina Ranieri

…People usually come to meditation and or prayer long after they have found their own life and mind out of control, being blown here and there and unable to find happiness. People know they want happiness but they may not know if it is inner peace or outer peace they seek. People are so used to filling up the space in their lives with “stuff” that to meditate and make space, to be able to create clarity and to make room for spirit in their lives is a whole different ballgame.

When meditation doesn’t seem to be going well

In the beginning when meditation seems pointless and going nowhere you should remember that by applying effort to train in meditation you are creating the mental karma to experience inner peace in the future. If you train in meditation your mind becomes more and more peaceful, and you shall experience a purer form of happiness. Eventually you are able to stay happy all of the time, even in the most difficult situations.

Gradually you develop mental equilibrium

Meditation is like having the space to create a garden. What you do with that space is what will grow there. If you leave it unattended, anything can grow there and becomes wild and out of control. Taking the time to plant the correct seed and tending to your mind’s space which leads to spirit’s space, is the source of all happiness and just how important meditation is…

At first the mind is so very busy

Even as you begin to train in meditation and find the calmer aspects of life you will find those around you will still try to suck you into their dramas, wishing for you to go on the roller coaster ride of madness with them like you always did before. It is easy to get caught up in the old cycles, but you will come to realize these are not areas you wish to wander any more. … There will always be people with their distractions and turbulence, with their minds all aflutter demanding you come into that “twitch” too.

Experiencing the calm that comes with meditation and the knowing of the answers to your questions in life, gross distractions disappear, you feel naturally warm and well disposed toward all people, you are of a lighter heart and mind, and your relationships will improve.

Things like being detached and not clinging are things that happen as you meditate. It is so much not a need to practice non-attachment as it just becomes a part of your life naturally. Things begin to fall away from you as you learn to see through different eyes. Through meditation what is necessary to focus on and give your attention to comes to the forefront and is no longer unclear to your minds eye.

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

Susan Pearse & Techniques For A Clear And Happy Mind

by Susan Pearse an acclaimed leadership expert and co-author with Martina Sheehan of Wired for Life. She also co-founded with Martina Mind Gardener.

…On an average day we have around 50,000 thoughts and 12,000 internal conversations. A busy mind can be detrimental to your happiness. It leads to clutter, mistakes being made and opportunities being lost, not to mention stressed individuals with a work/life balance out of whack.

The good news is that you can train your mind to slow down and declutter and the result will be a boost in your happiness. Here are three exercises that you can do to tame your busy mind and get some clarity and focus in busy times …

The power of the pause 
…The pause is a simple mental pause where you rest your attention on one of your senses. Stop what you are doing, sit down close your eyes and take three long breaths, focusing on nothing but your inhalation and exhalation. The pause is usually only a few seconds but can change your day. Pausing often throughout the day is a way of ‘clearing the slate’ so you can focus. Here are some ways of doing it:

Pause at the end of each task just before you start another task.
When the phone rings while you are working on another task, pause and listen to the phone ring for a few seconds before picking it up. Alternately, touch the receiver before answering.
Pause whenever you are interrupted in the middle of a task by feeling the feet on the floor for a few seconds before you turn your attention to the person interrupting you.

The magic of mindful listening
…Mindful listening is listening with full attention. This means that we listen without comment, distraction or anticipation of what will be said. Here are some ways you can do it:

In a discussion that seems to drag on simply bring your attention to the sound of the speaker’s voice without judgement or comment.
When you are talking on the phone stop doing all other tasks and focus attention on the sense of hearing.
When interacting with people whom you have formed strong ideas and opinions about, put these aside by directing attention away from your thoughts about that person and onto what they are saying.

The charm of connecting with your senses
…Your five senses are your gateway to the present because they are always in the ‘here and now’. Connect to your senses throughout the day to keep your mind fully in the present and attend to the activity or task you are doing. Here are some ways you can try this:

Use the sense of touch to bring your attention to a project you are working on – be aware of the pen in your hand or your finger tips touching the keyboard.
When you are eating, connect your mind to the sense of taste.
Whenever you are doing anything – cleaning, washing up, gardening – stay present with the sense that you are using most at the time.
When you are driving, feel your hands on the steering wheel and focus on being fully present through sight.

All of these exercises train your mind to be clear and present focused. Before long you will notice that you are taming your busy mind and your happiness will greatly benefit!

Link to read this article in full

Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

photo credit: TheJCB via photopin cc

photo credit: TheJCB via photopin cc

6 Amazing Neuroscience Discoveries That’ll Help You Work Better

by Joel Willans

Neuroscience isn’t just the domain of hard working biologists in labs: it’s a multi-disciplinary field that embraces philosophy and psychology as well as chemistry and mathematics. What’s more, the scientists’ discoveries have repercussions well beyond laboratories and textbooks. The workplace can also benefit from the revelations of neuroscience. After all, where do we often really put our brains to the test? Why, at work, of course! So we’re fascinated by how neuroscience can be applied to our work-lives to make us better, smarter and more productive.

1.  Feed your intellect

…Experts reckon our brains use up about 20% of our body’s energy. Most of this energy goes to the prefrontal cortex—the bit of your brain that’s responsible for conscious thought. So when you’re thinking particularly hard and making tough decisions, you’re depleting your limited supply of blood glucose…  Eating well and having regular and, most important, healthy snacks while you’re working is a good way to do this, and the easiest way to know what does the job? …

2. Finishing things and crossing them off our checklist

We humans love to finish a task: whether that’s reading right to the end of that door-stopper by Tolstoy, getting the final letters in a crossword or wrapping up a huge management project at work. If we leave loose ends, we get a nasty niggling feeling: our minds won’t let it go and we burn more precious energy worrying about it. Close that cognitive loop by finishing the task, though, and not only are we more relaxed, but we’re also free to redirect that energy towards a new project…

3.  Your “towards” and “away” head

If you’re feeling gloomy, anxious, and altogether not in the right state of mind to think creatively, consider this: scientists say that the brain has two basic mental states—’toward’ and ‘away’. ‘Toward’ is what they call it when you’re feeling open and engaged, and ‘away’ is what they call the opposite: feeling negative, withdrawn and defensive. If you’re feeling stressed, your ability to think well will be compromised. And sometimes you’ll be stuck in the middle of this slump when your working life really needs you to be in the ‘towards’ state. The solution? Keep track of how you feel on a given day and figure out how what you’re doing is affecting your state of mind. Then apply this knowledge to switch things around when you need to feel better and work smarter.

4.  The Goldilocks Brain

There are definite times where you feel on top of the world, productivity-wise: when everything slots into place and you’re metaphorically on fire. Dr David Rock calls it the ‘Goldilocks Brain.’ If you want to trigger this ‘just right’ condition and achieve peak performance, then there are two things you need: a positive state of mind (see ‘towards’, above!) and the stimulation factor of a potential reward or threat. This motivational approach gives you that extra nudge to transform your positivity and openness into action and success.

5. Problem solving machine  

Neuroscience says: don’t over-think! That prefrontal cortex we met earlier only takes up a tiny part of our brains; the bulk of the work is actually whirring along in your subconscious. So coming up with the grand solution … isn’t just a matter of thinking very, very hard: you have to relax, to let it go, and allow the background machinery of your brain to get problem-solving. The parks of your working day that are set aside for breaks and less intellectually taxing tasks are hugely important, because it’s at these times that your brain’s energy levels recover and all the nifty subconscious labour gets done.

6. High on multitasking

Finally, to multitask or not to multitask? Getting busy on several jobs at once might make us look tremendously productive, and we certainly get a little dopamine kick as our brain thanks us for answering yet another email or tweet, but the downside is that we’re not actually getting more done than if we did the tasks sequentially, and, in fact, we’re probably under-performing, as none of these tasks get done as well as they would do if we tackled them one at a time.  Neuroscience tells us that we’re sequential creatures.

Link to read this article

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Amy Poehler on Taking Advice From Your Future Self

Amy Poehler … says she used to get so worked up over things that, in hindsight, didn’t matter. And now when she feels in crisis, she asks older-her for a future perspective.

Sometimes when I feel in crisis or down, I try to give myself advice that the older me would give, I try to think about what a 90, 80-year-old version of myself would say. [I’d say], “You’re beautiful, you’re great, it’s fine.” Right? It would always be “you’re fine, you’re fine, look at you, you’re walking, everything is fine…” 

[Older people] just aren’t that interested in feeling sad. When you’re in your twenties you can spend the whole f***ing day feeling bad about yourself… But when you’re old, you just don’t have the time.

Listen to the rest of the (hilarious but R-rated) podcast here.

photo credit: Through Painted Eyes via photopin cc

photo credit: Through Painted Eyes via photopin cc

 

Amy McGonigal: How To Make Stress Your Friend

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.  She tells us that believing that stress is bad for us makes it bad for us, but believing that stress is good for us actually makes us healthier.

 

Debunked: ‘Right-Brain’ and ‘Left-Brain’ Personalities

 

Evidence from over 1,000 fMRI brain scans finds no evidence people are ‘right-brained’ or ‘left-brained’.

There’s a popular assumption that ‘right-brained’ people are more creative, while ‘left-brained’ people are more analytical and logical.

The idea behind this is that these two distinct types of personalities are a result of one half of the brain being more active than the other.

The evidence for this has always been very weak but now researchers have done much to debunk this idea…  this doesn’t mean that some people aren’t more creative, while others more analytical and logical, just that it’s not accurate to say that creative people are more ‘right-brained’. It’s not their over-active right-brain that’s making them more creative; it’s their whole brain.

This finding also does not contradict the idea that some of the brain’s functions are biased towards the left- or right-hand-side.  For example, language processing is biased more towards the left-hand-side of the brain (in right-handed people), while attention is biased towards the right…

Despite having no solid basis in science, the expressions ‘left-brained’ and ‘right-brained’ will probably survive because it’s an easy way to talk about two aspects of personality.  But be aware that the expression is flawed: it’s far better to talk about people’s creativity or their analytical skills separately, rather than in opposition—especially since many people have plenty of both.

 

photo credit: vaXzine via photopin cc

photo credit: vaXzine via photopin cc

 

Using Character Strengths in Sports and Performance

 

We have become fans of the 24 VIA Character Strengths, which match to the 6 Virtues of Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence, and Wisdom

The more we know about what our natural strengths are, the more we can play to these, and in this will come a large amount of our happiness and success.  But it is also valuable to know which of these qualities we less inclined to use and to practice these to grow and extend our range of capabilities and influence.

In this post Todd Dilbeck shares some ways that he uses these character strengths to help sports players and performers to become masters of their play:

…As a Sport and Performance Coach, I have found that working with clients from a position of strengths is a fundamental part of growth.  This has been an underlying tenet of sport psychology for a long time.  We take many of the innate cognitive and behavioral things people do and modify them with a “positive” twist.

Innate cognitive skills such as visualization, internal dialogue, and goal setting can be honed skills that lead to high levels of achievement.  For example, the mental ability to visualize becomes guided imagery, internal dialogue becomes positive self-talk, even goal setting is broken into manageable scaffolding segments that help athletes and performers maintain focus and motivation as they measure progress.  Dancers can be taught to use imagery to successfully incorporate new and difficult steps into their routines.  Students can shift from self-defeating statements after receiving a disappointing grade to positive reflection about effort and improvement, and anticipating making more progress on the next assignment.  Athletes can learn to overcome disappointing games by setting high performance goals of personal growth that encourage them to train hard for the next opportunity.

These skills enhance performance in all sorts of arenas from sport competition, to the arts, to academics.  And the focus on growth and challenge is also why I often incorporate Character Strengths into my work with clients…

In recent work with a collegiate soccer team, such character strengths training became an important factor in our work together…

At the start of our work, each player completed the VIA Survey and were then asked to spend a week reflecting on moments when they were aware of their strengths being utilized during games and practices (an application of the “What Went Well” exercise).

Once individual players were familiar with their own strengths, the team incorporated a process of sharing and recognizing one another’s strengths.  This began with players spending time sharing their personal reflections during team meetings. Players were also encouraged to share observations of their peers when they felt something was noteworthy.

This activity promoted a sense of confidence and cohesion among them that the use of strengths contributed to individual and team play, as well as built a common language about Character Strengths among them.

here is a link to read Todd Dilbeck’s article in full

and this link will take your to VIA Me website where you can complete their free online survey to discover your own top character strengths

photo credit: Jesus de Blas via photopin cc

photo credit: Jesus de Blas via photopin cc

Predicting Wellbeing

Jenny Chanfreau, Cheryl Lloyd, Christos Byron, Caireen Roberts, Rachel Craig, Danielle De Feo, Sally McManus

Prepared for the Department of Health

This is an important report and so we have highlighted some of its key findings and their implications:

Some of the Key Findings

Subjective wellbeing analysis is sensitive to the measures used. Validated measures of wellbeing have only recently been included in surveys, so the opportunity to carry out longitudinal analysis is just beginning. This report contributes to an emerging evidence base on what predicts wellbeing.

  • Levels of wellbeing vary across the life course, dipping in the mid teenage years, at midlife, and again among the oldest old. Older women emerge as a priority group due to their very low levels of wellbeing. Differences in life circumstances explain much of this life course variation in wellbeing.
  • Social relationships are key. This is evident in two ways. Firstly, people with higher wellbeing have more positive relationships: with less shouting and bullying, and more eating together and feeling supported. Secondly, people with higher wellbeing tend to have parents, partners, and children who also have higher wellbeing.
  • Different aspects of environment play a role. Higher wellbeing is linked with positive neighbourhood social capital, living in a more affluent area, and having a well-maintained home. With relevance for the fuel poverty agenda; cold homes were strongly linked with lower wellbeing.  An over-demanding job and a disruptive school environment both predicted lower wellbeing.
  • Wellbeing is part of the public health agenda. Good self-reported health is one of the strongest predictors of high wellbeing, and health behaviours matter to general health. Some health behaviours are also directly associated with wellbeing. For example, substance use and excessive gaming predict lower wellbeing among children. Adults with higher wellbeing eat more fruit and vegetables, and are less likely to smoke.
  • Untangling cause and effect. Many of these associations between predictive factors – like relationships, environment, and health – and subjective wellbeing will be better understood when more longitudinal data on this topic is available for analysis. 

Summary

Which groups in our society are flourishing?

Are there inequalities, and if so, what are they and when in the life course do they emerge?

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Wellbeing matters

For a long time social research and policy have been focused on counting negative outcomes and deficits, rather than measuring and developing positive assets. Not only is a high level of wellbeing a positive end in itself, it has also been found to predict living longer and living without disability.

Making change happen

This report focuses on factors that are amenable to policy intervention. We know that genes and very early childhood experiences are critical to wellbeing in later life. However, policy makers need to know what factors to prioritise now, to help people function well and feel good throughout their lives.

Young children: family and neighbourhood

…Primary school context and friendships emerge as important, but the data suggests that homelife and relationships with family are even more so. Seven-year-old children were happiest where they got on well with siblings, reported fun together with family at weekends, and had parents who did not shout or smack them.

…Enjoyment in being together and engaging in a variety of activities in moderation were positive indicators. But young children’s assessments of their own wellbeing were also clearly and strongly associated with the wider neighbourhood in which they lived. After controlling for other factors, children as young as seven were more likely to feel unhappy and worried if they live in a deprived area. These findings support the continuation of public health policy focused not only on the family, but also on the wider neighbourhood.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Young people: school and teenage years

As young people go through their secondary school years, child wellbeing progressively declined. This is a critical stage in the life course, when there are many physical, emotional and social adjustments to be made. Between age 11 and age 15, the proportion of young people with low levels of subjective wellbeing almost doubles. It would be easy to dismiss this as the inevitable consequence of hormones and physical change. However, when controlling for social and environmental factors, associations between wellbeing and age are no longer significant. This suggests that the very real dip in wellbeing in the teenage years, that is strongly evident in unadjusted analyses, is the result of social context and therefore responsive to changes in circumstance.

Substance use and excessive computer gaming become more common as children grow into young people, and both of these activities were also associated with lower levels of wellbeing. Disruptive behaviour at school continued to be linked to low subjective wellbeing. This was the case both for the young people who were being disruptive, and for those who witness the disruption. A secure environment at school – free from bullying and classroom disruption – remains important to this age group.

Home dynamics also continue to be critical to positive wellbeing. …What mattered were things such as feeling supported and sharing meals together as a family. In recent years there has been increasing focus on the early years, with the establishment of Sure Start and Children’s Centres across the country. There is also a clear rationale for support to address needs throughout childhood, including through the difficult teenage years as children increasingly start to feel low.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Ups and downs – across the life course

Data from young people pinpointed the middle teenage years as a risk point where wellbeing declines. Understanding Society data from adults supports the widely held view that wellbeing again reaches a low point in midlife; from around the mid-thirties to the mid-fifties. The Health Survey for England (HSE) also finds a third and final stage of age-related decline in wellbeing: a tailing off of wellbeing among the oldest old. This decline being a much more pronounced problem for women than for men.

While a U-curve in wellbeing is evident among working-age adults, a life course perspective reveals a journey with even more ups and downs. When considering what it is about midlife that might place wellbeing at this stage at risk, it is important to note that this dip remains even after controlling for the wide range of significant social, environmental and economic factors included in the final model presented here.

Jobs, homes, friends

The school years continue to be felt into adulthood, with higher wellbeing found to be associated with higher levels of educational qualification in data from adults taking part in Understanding Society. Public Health England (PHE) has identified it’s priority areas as jobs, homes and friendships because these are important social determinants of health. They are also predictors of subjective wellbeing. It is startling how – even after controlling for other factors – so many aspects of people’s lives were found to be linked with their level of wellbeing. This includes employment, deprivation (especially fuel poverty) and the condition of the home, and the relationships people have with those around them.

Not just having a job: having a good job

Being in a stressful job – where employees don’t feel able to cope with the demands made on them – is very strongly associated with low levels of wellbeing among both men and women. Other aspects of income and work had resonance for wellbeing among one sex, but not the other. For example, while employment status strongly predicts wellbeing in men, household income was a stronger predictor of wellbeing among women. Other characteristics also behaved differently for men and women.  For example, after controlling for other factors being Muslim was associated with higher wellbeing in men, but not in women.

The physical condition of where people live matters

Those who said that they could not afford to maintain their property in a decent state of repair had lower levels of wellbeing. This is likely to affect wellbeing through many mechanisms. A home in poor state of repair may indicate financial insecurity and contribute to residents’ feelings of stigma and shame. A reluctance to invite others into the home has been found to contribute to possible social isolation. The fact that being able to keep one’s home warm is so strongly predictive of wellbeing provides support for schemes aimed at reducing fuel poverty.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

At every age – social relationships are key

…relationships with family members inside and outside the home and with local friends and neighbours …have emerged as key predictors of wellbeing in adults. Just as spending time with parents and siblings was so important to child wellbeing, so is spending time with children – whether young children living at home or adult children living elsewhere – also associated with higher wellbeing among adults. Different aspects of social interaction with neighbours are also significant. There is evidence to support investment in neighbourhood renewal schemes that focus on building up both bonding social capital (the links between people who are similar to each other) and bridging social capital (linking those who are different).

The quality of people’s relationship with their partner, and the subjective wellbeing of that partner, also affected wellbeing for better and for worse. Likewise, children’s wellbeing was affected by their parent’s level of wellbeing. While adults in happy and harmonious relationships unsurprisingly had higher wellbeing, it is also apparent that those in an unhappy relationship report lower wellbeing than those not in a relationship at all. Availability and affordability of relationship counselling services such as Relate may, therefore, also have a role to play in improving national wellbeing.

Healthier tends to mean happier

We know that healthy behaviours matter to wellbeing later in the life course, and we can hypothesis that this is because its outcome – being healthier – is the key driver of feeling good and functioning well. The data on children from MCS and Understanding Society indicate that we should not expect healthy behaviours in and of themselves to have a significant and direct impact on wellbeing during childhood. Few health behaviours were found to be directly associated with subjective wellbeing among children and young people. The rationale for promoting healthy behaviours in childhood may need to focus on the benefits for general health in childhood – as well as both general health and subjective mental wellbeing in adulthood.

Perceptions of general health remains one of the strongest predictors of subjective wellbeing in adults. Several aspects of health behaviour were also found to be key for wellbeing among adults. For example, people with high wellbeing, after controlling for other factors, ate more fruit and vegetables and were less likely to smoke. The health-related factors that are relevant to wellbeing are not all the same for men and for women. While hypertension was identified as a specific health condition significantly associated in these analyses with lower wellbeing among men, digestive system problems were associated with lower wellbeing among women.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Two other important issues emerged in this review, and influence the structure of this report:

  • There are strong life-course influences on wellbeing: levels of wellbeing change according to life stage and the predictors of wellbeing also change as people age.
  • Men and women may experience wellbeing differently, both in terms of what predicts wellbeing and in terms of the nature of wellbeing.

 

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #62

For all of these stories plus many more see our latest collection of stories in this week’s new Happiness At Work #62