Happiness At Work #113 ~ a toolkit of practical techniques for getting and staying happier

This week’s featured Happiness At Work articles highlight a clutch of articles that offer us some down-to-earth tools and techniques for being and staying happier.

These include how to manage our emotional intelligence, our time and work-life balance when we are feeling especially stretched, how to be better at stopping and smelling the roses, and how to enhance your state of being in flow – those best moments when we feel at the frontier of our abilities, playing to our strengths and doing our finest work.  Plus some tips on how to jumpstart employee happiness in your organisation, and some reasons why we now need to be teaching the new science of happiness in our schools.

5 Ways to Reset Your Work-Life Balance When You’re Crazy Busy

No matter how much you love what you do, striking a balance between work and your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing is essential. Studies have repeatedly shown that happy workers are more productive workers, so keeping up stable relationships with friends and family, making time for fulfilling activities, and taking a break from work is key to maintaining a quality of life that serves you and your employer best.

To maintain your happiness and keep your wellbeing in check, Melody Wildings hares her strategies to stay balanced and stress-free, courtesy of The Muse.

 

1. Communicate with your boss

Even if you choose to embrace the extra work and additional responsibilities as a challenge and way to grow your skill set, it’s important to communicate with your boss about expectations such as deadlines and the duration of the project. Be sure you’re both aware of when the craziness will start to wind down, whether the project is on schedule, and any potential roadblocks that could arise.

Not only will having this information help you feel in control of your workload, it will actually help you control the process. With full knowledge of your boss’ expectations, you can step in when things aren’t moving along to suggest a change in direction, and you’ll be able to weather surprises (like the project getting extended for an extra week) with grace and ease.

2. Create a morning and a bedtime routine

Research shows that following a morning routine can help get your day off to a productive start—and that good feeling can boost your mood throughout the rest of the day.

Create a routine around a daily morning practice, such as meditating or waking up a half-hour early to get work done before ever checking your email. By sticking to this morning after morning, you’ll automatically begin your workday on a positive note, with a sense of accomplishment.

Then, at the end of the day, make a point to go to bed at the same time each evening (more or less), and designate some time beforehand to wind down by reading, jotting down tomorrow’s to-dos, or another calming routine that isn’t in front of a screen. Engaging in a nighttime ritual signals to your body it’s time for bed, and clearing your mind before bed also helps calm your nerves, which improves sleep.

3. Move your body (even a little)

Exercise is often one of the first things to go when work gets crazy, but its stress-reducing benefits make it even more important to incorporate during demanding times in your life.

If there’s no way you can squeeze in your normal gym routine, think of smaller ways you can get the blood flowing, like changing up your commute to walk or bike to work, YouTube-ing a short yoga or abs routine that you can do at home, or even just spending 10 minutes stretching when you wake up. Physical activity is proven to reduce stress and can help calm you down when you’re amped up—which will help keep you sane during marathon workdays.

4. Set Aside Quiet Time

When it feels like you’ve signed your life over to your company or clients, carving out some time for yourself is essential to stay grounded. Whether you squeeze in time to call a friend or just sit and decompress sans electronic devices, designating uninterrupted time (however short!) to clear your head can work wonders for your mood and will help you to think more clearly when things are moving fast.

Try getting in early to take advantage of the empty office, or, if most days you’re starved for a peaceful moment, pop on some headphones and jam out to your favourite Spotify station on the way to work. Or, taking lunch away from your desk—especially if you can find a quiet park or courtyard—is a great way to de-stress.

5. Make Room for Creativity

Making time for creative expression—whatever that looks like for you—will help stay centered when it feels like work is taking over your life. Creativity is cathartic: It allows you to channel stress, anger, resentment, or whatever other negative emotions you may be holding onto in a productive, healthy way.

So, be sure you’re still making time to sing your favorite jam in the shower, write posts for your blog, or send your mom a thoughtful card in the mail, no matter how busy things are in the office. Yes, there is always one more thing on your to-do list and you can always find more reasons to work, but if you don’t pause to take a timeout, you’ll stop being productive.

Finally, when it seems like all you do is work, do your best to maintain perspective. It can be helpful to remind yourself that the stress will not last forever, and in the meantime, you have plenty of resources to cope with the stress and take back control of your life.

Making time for yourself amid the dozens of other demands on you is what will help reset your balance—and what will make you a better employee and happier person in the long run.

 

Read the original article here

 

 How To Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

by Preston Ni

Here are six keys to increasing your emotional intelligence:

1.  The Ability to Reduce Negative Emotions

Perhaps no aspect of EQ is more important than our ability to effectively manage our own negative emotions, so they don’t overwhelm us and affect our judgment. In order to change the way we feel about a situation, we must first change the way we think about it. Here are just two examples:

A. Reducing Negative Personalisation. When you feel adversely about someone’s behaviour, avoid jumping to a negative conclusion right away. Instead, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. For example, I may be tempted to think my friend didn’t return my call because she’s ignoring me, or I can consider the possibility that she’s been very busy. When we avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.

B. Reducing the Fear of Rejection. One effective way to manage your fear of rejection is to provide yourself with multiple options in important situations, so that no matter what happens, you have strong alternatives going forward. Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket (emotionally) by identifying a viable Plan B, and also a Plan C, should Plan A not work out. For example:

Increased fear of rejection: “I’m applying for my dream job. I’ll be devastated if they don’t hire me.”

Decreased fear of rejection: “I’m applying for three exciting positions. If one doesn’t pan out, there are two more I’m well qualified for.”

For more in-depth information on reducing or eliminating over fifteen types of negative attitudes and feelings, see my book (click on title): “How to Let Go of Negative Thoughts and Emotions.”

2.  The Ability to Stay Cool and Manage Stress

Most of us experience some level of stress in life. How we handle stressful situations can make the difference between being assertive versus reactive, and poised versus frazzled. When under pressure, the most important thing to keep in mind is to keep our cool. Here are two quick tips:

A. If you feel nervous and anxious, put cold water on your face and get some fresh air. Cool temperature can help reduce our anxiety level (1)(2). Avoid caffeinated beverages which can stimulate your nervousness (3)(4).

B. If you feel fearful, depressed, or discouraged, try intense aerobic exercises. Energize yourself. The way we use our body affects greatly the way we feel (5)(6). As the saying goes – motion dictates emotion. As you experience the vitality of your body, your confidence will also grow.

3.  The Ability to Be Assertive and Express Difficult Emotions When Necessary

“Being who we are requires that we can talk openly about things that are important to us, that we take a clear position on where we stand on important emotional issues, and that we clarify the limits of what is acceptable and tolerable to us in a relationship.”

― Harriet Lerner

There are times in all of our lives when it’s important to set our boundaries appropriately, so people know where we stand. These can include exercising our right to disagree (without being disagreeable), saying “no” without feeling guilty, setting our own priorities, getting what we paid for, and protecting ourselves from duress and harm.

One method to consider when needing to express difficult emotions is the XYZ technique – I feel X when you do Y in situation Z. Here are some examples:

“I feel strongly that I should receive recognition from the company based on my contributions.”

“I feel uncomfortable that you expect me to help you over my own priorities.”

“I feel disappointed when you didn’t follow through when you told me you would.”

Avoid using sentences that begin with “you” and followed by accusation or judgment, such as “you are…,” “you should…,” or “you need to….” “You” language followed by such directives put the listener on the defensive, and make them less likely to be open to what you have to say.

4.  The Ability to Stay Proactive, Not Reactive in the Face of a Difficult Person

Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be “stuck” with a difficult individual at work or at home. It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. What are some of the keys to staying proactive in such situations? Here are three quick tips:

A. When you feel angry and upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of complicate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

B. Another way to reduce reactivity is to try to put yourself in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the person you’re dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….”

“My child is being so resistant. It must not be easy to deal with his school and social pressures…”

“My boss is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on her performance by management…”

To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that people do what they do because of their own issues. As long as we’re being reasonable and considerate, difficult behaviors from others say a lot more about them than they do about us. By de-personalizing, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.

C. Set Consequence.The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills you can use to “stand down” a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the difficult individual, and compels her or him to shift from violation to respect. In my book (click on title) “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle People,” consequence is presented as seven different types of power you can utilize to affect positive change.

5.  The Ability to Bounce Back from Adversity

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

— Michael Jordan

Life is not always easy. We all know that. How we choose the way we think, feel, and act in relation to life’s challenges can often make the difference between hope versus despair, optimism versus frustration, and victory versus defeat. With every challenging situation we encounter, ask questions such as “What is the lesson here?” “How can I learn from this experience?” “What is most important now?” and “If I think outside the box, what are some better answers?” The higher the quality of questions we ask, the better the quality of answers we will receive. Ask constructive questions based on learning and priorities, and we can gain the proper perspective to help us tackle the situation at hand.

“Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States.” 

— Wall Street Journal

6.  The Ability to Express Intimate Emotions in Close, Personal Relationships

The ability to effectively express and validate tender, loving emotions is essential to maintaining close personal relationships. In this case, “effective” means sharing intimate feelings with someone in an appropriate relationship, in a manner that’s nourishing and constructive, and being able to respond affirmatively when the other person does the same.

A person’s “heart withers if it does not answer another heart.”

— Pearl Buck

Psychologist Dr. John Gottman calls the expression of intimate emotions “bidding.” Bidding can be any method of positive connection between two people desiring a close relationship. For example:

Verbal bidding: “How are you doing?” “How are you feeling?” “I love you.” “I appreciate you.” “I like it when we talk like this.” “I’m glad we’re spending this time together.” “you’re such a good friend.” “I’m sorry.”

Body language bidding: positive eye contact, hugging, smiling, patting the elbow, arm around the shoulder.

Behavioral bidding: offering food or beverage, a personalized card, a thoughtful gift, a needed favor. Empathetic listing. Engaging in shared activities that create a closer bond.

Dr. Gottman’s research reveals that close, healthy relationships bid with each other in ways large and small up to hundreds of times a day. The words and gestures can be a million variations, all of which say, in essence, “I care about you,” “I want to be connected with you,” and “you’re important in my life.” Constant and consistent bidding is crucial in the maintenance and development of close, personal relationships. It’s the vitamin of love.

Link to read the original article

 

Riding Your Flow: 8 Steps for Enhancing Your Creativity and Productivity

by Dr Kelly Neff

Why is that we tend to be more successful at pursuits we are genuinely passionate about? Why does time seem to drag when you are completely bored and uninterested in a task? How come you can easily lose yourself in a task that really piques your interest?

According to positive psychology, doing things that you find genuinely interesting and stimulating can put you into a state Flow, which is defined as an ‘optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.’ During flow, self-awareness and the ego can dissolve, meaning you become completely focused and immersed in the activity for its own sake. Flow has been linked to enhanced performance and creativity across a wide range of activities, such as sports, artistic pursuits, and even in the workplace. Perhaps you can visualize a time when you became so focused and passionate about something that time just dissipated?

WHAT DOES FLOW FEEL LIKE?

Psychologically, riding a state of flow can feel incredibly pleasing and liberating. As we immerse ourselves in an activity that stimulates our passions, curiosity and interests, we lose track of the world around us and can enter unusual states of creativity and productivity.

According to psychologist Mikhal Csíkszentmihályi’s landmark book Finding Flow, the feeling of flow is associated with these ten factors, although not all of them need to be present to experience it. Have you ever experienced some or all of these?

  1. You feel a complete focus of attention
  2. The activity is intrinsically rewarding
  3. You have clear, attainable (although still challenging) goals
  4. You have a feeling of peace and losing yourself
  5. There is an element of timelessness, or, losing track of time during the activity
  6. You receive immediate feedback
  7. You know that the task is doable, and you can strike a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
  8. You feel a sense of personal control over your efforts
  9. You lose track of your physical needs.
  10. You experience an unusually high level of concentration

WHAT DOES FLOW LOOK LIKE IN THE BRAIN?

A variety of processes occur simultaneously in the brain when we enter a state of flow. Essentially, these processes are threefold and together they help explain why during flow, the brain is capable of enhanced creativity and productivity: Transitions in brainwaves, deactivation of the prefrontal cortex, and changes in neuro-chemistry.

  • Brain Wave Transitions:

While in a state of flow, our brainwaves transition from the more rapid beta waves of waking consciousness to slower alpha waves, and even to the border of much slower theta waves. Alpha waves are associated with relaxed and effortless alertness, peak performance and creativity, while theta waves are associated with the deeper dream-state consciousness and experienced predominately during REM sleep.

  • Pre-Frontal Cortex Deactivation:

During flow states, the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) becomes deactivated in a process called “transienthypo-frontality.” The PFC is the area of the brain that houses higher-level cognitions, including those that help us to cultivate our ego and sense of self. During a flow state this area becomes deactivated, helping us lose ourselves in the task at hand and silence our criticisms, fears and self-doubts.

  • Neuro-chemistry:

Flow states also trigger a release of many of the pleasurable and performance- inducing chemicals in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and endorphins. A recent study shows that when are intrinsically curious about an outcome and driven for answers, dopamine is released in the brain, helping to solidify our memories. These findings suggest why flow states are good for promoting learning and memory in addition to creativity.

EIGHT STEPS FOR ENHANCING YOUR STATE OF FLOW

In addition to being a pleasurable and productive experience, riding the flow also has a host of other benefits to well-being including increased self- esteem, self-confidence, life satisfaction and overall happiness. Here are eight steps for enhancing your state of flow:

  1. Do something that interests you.

Flow comes most naturally when we are intrinsically motivated, excited and curios about the task. So if you are looking to get creative and productive, choose to focus on a task that you enjoy and already feel passionate about. If this is for work, or you don’t have a choice of the task, try to identify elements of the tasks that excite you. Maybe there are certain parts of project or elements of an assignment that interest you? Pay special attention to those.

  1. Set Clear Goals.

Be specific when you are getting started on a task. What is the goal you are aiming for? Are you trying to finish a painting? Write a new song? Complete a presentation? Or perfect a new yoga pose? This will help to hone your focus and keep you on task. If you try to do too much it could overwhelm you, and if you do too little you might not spend enough time in deep concentration to reach a flow state.

  1. Find A Quiet and Productive Time.

Most people find that an environment of peace and quiet works best for inducing a state of flow, possibly because of how brainwave patterns shift into slower frequencies during flow. When you begin your work, try to cultivate a calm, quiet environment. Also, make sure to identify when you are most productive: For some, this is first thing in the morning, and for others it is afternoon. For me, it is late at night. Identify the right time for you to be creative and block it off to engage in your flow time.

  1. Avoid Interruptions and Distractions

Interruptions are the nemesis of flow. Every time get distracted, whether it is a roommate speaking to us, our phone beeping, emails coming in, a distracting song, or a messy desk, it can pull us out of flow and quicken our brainwaves to beta state. When you decide it is time to get into flow, turn off the phone, ask your friends, family or roommates not to disturb you, and tidy up your work space before you get started.

  1. Focus as Long as you Can:

Once you are able to sit down during a quiet productive time without distractions, try to stay focused for as long as you can. At first, especially if you are new to the task, you may only be able to focus for five or ten minutes. This is OK: Just keep practicing! As you continue to direct your energies to focusing, you will train your brain to more easily and fluidly drop into the flow state and before long, hours will be passing by like minutes.

  1. Match Your Skills to the Task

We can best enter flow when we are working on a task that is suited to our skill level. In other words, when we are well prepared for the task at hand, we are more likely to experience flow. Csíkszentmihályi gives the example of a runner experiencing flow during a marathon for which she has trained for several months.

  1. But There is No Harm in Stretching Your Skills Slightly

Your skills should match the task at hand, but it is also possible to stretch your skills slightly past your comfort zone to maximize flow. A little bit of a challenge can be a great thing. So perhaps you are trying a new yoga move that is extra difficult. Or you are recording a song using new software. As long as the background skills are there, pushing yourself a little bit can be excellent for bringing you into a concentrated, productive state.

  1. Emphasize Process, Not Outcome

Finally, please remember that the experience of flow is a PROCESS, not an outcome. In other words, working and creating from a place of flow is a life skill that you can strive to master with practice, and this usually does not happen overnight. Just keep trying and do not give up even if you don’t nail it right away. Remember, flow is all abut enjoyment and living in the present moment. If you become to wrapped up in the outcome, then it can take your enjoyment away. Who really cares what the painting looks like, so long as you enjoyed painting it right!? Just keep trying and continue to be open to the creativity flowing through your space

Link to read the original article

Meditation Techniques for People Who Hate Meditation

by Stephanie Vozza

Brooks, director of the Austin Psychology and Assessment Center, says our thoughts are like a river. When we’re thinking about what we need from the store, the river is calm, but when we’re having negative thoughts–worrying about a presentation, for example–the current becomes more turbulent.

Mindful people–those who live in the present–can step back and stay on the riverbank, watching their current of thoughts and not getting swept away by their content.

Meditation fosters mindfulness, but the practice seems difficult in today’s world of constant stimulation: “People think the goal of meditation is to empty the mind,” says Brooks. “It’s not about clearing the mind; it’s about focusing on one thing. When the mind wanders, the meditation isn’t a failure. Our brain is like a wayward puppy, out of control. Catching it and putting it back to the object of focus is the mediation.”

Brooks says meditating is like exercise; a full workout is preferred, but there is value in short bursts.

“Research shows that a total of 15 minutes of meditating each day for several weeks produces detectable, positive changes in the brain as well as corresponding reductions in stress, anxiety, and an enhanced sense of well-being,” says Brooks. “You can get the benefits of a formal meditation practice by weaving mini-meditations into your daily life.”

He offers six ways you can effortlessly incorporate meditation into your daily life:

1. WALKING MEDITATION

While walking your dog, taking a hike, or simply getting the mail, focus your attention on one item, such as the sound of the cicadas, the feel of the ground beneath your feet, or the color of the tree. When the mind wanders, catch it and return to your original focus.

“Research has found that just being in nature reduces stress,” says Brooks. “We weren’t meant to sit in cubicles all day and when we disconnect from nature, we suffer a lot of stress.”

2. RED LIGHT MEDITATION

While stopped at a red light, turn off your radio and focus on deep breaths. When your mind wanders, go back to your breath.

“Breathing meditation is one of the easiest because it’s always with us and exists in the present moment,” says Brooks. “You can’t listen to yesterday’s breath.”

3. RUNNING/CYCLING MEDITATION

If you run or bike, leave your headphones at home and focus on the experience.

“Tune into a physical sensation, such as the ground beneath your feet, the wind in your hair, or the warmth of the sunlight,” says Brooks. “Choose one item and maintain your focus. Don’t jump mindlessly from one sensation to another.”

4. EATING/DRINKING MEDITATION

As you eat or drink, focus on the various flavours, textures, and sensations of the particular food or drink. Drinking a cup of tea or enjoying a piece of chocolate can be a form of meditation, says Brooks.

“Savor what you have in the moment,” he says.

5. WAITING MEDITATION

While in line, observe your breath or surroundings. Use the time to do some inner observations. For example, are your muscles tense? Are you cold or hot?

“It is important that when you do the observations, you do them without judgment,” says Brooks. “If you’re in the supermarket checkout line, for example, avoid judging people for what they have in their shopping carts. Observe and notice without opinion.”

6. TASK-RELATED MEDITATION

You can also incorporate mindfulness meditation into daily activities, says Brooks. For example, washing your hands, folding laundry, taking a shower, washing dishes, or brushing your teeth can serve as mini-meditations if you focus on the experience and stop your mind from wandering.

“Focusing on what’s happening now pulls us out of our river of thoughts,” says Brooks. “The benefit of meditation is that when something in the real world comes up, we’re much better at catching our thoughts instead of getting swept into their current.”

Link to read the full original Fast Company article

Five steps to jumpstarting worker happiness at your company

by Amy Westervelt

The workplace happiness trend is sweeping through corporate America, but overhauling a company culture is no easy task. Businesses big and small share their most effective strategies

Companies of every size and in every industry have whole-heartedly embraced the idea that happy employees are more productive, and that engaging employees in a company’s mission is one of the best ways to ensure success. But let’s face it: not everyone is Etsy, with an entire team devoted to such endeavors, or Bank of America, with a budget for extensive sociometric studies of its workplace, and even fewer could justify the sort of investment Google makes in attracting and retaining top talent.

Fortunately, it’s not an all-or-nothing endeavor. According to Alison Davis Blake, dean of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, there are myriad ways for companies to pick and choose the positive business strategies that best suit their size, industry and particular needs. Here are five strategies some of the world’s most successful businesses have deployed to help them not only hire employees that are a good fit, but also keep them engaged over the long term.

Step one: consider your culture

If the idea of re-engineering your company’s culture sounds overwhelming, consider the case of Mercedes-Benz, which had to figure out how to accomplish the task across a geographically distributed franchise dealer network with more than 25,000 employees.

“How do you build a strong culture, especially with an organization like ours, which has 3,000-plus employees and then a dealer network wherein each organization has its own initiatives and agendas?” said Gareth Joyce, the automaker’s vice president of customer experience. Tasked with improving customers’ experiences across the brand, Joyce knew he needed to start with the employees that interacted with those customers daily.

“You have to create a vision for people to follow, and once you succeed in doing that, you have to tell the story, again and again,” he said. “Eventually the story begins to feed itself. People start to feel good about what they’re doing. If you know what your purpose is and you start to see the connection between what you’re doing every day and the company’s vision, you see that you’re making a difference. Then tomorrow you want to get up and do more of that.”

The first step in that process for Mercedes was giving each employee access to the company’s product. “We got them into a Mercedes to take home, to show their families, their wives, their kids, their boyfriends and girlfriends, so that they could say: ‘This is the brand I represent. This is what I take pride in,’” Joyce said. “If they haven’t experienced it themselves, how are they going to sell it to anyone else with any passion?”

Next, the company created a culture survey that it regularly administers to both corporate and dealer employees. Mercedes provides one day of consulting to each of its dealers to go over the results of the survey and turn the information into action, which then gets evaluated in the next survey.

Instead of using software or IT tools, “we’ve opted for a people-centered approach because we think that goes straight to the root: if you get your people behind what you’re doing, it takes you further, faster than any other approach,” Joyce said.

Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of online food seller Zingerman’s, puts it simply: “If you want customer service to be better, give better service to the staff.”

Step two: rethink hiring

Once your company has set its culture and vision, the next step is thinking really carefully about who you hire, Blake said. She recommends evaluating candidates not just for skills, but also for temperament and fit.

“The problem is that hiring tends to be based on attraction bias – I like people who are like me – which has nothing to do with features that are relevant to the sort of firm you want to build,” she said.

This approach to hiring, sometimes called “attribute-based,” is growing more popular for companies of all sizes. In some cases, companies are ignoring resumes, references, and even the traits traditionally associated with success in a particular role, and opting instead to look at the attributes that make employees successful (and likely to stick around) in their particular culture.

It requires a bit more planning and potentially a lengthier interview process, but figuring out which attributes work well in a specific company and role – and documenting those traits – is helping businesses to get better talent and keep it. ATB Investor Services, a mid-size financial advisor firm in Alberta, Canada, for example, saw its turnover rate drop and sales increase when it adopted this approach.

“It doesn’t cost any money to be more disciplined in hiring – in fact it costs less in the long-term because you make fewer errors,” Blake said. “Companies should think carefully about not only a candidate’s skills, but also their attitude about work, attitude about the role of business in general, about the company’s products and so forth, and be intentional about writing that stuff down.”

This is especially important for small businesses, which often have loose hiring practices, she said. “Smaller firms will often say ‘we don’t need HR; we don’t need all that bureaucracy,’” she said. “But mission-aligned, culture-aligned hiring is important for companies of any size.”

Step three: increase performance reviews

The idea of conducting more performance reviews doesn’t sound like something that would catch on, but more and more companies are doing just that. The idea is simple: only giving employees and managers one chance a year to sit down and talk about what does and doesn’t work all but ensures that things will slip through the cracks. It doesn’t give managers time to improve an employee’s performance, nor does it give employees time to raise important issues. The result is typically higher-than-necessary turnover rates.

Instead, some companies are opting to conduct quick weekly surveys that not only help the companies deal with issues but also help employees pass good ideas up the management chain regularly. Luke Ryan, a spokesperson for 15Five, which provides performance review software used by eyewear brand Warby Parker, software company Citrix Systems and invention website Quirky, says the idea is to “create ‘trickle-up’ communication, to surface ideas and problems on a weekly basis”.

Other companies have created their own performance review processes, incorporating input from employees and external HR experts. Australian software company Atlassian conducted a year-long program aimed at replacing its performance-review process – a standard bi-annual, 360-degree review – with something that took less time and did a better job of engaging employees.

In a blog post about the project, Joris Luijke, the company’s vice president of talent and culture, wrote: “Twice a year, the model did exactly the opposite to what we wanted to accomplish. Instead of an inspiring discussion about how to enhance people’s performance, the reviews caused disruptions, anxiety and de-motivated team members and managers. Also, even though our model was extremely lean and simple, the time investment was significant.”

In the end, the company created its own new process, which has since been duplicated by hundreds of other companies. It got rid of the scale associated with performance reviews, and replaced bi-annual review meetings with monthly check-ins. Atlassian managers were already meeting weekly with their employees, so the company decided to devote one of these weekly meetings per month to a broader conversation about performance, with a different focus area each month.

Eventually the company discovered and began using software from Small Improvements to manage this process, joining several other companies, including social media company Pinterest, ride-sharing company Lyft and home décor business One King’s Lane.

Step four: be transparent

Transparency is often discussed in terms of how a company communicates with the public, but even companies that have transparency down pat in their external communication can falter with internal transparency.

There are, of course, companies that manage to be transparent in the extreme: Zingerman’s Deli, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for example, opens its books to every single employee. Digital payment infrastructure company Stripe, based in San Francisco, has a famously open email policy wherein all email is internally public and searchable. And social media app Buffer has made its internal salary formula public, along with all employee compensation packages, as part of its commitment to the “radical transparency” CEO Joel Gascoigne says is intended to “breed trust, the foundation of great teamwork”.

But even companies that are either unwilling or unable to be completely open could benefit from a bit more transparency with their employees.

“A lot of public companies in particular are worried about legal and financial issues with opening up their books, but they could still be transparent about their operations and some aspects of the finances and reap the benefits,” says Wayne Baker, who teaches open-book finance at the Ross business school.

Baker cites Whole Foods Markets and Southwest Airlines as large, public companies that use a modified form of open-book finance to help keep their employees engaged.

Step five: empower employees

In addition to educating employees about the company’s mission, it’s important for executives to find ways to empower their employees to contribute to that mission in every way they can.

Mercedes’ Joyce sees this as critical to the success of his company’s customer service goal of delighting customers. Mercedes’ internal brand program, MB Select, provides a framework that gives employees who have direct customer contact the flexibility to do what they deem necessary to keep those customers happy.

“In that moment, where the customer is right in front of someone, and they see that something is going in a direction it shouldn’t be, you have to empower people to act,” Joyce said, describing MB Select as a “no-rules program”. “It’s about saying to our employees, ‘we trust you to do the right thing’ and enabling them to truly wow a customer in the moment.”

For Zingerman’s Weinzweig, it’s not just about making employees feel empowered but also about doing what’s best for the business.

“Why wouldn’t you want to tap into all the intellectual and physical capabilities of your staff?” he said. “People are smart and they want to do good work. Our job is to create an ecosystem in which that’s ever more likely and to create processes that encourage them to use that intelligence, and a system in which they have agency so they’re not helpless victims of some big corporate entity.”

 Link to read the original Guardian article

It’s time to teach our kids happiness, says psychologist

A Trinity College researcher says students need to develop resilience, by focusing on their strengths.

Jolanta Burke believes not enough attention is paid to what makes children happy in the Irish curriculum, and yet it has a huge bearing on how well they perform in school.

Ms Burke, a psychologist and PhD researcher at Trinity College’s School of Education, believes we should embed positive psychology in the Irish curriculum. She has been advising guidance counsellors on how to use it in schools and says teachers should also receive training.

Positive psychology is defined by Jolanta Burke as the “science of well-being”.

“Until now, psychologists in schools have tended to focus on students with problems. They focus on the students’ weaknesses and how they fall apart.

“Positive psychology looks at the school differently. We look at the top students and learn from them as much as possible, so that we can help the majority of students become better. Rather than focusing on the weaknesses of students, we focus on their strengths.”

The psychologist is keen to emphasise that this is not a “happy clappy” approach, where children are told how wonderful they are.

“It is not about building up self-esteem. That was a mistake among the 1970s generation of parents. They tried to blow up their child’s sef-esteem by telling them how fabulous they were and that they could do anything. That is actually not good for a child because it reduces their resilience.”

The positive psychology programmes in schools place a strong emphasis on developing character strengths and encouraging resilience.

Jolanta Burke believes resilience can be encouraged in three ways:

• children can be taught to bounce back after disappointments – for example, if they fail exams

• they can be taught to build up a shield that protects them from hurt in certain situations

• kids can learn how to keep going and the importance of perseverence when facing up to the challenges in life

The psychologist says perseverance and an attitude of not wanting to give up are hugely important when it comes to performance in schools.

“You might have a talent for music, but unless you are prepared to put the effort in, it can be wasted.”

While Jolanta Burke does not believe in inflating self-esteem, she wants to encourage more positive emotions and a more optimistic outlook.

“An optimistic way of thinking is very important. I am doing research on bullying at the moment, and it is associated with a pessimistic thinking style.

“Adolescents who think optimistically believe adversity is temporary, and that it affects only one aspect of their lives, and they do not tend to blame themselves for the situation.

“Those who are pessimistic believe adversity is permanent and affects all aspects of their lives and that they themselves are to blame. We try to get students to think more optimistically, and this can reduce depression and anxiety.”

Read the original article in full here

Happiness At Work edition #113

All of these articles and many more can be found in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection

Happiness At Work #111 ~ how to be happier at work

This week I have put happiness at work right in centre stage, and concentrate on what we can each do for ourselves to be happier at work, no matter what our current circumstances.  And thus, this means also looking at some of the skills we need to expand and strengthen our self-mastery.

It is interesting and exciting to us that the science of happiness at work really does seem to growing, both as a field of legitimate study and as a beacon of interest for professionals wanting to increase their own success and the success of their teams and organisations.

We know from our work making learning programmes with a variety of different professionals and organisations, that ‘happiness’ can seem, at best, like a luxurious extra, only to be contemplated when the harder agenda of results, efficiencies, increased performance and productive relationships have been achieved, and, at worst, like an irrelevant piece of frippery that has no place whatsoever in the serious business of business.

But we know, too, from the growing research findings, case studies, intelligence garnered from psychology, neurology, biology and economics, as well as our own experience with what works best, that happiness at work is a baseline essential for all of the other outcomes we aim to accomplish:  high quality results, customer service and staff relationships, peak performance and productivity, high motivation and engagement, successful learning, creativity and resilience and high levels of employee loyalty, commitment and retention.

And we now know conclusively, too, that ‘happiness’ is the engine that drives and sustains all of these outcomes, not the other way around.

These 2 Keys To Happiness At Work May Surprise You

by Alexander Kjerulf

(This article is adapted from Happy Hour is 9 to 5: How to Love Your Job, Love Your Life and Kick Butt at Work.)

…if raises, bonuses, perks and promotions aren’t the key to a happy work life, what is?

This has been the subject of extensive research over the last few decades, and it seems it comes down to two things: results and relationships.

One Key to Work Happiness: Results

Results is about making a difference at work, knowing that your job is important, getting appreciation and doing work that you can be proud of.
Results comes from having all the resources, skills, training and time to do a really good job. But it also comes from your own attitude. Do you actually care about the quality of your work or are you just putting in the hours?

Three great ways to get that feeling of results:

Offer and receive praise and recognition Great workplaces have a culture of recognition, where people who do good work are acknowledged and praised.

Celebrate success In many companies, a project that goes well is never mentioned again and a lot of time is spent finding and fixing mistakes. I say: We should turn that around and be sure to celebrate the results we achieve.

Help others One hallmark of a toxic workplace is that everyone is in it for themselves. In great workplaces, people freely help each other whenever they can, boosting everyone’s performance.

Another Key to Work Happiness: Relationships

Relationships are about liking the people you work with, having a good manager and feeling like you belong.

In short, we are happy at work when we do great work together with great people. Three great ways to create good workplace relationships:

Say “good morning” It seems banal (and honestly it is), but actually saying a friendly cheerful “good morning” to your co-workers helps create better relationships.

Take breaks together More and more people feel so busy at work that they skip coffee breaks and eat lunch alone at their desk. That’s a shame.

Make sure to take breaks with your co-workers and use them as a chance to connect.

Offer random acts of workplace kindness Do little things to surprise and delight co-workers, like bringing someone a cup of coffee out of the blue.

Link to read the original article in full

How To Keep Workers Happy – It’s Not What You Think

by William Craig

happiness at work - it's not what you may think

happiness at work – it’s not what you may think

Happiness in the workplace is something of a double-edged sword. Yes, having happy employees is critical to the success of any company, but there are plenty of ways that bending over backwards to put a smile on your workers’ faces can backfire. As with everything else, balance is key.

Myth #1: Employees should be kept happy 24/7

Let’s start simple. As a boss, you’re neither able nor expected to be in charge of your employees’ happiness every second of every workday.

The thing about employee culture is that participation should never be compulsory. Yes, you should encourage employees to get together outside of regular business hours, but don’t force it. That kind of “extracurricular” contact could go a long way toward helping your team work more effectively together while they’re on the clock; encourage it, but don’t try to mandate it.

What any boss needs to understand is that the people he or she oversees have lives of their own, with individual hopes, desires, worries, sources of stress and, yes, plans for what they want to do after work. We are not our job descriptions, after all.

Employees have plenty of their own reasons for being less than enthusiastic on any given day. If their discontent has something to do with working conditions, then you have your work cut out for you. But if it’s something to do with their personal lives? Well, then, that’s really not your concern unless it starts to interfere with their work.

Onno Hamburer, the author of the Happiness at Work e-book, understands that negative feelings are a part of daily life: “…Even when things are going well, we sometimes need negative feelings, as they serve as a warning when there is a chance that things may go wrong. Negative emotions also help bring about change.”

Trying to create happiness is putting the cart before the horse. If you focus first and most intently on creating a welcoming environment with a high hiring bar, your happiness “problem” will probably take care of itself.

Myth #2: The ‘good guy boss’ is the best kind of boss

Being a boss obviously brings with it a host of challenges, and chief among them is the whole identity crisis thing.

What I mean is that there are a number of management styles available to you, and while you’ll probably find that some combination of them will get you the best results, there are still stereotypes that you’ll want to avoid.

One of these is the “good guy boss.” This is the boss who wants to be everybody’s best friend – who feels honour-bound to wear a smile, say yes all the time, and generally sacrifices objectivity for artifice.

I understand the appeal; everybody wants to be liked. And, yes, to a certain extent, being a likeable boss is pretty essential to morale. Just keep in mind that being likedand being effective are not always the same thing.

So what does the good guy boss look like? He’s the one who’s always smiling, even though it looks a little bit more pained than it used to. He’s the one who never says noto his employees, even when it will hurt the company.

Here’s the thing – being a good guy boss every second of the day could actually hurt you. Here’s how:

  • Your employees won’t bring serious issues to your attention. You probably have people in your life who can’t handle criticism; we all run into them from time to time. If you’re the kind of boss who’s unrealistically positive every day, you’re going to give the impression that you don’t want to hear bad news or receive constructive criticism, however badly they may be needed.
  • You’ll be putting unnecessary pressure on your employees. Employee expectations are essential, but you don’t usually see “relentlessly sunny disposition” on the list of prerequisites. Being a good guy boss puts quite a lot of pressure on your employees to match the intensity of your smile and optimism, when the truth is that contentment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
  • Your customers may not respect you. Customers are always going to be interested in how their business partners treat their employees. This is particularly true in the retail scene, but it holds up in just about every industry. They want to know that you have the respect and trust of your employees, but if you try too hard to be the good guy boss, your customers will think you’re a pushover.

I’m not saying it’s impossible or inappropriate to be a positive, well-liked, and optimistic boss; the only danger comes from replacing things like objectivity and honesty with artifice. Your focus needs to be on creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, rather than on being liked no matter what.

Myth #3: Happiness is not the same thing as engagement
Despite what Gallup might tell you, happiness is not the same thing as engagement, no matter how often we use them interchangeably.

I’m going to make a slightly ridiculous comparison, so bear with me. If you’ve ever owned a cat, you probably know that they go crazy for string. You can drag it around and they’ll run and jump to catch up with it. After a while, though, they’ll tire of the stimulation, lie down, and only halfheartedly reach for the string while they repose lazily on the carpet. The pursuit of the reward is no longer worth their time.

In this example, the cat is your workforce and the string is, well, whatever you want it to be. Taco Tuesdays? Free shots of Yukon Jack at 3PM every day? You might be temporarily improving their happiness with relentless boondoggles, but too much of a good thing and they’ll stop putting in the effort to catch the proverbial string. Simply put, they’ll be happy and probably complacent, but they won’t be engaged. And they certainly won’t do their best work.

For the record: the occasional Taco Tuesday is wonderful for morale. Just don’t overdo it.

If I can put my WebpageFX hat back on for a moment, I’ll point out that we’ve seen really wonderful results from providing unique experiences for our employees – usually once a month or so (September’s was a sushi-making class). They’re not a direct reward for good performance – not exactly. The difference is that employees understand that we’re looking out for their happiness, and they very naturally look for ways to feel that they’ve earned it.

Link to read the original article

Zappos is one of the poster organisations for happiness at work.  Amazon reportedly bought the company for its superb customer relations, and these are achieved by an explicit an active commitment to employee happiness.  Here are some top tips about how to achieve this from one its founders, and now CEO of Delivering Happiness, Jenn Lim…

5 Ways to Be Happier at Work

by 

When former Zappos culture consultant Jenn Lim climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with Tony Hsieh, it was one of the most meaningful experiences of her life.

When we’re young, we often idealise work, as if our ascent to success will be as clear and rewarding as a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. But as we get into the working world, the reality sets in: there is boredom, apathy, and resentment. We’re not so sure we’re heading in the right direction, and we have no idea if we’ll ever make it.

As CEO of Delivering Happiness, Lim’s goal is to provide resources and information on how to find more happiness and meaning in the workplace and beyond. Beginning as a book by Hsieh, Delivering Happiness has flourished into a movement that brings together like-minded individuals online and offline, provides coaching for businesses, and works with schools to teach happiness to students.

Delivering Happiness promotes the idea, backed by positive psychology research, that happier people are more productive. Research has shown that happiness can boost our intelligence, creativity, and energy. It can increase our job security, job retention, resilience, productivity (by 31%), and sales skills (by 37%). Happiness reduces rates of burnout and turnover.

We caught up with Lim to hear some of the lessons they’ve learned about how to make work happier and more meaningful. Here they are:

Choose happiness

Psychology studies suggest that 40-90% of our happiness is a choice, Lim says. In other words, whatever our genetics or life circumstances, a substantial portion of our well-being comes down to attitudes and behaviors. If we want to be happy, we have to truly decide to be happy.

That also means that we can’t completely blame our bosses or our work environment for bringing us down. Just because our company isn’t on board with the happiness movement doesn’t mean we are powerless. “If you change your individual world, then together we can actually change the world,” says Lim.

Define your values

One of the reasons why it’s so key for a company to articulate its values is because employees need to figure out if their values align with the company’s. When we feel bored or down, it might be because the tasks we’re doing aren’t in line with our values. For example, if being social and helping others is important to us but we spend all day in our cubicle typing up reports, it makes sense to feel disconnected. 

At Delivering Happiness, their first value is “be true to your weird self.” Among their “motley crew” of 25 people – who sometimes refer to themselves as the “Bad News Bears” – individuality is respected and encouraged.

If we’re not sure of our values, one exercise Lim recommends is to identify the highs and lows in our life and look at which values were present or absent during those times. She actually found her purpose in life amidst one of the lows: losing her father to colon cancer. During that time, she took on the role of information disseminator, researching online and communicating with her father and his doctors. She realized that that was her purpose – to be a conduit of information – and today she’s fulfilling it by disseminating know-how about happiness. Her values shifted from a focus on money, title, and status to a focus on people.

Flow

As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi recounts in his book Flow, that feeling of full engagement and immersion happens when we’re operating at a high skill level to achieve a big challenge. If there’s a mismatch between our skills and the challenge, we’ll either feel bored or frustrated. To be happier at work, Lim says, we should aim to achieve flow once a day – which might mean seeking out bigger challenges.

Connection

The research is clear on this point: happier people have better relationships, and relationships make us happier. People in the top 10% of happiness have the most active social lives, and social support predicts happiness much better than GPA, income, SAT scores, age, gender, or race.

To make more connections at work, Lim suggests sharing our passions and hobbies with our coworkers. We’re bound to find someone with a similar interest, and that commonality can be the spark that leads to a relationship.

Explore

At the same time, says Lim, part of finding meaning and happiness is figuring out what we don’t like. We live in an age where we can explore, make mistakes, and learn from them. The way to find happiness, she says, is to be open to new opportunities – sometimes the thing that makes us happy is something we could never have predicted or imagined.

Read the original article here

3 New Scientific Findings About Happiness

Positive psychology is a relatively new field that’s churning out insights on how normal people can be stronger and happier every year. Here are a few recent ones.

Happiness may be as old as the human race. The idea of rigorously studying happiness, however, is far newer.

For most of its history, psychology was exclusively concerned with helping those who were struggling. It was a discipline whose main occupation was “spot the loony,” as Martin Seligman, the father of “positive psychology” joked in his TED talk.

Then just a decade or so ago something shifted. Psychology started to look not just at those who were sick, but also those were well, investigating not just how to fix the broken, but also how to help the normal flourish.   Studying happiness, in other words, became a thing. Today the investigation continues with important findings rolling out of labs and research institutes regularly.

PsyBlog recently rounded up ten of the most fascinating recent studies. Here are a few to get you started.

1. Happiness activates your body from head to toe.

We tend to think of happiness as a state of mind. Sure, it gives you a warm glow, but that’s mostly metaphorical, right?

Actually no. When Finnish researchers induced various emotions in 700 study subjects and then asked them to colour in a detailed body map, they discovered that feeling good isn’t just metaphorically or mentally energizing, it actually energizes the whole body.

Happiness is the one emotion that fills the whole body with activity, including the legs, perhaps indicating that happy people feel ready to spring into action, or maybe do a jig,” says PsyBlog.

2. Being nice to others increases happiness.

Maybe this isn’t the most shocking finding on the individual level – most of us have experienced the joy of making someone else’s life a little easier – but scientists recently found the same principle applies to whole communities as well. The research team looked at how 255 American metropolitan areas reacted to the disruptions and challenges caused by the recent financial crisis and found “that communities that pull together – essentially doing nice little things for each other like volunteering and helping a neighbour out – are happier.”

“Social capital has a protective effect: people are happier when they do the right thing,” concludes PsyBlog.

3. School can’t teach you to be happy.

Getting that PhD may help you come up with an important scientific breakthrough, score a world-class job, or understand the intricacies of Renaissance poetry, but chances are it won’t make bring you any closer to happiness. Friends and family, it seems, are the best way to do that.

“Relationships have stronger associations with happiness than academic achievement, according to a recent study,” PsyBlog reports. “Whilst strong social relationships in childhood and adolescence were associated with happier adults, the associations with academic achievement were much lower.”

Looking for more evidence that happiness isn’t down to fancy degrees. The lead researcher behind one of the longest-running studies of human flourishing ever (the Grant Study that tracked 268 Harvard grads for more than 75 years), boiled down decades upon decades of data to this conclusion: “Happiness is love. Full stop.

Read the original article here

If there is one challenge above all others that we find comes to the top of our skills training workshops it has to be the fine and imprecise art of achieving balance.  Striving to get work-life balance has become harder and harder as the increasing demands of our work have combined with the technology that makes being always switched on not only possible but our default state.  And as more and more of us find a real sense of vocation and purpose in our work, setting and keeping boundaries that give us space outside and away from our work become harder to realise.

Help with this comes from another headliner in the emergent happiness at work field is mindfulness expert and author of Real Happiness At Work, Sharon Salzburg, and her teaching that gives us ways to combine the discipline of self-mastery into the realities of our working lives.

Striking the Right Balance At Work

by Rene Lynch

“I think we can all understand happiness as something much deeper than just having a good time. It speaks to a type of resiliency, an ability to recover from mistakes or setbacks.” 

Consider for a moment what you hate about your job. (Everybody hates something about their job, right?) Maybe your boss is a screamer. Your co-workers are conniving backstabbers. And you feel like you’re on a dead-end career path.

Now, what if you reframed those work problems as opportunities for personal growth and self-examination?

Sharon Salzberg, author of “Real Happiness at Work,” says many Americans who feel increasingly frustrated, overworked and underappreciated have more control over their work lives than they may realize.

The title of the book is eye-catching. It’s been sitting on my desk, and people walk by and point to it and say something along the lines of “Yeah, right. No such thing.”

I hear that all the time. People say, “Hey, we don’t call it ‘play’; we call it ‘work.’ We’re not supposed to have a good time doing it.” But I think we can all understand happiness as something much deeper than just having a good time. It speaks to a type of resiliency, an ability to recover from mistakes or setbacks. I think everyone actually wants to be happier at work.

So happiness isn’t as much about having a blast at work but finding something meaningful in whatever it is you are doing?

Yes. By happiness, we are talking about the challenges of taking our deepest values and bringing them to work. … We can really have the intention to do whatever we are doing very well, where we’re not halfhearted, where we try to make every encounter something where we truly listen and care about the other person and see what comes out of that different sort of awareness.

The trick seems to be how to get to that place. The tools you suggest in your book revolve around mindfulness and meditation.

I’ve heard this phrase … “email apnea,” where we stop breathing or breathe in a shallow fashion when we are checking our email. That has a profound physiological effect. I think it’s powerful to take notice of the moments in the day when we are starting to feel that anger, that anxiety, that irritation, or when we are starting to feel like we are not breathing. I would suggest you begin by trying to establish even a very short period of [a meditation or mindfulness] practice at home, where you even take five minutes to push out all the distractions and focus on the breath.

How does that transfer to the office setting?

When tempers are starting to flare, tensions are starting to rise, we can recognize it and come back to ourselves. It’s taking a step back. Mindfulness is about changing our relationship to our thoughts, to our feelings, so we have more balance and clarity. Then you begin to realize when you are starting to get angry. Not when you’ve written the email and pressed send. One of the great benefits to mindfulness in the workplace is that it releases us from tunnel vision.

So many of the challenges we face at work revolve around communication. We seem to ping back and forth between a fear of asking for what we want or need, or exploding in anger and irritation. Why is it so hard to strike the right balance?

A lot of it is knowing your motivation. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to be seen as right? Do you want revenge? Do you want to get back at someone? Even if we need to say something that is difficult, we can still be kind.

Somebody I spoke to who had a great difficulty saying “no.” [Using mindfulness and meditation training], she recognized the feelings, the sense of panic that she’d feel when she was asked to do more and more. She trained herself to recognize the pattern and to draw clearer boundaries. But in a nice way. She was able to grow in herself.

Link to read the original article

by Henrik Edberg

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best — ” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

Winnie the Pooh is a kind bear. He cares greatly about his friends.

And he has always seemed like a pretty happy bear to me.

He’s also a favourite of mine so today I’d like to simply share 5 of my favourite happiness tips from that honey loving bear.

1. Don’t get bogged down in details.

“You can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.”

Getting bogged down in details, focusing on the small problems can have advantages. But it can also make you miss the big picture. What’s really important in your life.

Don’t make the classic mistakes of spending too much time nitpicking or making mountains out of molehills. Relax instead. Focus on the positive things you have and want in your life.

Keep your attention on that. Work towards that. The days may seem long but the years are often pretty short. So live them instead constantly inspecting, criticizing or overthinking them.

2. Be proactive. Take the lead.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

It’s easy to get locked into a reactive mindset. You just follow along with whatever is happening. You do what the people around you do. You react to whatever is going on.

And so you get lost in your circumstances. This way of thinking doesn’t feel too good. You tend to feel powerless and like you are just drifting along in life.

Another way of going about things to be proactive. To be the one who takes action first and to take the lead. It’s not always easy though. You have to get out of your comfort zone and it can feel scary.

So to not get lost in procrastination take it one small step at time. Just be proactive instead of reactive about one little thing in your life today. Start with that action and then build your proactiveness muscle step by small step.

3. Keep conversations simple and positive.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”

What do people want in a conversations and relationships?

Long-winded negative babbling?

Or positive, focused talks where it is interesting to listen, communicate and exchange ideas?

Although the answer probably varies but I’d rather spend most of my time with doing the latter.

Three tips that help me to keep the conversation positive and focused are:

  • Live a positive life. If you focus on the positive in your daily life then it’s usually no problem to keep focusing on it and talking about it in conversations. More on that in the last tip in this article.
  • Be aware and alert. If you know that you have a problem with excessive ramblings then simply being aware of this can help you to stop yourself more and more often before you go off into babbling.
  • Use words that helps you to get through. No need to try to impress people with big and complicated words when it’s not needed. Focus on getting through to others and communicating by using simple words that anyone can understand.

4. Do nothing once in a while.

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

Although it feels good to work towards your dreams and doing the things you love I find that things tend to go better and I feel better if there is a balance.

If I take some time each week to do pretty much nothing. If I just spend time with myself on a walk in the woods or by the ocean for example.

By doing so I unload my mind. I relax fully and so life becomes less heavy and burdensome and I tend to have less stress and worries during the rest of my week.

5. Appreciate the little things.

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.”

Daily happiness is to a large part about appreciating the small things.

If you just allow yourself to be happy when accomplishing a big goal or when you have some great luck then you are making life harder than it needs to be.

Instead, focus on appreciating things that you may take for granted.

Take 2 minutes and find things in your life you can appreciate right now.

The funny thing is that if you just start appreciating something you can very quickly start jumping around with your attention and appreciate just about anything around you.

You may start with the food you are eating right now. Then move your attention to the phone and appreciate that you can contact anyone – and be contacted by anyone – you’d like.

You might then move your attention outside, through the window and see the wonderful sunshine, then kids having fun with a football and then the tree by the road turning into wonderful autumn colours. And so on.

It might not sound like much. But this simple 2 minute exercise can help you to uncover a lot of the happiness that is already in your daily life.

Whether you are feeling really good or really bad, emotions are felt more intensely when the ambient lighting is brighter, according to recent research (Xu et al., 2013).

Since many decisions are made under strong lighting conditions, turning down the lights may help you make less emotional decisions.

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, also has implications for those experiencing depression, as Alison Jing Xu, the study’s lead author explained:

“…evidence shows that on sunny days people are more optimistic about the stock market, report higher wellbeing and are more helpful, while extended exposure to dark, gloomy days can result in seasonal affective disorder.

Contrary to these results, we found that on sunny days depression-prone people actually become more depressed.”

Across six experiments the researchers gave participants various tests in both brightly and dimly lit rooms.

They found that:

  • Bright lights increase our perception of heat: people feel warmer when they are in a brighter area.
  • People order spicier food when the lights are brighter: we want to be thrilled in the light.
  • Aggressive people are judged to be even more aggressive when the judges are sitting under bright lights.
  • People find others more attractive when in bright rooms.
  • People react more strongly to both positive and negative words under bright lights.

What these experiments are telling us, the authors explain, is:

“Bright light usually correlates with heat, and heat is linked to emotional intensity.

This psychological experience of heat turns on the hot emotional system, intensifying a person’s emotional reactions to any stimulus.

Thus, in bright light, good feels better and bad feels worse.” (Xu et al., 2013).

So, to turn down your emotions, try turning down the lights.

And to turn them up, flick the switch on!

Link to read the original article

There are a number of studies that have shown the importance of the routines and habits we use to start our day with to how happy that day will then be.

In this new research, this idea is looked at specifically in relation to how we start our work day, and provides some good food for thought about why it might be worth our time and effort to get as right as possible, both for ourselves and for anyone we manage…

How start-of-day mood impacts work performance

Most managers don’t give much thought to the experiences their employees are having right before they get to work. Maybe one employee sat in hellacious traffic and another quarreled with her teenage daughter. Someone else dropped a buttered bagel on his new shirt. Others spent time getting elderly parents ready for their daytime routine. Managers would do well to pay more attention to their staffers’ morning moods.

My research with Steffanie Wilk, an associate professor at the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, shows that start-of-day mood can last longer than one might think—and have a significant effect on job performance.

In our study, “Waking Up On The Right Or Wrong Side Of The Bed: Start-Of-Workday Mood, Work Events, Employee Affect, And Performance,”i we examined how start-of-workday mood serves as an “affective prime.” An affective prime—similar to the proverbial rose-colored glasses–is something in an environment or situation that orients you to see and respond to events in a certain way. Our work builds on research on affect (emotion) in organizations, a growing focus in recent years.  In our study, we asked the question of whether start of day mood or “waking up on the right or wrong side of the desk” could follow employees throughout the day and influence their work performance.

Both vicious and virtuous cycles emerged, linked to how employees felt at the beginning of the day. People who started out happy or calm usually stayed that way all day, and interacting with customers tended to further enhance their mood. For the most part, people who were already in a terrible mood didn’t really climb out of it, and felt even worse after interacting with positive customers.

Self-mastery is one of the themes I return to again and again, because happiness, as much as our learning, begins and works from ourselves: knowing ourselves and what ‘playing to our strengths’ means for us, and then increasing our capacity to think helpfully about the situations we face and creatively about the possible responses we might bring to progress them and move things forward.  And this is quite likely to mean changing what we are doing in fundamental and long-lasting ways and starting and maintaining a new habit is not easy.  Here is a helpful approach to get our best resolutions off the ground and making them ongoing…

3 Simple Ways to Make Exercise a Habit

by James Clear

A lot of people want to build an exercise habit that sticks. (A 2012 survey analysed the top ten habits of  thousands of people and found that exercise was number one by a long shot. [1])

Of course, wanting to make exercise a habit and actually doing it are two different things. Changing your behavior is difficult. Living a new type of lifestyle is hard. This is especially true when you throw in very personal feelings about body image and self-worth.

But there are some strategies that can make it easier to stick with an exercise habit.

Here are 3 simple ways to make exercise a habit.

1. Develop a ritual to make starting easier.

…if you can find a way to make getting started easier, then you can find a way to make building a habit easier. This is why rituals and routines are so important. If you can develop a ritual that makes starting your workout mindless and automatic, then it will be much easier to follow through…

“During the next week I will exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at [PLACE].”

One research study showed that people who filled out this sentence above were 2 to 3 times more likely to exercise over the long run. This is a psychology concept called implementation intentions and there are hundreds of studies to back it up.

2. Start with an exercise that is ridiculously small.

The best way to make exercise a habit is to start with an exercise that is so easy that you can do it even when you are running low on willpower and motivation. In the words of Leo Babauta, start with something that is so easy you can’t say no…

Here’s one strategy that you can use in the beginning: The 2-Minute Rule.

It’s very simple: focus on finding a way to get started in just 2 minutes rather than worrying about your entire workout…

3. Focus on the habit first and the results later.

What matters most in the beginning is establishing a new normal and building a new routine that you will stick to; not the results that you get. In other words, in the first 6 months it is more important to not miss workouts than it is to make progress. Once you become the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts, then you can worry about making progress and improving…

Read the full article here

Much of what we know about how to be happier at work, and how to make it easier and more likely for others to be happier at work too, is wisdom that we already have in what we tend to call common sense, hardwired into us from our centuries of being successful human beings.  Strange then that so much of this intelligence can leave us when we are at work, whether because we just forget it in our keenness to adopt the cultural protocols of the prevailing environment we find ourselves in, or because we come to believe that everyday niceties of kindness, politeness, respect and generosity have no legitimacy in the fast-paced results-driven world of work.  Wrong, as this article that pulls out a few choice quotes from people about their managers points up…

Straight from the Employee’s Mouth: 3 Keys to Being A Successful Manager

by 

Managers are the No. 1 influence on employee engagement in the workplace, while being one of the most under-trained positions in the business world.

As a result, there is a wealth of white papers, scientific studies, and entire organizations devoted to figuring out what makes managers effective at motivating and leading others. But there’s one study by Quantum Workplace, The 50 Best and Worst Recognition Comments of 2013, that goes to the horse’s mouth to find out what employees are really saying.

Quantum Workplace compiles some of the most compelling recognition-related comments found in Best Places to Work and TeamPulse surveys for the annual publication, and it’s a great snapshot of the ground-floor recognition needs of today’s employees.

On the subject of poor management, these were choice comments:

  • “As time has passed, I’ve become more and more convinced that I am invisible. My manager does not care about my growth and development at all. I am very much looking forward to finding a job with a different company.”
  • “Recognition is given to those who put in the most hours, not those who do the best work.
  • “Would a ‘thank you’ be so hard?
  • We just go through the motions so we don’t get yelled at and can get home by 5.”

How workers view good managers

Here’s what people had to say about good managers:

  • Management gives constructive criticism when it’s needed and praise when it’s due.
  • “I appreciate the small incentives, general kindness, and ‘thank-you’s’ for a job well-done”
  • Senior management talks with us to find out what motivates us to strive for company goals. They use those means of motivation to show that they really care about their employees.”
  • I have a great supervisor who listens and considers my thoughts and ideas.”

The Three Keys

When you hear it straight from employees it all seems pretty simple, and that’s because it is!  The keys are:

  1. Give – your time, your interest, your attention, yourself.
  2. Listen; and
  3. Recognise and appreciate what people do.

NB I have amended these three keys from the original article (Ed.)

Link to read the original article its author’s suggested three keys 

One of the greatest destroyers of happiness at work is any perception of unfairness or inequality.  Study after study has shown that people are prepared to be happy to put up with all sorts of hardships, provided they believe that the pain is being equally shared, but the y will feel unhappy and even militant the moment they feel that someone is being given preferential treatment of any kind.  The same is true when we look at studies of societies and nations, which is one of the reasons that Denmark consistently achieves the highest rankings in global happiness rankings.

This report on the work eBay is doing to overcome gender equality stands out for its relevance and pertinence for all of us, while also underscoring the difficulty of the challenges still be successfully conquered…

In 2010, eBay embarked on a journey to bring more women into its top ranks. It found that commitment, measurement, and culture outweigh a business case and HR policies.

by Michelle Angier and Beth Axelrod

Changing the culture—for everyone

Since WIN began, eBay has more than doubled the number of women in leadership roles. At the same time, we have increased the proportion of women in leadership by improving the promotion rates and (notably) our retention of female leaders. We’ve made progress across all businesses, functions, geographic regions, and key workforce segments, including technology. Yet the numbers can also tell a different story. At the most senior level, we are still almost exclusively male, and our board diversity remains a work in progress. Despite the impressive increase in numbers at the director-and-above level, we are far from declaring victory and are in fact humbled by our experience thus far.

We know that shifting the culture to improve the day-to-day experience of women at eBay has only just begun. Yet cultural change is essential because culture trumps all: even the best policies fail if employees think it isn’t really acceptable to avail themselves of them without hurting their careers. Furthermore, women must have faith that our people processes are fair to feel confident that they can build lasting careers at eBay.

The perception of fairness in people processes matters to everyone, not just women. Many of the concerns they expressed in our survey—for example, about promotions, hiring, challenging assignments, mentorship, or the visibility of job opportunities—worried men too. By improving our execution and the perceived fairness of our people processes, we can make eBay a better place for women and men to build their careers.

This is no small undertaking—nearly 6,000 people managers around the globe must raise their game—but it is also a tremendous opportunity. We intend to spur cultural change through multiple efforts, including our people-manager-effectiveness initiative already under way. We have just embarked on this journey.

As we reflect on what drove the early progress of our gender-diversity initiative, it is clear that a few things mattered most: senior leadership commitment and conviction, a focus on a few people processes, and the measurement of our data. Our continued progress will require shifting mind-sets and changing our culture so each employee gains a greater awareness and understanding of these issues and becomes better equipped to embrace our differences and support our successes.

This isn’t just a journey for women. Academic research shows that everyone has gender biases and expectations. Women and men acquire these attitudes, many of them unconscious, early in life. Starting with the children we raise, we must rewrite the norms that limit both genders, and this will take time. “Meeting everybody where they’re at in the journey” is hard while establishing trust and sustaining momentum for change, but it’s a worthy effort. In the future, winning companies will be those that learn to deploy the entire workforce productively and inclusively. We hope eBay will be one of them.

Link to read the original article in full

Happiness At Work edition #111

Link to all of these articles and many more in this week’s Happiness At Work edition #111