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

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Happiness At Work #54 ~ this week’s highlights

Moon over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona

Happiness At Work Edition #54

Several of the stand-out stories we’ve collected highlight mindfulness in this week’s new collection.  This is partly because I am drawing together a selection of ideas for a post about mindfulness I hope to have written in time for a collection in the next week or so, but also it seems because this subject is featuring across the air waves just at the moment.  Michael Mosley has had a new Horizon programme that featured this practice, more and more organisations are starting to notice the prevalence of mindfulness practice in some of the most successful companies on our planet, and a new study has found that mindfulness has a great deal of benefit to offer students, especially during this time of year of stressful exam taking.

But we start with some good news for women in particular who face an end of their relationship…

Women Happier Than Men After Divorce, Study Finds

By: 

Ongoing survey of 100,000 people found that women are significantly more content than usual for up to five years following the end of their marriages.

Despite the hellishness of divorce — emotional turmoil, disrupted living arrangements, and a shrinking income — there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, especially for women, a new study has found.

Research published in the journal Economica has found that women are much happier and satisfied with their lives following divorce…

photo credit: RelaxingMusic via photopin cc

photo credit: RelaxingMusic via photopin cc

Personality Traits Of A Successful Woman Leader

Pam Johnson is an HR professional in the furniture industry, as well as an adjunct professor for her local community college .  She is constantly seeking out people with leadership qualities to fulfill management positions.

In a the male dominated world in which we live, it becomes increasingly important that strong women leaders take charge and make themselves known. They should use their strong personality traits to be a role model to other women and young girls. What, you ask, are the personality traits that tend to make a woman a good leader? Take a look at these personality traits and see if you, or someone you know possesses these traits. If you or someone else does possess these traits, encourage that person or challenge yourself to become an outward role model for other females.

  • Confidence…
  • Intelligence…
  • Interpersonal skills…
photo credit: f.stroganov via photopin cc

photo credit: f.stroganov via photopin cc

Your glass really can become half full: The documentary that shows how you can train your brain to become an OPTIMIST in seven weeks

By RACHEL REILLY

  • Michael Mosley has investigated the science of personality and discovered that our outlook on life is not fixed and unchangeable
  • By regularly practicing two mental exercises – mindfulness and cognitive-bias modification – and with no drugs or therapy he felt happier
  • Cutting edge tests showed that within just seven weeks his brain activity became less characteristic of a pessimistic and anxious person
  • Study has shown that on average, being optimistic can add more than seven years to a life – four years more than if a cure for cancer was found

If you’re a pessimist who thinks a leopard can’t change its spots, just read on.  For researchers claim you can teach yourself to be an optimist in as little as seven weeks.

And there are even more reasons to be positive: the training consists of two simple excercises. One involves looking at smiley and angry faces and the other is a 20 minute meditation exercise…

Moon Over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon Over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona

Enlightenment Engineers

BY NOAH SHACHTMAN

Meditation and mindfulness are the new rage in Silicon Valley. And it’s not just about inner peace—it’s about getting ahead.

More than a thousand Googlers have been through Search Inside Yourself training. Another 400 or so are on the waiting list and take classes like Neural Self-Hacking and Managing Your Energy in the meantime. Then there is the company’s bimonthly series of “mindful lunches,” conducted in complete silence except for the ringing of prayer bells, which began after the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh visited in 2011. The search giant even recently built a labyrinth for walking meditations.

It’s not just Google that’s embracing Eastern traditions. Across the Valley, quiet contemplation is seen as the new caffeine, the fuel that allegedly unlocks productivity and creative bursts. Classes in meditation and mindfulness—paying close, nonjudgmental attention—have become staples at many of the region’s most prominent companies…

These companies are doing more than simply seizing on Buddhist practices. Entrepreneurs and engineers are taking millennia-old traditions and reshaping them to fit the Valley’s goal-oriented, data-driven, largely atheistic culture. Forget past lives; never mind nirvana. The technology community of Northern California wants return on its investment in meditation. “All the woo-woo mystical stuff, that’s really retrograde,” says Kenneth Folk, an influential meditation teacher in San Francisco. “This is about training the brain and stirring up the chemical soup inside.”

It can be tempting to dismiss the interest in these ancient practices as just another neo-spiritual fad from a part of the country that’s cycled through one New Age after another. But it’s worth noting that the prophets of this new gospel are in the tech companies that already underpin so much of our lives. And these firms are awfully good at turning niche ideas into things that hundreds of millions crave…

Moon Over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon Over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona

Mind over matter is the key to happiness in workplace

DONAL LYNCH

‘Contemplation is the new caffeine’ – thus ran the headline in a recent piece in Wired magazine in which the tech journal observed a growing trend amongst large US corporations for incorporating mindfulness, meditation and creative thought into their battle plan for tackling rising workplace stress.

Google has lead the charge recently with a series of ‘mindful lunches’ and other companies have followed suit. The co-founders of Twitter and Facebook have made contemplative practices key components of their office cultures, holding regular in-office meditation sessions and arranging for work routines that maximise mindfulness…

So in some ways the timing could not be better for award-winning poet and psychotherapist Christina Reihill to launch her new initiative into the corporate market here in Ireland. ‘Soul Burgers’ won the prestigious Allianz/Tile Style Business To Arts Bursary Award and is the latest incarnation of a project that has already been adapted for musical performances, stage productions and urban art productions.

Reihill – the daughter of Tedcastles tycoon John Reihill who died earlier this year – describes it as “a one-hour mindfulness and well-being seminar to address issues of awareness, personal responsibility, anxiety and problems of addiction, in a unique, gentle and thought-provoking way”…

“Too many HR departments deal with people as products and then wonder why productivity, motivation, change and false expectations remain unresolved”, Reihill tells the Sunday Independent. These issues need a more subtle and soulful approach.

The latest research from America backs up the idea that mindfulness increases workplace happiness, productivity and emotional intelligence. And if Reihill and her team have anything to do with it, Dublin-based corporations will be right on trend.

photo credit: Kuzeytac via photopin cc

photo credit: Kuzeytac via photopin cc

Mindfulness in the workplace on the rise

By Jane Kennedy, Geoff Cannon, Glenn Barndon

Workplace stress and general anxiety has become far more prevalent with the increase in technology, digital communication and a change in attitudes towards our work life.

…Large corporations such as Google, Apple, Nike and Target are encouraging its staff to practice mindfulness at work.

“Mindfulness is all about the reality of what’s happening here and now, so if we just pause to come back to our senses, back to reality, that’s all we really need to do,” Dr McKenzie explains.

Studies show that practicing mindfulness helps reduce stress, improve productivity and increase general happiness in the corporate world…

Mindfulness at Work by Dr Stephen McKenzie is out next week. And you can hear him speak more about mindfulness and stress with the ABC’s Glenn Barndon in a podcast inside this article…

How to Manage People Mindfully

The new comedy The Internship pokes fun at the quirky, innovative, utopia-like work environment of Google headquarters. We have all heard stories about Google’s carefully designed “adult playground,” where brilliant minds are nurtured with a creative mix of work and play. The stimulating and seemingly self-sustaining “community” created by Google captivates imaginations with visions of the ideal workplace. And with the ideas that are born on site, it’s easy to see why.

Where we work has a heavy impact, not only on our personal well-being, but on our value to the company we work for. One of my favorite things about attending the fourth annual Wisdom 2.0, a conference that brought together CEOs and experts on mindfulness, was the overwhelming sense that people care. Too often in the world today, people use their power in destructive ways. At Wisdom 2.0, however, business and spiritual leaders from around the world collaborated to discuss the intersection between explosive technologies and personal well-being. Their mission for attendees was “to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.”

What struck me about the gathering was that a group of driven and powerful figures from our society were there in hopes of learning how they can have an impact, how they can use their power for good. This spirit of community is one that would greatly benefit any business hoping to survive today’s economy. Mindfulness is a practice that can help individuals feel more integrated, both personally and interpersonally. By mindfully forging a sense of connectedness and camaraderie, employers not only enhance the well-being of their employees but of the business itself…

As managers, we can learn to be mindful in our decisions, policies and practices. The best way to start is by thinking about what our values are and choosing to live by them. If all of us were to do this in each of our interactions, we would find that our attitude is contagious. We will communicate more clearly, relate more personally and create a more integrated environment that benefits the businesses we work for and the lives of the people who surround us…

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

Mindfulness Means Nothing: Lose the Word, Find a Habit

This is a really helpful introduction to mindfulness by Mark Bertin, M.D.

Mindfulness: A Dictionary Definition
Mindfulness According to Oxford:
The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something

Dr. Kabat-Zinn created his “mindfulness-based stress reduction” (MBSR) program to introduce centuries-old Buddhist concepts into the secular West. Mindfulness is not a spiritual practice unless you want it to be. Whether you’re an intense business leader, an inner-city kid from Baltimore or living on a mountaintop in Tibet, mindfulness builds skills and perspectives that cultivate a larger sense of equilibrium around basic facts of life such as everything is always changing, nothing stands still, and uncertainty rules.

The concept behind the entire MBSR program can be unintentionally misleading. Give us eight weeks and we can fix your stress problem. It can sound very… advertising driven. As any MBSR teacher would say, in reality stress is going to continue whatever we do. And even when your stress level does improve (as research suggests it may), MBSR does not immediately alter anything for some people or eliminate stress forever for anyone; it is not cure-all or a quick fix.

The eight-week program is an introduction to a lifelong training. Stick to it, even when practice is difficult and not much seems to happen, and your experience changes. Mindfulness is more analogous to long term physical fitness than anything more immediate such as knee surgery or a dose of antibiotics.

The Language of Mindfulness
Mindfulness According to Grandma:
Learning how to “be in the moment” and familiar with what you are experiencing so that you become more focused and less reactive in your behavior.

There’s often confusion about the relationship between various related concepts such as “mindfulness” and “mindfulness meditation” and “mindfulness-based stress reduction.” Are they all the same or different? Do they all depend on each other? If I take a mindfulness class do I have to sit quietly for hours on end and pretend to be happy about it?

First, what is meditation? Mindfulness meditation is a particular type of meditation that breaks a habit. We all live much of life distracted and not quite paying attention to what’s actually going on. We exist on autopilot, generally relying on habitual and often reactive behaviors. Through meditation we aim to build a capacity to attend fully to real life, as it is, for better or worse, without any escapism or striving for a totally still mind. Not only can you meditate if you have a busy mind, it’s expected that you’ll have one…

Mindfulness refers to the whole package, a particular set of cognitive skills we develop that help manage our lives. Mindfulness doesn’t require meditation, but it’s built through meditation. It does not require a particular program. You can practice mindfulness at any time through the day, bringing your full attention to whatever you’re doing, with a particular attitude of openness and acceptance (whatever that means)…

Mindfulness is more than attention training.

Mindfulness According to Siri:
The trait of staying aware
(of paying close attention) to your responsibilities.

Stress results when real life does not fit our idea of what should be. Which might mean something as huge as “I imagined I’d be in a happy marriage forever but now I’m getting divorced” or as simple as “I had my heart set on a cheeseburger but they are out of cheese.” Recently back from vacation we may feel particularly magnanimous, accept our disappointment, and move forward. After an awful night sleep and a fight with our boss the no-cheese experience causes a meltdown. A lot of the time, if not all the time, our perspective matters.

When we discuss paying full attention to our immediate experience, it means not only to external forces (no cheese today) but all our internal chatter…

Mindfulness may be a proactive version of the traditional serenity prayer, without the God reference. Being open and curious means acknowledging the reality of the moment, however we feel, without excessive wrestling. Equanimity, a sense of peace and ease, often follows. May I develop for myself the ability to change the things I can, to accept the things I cannot, and the wisdom always to see the difference.

Mindfulness is a skill set. 
Mindfulness According to Dr. G, Pediatrician/MBSR participant:
Mindfulness is a state where one accepts the past as unchangeable and the future as theoretical, where thoughts are just thoughts
and the present moment is all there is.

So what is mindfulness already? Mindfulness is the ability to live life more fully aware of what’s going on both around us and in our minds. Through that awareness, we become more familiar with our ongoing mental habits. That awareness increases our ability to pick and choose (without expecting total success) which ones to continue and from which we might step back at any moment…

Mindfulness for a healthy brain.

Mindfulness According to basketball coach Phil Jackson:
The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game — and life — will take care of itself.

I don’t work out because I want stronger lungs or legs or arms in particular. I want my body as a whole to stay in shape. And I don’t practice mindfulness because I expect better focus or less stress or more responsiveness in isolation. I support a general state of mental well-being through ongoing effort. That hopefully improves life not just for me, but for my family and anyone else who deals with me day to day…

Mindfulness is a word, and a less than perfect one at defining anything in particular. The concepts behind mindfulness matter far more. Try it and find out.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

How Meditation Works

From the many complexities of mindfulness to its inherent simplicity, here Liz Kulze, within a summary of research evidence and case studies,  puts its practice within a less complicated and so easier reach…

…In a practical sense, “sitting” is really all there is to the meditation aspect of mindfulness meditation. For anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour (or more) each day, whether alone or with a group, you sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath as it moves in and out. Your mind will inevitably wander, which is where the mindfulness aspect comes in. Instead of growing frustrated with your lack of focus or getting caught up in the web of your thoughts, you train yourself to observe the thought or emotion with acceptance and curiosity, and to calmly bring your focus back to the breath…

Emotional Intelligence ~ 20 Years On ~ Part 2

In Intentional Workplace ~ transforming work one conversation at a time Louise Altman, Partner writes helpfully and with passion about the connections between mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence (EI)…

…What are the barriers to open expression of emotional learning in most institutional systems?  In Part 1 I shared my assumption that any organization committed to EI learning and widespread application must be willing to act as an “open system.” Too often people are asked to open up and share their thoughts and feelings in systems they believe are inauthentic and closed.

Some EI practitioners have asked whether deep EI practices can flourish in systems that are rigidly hierarchical.  It’s an important question that often gets to the heart of assumptions and behavior in authoritarian-based relationships and structures.  The engine that runs these systems is often based on fear – and most EI advocates would agree that fear is antithetical to EI learning and practice. Because so many managers still mistake compliance for engagement, EI can sometimes be seen as a solution for lack of cooperation or enthusiasm among employees…

…One of the most important lessons I have learned since I began studying EI has been to get out of head and into my body.  Body awareness is typically low in most corporate audiences – and it’s essential to any real EI learning….

…Unfortunately most workplace cultures still require us to ignore the needs of our bodies. Long hours, not enough breaks, lack of access to the outdoors, endless sitting and increasing work loads and demands conspire to reinforce the mind-body split. Most EI learning does not sufficiently deal with these conflicts. I’ve facilitated many EI programs and team meetings in dreary, windowless rooms with heavily distracted workers who wonder why they are so chronically stressed…

…Mindfulness is a tool to build emotional intelligence not a corollary of the learning.  In a use and discard culture, mindfulness training is just another tool that can be downloaded and applied to get whatever is needed to make the deal. It’s a cold and cynical view of an ancient practice that must enter sacred territory to succeed – the body and the mind.

In my work, the essence of EI  is  emotional freedom. I know that many managers are attracted to competencies like Emotional “Regulation” (ah, at last we can train them to control themselves) but the heart of EI must be internal truth-telling.  Too often, leaders expect that EI learning will get employees to “comply” and engage even in cultures that do not support emotional honesty.

Still Asking the Wrong Questions

Twenty years on, some of the questions people ask about emotional intelligence still surprise me.  Is it really useful for business?   Should all levels of the organization have it? …

…As we move forward into the future of EI in the workplace, we need to begin asking different questions. These questions should be premised on something deeper than the bottom line. What do people need to come alive through their work? What kind of culture is needed to create an atmosphere of emotional safety and courage? What are the beliefs that hold us back from changing – personally and collectively?

Emotions are deep and complex. The cold, hard calculus of business demands short-term solutions and quick-fixes. Practitioners can’t install  EI nor can they provide the “deliverables” without  a change in the mindset of business culture.   Yes, you can improve your emotional intelligence. No, you cannot do it in a day or even a week. Yes, it’s really useful, even essential for every business, in every industry. When we stop asking the wrong questions, we’ll know we’re making progress…

photo credit: Night Owl City via photopin cc

photo credit: Night Owl City via photopin cc

School Mindfulness Programs May Reduce Stress — And Make Teens Happier, Study Finds

By 

It’s at the most stressful times of the school year — like during exam periods — that strategies to relieve academic pressure mean the most. And recent research is shedding light on an effective way for schools to help manage students’ stress: mindfulness, a mental practice that aims to develop greater awareness of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry this month found that mindfulness programs could reduce stress and lessen symptoms of depression among secondary school students, as well as increase well-being…

How to teach … mindfulness

The Guardian Teacher Network has resources to help introduce the concept of mindfulness to pupils, to help them be calm, focused and creative.  A wonderful set of resources we can all tap into from Guardian writer 

photo credit: visualpanic via photopin cc

photo credit: visualpanic via photopin cc

6 Ways to Be Happier at Work This Summer

For most of us, more of our waking hours are spent at work than anywhere else. In fact, the average American spends approximately 100,000 hours at work over the course of his or her lifetime. That stat alone is a pretty sobering reminder about just how important it is to be happy at work.

The novelty and excitement of starting a business tends to wear off after the first year, as we become focused on the less-than-optimal aspects of running a business. However, there are some simple things you can do to change this mindset and have a more positive outlook at work this summer:

  1. Make time to exercise…
  2. Take control of your time…
  3. Appreciate others…
  4. Challenge yourself…
  5. Start something outside of work…
  6. When all else fails, smile…

Meditate Away the Sizzling Stress of Summer

Meditation is about being mindful of your spirit enough to focus inward for the serenity and guidance you need. It’s having a moment to hear yourself think. We have the answers within us, and with a steady routine, we can harness a personal power that will remove much of the emotion that stress can cause. The only steadfast rule is slow breathing. Proper breathing is an advantage to handling life and health matters, and is especially helpful for dealing with overall stress. I have outlined a simple method of breathing to get you started so that anyone, at any age, can enjoy meditating…

photo credit: tarotastic via photopin cc

photo credit: tarotastic via photopin cc

8 Ways to Cure Over-Thinking and Regain Your Happiness

Some straightforward simple yet effective tips from 

Let’s face it — over-thinking leaves you drained. It robs you of your peace and poise of mind. It’s mental exhaustion on the level of running a marathon every day. It’s a mind-numbing habit that keeps you stuck from leading a happy, healthy life. And who doesn’t want to be happier? Here are eight proven strategies to help you kick the over-thinking habit.

  1. Stop!  Enough!  The next time your monkey mind begins to produce a drama worthy of an Oscar, silently shout: “Stop! Enough!” Change the channel to something peaceful.
  2. Visualisation.  Visualise a happy memory or simply allow your mind to sink into its happy place…
  3. Just Breathe.  Turn your attention and focus on our breath. Focus on your inhales and exhales. Slow your breathing down. Take deeper breaths. Relax your jaw. Unclench your fists. Just Breathe….
  4. Go For A Walk.  Get out of your head, move your body. Swing your arms. Do a few lunges. Walk it out. Focus on each step. Pay attention to the way your foot makes contact with the pavement. Tune in to the movement of your body and not the replay of last week’s argument.
  5. Journal.  If the complaint or drama even has the inkling of being persistent, I write it down. As a response, monkey mind goes quiet. Once written, the need to be heard has been met. No need to revisit….
  6. Engage In Your Favourite Hobby.  Over-thinking produces no results and offers no solutions. Switch gears and do something you enjoy!
  7. Be Mindful.  Whatever you decide to do, engage your full attention on that activity….Keep your focus on whatever it is you’re doing. It will help prevent your monkey mind from wandering….
  8. Be Present.  Over-thinking is all about dredging up the past and/or borrowing trouble from the future. The best cure for over-thinking is to simply be present. Be here right now….

Why I’ll Never Write Another Top 10 List About Happiness

Britt Reints writes in her blog In Pursuit of Happiness

…you aren’t taking your happiness seriously if you need a top ten list. And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with being in a place where you take other stuff more seriously. Truly.  Maybe you’re researching how to cure cancer, or raising six kids, or focusing all of your energy on putting food on the table this month. Those lists that make happiness seem like something you can slip in between appointments probably just piss you off anyway, and that’s OK.

But maybe you are at a point where happiness is important.

Maybe you’re restless, searching, and always feeling not quite right.  I don’t know what that “OK, it’s time now” moment feels like for you; for me it felt like “screw it, let’s just blow up my entire life and start over.”  Whatever it is, you know.  And you know those shorthand missives about how to be happier are crap.

You know there’s more to it.

So do I.

And I’m promising you right now to stop pretending otherwise.

Let’s do this…

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Beyond McMindfulness

Not all commentators are unequivocally positive about this mindfulness movement.   suggest some reasons for caution…

Suddenly mindfulness meditation has become mainstream, making its way into schools, corporations, prisons, and government agencies including the U.S. military. Millions of people are receiving tangible benefits from their mindfulness practice: less stress, better concentration, perhaps a little more empathy. Needless to say, this is an important development to be welcomed — but it has a shadow.

The mindfulness revolution appears to offer a universal panacea for resolving almost every area of daily concern…

While a stripped-down, secularized technique — what some critics are now calling “McMindfulness” — may make it more palatable to the corporate world, decontextualizing mindfulness from its original liberative and transformative purpose, as well as its foundation in social ethics, amounts to a Faustian bargain. Rather than applying mindfulness as a means to awaken individuals and organizations from the unwholesome roots of greed, ill will and delusion, it is usually being refashioned into a banal, therapeutic, self-help technique that can actually reinforce those roots.

Most scientific and popular accounts circulating in the media have portrayed mindfulness in terms of stress reduction and attention-enhancement. These human performance benefits are heralded as the sine qua non of mindfulness and its major attraction for modern corporations. But mindfulness, as understood and practiced within the Buddhist tradition, is not merely an ethically-neutral technique for reducing stress and improving concentration. Rather, mindfulness is a distinct quality of attention that is dependent upon and influenced by many other factors: the nature of our thoughts, speech and actions; our way of making a living; and our efforts to avoid unwholesome and unskillful behaviors, while developing those that are conducive to wise action, social harmony, and compassion.

This is why Buddhists differentiate between Right Mindfulness (samma sati) and Wrong Mindfulness (miccha sati). The distinction is not moralistic: the issue is whether the quality of awareness is characterized by wholesome intentions and positive mental qualities that lead to human flourishing and optimal well-being for others as well as oneself…

Up to now, the mindfulness movement has avoided any serious consideration of why stress is so pervasive in modern business institutions. Instead, corporations have jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon because it conveniently shifts the burden onto the individual employee: stress is framed as a personal problem, and mindfulness is offered as just the right medicine to help employees work more efficiently and calmly within toxic environments. Cloaked in an aura of care and humanity, mindfulness is refashioned into a safety valve, as a way to let off steam — a technique for coping with and adapting to the stresses and strains of corporate life…

One hopes that the mindfulness movement will not follow the usual trajectory of most corporate fads — unbridled enthusiasm, uncritical acceptance of the status quo, and eventual disillusionment. To become a genuine force for positive personal and social transformation, it must reclaim an ethical framework and aspire to more lofty purposes that take into account the well-being of all living beings…

These thoughts are picked up and challenged back by  in her post in Psychology Today, which summarises and champions the heart and hope our western interest in mindfulness is centred and moving from:

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Beyond McMindfulness: Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

Ever since mindfulness began spreading its wings in Western culture, there has been the fear that it would be stripped down, diluted and packaged for sale by greedy money-hoarding capitalists just wanting to make their bank accounts fatter. If this happened, inevitably it would just become a passing trend that the public would eventually grow weary of. The most cautionary piece about this was an article published on Huffington Post called Beyond McMindfulnessWhile the sentiment of commodifying mindfulness into a marketable technique is alive, and worth cautioning against, it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater…

Ultimately, a program has to be marketed to meet people where they are. The 15th century Indian poet Kabir said, “Wherever you are that’s the entry point.” For people to enter into the experience of mindfulness, it helps to package it for stress reduction, reducing depressive relapse, increasing productivity, increasing attentional focus, or lowering blood pressure. These allow people to be attracted to it and then have a genuinely beneficial experience that can guide them toward what matters.

Can you imagine if you walked into a corporation and said, “We have a program that integrates ancient practices from a Buddhist context that embeds moral and ethical guidelines for the benefit of all beings.” I don’t think you’d find many takers. But, rest assured, most of the leading programs out there are taught by people who hold these moral values in mind and integrate them in a way that can be understood and accepted…

Ultimately, the reason mindfulness will not just become another trend is because too many people at this point are experiencing how it not only reduces stress, but gets you in touch with what matters. It’s intentionally not tied to the Buddhist context, so maybe we call it “Western mindfulness.” More and more people are being trained under a more secular perspective and with the intention of it being a benefit beyond the egoic self.

In fact, there’s now an entire magazine called Mindful that’s dedicated to these more secular perspectives and how it is changing the face of business, education, mental health, medicine, and all these various sectors of life. Take heart, the magazine was started by people who have a deep appreciation for mindfulness as a movement that is globally transformative.

A very popular conference called Wisdom 2.0 that is all probably the leading conference for mindfulness and business has a subtitle that says, “How do we live with greater awareness, wisdom and compassion in the digital age?” My sense is that the trend is not heading toward McMindfulness, but is deeper than that. The folks that are just packaging it for a buck are more likely going to be the ones whose voices get drowned out by the leading programs.

I appreciate the cautionary notes in Beyond McMindfulness since we need to be aware when someone is just using the term as a buzz word without ties to a deeper moral purpose. But I want to make sure it’s balanced out with the reality of how a secularization of mindfulness, while not explicitly tied to Buddhist principles, is a vital movement for individuals, businesses, medicine, mental health and education…

Boys and men commit the vast majority of violent acts, from domestic violence to murder. We’ve got to get at the root causes.

…Men practice high levels of mindfulness in a variety of arenas in our society. At  military boot camps and police academies, men learn to control their breathing and focus on a target before firing a weapon. Sports are a great training ground for mindfulness: Basketball players are taught to clear their mind by going through a routine when shooting a free throw. Being in “the zone” is active meditation in its highest form.

Notice, however, that in all of these mindfulness practices, compassion is removed from the equation. These boys and men are being trained for win-or-lose competition. “It has been historically dangerous for a man to be vulnerable,” says Elad Levinson, who suggests that men’s resistance to explore interior emotions like compassion is the result of hundreds of years of conditioning…

While some argue that this is the result of a biological predisposition, contemporary research in neuroplasticity, by scientists like Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s  Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, finds that even short-term compassion meditation training (30 minutes a day for eight weeks)  alters the brain activity in regions associated with positive emotional skills like empathy. That is true for both men and women. As Davidson  says, “Compassion is indeed an emotional skill that can be trained.”

We understand the benefits. The need is there. But how do we get men to participate in mindfulness and compassion training? Here are five ways to plant the seeds of compassion in boys—and cultivate its growth in men…

Moon Over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon Over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona

The power of shutting down your senses: How to boost your creativity and have a clear mind

Written by 

John C. Lilly’s original floatation experiments involved people wearing uncomfortably tight suits and breathing masks while being completely submerged. The tanks also made lots of noise, so complete sensory deprivation wasn’t possible.

The modern scenario sounds much more comfortable, and goes something like this:

You strip off, shower and step into a pod-like tank full of water and 850 pounds of Epsom salts. The salts make sure you float and prevent the risk of drowning by making it extremely difficult to roll over…

The long period of nothingness leaves you with only your mind, essentially. Once your body starts to get used to the lack of sensory input, the stress-centers of your brain relax and release less cortisol—the main brain chemical related to stress. Graham Talley, who owns a sensory-deprivation tank center in Portland, explained it like this:

Getting rid of all sensory input allows the ‘constantly-make-sure-you’re-not-dying’ part of your brain to chill out for a second, allowing the creative, relaxed part of your brain to come out and play.

Without the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol, the main chemical component of stress. “Your brain also releases elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters of happiness,” Graham continues. “Not having to fight gravity lets your muscles, joints, and bones take a well-deserved break. Without the gravity pushing you down, your spine lengthens an inch, chronic pain is relieved, and your muscles get to fully rest.”

…One of the coolest advantages of floating is how much it boosts creativity and nurtures inspiration. After floating in complete isolation, your senses are heightened… colors are more vibrant, scents more aromatic, and food taste better.

When part of your brain stops getting input—e.g. if one of your senses is deprived—other parts of your brain will pick up the slack. Many floaters experience hallucinations as their brains respond to not getting sensory input. This is part of the vivid mental imagery I mentioned earlier—your brain is relaxed enough to visualize strong images you wouldn’t see normally.

Are you curious enough to try it now? I certainly am. But, if you’re not quite ready to give it a go, or you’re not lucky enough to have a tank nearby, you can actually try some mild forms of sensory deprivation at home…

photo credit: cosmonautirussi via photopin cc

photo credit: cosmonautirussi via photopin cc

Mindful Photography: A Simple and Fun Exercise That Boosts Well-Being

Here’s another to add to the list.

It’s based on the idea that happiness is boosted by being grateful for what you have.

Unfortunately we often ignore what we have in the rush through everyday life.

One way of combating this is to take photographs of whatever is important to you as a reminder. Here are the instructions for ‘mindful photography‘, by positive psychology experts Jamie Kurtz and Sonia Lyubomirsky:

“Throughout the course of the day today, you will take photographs of your everyday life. […] think about the things in your life that are central to who you are. If you wanted someone to understand you and what you most care about, how would you capture this? While this is highly personal, some examples might include sports equipment [or] a memento from a favorite time spent with your romantic partner [..]. Have your camera or camera phone handy and take at least 5 photographs of these things today.” …

photo credit: HORIZON via photopin cc

photo credit: HORIZON via photopin cc

Harrison Ford Is A Carpenter

BY MICHELLE WITTON

Wise and practical ideas from actor, lawyer, Russian language student Michelle Witton about how to make a path through to your dreams that can be built from doing things you like and feel good at while you’re waiting to do the thing you love and feel passionate about…

…Both law and acting are working with language. Law is about creative problem-solving, generating options to deal with issues. It’s given me the knowledge to deal with contracts, raise money for shows, do free legal work for The Actor’s Centre. I don’t advocate it for all. I’m sharing about a path – just one of many – that I’ve found creatively sustaining and rewarding…

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

SHAWN ACHOR Author of the international bestseller, The Happiness Advantage and Positive Psychology Expert!

A summary of some of Shawn Achor’s writing and speech topics, including:

The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance

Most companies and schools follow this formula: if you work harder, you will be more successful, and then you will be happy. This formula is scientifically backward. A decade of research shows that training your brain to be positive at work first actually fuels greater success second. In fact, 75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by your optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way.

By researching top performers at Harvard, the world’s largest banks, and Fortune 500 companies, Shawn discovered patterns, which create a happiness advantage for positive outliers—the highest performers at the company. Based on his book, The Happiness Advantage (2010 Random House), Shawn explains what positive psychology is, how much we can change, and practical applications for reaping the Happiness Advantage in the midst of change and challenge.

Positive Leadership: Restoring a Culture of Confidence

Confidence, trust and job satisfaction are at historic lows. When the economic collapse began, the world’s largest banks called in Shawn Achor to research how to restore confidence and forward progress. While many managers succumb to helplessness, with their teams and clients quickly following suit, Shawn researched those who maintained high levels of success and leadership during the challenge. He found that our brains create confidence based on the belief that our behavior matters to the outcome we desire. To develop this trust, we must create “wins” for our brain necessary to overcome learned helplessness and must train our brains for rational optimism.

Based on the science of positive psychology and case studies of working with companies in the midst of an economic collapse, Shawn provides practical applications for raising the belief that individual behavior matters and helping leaders to keep teams motivated and engaged.

The Ripple Effect: How to Make Positive Change Easier

Common sense is not common action. This is because information does not necessarily cause transformation because we require a certain level of “activation energy” to start a change. Shawn Achor’s research in the field of positive psychology has revealed how changes in our own brain due to mindset and behavior can have a ripple effect to a team and an entire organization. This positive ripple effect can create a more productive, positive work culture making positive change easier. Audiences will learn about the latest scientific research on mirror neurons and mental priming to explain how positivity and negativity spread, case studies on how to become a lightning rod for change, and findings on how a positive ripple effect profoundly affects an organization’s ability to transition and change.

Rethinking the Formula for Success: The Power of Positive Education

At schools and companies alike, we are sometimes taught to think: “if I work harder, then I will be successful, and then I will be happy.” This formula–which undergirds much of our educational and professional world–is scientifically backwards. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, explains how positive brains reap a unique advantage raising nearly every educational and business outcome–but only if we get the formula right. By demonstrating how happiness is a choice, we can help students not only cultivate positive habits and mindsets, but achieve higher levels of success as a result.

Shawn’s study on 1600 Harvard students and his seven years as a Freshmen Proctor gave him a unique window into the thinking of success-driven and sometimes overwhelmed students. His subsequent work at schools and companies in 51 different countries now reveals how very simple changes to our mindset and habits can result in positive changes that cascade to others around us. Using his new research which made the cover of Harvard Business Review, interactive experiments, and humorous stories, Shawn shows how we can bring this research to life for our schools and for ourselves.

Shawn Achor photo credit: luci.mckean via photopin cc

Shawn Achor
photo credit: luci.mckean via photopin cc

Inside Bhutan: Is Happiness More Important than Economic Growth?

Max Johnson

As Bhutan heads to its second round of elections this weekend, Max Johnson reports on the mountainous nation and its commitment to Gross National Happiness

‘WE ALL WANT happiness: the question is, how much happiness does economic development bring you? Gross National Happiness is more important to us than GDP. We want to develop, but not at the expense of losing our culture, our identity.’ …

‘Look, all human beings want their lives to improve of course. But when we are on our death beds and we look back, we want to know that we lived a fulfilled life, a life without laziness, greed, arrogance, wrath and desire. The pursuit of wealth does not lead to the satisfaction of the soul. In the end, ashes to ashes, as you Christians say.’  …

But what exactly is Gross National Happiness? President Jigmi Y Thinley said in his party’s manifesto that the central tenet of GNH is about balancing the needs of the body (material gains) with those of the mind (spiritual growth).

GNH is thus based on four pillars: equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, environmental conservation (72 per cent of the country is covered by forests and 60 per cent is protected), preservation and promotion of culture and good governance…

photo credit: Risto Kuulasmaa via photopin cc

photo credit: Risto Kuulasmaa via photopin cc

And here’s an interesting exercise…

The 7-Word Autobiographies of Famous Writers, Artists, Musicians, and Philosophers

by 

John Irving, Joan Didion, David Byrne, Rem Koolhaas, Madeleine Albright, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Dennett, Andrew Sullivan, Ed Ruscha, Brian Eno, and more…

What seven words would you choose to describe you?

Happiness At Work #54

These and many more stories can all be found in this week’s collection.

Enjoy…

Moon Over South London Photo: Mark Trezona

Moon Over South London
Photo: Mark Trezona