Happiness At Work #60 ~ some of this week’s highlight articles

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

Here are our favourite stories in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #60  which we hope you will enjoy too…

Creativity is the Secret Sauce in STEM

Ainissa Ramirez Science Evangelist writes:

Creativity is the secret sauce to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It is a STEM virtue. While most scientists and engineers might be reluctant to admit that, and to accept the concept of STEAM (where A is for Art), I’ve witnessed that the best of the best are the most creative.

So how do we make our children more creative?

Researchers have found that play is important for productive thought. Playing with ideas also increases learning…

Creativity is really the art of metaphor.

Metaphors create a linkage between two dissimilar ideas and are useful in the sciences because they allow information to be attained by connecting the unknown with the known.  And this is the key element to scientific creativity. Metaphors are important because they create a means of seeking answers, and sometimes they free us from the common thinking and enable scientific breakthroughs…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: nosha via photopin cc

Can Artists Make The World A Better Place? (The Forum, BBC World Service)

This 44minute podcast is one of the best conversations I have yet heard about the importance and value and worth of the arts and arts education for our world.  Highly recommended:

When you think about people trying to change the world for the better, should artists be near the top of the list? Bridget Kendall explores this question at the Aspen Festival of Ideas in Colorado, in front of a lively festival audience.

She is joined by: Damian Woetzel, former Principal Dancer at the New York City Ballet and the man behind an eye-catching initiative in inner-city schools called Arts Strike; ground-breaking designer Fred Dust, who says good design should be much more than simply creating beautiful objects; and art collector and philanthropist Dennis Scholl, who likes creating ‘happy surprises’ in the shape of Random Acts of Culture.

Link to listen to this podcast

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photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Don’t Just Learn, Overlearn!

By Annie Murphy Paul

Decades of research have shown that superior performance requires practicing beyond the point of mastery.

 “Why do I have to keep practicing? I know it already!”

That’s the familiar wail of a child seated at the piano or in front of the multiplication table (or, for that matter, of an adult taking a tennis lesson). Cognitive science has a persuasive retort: We don’t just need to learn a task in order to perform it well; we need to overlearn it. Decades of research have shown that superior performance requires practicing beyond the point of mastery. The perfect execution of a piano sonata or a tennis serve doesn’t mark the end of practice; it signals that the crucial part of the session is just getting underway.

Whenever we learn to make a new movement, Ahmed explains, we form and then update an internal model—a “sensorimotor map”—which our nervous system uses to predict our muscles’ motions and the resistance they will encounter. As that internal model is refined over time, we’re able to cut down on unnecessary movements and eliminate wasted energy…

While Ahmed’s paper didn’t address the application of overlearning to the classroom or the workplace, other studies have demonstrated that for a wide range of academic and professional activities, overlearning reduces the amount of mental effort required, leading to better performance—especially under high-stakes conditions. In fact, research on the “audience effect” shows that once we’ve overlearned a complex task, we actually perform it better when other people are watching. When we haven’t achieved the reduction of mental effort that comes with overlearning, however, the additional stress of an audience makes stumbles more likely.

“The message from this study is that in order to perform with less effort, keep on practicing, even after it seems the task has been learned,” says Ahmed. “We have shown there is an advantage to continued practice beyond any visible changes in performance.” In other words: You’re getting better and better, even when you can’t tell you’re improving—a thought to keep you going through those long hours of practice…

Link to read this article in full

We Feel, Therefore We Learn

By 

According to Dr Dan Siegel, one important point to bear in mind is that every experience we have causes our neurons to fire. Another is that when neurons fire, they wire together to create associations that are reinforced through repetition. Moreover, this involves the production of myelin or our brain’s white matter. “If you lay down myelin, you are 3000 times as effective as if you were a circuit without myelin,” says Siegel.

But that’s not all. The brain, or as Siegel describes it, “the social organ of the body” which has evolved over millions of years “has allowed us to survive because we have relationships with each other. We don’t have big claws, we don’t have big fangs, we’re not that strong. So how did we survive? Because we could look at another human being and figure out what was going on with them. This is why in terms of the science of learning, learning is a profoundly social experience.”

Lin k to read the rest of this article

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photo credit: schaaflicht via photopin cc

Human Brains Are Hard-Wired For Empathy, Friendship, Study Shows

Perhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy – the ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes. A new University of Virginia study strongly suggests that we are hardwired to empathize because we closely associate people who are close to us – friends, spouses, lovers – with our very selves.

“With familiarity, other people become part of ourselves,” said James Coan, a psychology professor in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences who used functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans to find that people closely correlate people to whom they are attached to themselves…

The researchers found, as they expected, that regions of the brain responsible for threat response – the anterior insula, putamen and supramarginal gyrus – became active under threat of shock to the self. In the case of threat of shock to a stranger, the brain in those regions displayed little activity. However when the threat of shock was to a friend, the brain activity of the participant became essentially identical to the activity displayed under threat to the self.

“The correlation between self and friend was remarkably similar,” Coan said. “The finding shows the brain’s remarkable capacity to model self to others; that people close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it’s very real. Literally we are under threat when a friend is under threat. But not so when a stranger is under threat.”

Link to read this article in full

See also:

When Empathy Hurts, Compassion Can Heal

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photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Empathy can be painful.

Or so suggests a growing body of neuroscientific research. When we witness suffering and distress in others, our natural tendency to empathize can bring us vicarious pain.

Is there a better way of approaching distress in other people? A recent study, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, suggests that we can better cope with others’ negative emotions by strengthening our own compassion skills, which the researchers define as “feeling concern for another’s suffering and desiring to enhance that individual’s welfare.”

“Empathy is really important for understanding others’ emotions very deeply, but there is a downside of empathy when it comes to the suffering of others,” says Olga Klimecki, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany and the lead author of the study. “When we share the suffering of others too much, our negative emotions increase. It carries the danger of an emotional burnout.”

…“Through compassion training, we can increase our resilience and approach stressful situations with more positive affect,” says Klimecki.

The positive emotional approach was accompanied by a change in brain activation pattern: Before the training, participants showed activity in an “empathic” network associated with pain perception and unpleasantness; after the training, activity shifted to a “compassionate” network that has been associated with love and affiliation.

Their new brain-activation patterns more closely resembled those of an “expert” who had meditated every day on compassion for more than 35 years, whose brain was scanned by the researchers to provide a point of comparison. This result suggests that the training brought about fundamental changes in the ways their brains processed distressing scenes, strengthening the parts that try to alleviate suffering—an example of neuroplasticity, when the brain physically evolves in response to experience.

Negative emotions did not disappear after the loving-kindness training; it’s just that the participants were less likely to feel distressed themselves. According to Klimecki and her colleagues, this suggests that the training allowed participants to stay in touch with the negative emotion from a calmer mindset. “Compassion is a good antidote,” says Klimecki. “It allows us to connect to others’ suffering, without being too distressed.”

Link to read the rest of this article

To Buy Happiness, Spend Money On Other People

In a new video, Michael Norton shows that spending money on others yields more happiness than spending it on yourself.

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photo credit: tedeytan via photopin cc

The Essential Link Between Happiness & Gratitude

By 

…consultant and founder of HappierHuman Amit Amin has assembled 26 separate academic articles and studies around the world that show the benefits of saying “Thank You.” Here are some highlights from those findings:

  • Expressions of gratitude reinforce pro-social and moral behavior.
  • Frequent opportunity to express gratitude leads to increased well-being, better health, better exercise habits, higher life satisfaction and increased optimism.
  • Grateful people get more sleep.
  • A one-time act of thoughtful gratitude produces an immediate 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depressive symptoms that lasts for months.
  • Writing down one’s gratitude produces a cumulative effect that increases month over month.
  • Gratitude (which focuses us on others) and materialism (which focuses us on ourselves) are inversely related.
  • Those who are more grateful not only perceive the environment to be more benevolent, but actually make it so by helping others more frequently and accumulating social capital.

Link to the read this article in full

Happiness Increases From Giving When There’s A Social Connection, Study Shows

Giving makes us feel happy, and giving to someone we actually know makes us even happier, a new study suggests.

New research published in the Journal of Happiness and Development shows that social giving — where you’re giving to a person who you know, or your giving leads to a social connection — seems to foster more emotional benefits than giving without the social aspect…

Link to read the rest of this article

photo credit: Lori Greig via photopin cc

photo credit: Lori Greig via photopin cc

10 Ways Happy People Prioritise Their To-Do Lists

Marc Chernoff offers some advice for making time work for us by keeping our happiness in the centre of our lives and the way we organise and plan ourselves…

In the seven years of this blog’s existence, Angel and I have had the pleasure of meeting, coaching and interacting with hundreds of truly inspiring, happy, prolific people.  And the more we have interacted with people like this, the more we realize the similarities in how they prioritize their lives, and how their priorities align with our own.

What becomes evident is that, to sustain happiness, we must focus our attention on the right things, in the right ways.  Every growing human being (that means all of us) has resource constraints: limited time and energy.  It is critical that we spend our resources effectively.

Here are 10 ways to prioritize your life and your to-do lists for increased happiness and fulfillment:

1.  One thing at a time, with full presence.

In other words, make the thing you have chosen to do the number one priority while you’re doing it.  Focus with your full attention.  See the value in where you are, while you’re there.  Enjoy what’s happening, while it’s happening…

2.  Family and close friends are at the top.

Nurture your important relationships in such a way that when you tell the people you care about that you care about them, you’re simply reinforcing what theyalready know based on how you have prioritised them into your life

3.  Focus on importance, not urgency.

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

Truthfully, the most important thing in life is knowing what the most important things in life are, and prioritizing them accordingly.  Sadly, most of us spend too much time on urgent things and not enough time on important things…

4.  Keep your efforts aligned with your purpose.

Getting anything worthwhile done is a matter of connecting with why you have chosen to do this thing in the first place.

Don’t allow others to confuse you.  Don’t let them convince your heart what is right for you.  Your heart already knows.  Listen to it.  Don’t let anyone else dilute the power of your inner voice.  You’ve got to stand up for something specific, on your own two legs, or you will achieve nothing worthwhile in your own mind’s eye…

5.  Play to your strengths and delegate when it makes sense.

When it comes to tackling big projects, you can try to do everything yourself, or you can reach out and find the right people to help you.  The first choice will raise your stress and blood pressure; the second choice will raise your consciousness and effectiveness…

6.  Socialize and share with peers.

Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s always easier if you have a group of people who understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what challenges you’re facing.  Staying in touch with these people and sharing ideas with them will accelerate your effectiveness and happiness.  Best selling author, Seth Godin, refers to these people as your tribe members.

A tribe is a group of people connected to one another via an idea, movement or common goal.  For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another.  Godin says, “A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”…

7.  Give what you can, as you seek what you desire.

In many ways, life is a circle – what you put in to it comes back around.  When you make a positive impact in the world, the world will have a positive impact on you.

If you want to be rich, be generous.  If you want to make friends, be friendly.  If you want to be heard, listen.  If you want to be understood by others, take the time to truly understand them.  If you want to live an interesting life, be interested in the happenings around you…

8.  Leave the past behind as you plan ahead.

Let old problems remain where they belong – in the past.  No matter how many times you revisit the past, there’s nothing new to see.  Don’t let what once happened get in the way of what is happening.  Just because you’ve made mistakes doesn’t mean your mistakes get to make you.  If something important didn’t work yesterday, figure out what changes can be made today…

9.  Commit to self-respect, regardless of the issue at hand.

Whenever you catch yourself in a rambling bout of negative self-talk, stop and ask yourself, “If I had a friend who spoke to me in the same way that I sometimes speak to myself, how long would I allow this person to be my friend?”…

10.  Leave room to breathe.

Things don’t always go as planned.  Good things can’t always be planned.  Be flexible and open to life’s twists and turns.

Organize, but don’t agonize.  Keep your space and time ordered, but your schedule underbooked.  Create a foundation with a soft place to land, a wide margin of error, and room to think and breathe…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

Shorter Workday Isn’t The Key To Happiness, Says Bummer Of A Study

Workaholics of the world, rejoice? We’ll all be just as unhappy with a shorter work week.

When it comes to working hours, less apparently is not more. Proponents of the six-hour workday will be saddened to hear that, as delightful as shorter days sound, decreasing work hours might not make anyone any happier.

At least that’s what new research in the Journal of Happiness Studies suggests. The 10-year longitudinal study examined the impact of the reform South Korea instituted in 2004 reducing working hours on Korean workers’ happiness. While people’s satisfaction with their working hours increased, there wasn’t a significant effect on overall life or job satisfaction…

Link to read the rest of this article

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photo credit: Haags Uitburo via photopin cc

Your Boss Is Less Stressed Than You

By 

Several studies have now shown that autonomy – a sense of control over what we do and how we do it – is an essential aspect of our happiness at work.  This article reports on a new study that shows the higher up the pecking order you get at work, the less stressed you are likely to be, but then goes on to look at other studies that show that there are several other important apescts that help or hinder our happiness at work.

So who is better off at work, you or your boss? A Harvard study suggests that it’s your boss because your boss is less stressed. And why is your boss less stressed? It turns out that it is because your boss has control…

Results showed that leaders had statistically significant lower levels of cortisol and lower anxiety than nonleaders. The study was repeated on a second group with similar results.

The researchers then dug into what led to this lower level of stress in leaders and concluded that a sense of control, specifically to do with being in authority, was the main contributing factor…

Less stress may not mean more happiness, though.

Another Harvard Researcher, Professor Rosabeth Kanter, clearly thinks that stress is just one factor among several in overall workplace happiness. She describes the primary sources of motivation (in innovative companies) as ‘mastery, membership and meaning’ with ‘money’ a distant fourth. Mastery certainly fits with control, suggesting that the boss is indeed likely to be happier, but the other important factors do also come into play. Membership – meaning being part of a team, belonging to something bigger than you personally, can work just as well for you as your boss, perhaps even better since the manager role inevitably removes your boss from being part of the team to some extent. This also fits with the majority of people finding the people they work with as being most important.

Lastly there is valuing your work. Some of that comes from you – if you know you do a good job and are confident enough to value the work you do and its quality for yourself then you are probably in a good place. The rest comes from other people – one of whom is undoubtedly your boss.

A study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, reported in Science Daily, that looked at common factors in 223 different workplace studies over a 30 year period suggests that happiness at work is most strongly linked to underlying happiness and attitude. Essentially if you are happy in your life and are generally a happy person you will be happy at work…

Link to read this  article in full

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photo credit: kyeniz via photopin cc

The 7 Deadly Sins of Happiness

By Dr. Mercola

Are You Guilty of These 7 Sins of Happiness?

…identifying the seven ‘sins of happiness,’ which author Trent Hand compiled for Lifehack.  That is, the seven habits or attitudes that make happiness very hard to come by. Hand explained:

These “sins” are so deadly that we often don’t notice we are falling into their trap until we wake up one day and wonder why we are glaring at ourselves in the mirror.”

1. Comparing Yourself to Others

This will either make you feel guilty for living more comfortably than others who are struggling, or make you feel inadequate compared to those who have more. As Mark Twain said:  “Comparison is the death of joy.”

2. Talking About Your Dreams Instead of Going to Work on Them

Talking about your dreams is great, but only if you eventually follow through with them. Make a point to set short-term action steps that will help you achieve your long-term goals – and act on them.

3. Listening to People With Nothing Positive to Say

Spending time around consistently negative people will drain your energy and bring down your mood. It’s generally nearly impossible to cheer a negative person up, you’re better off avoiding them as much as possible and surrounding yourself with positive people instead.

4. Focusing on the News

Watching the news is virtually guaranteed to bring you down and create feelings of helplessness and a lack of hope, as there’s not much you can do to improve the problems you’re seeing. Instead, focus on positive steps you can make in your local community, such as mentoring a child or delivering meals to the elderly.

5. Deciding Someone Else Needs to Change

Finding fault in others, and letting them know what they’re doing wrong, is easy. Much more difficult is looking inward to see how you can improve yourself instead. The latter will pay off by leading to a better you, while trying to fix others will likely be futile and interfere with your relationships.

6. Thinking “Happiness” is a Destination You Can Reach

If you think you’ll be happy once you accomplish a certain goal (like getting married or paying off your house), this is a myth. You must learn to find happiness during the journey, on a daily basis, rather than waiting to somehow find happiness at the end.

7. Forgetting to Say “Thank You”

It’s easy to take for granted all that you have to be thankful for – friends, family, loved ones, your health, your job … By focusing on all that you have to be grateful for (jot down whatever comes to mind on a notepad, for starters), you’ll instantly feel happier.

Living in the Moment: Another Key to Being Happy

Groucho Marx may not be the first person who comes to mind for a philosophy by which to live your life, but his words come with a definite air of wisdom:

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

How often your mind wanders is frequently a predictor of how happy you are. One study found, in fact, that the more often you take yourself out of the present moment, the less happy you are.  The researchers concluded:

“ … people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is and … doing so typically makes them unhappy.”

So … allow yourself to be immersed in whatever it is you’re doing right now, and take time to really be in the present moment. Practice mindfulness and avoid replaying past negative events in your head or worrying about the future; just savor what’s going on in your life now.

Link to the full original version of this article

photo credit: drl. via photopin cc

photo credit: drl. via photopin cc

Positive psychology is mainly for rich white people

James Coyne PhD picks up Barbara Ehrenreich’s retitled book and mounts a hefty critique of positive psychology his understanding of the messages it is selling.  There are important points here, despite how badly we believe these writers misrepresent positive psychology and the mission of the new economics and Gross National Happiness indexing.  See what you think…

When Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking  Has Undermined America was published outside of the United States, the book was retitled Smile or Die. The publisher was concerned that non-native English speakers might not understand the play on words in the original title. I think the retitling is actually more apt in capturing the message of positive psychology: buy our advice, buy our books, attend our workshops or die…

…Undoubtedly, rich white persons in the suburbs are more likely to score high on these measures. Positive psychology is applied ideology, not science, in encouraging them to congratulate themselves on the personal achievement the high score represents.  And if they are still unhappy or in ill health, the problem lies with the personal characteristics and their modifiable attitudes.

As for the poor and disadvantaged, the physically ill, they have only themselves to blame. As a wealthy positive psychology entrepreneur recently declared “Your attitude is the reason you are poor.” He went on to cite Barbara Frederickson:

In an article in the Journal of Business Venturing, leading positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson found positive emotions help build essential resources for entrepreneurs. Among those resources, the top three she found were social capital, resilience, and big picture thinking.

“It’s not just one of those things that’s going to matter more than the others,” Fredrickson said. “All three are part of a larger web that creates an upward spiral.”

So what is the solution to poverty and social inequality?  Poor people have to think positive, start smiling and expressing gratitude. What a program for individual and social change– or a shameful fraud. As Barbara Ehrenrich has pointed out in Bright-Sided (or Smile or Die), the downside of this ideology is personal self-blame and national denial. Reviewing Bright-SidedThomas Frank remarked:

“We’re always being told that looking on the bright side is good for us, but now we see that it’s a great way to brush off poverty, disease, and unemployment, to rationalise an order where all the rewards go to those on top. The people who are sick or jobless—why, they just aren’t thinking positively. They have no one to blame but themselves.”

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: Pörrö via photopin cc

Cycling across America: lessons in sustainability and happiness

Rob Greenfield’s 4,700-mile ride on a bamboo bicycle towing solar panels taught him the power of living a simple life

…I learned the power of a bicycle. It is a relatively simple machine but it can take us great distances both figuratively and literally. Life is good when you are on a bike. Good for yourself, good for the earth, and good for the people around you.

I recognised that people do genuinely want to help and to be a part of something greater than themselves but they just need that extra little push and they need to see someone else do it first. I learned that positivity tends to create more positivity, as does goodness.

Lastly, if you live simply, you can live free. The less complicated you make your life, the more time you have to spend doing what you love and what’s good for you.

Change begins with the actions of individuals. A big action that anyone can take is to become a conscious consumer and support businesses that are doing their part to protect the environment.

Businesses will sell what we will buy so we decide through our actions what is on the market. If as an individual you want to change the way business is done, then start buying from businesses that are using it as a means of positive change in the world…

For me business is a tool to create a happier, healthier planet as well as support myself and my employees. I just hope other companies can also come to recognise this.

Link to read Rob Greenfield’s full Guardian article

photo credit: Todo-Juanjo via photopin cc

photo credit: Todo-Juanjo via photopin cc

Happiness and Gumballs

The Happy Show offers visitors the experience of walking into the designer’s mind as he attempts to increase his happiness via meditation, cognitive therapy and mood-altering pharmaceuticals. “I am usually rather bored with definitions,” Sagmeister says. “Happiness, however, is just such a big subject that it might be worth a try to pin it down.” Centered around the designer’s ten-year exploration of happiness, this exhibition presents typographic investigations of a series of maxims, or rules to live by, originally culled from Sagmeister’s diary, manifested in a variety of imaginative and interactive forms.  – from the city of Chicago website.

The exhibit was fantastic, and we spent over an hour enjoying the unique infographics and interactive displays, all relating the concept of happiness.

The most provocative art piece was Sagmeister’s attempt to show a graphical representation  of the happiness of the visitors to the show.  He did this based on the amount of gumballs that were taken from a row of ten old-fashioned gumball machines standing against the wall, numbered from 1-10, each machine signifying one higher level of individual happiness.

I thought about my level of personal happiness before I approached the gumball machines. I decided that I was relatively happy.  Even with some bumps in the proverbial road, I had my health, good friends, my hair, and I wasn’t bored yet with my existence.  I took a gumball from machine #7.  That put me in the top 25% of happiness…

Link to the rest of this story

The Happy Show by Stefan Sagmeister

Susan Schneider

Link to Susan Schneider’s post about her experience of this show

Happiness At Work Edition #60

See this week’s new collection for these – and many more – stories about happiness and wellbeing, creativity & artistry, resilience and learning, mindfulness and self-mastery, leadership and changing the world…

Link to Happiness At Work Edition #60

We hope you find things here to enjoy and incorporate in your own work, life and continuous learning.

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Happiness At Work #51 ~ a guide to this week’s collection

balance

Our lead story this week is Judy Martin’s compelling Work, Stress, Bliss Manifesto and The Third Metric, a rousing urgent call to action to remedy our ailing organisations and the world we are making for ourselves before it is too late.  We really recommend you read her superb article in full, but here are some extracts we have taken from it…

Work, Stress, Bliss Manifesto and The Third Metric

Written on June 12, 2013 by 

The Work, Stress, Bliss Manifesto

“Deprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark raving mad.”

–  Russian Novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Well-being at work is threatened with extinction. The new world of work is governed by expanding technology, exponentially increasing demands, and a changing workforce that strives to be successful in an always-on competitive marketplace which values money, power and fame above the human condition.

Tethered to technology in the work-life merge which has been thrust upon us, we are precariously teetering between the polarities of stress: the burnout kind and the euphoric kind that can trigger innovation, especially in a knowledge economy.

As never before, it seems we are faced with a cruel choice between overworking ourselves miserably to pay the bills at the expense of our well-being, and taking risks to satisfy our own deep desire to move toward a more joyful and blissful state of vocation that fuels our humanity and connection to a larger purpose…

Getting Into the Flow

We’re starving for a workplace culture and the individual internal conditions that allow for an emergent state of flow – where work is done with the kind of focus, intention and purpose that results in a feeling of satisfying accomplishment. Chronic work stress impedes this process threatening creativity and innovation which is crucial to compete.

But how can exhausted stressed-out employees enter the kind of rapture, immersion and positive energized focus in ones work that Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about? The kind of flow which triggers challenge, sparks creativity and elicits a sense of a larger contribution. That point where your challenges meet your skills, in “the zone.”

“Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”    

~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Such work when in the flow is a mindful extension of ones personal values and skills, amplification of individual core energy and unique creative prowess. In a perfect world, it’s being in a vortex with the ability to tap a unique set of skills against the backdrop of an inexhaustible inner passionate drive…

Human Beings at Work

We must take efforts to remember that we are human beings – living a work experience. And within that experience we must embrace the ethos of our Veritas: the truth of who we are at our core, as creative human beings.  Turning toward the very thing we have been programmed to forget and leave behind, gives the much-needed oxygen to the unique voice, pulse and rhythm that has been quieted.

The drive to expand our creativity at work and advance our careers has been crushed and/or left behind in the struggle to keep up in the new complex world of work and managing the integration of our working and living experience, which can cause enormous stress.

We have to refine our mindset around the interconnectedness of Work, Stress and Bliss in this new workplace era which I call The Human Capital Zeitgeist: a socio-economic and cultural shift defined by an emerging recognition that talent well-being is the kingpin to competing in a volatile marketplace. So much so, that big business might actually have to throw a bit more respect at the “human” in the human capital equation…

The New World of Work

Work and Life are no longer separate: By default we’re now living a work-life merge. Exhausted, over extended, uncertain about the future, and trepidacious to draw a line and define boundaries for fear of being replaced, scrutinized, or penalized in some way, a revolution in thought and behavior is coming down the pike that will upset the apple cart and force new ways of doing things…

It’s time to sound the alarm, for big business and entrepreneurs alike, to realize they are on a treadmill toward a demise in productivity and innovation. The way we work- the 40 plus hour-week, increasing workload, no work-life balance, opting out of lunchtime and vacation inevitably leads to chronic stress, the consequences of which are serious health issues, poor engagement and weak productivity.  The mindset of overwork in the context of our 24/7 hi-tech marketplace will never sustain growth…

The Stress Conundrum

  • 65% of workers cite work as a significant source of stress (APA, 2013)
  • Burned out employees develop heart problems at a 79% higher rate than less stressed out workers. (Tel Aviv University)
  • 98% of employers that measure employee well-being say stress is a workforce issue. ( Towers Watson, UK 2013)

When not managed, stress fueled by resentment at work, anxiety about competition, lack of control, job uncertainty, financial insecurity and work overload –  as opposed to the good kind gleaned from inspiration, motivation or a good old-fashioned deadline – will sabotage success, happiness, innovation and creativity…

If employees were a little happier, less stressed and more valued at work, chances are their well-being and productivity might improve.  Think of it as a simple equation. Neuroscience continues to reveal that managing stress and triggering the Relaxation Response influences stress hormones in our body in a positive way. It’s time to retrain the brain to respond better to stress, and to start thinking differently about our working experience as vocation.

The Bliss Crisis & Renewal

“Our real job is to be the people we are capable of being. Often people think, ‘I have to get a job,’ as though it’s something outside yourself. A real career when it’s seen as a calling, is something that emerges organically from who you are. A career is not separate from who you are, a career is an extension of who you are.” 

                ~Marianne Williamson, Spiritual Teacher and Author

The idea of blissful vocation has devolved, and we have grown to deem such thoughts of joyful work as an idealistic dream and the stuff of fairy tales. How can one find happiness in a job or career where the bottom-line trumps the quest for meaningful work, wisdom, wonder and well-being? …

The Cultural Evolution of the Workplace

Research shows that meaningful work can no longer take a backseat to the almighty dollar if companies want to secure and retain top skilled talent.

In The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity at Work, Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile cites research that found that employees who have satisfying inner work lives – perform better, are more engaged and creative.

If employees were a little happier, less stressed and more valued at work, chances are their well-being and productivity might improve.  Think of it as a simple equation. Neuroscience shows us that the brain responds well to positive emotions. A happy brain works more effectively, is more focused, engaged, innovative, and creative. A happy brain improves cognition and increases productivity (A. J. Oswald, E. Proto, and D. Sgori, 2009)

The New Integrated World of Work, Stress and Bliss

Doing business in a 24/7 uncertain world, and all the bells and whistles of exponentially expanding technology, makes it difficult to tap our potential or “truest nature” at work when there is so much stress and noise. Uncertainty throws everyone. It’s easier to go with the status quo, than be the person who thinks out of the box.

Our charge is to better understand the new world of work, manage workplace and chronic stress with more consciousness, and finally do the work needed to reveal more meaning and purpose in our jobs. Ultimately, by cultivating resilience, we can trigger our own unique restorative skills, manage work stress, spark the creative impulse and consciously evolve in the workplace –  engaging in meaningful vocation. That means that well-being, wisdom and wonder might just inch their way into a more influential place in business.

I’ll be writing more about the components of The Veritas Principle and how we can cultivate resilience while tapping our truest nature in vocation.  I’m happy to hear your thoughts on the Work, Stress Bliss Manifesto. We’re on the precipice of change in the new world of work and I for one am thrilled to be witness to the journey of this evolution toward valuing human capital in the workplace and in the bottom-line.

Please join me in the conversation on Twitter @JudyMartin8.

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Here are some snippets from some other stories that we have especially liked this week…

…Margaret Mead once said, “If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.”

We are currently living in a less-than-perfect world. We need new ideas, new organizations, new solutions and new leaders to be a part of creating change. We need people who are mindful, inclusive and interested in creating environments that respect the diversity that surrounds us. This will mean continuing the “Third Metric” dialogue, challenging current definitions of success and allowing diversity as a path to innovation through flexible and global leadership mindsets…

The Key To Happiness At Work (infographic)

JUNE 11 BY 

We spend so much of our lives at work that it’s important we find happiness while their. Unfortunately, boring, stressful and tedious jobs can take their toll and many people find their time at work more miserable than happy. So how can you find happiness at work?

Well, there are a few things you can change..

Not happy at your job? Your company is paying for it in innovation potential.

A Nov. 2011 paper from European Union-backed academic institution evoREG makes the case that happiness is both integral to the innovation process and oddly enough simultaneously misunderstood. The authors find happiness to be both an input factor as well as an output factor of the innovation process.

In other words, happiness leads to more innovation, and when directed properly, innovation creates more happiness for societies…

There is also evidence that happy employees are more productive.

In a 2004 paper titled “The Role of Psychological Well Being in Job Performance: A New Look at and Age Old Quest”, Thomas Wright and Russell Crapanzano documented that employees at research and development facilities and in inherently creative positions are more likely to be innovative when their self-reported psychological well-being, or happiness in other words, is high.

The authors go on to present three possible approaches to building a “happier” workforce:

  • Select employees who are already “happy” (though the authors point out that this could make the other candidates even more depressed and unemployable!).
  • Train employees to be happier through a number of cognitive restructuring stress-management techniques.
  • Through situational engineering, change the environment so that it is more conducive to happiness.

So, let’s have more cheesecake and happy employees. Innovation and economic growth depends on it…

Employee Happiness as a Business Tool [infographic]

…employee happiness affects the productivity of the workplace, and the overall feelings that employees have about their work. Fixing issues that make employees unhappy can turn the productivity of a workplace around, and can ultimately save a doomed business. When looking for jobs, I will definitely look at the environment of my future employers to see if it is a place that I will feel happy in…

This is your brain on happy: Machine can read your emotions

Maggie Fox, NBC News

Carnegie Mellon University Brain scans show a person who is happy, left, and sad. Researchers used fMRI to image emotional states of the brains of 10 volunteers.

Researchers have figured out how to read your mind and tell whether you are feeling sad, angry or disgusted – all by looking at a brain scan.

The experiment, using 10 acting students, showed people have remarkably similar brain activity when experiencing the same emotions. And a computer could predict how someone was feeling just by looking at the scan…

You are what you think

By Bob Bailly

To put it simply, neurons that fire together wire together and survive. Our brains are being wired moment by moment and then pruned according to use. We become what we do and think.

This ability to wire our brains has been called neuroplasticity. Think of it as use it or lose it. Alexander Luria, a famous Russian psychologist who studied fundamental systems of the brain, discovered in the early part of the 20th century that damaged brains can be retrained through repetition. In a sense you grow your brain through exercise, both mental and physical, with results similar to exercising. By stressing your muscles, they strengthen and grow; by stressing your brain it too will grow in response to the stress…

I would argue that the incredible number of hours spent by many kids today with new technology is also having an effect on their brain development. I’m just not sure whether it is positive or negative. Assuming the mind can control the brain, we need to be careful what we think and do…

How is your emotional intelligence doing? Interview from Época Negócios

For over 15 years, American-born expert Joshua Freedman has been dedicated to putting the concept of emotional intelligence into practice. He is one of the professionals responsible for the Six Seconds EQ Certification Training, which bridges the gap between the concept of emotional intelligence and the real life of people and businesses.  The concept of emotional intelligence was first popularized by the American psychologist Daniel Goleman, in the 90s…

In the following decade, the 2000s, was the time to try and figure out how it works. Now, in the third decade, we are applying the concept. There are many projects and people finding different ways to take advantage of emotional intelligence. Our ambition is that by the year 2039, one billion people will be practicing the techniques of emotional intelligence.

There are several approaches to emotional intelligence. In the Six Seconds method, the primary practice consists of three steps:

1. Become more aware of what you feel and your reactions in the present moment.

2. Enjoy the opportunity to decide, consciously, how you will respond to situations rather than react impulsively.

3. Take into account your major goals and ensure that your answers are in alignment with those goals.

In summary, the three steps are: feelings, options, goals. If people practice this process they will be using their emotional intelligence to create better results. At each meeting, in negotiations, decision making, on a daily basis…

Lunch Meeting

Creative freelancers: who’s sitting round your table?

Just because you don’t work in an office doesn’t mean you don’t have colleagues. Gather your network, says Juliet Simmons

“Are you leaning in?” Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, today’s working women are mulling over a question that often seems to focus on the need to work harder and faster. But if you just step back or dig a little deeper, you’ll find that it’s not all about the hours that you put in – it’s also about taking advantages of the people and opportunities that come your way…

As Jonathan Saffran Foer recently wrote in the New York Times: “Everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs.”

At the heart of The Table and its success and growth is a realisation that in this technology-filled world, it’s human face-to-face contact and connections that help you in life. The Table is about connecting with smart creative people, realising that there’s a bit of smart and creative in all of us, and that we need others to fulfil that potential…

Happy People

Community Bonding Protects Your Happiness in Times of Stress

Emerging research suggests that social cohesion across communities can help others cope better with crises, and improve happiness among individuals.

Economist Dr. John Helliwell and colleagues from the University of British Columbia in Canada believe this shows that part of the reason for this greater resilience is the fact that humans are more than simply social beings, they are so-called “pro-social” beings.

In other words, they get happiness not just from doing things with others, but from doing things both with and for others…

In the study, researchers reviewed the relative roles of social capital and income as determinants of happiness.

They discovered that countries in economic transition show the power of social trust, i.e., the belief that generally speaking, most people can be trusted. Social trust is an indicator of the quality of a country’s social capital, which increases happiness directly but also permits a softer landing in the face of external economic shocks.

The authors wrap up the paper with a look at the power of human nature and the suggestion that the core goal of public policy should be to facilitate the development of institutions that bring out the best in humans…

Businessman Thinking on Steps

Are we caught in a happy trap?

by Jill Stark

Happy ever after: We want it for ourselves, we want it for our kids, and we want it now. But what if everything we know about happiness is a lie? What if the relentless pursuit of pleasure is in fact making us miserable?

A growing number of psychologists and social researchers now believe that the ”feel-good, think positive” mindset of the modern self-help industry has backfired, creating a culture where uncomfortable emotions are seen as abnormal. And they warn that the concurrent rise of the self-esteem movement – encouraging parents to shower their children with praise – may be creating a generation of emotionally fragile narcissists.

Some therapists believe this positivity obsession is partly to blame for rising rates of binge drinking, drug use and obesity. The more that genuine contentment eludes us, the more we seek to fill the gap with manufactured highs. But as we try to anaesthetise feelings of sadness, failure and disappointment, our rates of depression and anxiety continue to climb.

“So many people now think, ‘If I’m not happy, there’s something wrong with me.’ We seem to have forgotten that feelings are like the weather – changing all the time; it’s as normal to feel unhappy as it is to have rainy days,” said Russ Harris, a British-born Australian doctor and author of The Happiness Trap, in which he argues popular wisdom on happiness is misleading and destined to make you miserable. “Increasingly people are developing anxiety about their anxiety and dissatisfaction about their dissatisfaction. Painful emotions are increasingly seen as unnatural and abnormal and we refuse to accept that we can’t always get what we want. This sets you up for a struggle with reality, because the things that make life rich and full – developing a meaningful career, or building an intimate relationship, or raising children – do not just give you good feelings, they also give you plenty of pain.”

Carol Dweck urges parents to talk to their children not just about their victories but their struggles. Like Harris, she maintains that accepting setbacks and unpleasant emotions, rather than trying to block them out, is the key to building resilience. “Research has shown the great successes are people who are able to endure long periods of tedious work to accomplish what they want. If we’re taught things should be effortless – we should be happy all the time, everything should be exciting and interesting – we’re at a great disadvantage. Struggle should be something that’s valued, not something that we view as being just for incompetent people” …

“We have to nurture our relationships, our engagements with other people, our responsibility for other people’s wellbeing – that’s what nurtures community, and we are sustained by those communities. If we’re just going for the easy emotional stuff or the materialist stuff this is actually bad for the life of our community because it nurtures self indulgence, self-centredness and competitiveness,” says Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay. “If we focus only on happiness we’re neglecting the richness of the full emotional spectrum and we’re overlooking the fact that you couldn’t make sense of happiness if you didn’t know sadness.”

New Zealand psychologist Chris Skellett knows this only too well. His book, When Happiness Is Not Enough, explores how a fulfilling life can only be achieved by balancing being happy in the moment, with a drive towards longer term goals.

He speaks from a position of tragic, lived experience. Last month, his 21-year-old son Henry died suddenly and unexpectedly. Whilst coping with overwhelming grief, his understanding of the importance of the full range of human emotions has never been greater…

Clinical Psychologist Chris Skellett talks about his book When Happiness Is Not Enough –
Balancing pleasure and achievement in your life.

Sleep - man asleeo at desk (soft focus)

Four top tips for better sleep and improved workplace performance

In his book, Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired, Professor Till Roenneberg discusses the research he’s done into sleep patterns and the impact they have on personal performance.

Social jet lag, as Roenneberg refers to it, occurs when the body clock is out of synch with the rhythms we’re being asked to comply with, whether they be family routines, school or office life. This doesn’t only make peak performance challenging, it can also have a negative impact on how we eat, how we exercise and even how we are able to make changes in our lives – the ability to give up smoking is one surprising example he cites – so it’s something we should all make an effort to take account of, both for ourselves and to help those we live and work with.

So what can you do if you’re at risk from social jet-lag? Here are some tips that we’ve found can make a positive difference…

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in Library

Study: Reading novels makes us better thinkers

New research says reading literary fiction helps people embrace ambiguous ideas and avoid snap judgments

BY 

A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call “cognitive closure.” Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity.

“Exposure to literature,” the researchers write in the Creativity Research Journal, “may offer a (way for people) to become more likely to open their minds.”…

“The thinking a person engages in while reading fiction does not necessarily lead him or her to a decision,” they note. This, they observe, decreases the reader’s need to come to a definitive conclusion.

“Furthermore,” they add, “while reading, the reader can stimulate the thinking styles even of people he or she might personally dislike. One can think along and even feel along with Humbert Humbert in Lolita, no matter how offensive one finds this character. This double release—of thinking through events without concerns for urgency and permanence, and thinking in ways that are different than one’s own—may produce effects of opening the mind.”

The researchers have no idea how long this effect might last. But their discovery that it is stronger in frequent readers suggests such people may gradually become programmed to respond in this way. “It is likely that only when experiences of this kind accumulate to reach some critical mass would they lead to long-term changes of meta-cognitive habits,” they write.

Their results should give people “pause to think about the effect of current cutbacks of education in the arts and humanities,” Djikic and her colleagues add. After all, they note, while success in most fields demands the sort of knowledge gained by reading non-fiction, it also “requires people to become insightful about others and their perspectives.”

If their conclusions are correct, that all-important knowledge can be gained by immersing yourself in a work of literature. There’s no antidote to black-or-white thinking like reading “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Blank canvas and easel

How Do Artists Differ From Bank Officers?

By Scott Barry Kaufman

…the more research I conduct on this topic, the more I become convinced there really are a particular set of personal characteristics that distinguish people in creative professions, as well as people who are making innovative and valuable contributions in their respective fields (whatever the field)…

Consider a hot off the press study just published in Creativity Research Journal. Edward Necka and Teresa Hlawacz recruited 60 visual artists and 60 bank officers in Poland, and administered a variety of tests of temperament and divergent thinking (one component of creativity requiring the ability to generate many different possibilities). How did the artists differ from the bank officers? …

Socrates Teaching The Humanities

Why Study Humanities? What I Tell Engineering Freshmen

By John Horgan

The humanities are subversive. They undermine the claims of all authorities, whether political, religious or scientific. This skepticism is especially important when it comes to claims about humanity, about what we are, where we came from, and even what we can be and should be. Science has replaced religion as our main source of answers to these questions. Science has told us a lot about ourselves, and we’re learning more every day.

But the humanities remind us that we have an enormous capacity for deluding ourselves. They also tell us that every single human is unique, different than every other human, and each of us keeps changing in unpredictable ways. The societies we live in also keep changing–in part because of science and technology! So in certain important ways, humans resist the kind of explanations that science gives us.

The humanities are more about questions than answers, and we’re going to wrestle with some ridiculously big questions in this class. Like, What is truth anyway? How do we know something is true? Or rather, why do we believe certain things are true and other things aren’t? Also, how do we decide whether something is wrong or right to do, for us personally or for society as a whole?

Also, what is the meaning of life? What is the point of life? Should happiness be our goal? Well, what the hell is happiness? And should happiness be an end in itself or just a side effect of some other more important goal? Like gaining knowledge, or reducing suffering?

Each of you has to find your own answer to these questions. Socrates, one of the philosophers we’re going to read, said wisdom means knowing how little you know. Socrates was a pompous ass, but there is wisdom in what he says about wisdom…

Crayons

12 Ways to Spark Your Creativity

The Creative You

Everyone is born creative.

The boxes of crayons in kindergarten were not limited to those who possessed potential; because the truth is, everybody has potential.

People appear to have the delusion that only a few are capable of creative genius. This is one of life’s biggest myths.

The truth is, creativity is very much like a muscle; everyone has the ability, but some people don’t practice it because they don’t believe they are capable.

You know this isn’t true.

If you’ve tried to create something in the past and it didn’t work out, maybe it’s because you were trying too hard.

Creativity is a matter of doing, not a process of thinking. Learn to be spontaneous to be able to bring ideas to fruition, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Here are some ways you can unleash the creativity within yourself…

We often think of artists and writers as fueling their creative process with endless cups of coffee (as well as other substances). But, writes Maria Konnikova on the New Yorker‘s “Elements” blog, all that caffeine may actually inhibit creativity…

“While caffeine has numerous benefits, it appears that the drug may undermine creativity more than it stimulates it…

According to a recent review of some hundred studies, caffeine has a number of distinct benefits. Chief among them are that it boosts energy and decreases fatigue; enhances physical, cognitive, and motor performance; and aids short-term memory, problem solving, decision making, and concentration.

But all of that comes at a cost. Science is only beginning to unravel the full complexity behind different forms of creative accomplishment; creativity is notoriously difficult to study in a laboratory setting, and the choice of one approach over another limits the way that creativity can be measured. Still, we do know that much of what we associate with creativity—whether writing a sonnet or a mathematical proof—has to do with the ability to link ideas, entities, and concepts in novel ways. This ability depends in part on the very thing that caffeine seeks to prevent: a wandering, unfocussed mind…

Dimming the lights can increase your creativity by making you feel ‘free from constraints’

  • People in dim light are better at solving creative insight problems

  • Those in normal light are no more creative than those in bright light

  • And we can become more creative just by thinking about being in dim light

German researchers found that people sitting in dim light are significantly better able to solve creative insight problems than those working under normal or bright lights.

However, people working under normal lights are no more creative than those in very bright light.

They also discovered that people who work under dim lights feel ‘free from constraints’.

The researchers, at the University of Stuttgart and the University of Hohenheim, believe that this perceived increase in freedom improves people’s creative performance.

Medical Daily reports that a person can actually increase their creativity just by describing sitting in the dark because of a psychological effect known as priming – this occurs when a person moves an idea to the forefront of their brain by recalling it…

This near darkness, near silence

Author: Tim Etchells

I am still sitting in the auditorium. Looking forwards. I can’t see so much at all. The backs of people’s heads maybe. And the volume of the stage space hardly looms in the quiet and the darkness. All the lights are off. Did I mention that already? I don’t think so.

It’s the first space of imagining, isn’t it? This near darkness, near silence. Something foundational about it – at least from the Christian creation story of course. First darkness, then light. But without the exit signs. And in our own lives, the experience of darkness must be pretty much foundational…

Darkness as a space of social isolation. Lying there you’re aware of your own isolation. Hearing the rest of the house or the apartment continue as you lie there. Remember there is no silence – sleep as the state that wills silence into being, demands or imposes silence…

In the Forced Entertainment performance Bloody Mess John Rowley bids the audience “Close your eyes”. He is trying to explain to the darkness at the beginning of the world. Close your eyes.

The other space of imagining – close your eyes.

“Close your eyes”.

Because for some reason story state, story place, is close to the state or place of sleep. The habit of reading to children at bed time. Speaking them out of this world and into another one. Mimicking the transaction that will soon come from the waking state to the state of sleep.

Maybe. Yes. But.

CLOSE YOUR EYES

Connected deeply to the act of imagining. Because, in its pure form imaging is best done without present distraction. We need to put our attention elsewhere. To bring a picture in the mind it’s best to have none in front of us. Z, I say as I am reading to him. Please do not whisper to yourself, or please do not play with that as we’re reading.

We’re busy working in here. In the head. We don’t need anything getting in the way of that. Like now, for example.

And here is BridgeBuilders Martyn Duffy’s piece about listening and the sounds around us that he wrote this week for Shaky Isles Theatre company

Your noise, my music

Listening in and out of context –  daydreaming on the sound-making process

BY MARTYN DUFFY

Music is continuous, but listening is intermittent.

John Cage

…I have come to think of sound as something that is all around me that I am exploring and finding my way through.  Swimming through the sound waves.

This has led to a new awareness of the ordinary sounds and noises that are present in every aspect of my day.  Some call this noise.  To me it is a kind of music. It does not matter whether it is indoors or out, in the city or in the countryside.  The world is a very noisy place.  And our process of how we listen is what helps us make sense of it all – order out of chaos if you like.  I don’t believe there is ever such a thing as true silence.  Silence is not the absence of sound but a field of possibilities…

A sound is all the possible ways there are to hear it.

Listen for a moment.

What do you hear?

 

Turn It Up: How the Right Amount of Ambient Noise Increases Creativity

by David Burkus

For most creatives there is a “Goldilocks” zone of just the right amount of noise, but not too much.

Perhaps this is why so many creatives often retreat to public spaces like coffee shops. They’ve become a virtual second office to so many. Specifically, settings like coffee shops contain the right level of ambient noise that just happens to trigger our minds to think more creatively. A paper published late last year in the Journal of Consumer Research, argues that the ideal work environment for creative projects should contain a little bit of background noise.

But what if you aren’t free to roam to coffee shops and hotel lobbies in search of distracted focus? What if you need to re-create the coffee shop environment inside your cubicle or office? Luckily there are several virtual options available…

Night Noise: What a Sleeping Brain Hears

By Dorian Rolston

Earlier this year, a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary film called “In Pursuit of Silence” raised $35,371, exceeding its goal in just a few weeks… By “exploring the value of silence, our relationship with sound, and the implications of living in a noisy world,” promised Patrick Shen, the documentary’s director, viewers could indulge in 80 minutes of quiescence. And, for over 35 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, toiling in urban cacophonies roughly 1 decibel louder every year, perhaps that was worth the price of admission.In a 2011 publication, “Burden of disease from environmental noise,” a WHO-led research team analyzed data from numerous large-scale epidemiological studies of environmental noise in Western European countries within the past 10 years. The studies looked closely at planes grumbling, trains whooshing and whistling, and automobiles bleeping, and then traced links to cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in children, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, and relentless annoyance. Poring over these data, the WHO team calculated the disability-adjusted life-years or DALYs—in essence, healthy years of life—lost to “unwanted,” human-induced dissonance. The toll: not counting industrial workplaces, at least one million DALYs each year. “There is overwhelming evidence,” they conclude, “that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.” …

European countries, included in the WHO publication, attributed to noise nearly 1 in 50 heart attacks across Western Europe. The panel ultimately ranked traffic noise second among environmental threats to public health, just behind air pollution, and affirmed the threat to be, unlike that from exposure to second-hand smoke, dioxins, or benzene, rising inexorably. Noise pollution “is considered not only an environmental nuisance,” WHO has warned correctively, “but also a threat to public health.” All of which raises the question: If the world is so much noisier, then why is no one listening?

The insidiousness of noise is not only that it kills, but that it does so quietly. According to the WHO publication, the majority of lost DALYs can be traced to noise we aren’t even aware of hearing. The real danger, it appears, is from whatever drifts into our ears undetected—during sleep….

As we nod off, our perceptual faculties become attuned to the environment in such a way that, unlike during the day, can’t be consciously managed. The mind is rendered vulnerable to whatever stimuli happens to filter through, and, since the eyes can be shut, that happens to be through the ears. This receptivity was undoubtedly adaptive for our ancestors, alerting them to predators lurking in the darkness.

But for us today, the WHO reports, it “constitutes a health issue.”…

Shen, for his part, remains ever in pursuit of them. “There’s a quality of sound we’re looking for when we say we’re seeking silence,” he says. “The sound of birds chirping, research shows, is very calming and soothing to us. If you think about our evolutionary past, that sound would be a signal of safety, indicating that the danger is gone and we are now safe to leave our caves.” If the night noise that invades our sleep is any indication, abiding in our caves—or, as Shen intends, donning the cavernous protection of noisecancelling headphones—sounds more or less right…

Windows light at night in office block

Radio Silence Is Not a Leadership Strategy

by Alli Polin

Globally, we’re living at a time that the call to action is more, better, faster, NOW!  Leaders are overwhelmed with emails, meetings, conference calls and technology that keeps them connected 24/7 all demanding immediate response and resolution.  Despite the fact that we realize that we want thoughtful solutions, we also want immediate attention and action from leaders.  When there is a pause between our super important message and the leader’s response, we frequently make up stories to fill the void.

Some stories we tell ourselves are:
– My idea was terrible.
– They just don’t care.
– I guess I’m on my own.
– The leader stinks.

In contrast with the stories, here’s a glimpse into the reality of many leaders:
– Sincerely want to support their team and be responsive to customer requests.
– Buried daily under an avalanche of meetings and messages that takes away critical time from working with the team.
– Truly want to take the time to process and think before replying on gut alone.
– Next steps are unclear and they need time to connect with others to figure it out.

How can the gap between the leader’s reality and the desire for constant contact be bridged? …

You Write Like a Girl! 5 Ways Women Sell Themselves Short When Writing

Linguist Deborah Tannen has been studying gender differences in communication for nearly 40 years. In her bestselling book, Talking From 9 to 5: women and Men in the Workplace, Tannen outlines how women are socialized to use language in ways that hurt them in the workplace.

She explains that even young boys are conscious of their public image, rarely discussing their weaknesses. Girls, on the other hand, “…are expected to be ‘humble’—not try to take the spotlight, emphasize the ways they are just like everyone else, and de-emphasize ways they are special.”

Here are five questions to help you determine whether you’re giving yourself the credit you deserve:

1. Do You Emphasize Process or Results?

2. How Specific Are Your Verbs?

3. Are Your Individual Contributions Clear?

4. Are You Speaking Directly, or Through a Filter?

5. Do Your Adjectives Describe Emotion, or Action?

deadline

Living in a Brainwashed Culture of Urgency

By 

Everything is urgent and important. 

Or so it seems.

How do we better understand that this is all an illusion that is occurring in this very era we’re living in?

The way I see it, gaining freedom from false urgency is the most important practice of our time, or so we’ll come to understand in the years to come.

Now, this may seem simple, but it’s not easy, because our brains have been conditioned for years now to believe that all these forms of media are urgent and important. That means it’s now become a default, meaning it’s what happens when there’s no awareness.

In this moment right now, you have the ability to break free from the illusion of urgency and step back into your life. All it takes is recognizing the reality of the illusion and being on the lookout for it.

As an initial practice to play with, take today to be on the lookout for the illusion of urgency and see what you notice. Is there a space to step into greater freedom? …

Country Road On Cloudy Day

Defining Leadership

What is your definition of leadership? Only few people have a solid answer to this question. Few have a clear definition of what leadership means for them personally.
Therefore it’s useful to explore the different definitions, perspective and viewpoints on leadership….

 

Reckless person

Our favourite thinkers about resilience are Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney.  It is their model of 10 Essential Elements for Resilience that we use in our training.  And it is their model that Ingrid Wickelgren refers to in her article about the importance of facing our fears and stepping up to challenges:

How to Become More Resilient

Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney confirm that one of the best ways to build resilience is to make an effort to take on increasingly difficult, but manageable challenges (see “Enhance Your Resilience”). Doing so will help you handle higher levels of stress. (For more on why, see “When Is Stress Good for You? [Video].”) Other strategies for building resilience include getting physical exercise, learning to regulate your emotions, solidifying your personal relationships and looking for resilient role models. Resilience is apparently not just something that comes about by accident. You can train yourself to bounce back from adversity…

Life Breath of Half the World

Steve McCurry’s pictures this week are all of people in Monsoon water.  But this does not mean that these are pictures of disaster…

India’s  monsoon rains have covered the entire country a month ahead of schedule, brightening the prospects for a bumper output of summer-sown crops such as rice, oilseeds and cotton in one of the world’s leading producers.

ENTER GREATIST’S FIRST-EVER WRITING CONTEST! “HOW I FIND HAPPINESS”

There are as many ways to find happiness as there are people walking around on this planet. But even though happiness can mean so many things, it’s important to understand the role it plays in our individual lives. Owning our happiness can motivate us to pursue our goals, inspire us to make changes in our lives, and make it that much easier for us to spread kindness and smiles around the world.

At Greatist, we’re big on happiness. So we want to know: What makes you happy?How do you cultivate happiness in your own life? How do you find happiness?

We’re announcing the launch of Greatist’s first-ever Writing Contest: “How I Find Happiness.” The top three stories (as determined by Greatist’s editorial team) will be featured right here on Greatist.com.

The Details
  • Submissions will be accepted from now until 11:59 pm EST onJuly 1, 2013.
  • Stories can be up to 1,500 words but cannot have been published elsewhere (including personal blogs).
  • Multimedia is encouraged, but not required.
  • Unfortunately, Greatist ambassadors are unable to apply. But we still love you!
  • All submissions should be emailed to myhappyis@greatist.com. Be sure to include your name and contact information. It would also be great if you told us how you learned about Greatist (but this won’t affect the judging one iota).
  • Any questions can be sent to the same email address (above).

You can find all of these stories – and many more – in this week’s new collection:

 Happiness At Work Edition #51 

And here is a poem by CultFit that we like very much and hope you will enjoy too…

And For No Reason

And

For no reason

I start skipping like a child.

And

For no reason

I turn into a leaf

That is carried so high

I kiss the Sun’s mouth

And dissolve.

And

For no reason

A thousand birds

Choose my head for a conference table,

Start passing their

Cups of wine

And their wild songbooks all around.

And

For every reason in existence

I begin to eternally,

To eternally laugh and love!

When I turn into a leaf

And start dancing,

I run to kiss our beautiful Friend

And I dissolve in the Truth

That I Am.

Beyond Glorious – what made this symposium so very special and extraordinary

Sheila Ghelani's conversation starters: http://sheilaghelani.co.uk

Sheila Ghelani’s conversation starters: http://sheilaghelani.co.uk

Beyond Glorious: the radical in engaged artistic practices

Thursday 30 May to Sunday 2 June 2013, Birkbeck College and Artsadmin, London

What is the place of art in acts of social re-imagination and repair?
What languages can be found to articulate such practices?
Is it possible to break new ground within the realm of engaged artistic practices?

This symposium marked the end of Rajni Shah Projects’ Glorious.  It brought together people from different spheres of life to discuss and experience the meanings, methods and effects of art in relation to engaged and radical practices.  Using Glorious as a starting point, events explored the potential of engaged artistic practices, not in terms of a reductive understanding of the ‘efficacy’ of art in the world, but as a complicating, delicate, nuanced, uneasy journey towards new ways of thinking.

What to say to capture and keep for memory about an event that lived and breathed through its quiet gentle generous friendliness?

Not just this.  This makes it sound too much like a tea party.  Which it was.  Its tea-and-cakeness was a vital part of its spirit and its lightness.  But it was so very very much more as well.

One of the symposium’s central questions explicitly tried to open out this difficulty of expressing the intangible, articulated in the question What remains?

Elizabeth Lynch (independent producer and external evaluator for Glorious), Mary Paterson (writer, producer, creative documentation for Glorious), Sarah Spanton (Waymarking), and

Chloé Déchery (theatre-maker, writer, co- artistic director of ÉCLATS Festival) opened a series of conversations around questions about what and who matters, needs to be held up and out in testament to show the worth and value out of work that makes and finds its intrinsic liveness in quiet nearly invisible and usually disregarded moments of connection, relationship, insight, inhalation.

From this session I remember the word ‘traces’ being important – as something slight and nearly gone that remains after the rest of its bulk has disintegrated, and also as something that we might use as a guide to trace out a new form from what has been left for us to follow.  We talk about when something is ‘gone without a trace’ but in doing so somehow keep still a trace of what it was that has gone.  But these subtle nuances are badly unequal to these shout-y times of unquestioning demands and unambiguous agendas.

I remember, too, the question: who gets to decide the value and worth of what was done? and I remember thinking, and am thinking still, this must be the people we hoped to bring some value and worth to, to make something that they find valuable and worthwhile.  And worrying that too seldom we go to these people to ask and listen to to decide the worth of what we have done.

But these are big questions that took the concentration of this whole symposium, as well as the work of Glorious itself, as well – as I discovered through this event – as well as a great deal more work that is being made quietly and unchampioned out there in the world amongst its peoples.  These are questions too big for this piece to try and sensibly answer.

Start again.

What I am remembering still about this experience are moments of easy unexpected encounter that tumbled joyfully out from alert interest and invitation and into depths and diversity of conversation.

I remember the warm friendliness and easy friendly warmth that was begun and renewed each day by Rajni waiting at the gate, or the outside door, to greet and welcome people as they arrived.  When I joined her in this quiet ritual for the last brunch event I discovered for myself how personal, charged and engaged this made me feel.  A small act done with great love that I am convinced sent out a ripple of similar welcomings and greetings across the whole event.

I remember the repeated joy of surprise encounters.  Sometimes these came from extended conversations with the people I was working alongside to make the backroom support.  Sometimes this was a stranger asking me to join them for lunch and drawing me lightly into their conversation.  Sometimes it was the joyful ‘aha’ of hearing the wisdom of another’s experience or the sharp brightness of their questioning inside the sessions.  What made these encounters so exceptional was their unusualness – I seldom have this same experience at other events – and their frequency.  I don’t believe it was my Glorious team member’s badge that made the difference, but rather that a mood and expectation and curiosity and readiness for surprising encounters that was woven through the DNA of this whole event: in its themes and its processes and its design and in the behaviours and values if its makers.  You get what you go looking for and something was in the water we were all drinking at this symposium that made us all more heads up, eyes open, ears widened…

I remember too the luxury of space…

…the space of time from 2hour sessions and 2hour lunch breaks with local restauranteurs who greeted us like they knew us and made us feel this meal would be special.  This elongated time that allowed for an unfolding discovery of dialogue rather than the more usual forced smash of ideas through too little time, too tight an agenda, too squeezed a set of objectives and expectations;

…the space and spaces made by questions that created openings and extensions rather than the more usual objectives that push for reductive thinking and positioning, driving and herding us into conclusions and certainties (as if there could be any, but how often are we asked, anyway, to just let go of our intelligent beliefs that our situations and ambitions are way too complex to carry the heavyweight load of certainty?);

…the physical space of being able to inhabit different spaces, to choose a session that involved walking after lunch each day, to, at any time, come into the coffee-always-ready-and-several-varieties-of-tea-room to sit, take time out, chill, or make your own conversations.

I remember, too, and maybe this above all else, how all the espoused values we, as the company, and we, as this makeshift community, were championing, advocating, advancing were every bit in evidence in the practice and experience of this event:  qualities of generosity and friendliness and inclusion and welcome and giving and gifts and relationship and exceptional experience at every moment and being fully present in every moment…  all these qualities were alive and active.  This is rare, and, sadly, it is a kind of truism that whatever is held to be most important for the people we work to benefit, we are least likely to be doing well for ourselves.

Blossoms on Branch

There is something more to say about this symposium, and this about the depth and range and interrogation of the inquiries that were the thread and weave of this symposium.  I have so far, perhaps, made it seem like a collusive gathering of the smug and complacent.  But its questions and the responses people bought were challenging and original.  And the provocations that started each day were provoking, not in a way that antagonised or tore at us, but rather they invited a kind of positive disruption, nudging us to think bigger, better, wider, more keenly.

One of the symposium’s most difficult acts to pull off – and that it did is further testament to its great success – was that many of its participants came without any prior knowledge or experience of  Glorious, the project on which it was built, and yet in conversation after conversation there seemed to me an equal sense of ownership and involvement and engagement and trust and uncertainty in the material, irrespective of how much immersion in Glorious you came with.

So my learning to take away in a memo to ourselves:

…continue, when preparing events, to devote time and creativity and care and minute attention to what will help to make a great experience for the people who will come.  Because, just as we have always believed, this matters immensely, and, because we might just dip into believing that we are already doing this enough.  And this experience has shown me that there is much more that is simple and wonderful that we could be doing.

A note: lest I seem to be bragging intolerably about this event I should say that I take no credit for its many successes.  I was there and helped to make it work, yes, but the things that it made it so very special and exceptional belong to a whole team who made it and especially the people who imagined and led it.  And, yes, to Rajni herself for the light gifted way she held it and us so potently open.

 

A beautiful bespoke publication that contains Mary Patterson’s  exquisite reveries about Glorious, and Elizabeth Lynch’s storytelling consideration of what Glorious achieved for the people who inhabited it, as well as two films made in response to Glorious – Becky Edmunds‘ collaged palimpsest made from different shows, and Lucy Cash’s Six Actions:

rajni glorious - Dear Stranger, I Love You

Dear Stranger, I love you

the ethics of community in Rajni Shah Projects’ Glorious

Dear Stranger, I love you offers an in-depth exploration of artist Rajni Shah’s Glorious, an experimental performance project that began with a series of conversations between strangers and ended in a large-scale theatre production involving local residents and musicians in each location where it was presented…

The publication brings together four ways of looking at Glorious: a short film made in response to six performances of Glorious by filmmaker Becky Edmunds; a music video shot in and around Lancaster and Morecambe by Lucy Cash; a critical overview of the process behind two iterations of the project by Elizabeth Lynch; and The Glorious Storybook, a collection of memories from throughout the process, edited and contextualised by writer Mary Paterson…

Happiness At Work ~ route map to edition 6 (10th August 2012)

Welcome to this week’s route map to some of the stories, ideas, images and sounds in tour latest Happiness & Wellbeing At Work collection.

Our Top Happiness & Wellbeing Story This Week

Here is some of the coverage of the top Happiness Story that we noticed getting the most attention this week as the USA shows signs of joining the UK and several European countries in an attempt to index their citizens happiness and wellbeing. If you were still having doubts about the the potential for the study and rhetoric of Happiness and Wellbeing to have any lasting significance in our lives, perhaps this new noise from the leaders of the free world will make you think again…

Bernanke to Economists: More Philosophy, Please

Illustration by 731; Photograph by Getty Images

Is the USA moving toward a ‘happiness index’?

Which makes you happier — a pay raise or job security? Another TV or a friend next door? A bigger house or more free time?

Most countries measure how well they’re doing in stark numbers: money earned, electronics sold and homes built. But an increasing number are asking: Shouldn’t we find out how happy people are with all this stuff?

The United States, home to the smiley face and the Happy Meal, is attempting to do just that, responding to a movement that has been hailed as revolutionary and derided as “silly” or worse.

Several cities and states are already looking into citizen well-being or floating happiness initiatives. Yet the real game-changer could be a federally funded panel that is studying whether there’s a better way to tally prosperity. The panel, which started work in December and will report its findings next year, will recommend whether measures of happiness (and misery) should be added to the equation…

Bernanke to Economists: More Philosophy, Please

“Textbooks describe economics as the study of the allocation of scarce resources,” said Ben Bernanke on Monday morning. “That definition may be the ‘what,’ but it certainly is not the ‘why.’” He was speaking to the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, and “why” is not a question that Federal Reserve chairmen tend to ask in front of any audience. The Fed is charged with two precise, measurable tasks: Keep unemployment low and prices stable. These are indexes, numbers on a scale, and if a Fed chairman can keep them where they should be, he can be satisfied that he has done his job. In that sense, Bernanke is playing the world’s most complex video game.

But in Monday’s speech, Bernanke wandered outside the game. He asked why he should keep prices stable and unemployment down. Those numbers mean things to humans. They mean satisfaction, the ability to live within means. They mean happiness. These kinds of words make economists uncomfortable. Happiness resists measurement. When things cannot be measured, they cannot be modeled, and if economists aren’t using models, then they aren’t scientists.

In his speech on Monday, Bernanke pointed to the “Gross National Happiness” index of the Kingdom of Bhutan and to the OECD’s “Better Life Index,” which compares quality-of-life indicators across countries. And he suggests that economists track measures of job security, confidence about future employment prospects, degree of upward mobility, and changes in the distribution of income. To Jerry Evensky, this sounds a lot like Adam Smith, who considered himself a moral philosopher. “Smith thought the metric of society is how the least of the working class is doing,” says Evensky, “the metric of a good life is not material well being, but secure tranquility.”

Two years ago, Bernanke gave a commencement address at the University of South Carolina. He apologized for talking about economics to a group of celebrating 22-year-olds, and then instead talked about happiness. Happiness is right there in the Declaration of Independence, he said, so we should study it. He went into great detail on the “Easterlin Paradox,” the finding of economistRichard Easterlin that above a certain income level, more money doesn’t buy much more happiness. “Or, as your parents always said, ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness,’” the chairman said, adding, “Well, an economist might reply, ‘At least not by itself.’” To the profession of economics, Bernanke is now saying: Money doesn’t buy happiness; figure out what does.

Bernanke Talks Pursuit of Happiness

The list of go-to metrics economists rely upon to make their judgments of how Americans — and the economy — are faring sometimes only captures one part of the picture.

In a speech given two years ago on the “Economics of Happiness” Bernanke defined “happiness” as a “short-term stage of awareness that depends on a person’s perception of one’s immediate reality, as well as on immediate external circumstances and outcomes. By ‘life satisfaction’ I mean a longer-term state of contentment and well-being that results from a person’s experience over time.”

Statistics like gross domestic product, consumer spending, disposable income, household net worth — while pertinent in monitoring individual’s ability to meet their needs and reflect changes in the economy — don’t necessarily capture the entirety of any one person’s full life experience.

Rather, what’s left over is a variety of factors that ultimately contribute to an individuals’ well-being, like belonging to a family, confidence about the future, and ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Money Guru Seeks Guide To Happiness

In his latest remarks, Bernanke turned to the more difficult task of measuring a subjective emotion. Most efforts have involved surveys in which people are asked whether they are happy and what contributes to their happiness.
Those surveys have found some consistent answers: physical and mental health, the strength of family and community ties, a sense of control over one’s life, and opportunities for leisure activity.
The Kingdom of Bhutan has been tracking happiness for four decades. The tiny Himalayan nation stopped tracking gross national product in 1972 and switched to measuring Gross National Happiness.
Bernanke sketched out a few other questions he would like answered: how secure do Americans feel in their jobs? How confident are Americans in their future job prospects? How prepared are families for financial shocks?
These indicators “could be useful in measuring economic progress or setbacks as well as in explaining economic decision-making”, he said.

Bernanke on ‘Happiness’ and the Economic Recovery

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ben Bernanke wants to know if you are happy.

The Federal Reserve chairman said Monday that gauging happiness can be as important for measuring economic progress as determining whether inflation is low or unemployment high. Economics isn’t just about money and material benefits, Bernanke said. It is also about understanding and promoting “the enhancement of well-being.”

Bernanke says economic data masking average Americans’ struggles

More attention should be paid to microeconomic data, which can give a better sense of what’s happening to specific types of households and businesses, Ben Beranke said. And economists should try to find better ways to measure “economic well-being.”

In a commencement addresstwo years ago, Bernanke talked about “The Economics of Happiness.” He said studies have shown that income and wealth play a role in how people define their own happiness, but there are other factors as well – “a strong sense of support from belonging to a family or core group and a broader community, a sense of control over one’s life, a feeling of confidence or optimism about the future and an ability to adapt to changing circumstances.”

Alternative measures of well-being are being developed around the world and have started to play a role in policy debates and statistical analysis, he said.

Let’s measure happiness, Ben Bernanke says

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s public search for better tools to measure economic “happiness” struck a chord yesterday with Hub workers and Fed watchers who said his comments demonstrate the disconnect between central bankers and struggling Americans.

“A lot of things they say are more ‘put on a good face for the public’ when in reality they know how bleak things are and what direction we’re going in,” said Jeff Kiley, 25, an account executive from Somerville. “We’re kind of just treading water right now instead of thriving or getting beyond what’s happened in the past three or four years.”

The Thrift Paradox: US Savers May Be Happier, But the Economy Suffers

Fed’s Bernanke considers the economics of happiness as Harris Private Bank finds that thrifty Americans hamper growth

Economic research shows that money doesn’t buy happiness, says the Fed’s Bernanke.

Consumer spending—or more precisely, the lack of it—continues to hamper the U.S. economy as Americans reconsider what it takes to make them happy. This thrift paradox has become increasingly apparent as Americans, after their earlier decades of spending and indebtedness, have gotten into the habit of saving their money to the detriment of national growth, according to a recent report from Harris Private Bank.

At the same time, the “economics of happiness” suggests that the relationship of income and wealth to well-being is more complex than economic policymakers have traditionally assumed it to be, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke noted Monday in a speech before the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth in Cambridge, Mass.

In short, it looks like post-recession Americans have truly learned that money doesn’t buy happiness.

“An interesting finding in the literature is that the overwhelming majority of people in the United States and in many other countries report being very happy or pretty happy on a daily basis, a finding that researchers link to people’s intrinsic abilities to adapt and find satisfaction in their lives even in very difficult circumstances,” Bernanke said.

At the same time, however, the Fed chairman did acknowledge that many Americans are struggling and not too happy about their finances.

Lewis: Uncle Ben wants us to be happy

Bernanke has come a long way since promising the subprime mortgage crisis would be contained, even as it spilled across oceans. Though traditional measures of the U.S. economy have indeed shown spates of improvement over the ensuing years, Bernanke has not succumbed to economic cheerleading.

This is remarkable since the pressure on the Fed Chair to claim positive results for the trillions he’s pumped into the global economy is probably more than most men could bear. Through it all, Bernanke has remained acutely aware that economic reports don’t always match people’s actual economic conditions.

Bernanke’s Pursuit of Happiness

Yesterday Bernanke, in a pre-recorded speech to a conference in Cambridge, MA, extolled the virtues of happiness economics.

Let’s be honest, there was little point in him singing the praises of his own area of economics, that’s fallen flat on its face.

Across the developed world the damages from the fiat money system become greater every day. Governments and central bankers are the ones to thanks for widening levels of poverty and inequality. The majority of our daily lives are affected by decisions made from us drawn from economic studies and statistics. But now the most sacred thing to all of us – our happiness – is something the most powerful government on earth would like to get their hands on…

Other Happiness & Wellbeing Stories This Week

Comment: Olympics sexism still rife amongst tweeters and even journalists

Jessica-Ennis-London-2012-heptathlon-gold-medalist

Female athletes have enjoyed a high profile at the London Olympics. British Olympic stars Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Rebecca Adlington and Beth Tweddle are amongst many who have seen their already very public profiles increase with further medal success.

On the surface it seems women are finally gaining the recognition and respect as sportswomen that they deserve. And in the case of Ennis and Pendleton, whose dominance of their respective sports has meant massive sponsorship deals and increased exposure, it would appear top women sports stars are close to, if not already enjoying, parity with their male counterparts.

However, any illusions sexism and prejudice were a thing of the past were dashed unceremoniously on Monday night during the women’s shot put event…

Op-ed: Gender and the Olympics

The Olympics is a reminder that competition between nations need not be in the battlefield, but can be on the sports pitch, to spread tolerance and egalitarianism. And in London 2012 the blaring Olympic torch is adding another dimension: the fight against the darkness of stereotypes..

More Women Than Ever in 2012 Olympics So Why Are They Still Second Class?

At least two countries attending the 2012 Olympics made a policy decison to fly their male competitors business class and their female athletes in economy.

When I first heard this blatant piece of discrimination against women I honestly thought it must be wrong. Surely in this day and age no one could be that crass. After all, these are the Olympic Games with more women competing in them than ever before, the games which the Olympic president declared a ‘major boost for gender equality‘. How could it be true that both Australia and Japan flew men business class and its women economy.

Well, it seems they did…

Women’s Health and Wellbeing Worldwide

Gallup is out with a special series of articles on women around the world. Gallup analysts mined Gallup World Poll data from more than 140 countries to uncover the areas in which women trail behind men the most.

Health turned out to be one area in particular where women lag men worldwide. Specifically, women are less likely than men to be satisfied with their health and are more likely to experience physical pain, health problems, and sadness.

Mental well-being of working adults 13% lower than general population

SINGAPORE – The mental well-being of working adults in Singapore is 13 per cent lower than the general population, according to the Health Promotion Board (HPB) which conducted a survey with 1,000 respondents.

Nose for happiness: Doctors discover NASAL SPRAY that can stop couples having heated arguments

News from the Daily Mail of a new wonder drug – see what you think…

After a few sniffs of hormone, university study shows men are more positive and sensitive about a disagreement and women are more friendly…

Happiness & Wellbeing At Work

The Happiness Test: A Foolproof Way of Being Happy?

Ninety-five years ago, in the first issue of his magazine, Forbes, B. C. Forbes asked a big question: “Business was originated to produce happiness. Are we in danger of forgetting this?”

Its a basic human desire to be happy. Happy people tend to be healthier and live longer. They also tend to be more productive employees and more loyal customers.

But how do we become happier?

Procrastination: Dealing with the thief of time

 Procrastination melting the clock

The simple truth about procrastination…

‘Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task,‘  the psychologist William James, famously once said. And he’s right, I get exhausted by thinking of all the things I have to do on my to-do list.

Procrastination is not an inborn trait; procrastinators are made, not born. It is not a time management problem; a lot of procrastinators are actually good at estimating time and are good planners.They know exactly how much time it takes to iron a pile of laundry, to cook the dinner, to put fuel in the car…

So Why Do People Procrastinate?

Never Happier Than When Writing

J.K. Rowling has said of herself as a child: “I was shy. I was a mixture of insecurities and very bossy to my sister but quite quiet with strangers. Very bookish. Terrible at school.”

She was also “never happier than when reading or writing.”

Feeling happiness or other positive emotions has a strong connection with being creative, according to a number of research studies…

“…people are happiest when they come up with a creative idea, but they’re more likely to have a breakthrough if they were happy the day before. There’s a kind of virtuous cycle.”

How Do You Define Feminism at Work?

How do younger woman in the workforce, planning to have success in both career and family, view the debate? Have we become too preoccupied by distinguishing and specifying our peers and successful women as “feminists”? Pragmatically, perhaps we should simply focus on their success, rather than a label.

Struggling to come to terms with the evolving role of women, and specifically feminists, in the workplace, we spoke to Caroline Ghosn, Founder and CEO of The Levo League, about what it means to be a young woman in the workplace today…

This, Not Money, Motivates Americans to Work Harder

Trying to please co-workers is a stronger motivating factor than a high salary for some employees, new research shows.

The study by researchers at the University of Iowa found that a sense of belonging and attachment to a group of colleagues is a better motivator for some than money.  “Peer pressure is a strong motivating force, and workers’ willingness to please people who mean something to them is often a stronger motivating force than financial rewards,” said George Stewart, one of the study’s authors and a professor of management and organisations…

Happiness Generates Revenue

Serial entrepreneur Ted Leonsis asks entrepreneurs to question their definition of success…

Trust In The Workplace: What Does It Mean To You?

Why old style leadership development hasn’t worked: what we should be doing?

What I hear from most participants from Leadership Development Programmes is what you are trying to teach me is all very well, and I get it, but I don’t see it in my masters and leaders in this organisation. Indeed the behaviours that get you to the top of this organisation are not what you are telling me a good leader does. The problem is that those behaviours are not innate to those at the top of our organisations.

So why should I adopt your premise of leadership development?

New happiness @ Work Appreciative Team Building process from Life maters transforms ME to WE

This Team building programme from South Africa may be overwritten with acronyms and self-consciously clever language, but the ideas that give it its framework are worth considering…

The new Happy Appreciative Resilient Dedicated (HARD) Team/Tribe building process and relationship improvement initiative that…

  • transforms teams/Tribe Consciousness and happiness level
  • builds greater trust
  • enhances staff satisfaction, engagement and productivity
  • elevates Mental Model Languaging/ Perception
  • and builds Psychological Capital & Appreciative mindsets.

“Most corporate training and motivational-style team building workshops are a waste of time and money if you are looking for value and long-term results”, says Tony Dovale – Chief Culture Shift Coach at LifeMasters. “Typically less than 10% of what people learn in a training workshop is used back in the workplace!”

In order to resolve this dilemma, says Dovale, based upon our past staff development intervention experiences and extensive happiness @work and team working research, we have launched an innovative HARD (Happy Appreciative Resilient & Dedicated) team building intervention and staff development process

When Life Throws You Curve Balls: How To Manage Uncertainty

How to Manage Uncertainty

Do you face uncertainty in your life?

How do you manage them?

National framework to improve mental health and wellbeing published ~ 24 July, 2012

The government has published the Mental health implementation framework, which sets out what organisations can do to make the 6 high-level objectives of the mental health strategy No Health without Mental Health a reality.

Today Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Care Services Minister Paul Burstow will call on employers to take 5 simple steps to improve the mental health of their staff. Mental ill health costs British businesses over £1000 per employee every year, or almost £30 billion across the UK economy. This is mostly in lost production through staff being off work or underperforming at work.

The Mental health implementation framework sets out what employers, schools, businesses, local authorities, housing organisations, voluntary groups and health and care organisations can do to promote good mental health, whether it’s clinical commissioning groups appointing mental health leads, schools developing awareness programmes to help staff recognise pupils at risk, or employers supporting the mental health of their workforce.

Who’s Responsible For Happiness At Your Event? or Workplace?

You probably don’t need a formally appointed “Chief Happiness Officer” but if no one takes care of that responsibility, it’s difficult to craft an experience that produces/allows/encourages/supports happiness.

Business in Little boxes: Stop trying to jump out in a one-off 90-minute workshop

Not much has changed since Malvina Reynolds, songwriter and political activist, wrote the song Little Boxes in 1962. Instead of just the boys becoming professionals, now both sexes do, but education and work still by and large put us in little boxes and expect us to be all the same.

When my colleagues and I build the capacities of other consultancy groups, we often play this video at the beginning of workshops to connect them with the meta-context of introducing innovation, creativity and change with their clients. The reason why organisations keep talking about the importance and elusiveness of thinking ‘outside the box’ is that it’s darned tough if you’re raised in a series of them.

Traits of the ‘Get It Done’ Personality: Laser Focus, Resilience, and True Grit

Traits of the 'Get It Done' Personality

Silas Crews for the Chronicle

Robert J. Sternberg has studied the way people accomplish goals and stay motivated…

Being passionate about your work and resilient in the face of setbacks are key, most experts agree.

“If you don’t believe in yourself, it’s easy to think that you’re a loser and to stop trying,” says author and psychologist, Robert J. Sternberg.

Self-regulation—being aware of what matters to you and having the discipline to avoid temptations and see it through—is another important quality, he says. “What happens to a lot of people is that they get totally caught up in trivia, and later they complain they were asked to do too much of this or that. Ultimately it’s your responsibility to regulate yourself and decide what’s important and what isn’t.”

No matter where you are, though, “it’s very easy to let pushing papers and attending meetings consume all your time,” Mr. Sternberg says. “You have to decide what your priorities are and say, ‘I’m going to make it happen’—and then just make it happen.”

15 Tips to Become a Successful Part Time Entrepreneur

A list of things that will increase productivity and the chances of your business becoming successful for struggling entrepreneurs…

What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Their Brains

How To Become A Better Leader Awareness

Are you more like Howard Schultz of Starbucks, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Richard Branson of Virgin, or Tony Hsieh of Zappos? Knowing the answer could help you become more successful in your business.

Being aware of how your brain works can help you make better decisions as an entrepreneur, contend the authors of a new book, Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). Business veterans Tony Tjan, Dick Harrington, and Tsun-yan Hsieh interviewed and researched more than 500 business leaders from young, upstart entrepreneurs to experienced CEOs and identified four character traits that define a business leaders’ decision-making process…

Leadership and Happiness & Wellbeing At Work

Are Your Employees Happy At Work?

American statistics that have a strong parallel with UK research findings…

Think being happy at work is a nice thing? You’d be very wrong. Happy employees are essential to the well being of your business.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which has been polling over 1,000 adults every day since January 2008, shows that Americans now feel worse about their jobs — and work environments — than ever before. People of all ages, and across income levels, are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organisations and detached from what they do.

Additionally, Gallup estimates that because workers are not engaged, American businesses lose $300 billion in productivity each year…

Managers who listen to the problems that employees experience, help solve problems, and remove barriers so that the employees feel like they are making meaningful progress, are more likely to have happy employees. And, if Gallup’s studies are to be believed, having happy employees will magnify the success of your business – beyond calculation.

6 Cost-Effective Strategies to Improve Employee Motivation

In today’s world, where jobs are at a premium and companies are downsizing at unprecedented rates, it is crucial to get the most out of your workforce. But only 20% of Americans feel very passionate about their jobs and 33% feel they have reached a dead-end, according to a Harris survey. Out of all survey participants, younger workers feel the least amount of loyalty toward their employers.

So how do you improve employee motivation? Offering greater pay often isn’t always an option, and there might not be sufficient funds in the budget for typical motivational tools or rewards. However, by using a little common sense and creativity, there are plenty of ways to motivate your employees for little or no cost.

Here are some affordable and free ideas to motivate employees at your company…

3 Steps to Becoming a More Grateful Leader – Cultivate the Attitude of Gratitude

Having an attitude of gratitude is a leadership gift. It can have a positive impact on those you lead. People are often more motivated, for example, by those who show gratitude. In one study bigger tips were given to servers who wrote “Thank you” on their checks. In another study, jewelry store customers who were called and thanked increased their purchases by 70% as opposed to a 0% increase by customers who were not called…

Leadership by Choice

Leadership is always a choice. In Leadership by Choice, author Eric Papp says it means “making a conscious choice to positively influence those around you by managing yourself and leading others in four areas….”

Communication — How well do you listen, ask questions, and speak with influence? How many of our problems are caused by lack of listening?

Leading Teams – How well do you establish trust, healthy conflict, and achieve results with others?

Productivity – How well do you spend your time and how focused are you?

Personal Development – What are you doing to develop yourself?

10 Traits of Women Business Leaders: They’re Not What You Think

What do successful women have in common? You think I’m going to tell you that they have magical multi-tasking skills, motivational genius, or maybe just a really great spouse. But the number one thing that successful women business leaders have in common is that they don’t let the persistent underrepresentation of women in business deter them from taking a place at the table…

5 Quick Ways You Can Bring Positive Psychology To Your Workplace

Business leaders can take seemingly small steps to improve the psyche of their employees—changing the overall working environment…

Seven leadership sins

Not long ago, marketing guru Seth Godin blogged about the seven marketing sins. I think they provide a great framework for the seven leadership sins:

Impatience…

Selfishness…

Self-absorption…

Deceitfulness…

Inconsistency…

Anger…

Jealousy…

When guilt in leaders is a good thing

When we think of the ideal leader, we tend to think of a standard set of traits: extroverted, decisive, intelligent and even tall. Here’s one more we may have to add to the list: guilt prone.

Stanford professor Francis Flynn and his doctoral student Rebecca Schaumberg say that guilt-prone individuals may make better leaders…

5 Reasons Why Optimists Make Better Leaders

  1. Optimists start businesses…
  2. Optimists are inspiring communicators…
  3. Optimists rally people to a better future…
  4. Optimists see the big picture…
  5. Optimists elicit super human effort…

12 Most Inspiring “I” Indicators of Great Leaders

“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Rock Bottom: How Great Leaders Triumph Over Failure

Steve Jobs was fired from his own company; Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison; and Abraham Lincoln failed in business, had a nervous breakdown, and was defeated in eight elections. So how did all these people achieve such extraordinary success?

We all know of business leaders, authors, celebrities, and sports stars who after a brief moment in the sun hit rock bottom only to rise again, overcome adverse circumstances, claw their way back to the top, and inspire the world around them. The stuff of legends and Hollywood movies, these comeback stories are incredible to hear. But when failure is fresh, and it’s yours, it’s often hard to believe that recovery, let alone success, is possible.

From rejection to workplace screw-ups, everyone has experienced that all-too-familiar gut-wrenching numbness. Even small failures can stalk you like a dark cloud, causing others to question your abilities. Worse, it can seriously undermine your self-assurance.

In my early years in business, I nearly drove a company I had founded bankrupt. I betrayed my own values and goals and lost everything, including the support of many important people in my life. However, it was from this adversity that I discovered the three keys to overcoming failure…

Personal Happiness & Wellbeing

The 3 Mistakes That Keep You Struggling

Are you finding your dreams a struggle?

You know that your future could be enjoyable, fulfilling and profitable. You probably even know what you have to do to make it happen.

So why is it that when you start moving in the right direction, you hit a slump, fall off of the wagon, and find yourself at a standstill wondering what went wrong…

6 Surprising Ways To Be Happier

‘The following six ideas may seem counterintuitive at first blush, but bear with me’ writes psychiatrist, Sheenie Ambardar, ‘you might find a kernel of truth in each that resonates with you’:

  1. Make Less Money
  2. Don’t Get Married
  3. Be Selfish
  4. Be Ignorant
  5. Have Fewer Friends
  6. Never Try To Fit A Round Peg Into A Square Hole

Training the Brain for Happiness

A podcast from Steven Cherry

There’s new data on the complicated genetic basis of depression and happiness… Steven Cherry talks with psychologist Elaine Fox and her ideas that “subtle variation in how we see the world—our biases and quirks of mind—can reshape the actual architecture of our brain, pushing us toward a more optimistic or pessimistic take on life. By changing the way our brain responds to challenges and joys, we can change the way we are.”

What Do Happy People Have In Common?

“Researchers have found that happy people are ten times more likely to be other-oriented than self-centered. This suggests that happiness is a by-product of helping others rather than the result of its pursuit.”

How to Be Happy: The Fine Print

Most of us want to be happy and stay that way, and research from positive psychology has shown that making a habit of certain day-to-day activities—like expressing gratitude, exercising, or performing acts of kindness—can help us get there.

But few researchers have considered how to identify an activity that’s best suited to your particular personality and lifestyle.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, started to explore these questions in her 2007 book, The How of Happiness. Now, Lyubomirsky and a graduate student of hers, Kristin Layous, are zeroing in on why some activities may “fit” for some people and not others (summarized in a chapter for a forthcoming book, The Dark and Light Side of Happiness).

“A lot of different research has found that these activities have positive effects,” she says, “so I think the next step is understanding how they work best and what considerations we need to think about before we mass recommend them to everyone.”

Let’s call it “the fine print” of how to be happy, the little details you should consider before undertaking happiness activities…

Smile Your Way Out of Stress?

A new study finds even a phony smile can help you handle stress…

Put a pencil between your lips in just the right way, and you’ll feel happier—though you won’t know why. The result is so reliable, I used this trick on students as a foolproof demo when I taught intro to psychology.

This effect demonstrates the “facial feedback” theory of emotion—but you can think of it as “fake it til you make it.” The idea is simple: your brain is constantly monitoring what’s happening in your body. It analyzes things like muscle tension, posture, heart rate, breathing, and, yes, facial expressions, to judge how you are feeling.

Put yourself in a happier position, and you can boost your mood. Practice a depressed face and slumped posture, and watch the gloom set in. The pencil trick works because it forces your face to mimic a genuine smile, recruiting just the muscles of the mouth, cheeks, and eyes that come to life when you are happy.

Rather than limit yourself to a chopstick trick, practice putting your entire body into a more relaxed, confident, or supported position. Learn how to stand tall and breathe well. A basic yoga class should take care of this. Then, when you find yourself stressed out, anxious, or in pain, do your best to fully embody the attitude or emotion you’d like to experience.

Angela Mollard: When Happy Is Hard

Remember when ‘happy’ was just something you were? Or weren’t. Good days, bad days, happy days, sad days – all jumbled in a life you lived rather than thought about too much.

Today happiness is a commodity; a ‘goal’, a ‘revolution’, a ‘project’. It’s what we want for ourselves and our children. “Yes, please,” we’d say to the doctor if she could vaccinate against sadness, along with the usual measles and mumps. Anything to immunise ourselves against pain and unease.

We live in a culture that propagates the notion that happiness should be a constant state of mind and perfection our universal aim. To that end, most weeks I write jaunty, optimistic and ‘wise’ missives underneath a photo that makes me look 10 times prettier than I really am. “Great life, lucky cow,” you probably say to yourself and, yes, sometimes it is and sometimes I am.

But if I neglect to tell you the bad stuff – the hard, horrible, trying times – then I’m as guilty of perpetuating perfect images as those ads where mums are always smiling…

Study: Pretending Everything’s Okay Works

CAMBRIDGE, MA—A study released Thursday by researchers at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology has found that the simple act of pretending one’s life is not a complete shambles threatening to collapse at any moment works. “Even when everything is coming apart at the seams and disaster is almost certainly imminent, putting up a good front for friends and loved ones makes everything better,” said Professor Christine Wanamaker, who explained that smiling a lot and evasive answers were usually enough to get by…

Why Success Breeds Success: The Science of “The Winner Effect”

Biochemistry and the self-reinforcing upward spiral of winning.  We hold the keys to victory within us, but usually cannot find them…

Byron Katie Just Wants You to Be Happy

Byron Katie just wants you to be happy. She doesn’t know you, but she believes she can help you find your happiness, and countless of her fans and followers would agree. She also thinks that helping you find happiness goes a long way in solving the myriad problems in the world. She’s been on Oprah. Tony Robbins is a fan and incorporates her work into his own teachings. Her methods are remarkably simple; she only asks that you question your own thoughts and that you accept reality for what it really is. You will wonder why you never thought of it.

What Bryon Katie is offering is a method of self-inquiry that allows us to free ourselves from the anger and negativity we feel when we accept our thoughts, unquestioned, as true. We cause much of our own suffering by believing what our minds tell us. If we can see that certain thoughts are the cause of our own unhappiness, we can begin to let go and be free of them. Questioning these thoughts, putting them to the test of The Work, is a form of enlightenment. If the unexamined life is not worth living, perhaps the unexamined thought is not worth thinking.

It certainly can’t hurt to try.

Can We Kill The Easterlin Paradox Now Please: It’s Wrong

In this Forbes Comment, Tim Worstall emphasises the erroneousness of the research that originally showed greater income did not bring greater happiness once our basic needs have been met. However his pleas for more moderate taxation of the rich fails to consider the increasing body of research that is showing that the greater inequality between people in a society, the lower their happiness levels will be. This seems to be the main reason why the happiness people on the planet live in Scandinavian countries, where people are taxed to create a high level of economic equality, and South American countries where there is relatively little difference between the highest and lowest incomes.

One of the great sadnesses of the social sciences, possibly of all sciences, is that ideas and theories seem to percolate through into the general population as great truths at just about the time that they are being rejected in the science. As an example take the Easterlin Paradox.

This is the idea that sure, happiness increases when income increases: but only up to a certain level. Often described as being well, yes, sufficient food, clothing, housing and so on make us happier but above that getting on the hedonic treadmill, trying to keep up with the neighbours with gadgets and gewgaws, does not.

Here’s Lane Kenworthy (please note Kenworthy is an excellent and generally lefty researcher. This is not the invention of some right wing loon like myself):

3. Once you reach the middle class, more income doesn’t make you any happier.

In the mid-1970s, economist Richard Easterlin posited, based on a pattern he observed across nations, that income boosts happiness only to a point, after which it yields no further benefit. (His paper reverberated in academic circles and helped drive the development of economic research on happiness.) So, if slow middle-class income growth is of little consequence to our subjective well-being, why should we fret about it?

New research, however, has called into question the “Easterlin paradox.” We now have better data to assess the effect of income on happiness. Those data tell us that happiness increases in line with household income up to about $75,000. Beyond that, we get less of a happiness bump from each additional buck, but it does continue to rise.

Geetanjali Krishna: Stitching up happiness

Now, in his twilight years, Masterji wants to somehow give back to the world. “Rich people can easily give money to the poor. I used to wonder what a poor man like me could offer society! That’s when the idea of stitching poor people’s clothes for free occurred to me,” he said. So this has become Masterji’s humble contribution to society. “Everything in life comes full circle,” he said. “I believe that every poor person who wears a garment stitched by me will send some positive energy my way….”

Would he call this, I asked naively, the key to his longevity? He smiled his toothless happy smile and said, “I don’t know about that. But it is certainly the key to my happiness….”

Art, Performance & Sound

The Scandalous Failure of Art and Music

Art, music and culture are failing to do their jobs properly in contemporary society, which is something we ought to change. In the absence of cultural stories told through art, music, theater and the like, we are left solely with current events as our only tool with which to understand our lives and plan our futures, we don’t learn vicariously anymore…

Art and music need to address these realities. It’s not enough anymore to wait until a disaster occurs then play the memorial concert or erect another scarring monument to our collective loss. Art should instead lead the way in a real community conversation about life.

Fidget Project ~ A unique fusion of art, science and wiggling, Fidget is a dynamic interactive experience changing your understanding of the science of sitting on the sofa.

We sit too much and need to move more…

Michael Pinsky’s live action gaming experience challenges a nation’s love affair with the sofa.

Michael Pinsky is a renowned British artist, whose international projects have created innovative and challenging works in galleries and public spaces. His role as artist, urban planner, activist and researcher make him the ideal visionary to create innovative mediums to challenge our perceptions of what is really happening when we simply sit!

Happiness: An Evening With Tony Hawks ~ an Action For Happiness event

“I was putting my trust in other people. Helping other people is good for them, so you’re doing somebody a favour when you let them help you” ~ Tony Hawks talking about his adventure hitching around Ireland with a fridge, and then what we can learn about happiness and wellbeing from his experiences…

On 30 June 2012, best-selling author and comedian Tony Hawks shared his unique perspective on life and happiness, including his views on generosity, the politics of wellbeing and why he believes happiness comes less from material things and more from helping others.

Tony has been a supporter of Action for Happiness since before its launch and has spoken passionately in support of the movement on BBC radio and at public events.

Here is a video from the event for those who couldn’t make it.

Interrogate! Happiness Festival

Saturday 13th – Sunday 14th October 2012. Dartington Hall

Back for another year and this time happiness is centre stage. With support from Action for Happiness

As autumn closes in and some of us get SAD, join us at Dartington for Interrogate! Happiness, your chance to spend a weekend looking at what makes us happy. How can we learn to be happy at work, in our families and at school? Is mindfulness the new religion when it comes to happiness? Should the government focus on gritty issues like banks and growth or is their job to make us smile?

How Big Is Infinity? An Animated Explanation From TED

The fine folks at TED-Ed have teamed up with educator Dennis Wildfogel and animation studio Augenblick to explore the dimensions of infinity through this stimulatingly mind-bending lesson on legacies of mathematicians Georg Cantor, David Hilbet, Kurt Gödel, and Paul J. Cohen, exposing both the genius and limitations of mathematics.

The Science of How Music Enchants the Brain, Animated

How harmony, melody, and rhythm trigger the same reward systems that drive our desires for food and sex.

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Happiness At Work is a weekly collection of the best ideas, stories, links, tools & techniques for improving Happiness & Wellbeing At Work for Individuals, Leaders and Organisations curated by BridgeBuilders STG Limited 
The collection is refreshed with new stories every Friday, and we welcome any suggestions of links you would like to see included in new collections.
This means that this same Happiness At Work link will always connect you to the latest collection.
The postings all remain permanently in this site, and you can see postings in previous collections at any time by clicking on the Archives menu in the top left of the screen, and choosing an earlier Friday back to the first edition published 6th July 2012
Happiness At Work ~ edition 2 (13th July 2012)

We hope you enjoy these collections and wish you success and happiness with all that you are making and making happen…

Happiness At Work ~ a route map to edition 5 (3rd August 2012)

Welcome to this week’s Happiness & Wellbeing At Work collection of stories, ideas, images and sounds.

Our Top Happiness & Wellbeing Story This Week

We actually posted different versions this story in last week’s collection, but with all the emotions of the Olympics and the heightened sense of being one joined up interconnected world this gives us, the findings from the Stanford Study showing how important a sense of AWE is for us all seem especially relevant – as individuals as much as for our continued survival and evolution as a species…

The Benefits of Being Awestruck

We lose our sense of awe at our own peril, however. The title of a new Stanford study tells you all you need to know: Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Apparently, watching awe-inspiring vidoes makes you less impatient, more willing to volunteer time to help others, more likely to prefer experiences over material products, more present in the here and now, and happier overall.

When do people feel as if they are rich in time?  Not often, research and daily experience suggest.

However, three experiments showed that participants who felt awe, relative to other emotions, felt they had more time available and were less impatient. Participants who experienced awe were also more willing to volunteer their time to help others, more strongly preferred experiences over material products, and experienced a greater boost in life satisfaction. Mediation analyses revealed that these changes in decision making and well-being were due to awe’s ability to alter the subjective experience of time. Experiences of awe bring people into the present moment, which underlies awe’s capacity to adjust time perception, influence decisions, and make life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.

A Three-Movement Choral Suite Based on Carl Sagen

Enjoy this choral response to this theme…

“Something incredible is waiting to be known.”  Carl Sagen

Stories still coming from last week’s ONS initial report into the wellbeing of people in the UK…

ONS publishes first data from wellbeing survey, UK

Three-quarters of people aged 16 and over rate their satisfaction with their lives as ‘seven’ on a scale of 0 to 10, according to the first results from the survey of subjective wellbeing carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Want to know how to be happy? It’s complicated!

Earlier this week, the Office of National Statistics released the first annual results of its ‘Measuring National Wellbeing Programme’.

They found that people’s perceived quality of life varies according to who they are, what groups they are part of – gender, ethnicity, profession – and where they live.

But what do these happiness figures actually tell us? Can they lead individuals, communities or policy-makers to work out how to make things better?

For politicians and policy-makers these numbers could become something of a barometer, an indicator of how various policies are working, especially if measured over time. But how do they help us make decisions about what will improve our own wellbeing?

Comment: The British Search For Happiness

In Western societies there has been a tendency to link happiness and prosperity, and although most people will agree that “you can’t buy happiness”, they will persist in the belief that greater wealth will make them happier. Numerous studies have shown that an increase in income may indeed result in a short-term increase of happiness, but this increase will not last. These studies have revealed a paradox which suggests that rather than produce greater happiness increased wealth can have the opposite effect. This may seem baffling to most of us who are struggling to get increase profits or get that raise but it is something that Eastern tradition has acknowledged for centuries. It is summed up succinctly in a Buddhist proverb: “No food, one problem. Much money, many problems.”

The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus claimed that the only path to happiness is to cease worrying about things which are beyond our power to change. This is not to say that people should not strive to make things better, but that they should not worry too much if they do not succeed.

Former US president Roosevelt once described happiness as “the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort” and in western societies people have become so focused on achievement that they sometimes lose sight of their limitations.

Whilst the onset of hot weather and the start of the Olympic Games might give us a much needed boost of joy, we can rest assured that even if the rains return and Team GB fails to win a single medal, the stoical people of Britain will still be able to muster a smile at themselves and continue their elusive search for happiness.

Why Cameron’s happiness agenda can only backfire

The government’s changes to housing and disability benefits, cuts to mental health services and the drastic reduction in legal aid are making people miserable.

Perhaps it’s time some kindly soul had a private word in the prime ministerial ear. Dear Mr Cameron, thank you so much for the interest you’ve shown in my happiness. I really appreciate everything you’re trying to do to help me, so please don’t take offence if I tell you that, actually, you’re making me quite unhappy. Perhaps we could meet for a cup of tea and I’ll tell you a few simple things you could do that would make me a whole lot happier. I’d have told you before but I never knew you cared.

What makes us happy? Family, future dreams and lying half-naked in a park

The government’s Index of Wellbeing, which measures how happy we are, revealed last week that being 65, married and a homeowner are the secrets to joy. Here, three people from different generations tell us what makes them content

Tim Lott: You’ve Got To Fight For Your Right To Frown

Smart, creative people aren’t going to figure [high in any Happiness Index] because they tend to suffer a disproportionate amount of unhappiness. Bruce Springsteen, who revealed last week that he was suicidal at the height of his success in the 1980s, is just one of the endless examples.

One research finding after another has demonstrated that happy people have a less accurate view of reality than depressed people. All this leads me to an uncomfortable conclusion for happiness academics – being happy is not the most important thing in life.

People who are unhappy are perceived as dangerous failures. So-called “negative” people are to be shunned, as if they carried a dangerous, transmutable virus.

There has been a spate of literature that suggests that it is the happy people who are the sick ones. Eric G Wilson’s Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy points out how “generative melancholy” can be a hugely creative force. Barbara Ehrenreich’s Smile or Die is a counterblast against American “positive thinking”, the idea that every disaster or setback is an “opportunity” for “moving on”.

But the world is run not by realistic melancholic introverts, but fantasising, optimistic extroverts – politicians, for instance, and bankers. This is good, to an extent. We need people who can believe in success against all the odds – believe that anything can be possible, believe that change can come, believe that they can make huge unearned profits.

But we need pessimists too. Sadness should not be taboo – it should be respected, like the priest and the funeral director. We treat it like the embarrassing guest at the wedding, we want it to shut up and go away, but it is in all our hearts and so it should be.

Springsteen would never score highly on the national happiness index. Neither would I, or most of the people I admire. I like happy people, and I like to be around them. But don’t disown the frown.

Still, mustn’t grumble, eh?

It was in struggling to find the essence of Britishness that the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, struck upon the common thread that runs through the nation; the expression “mustn’t grumble”.

That is, of course, often the prelude to a grumble. And given the weather this summer, plus the £9bn cost of staging the Olympic Games, we’ve surely earned the right to a world-class whinge should we wish one.

This week, the economic news has given us plenty more opportunity. Yet it’s a ledger of wellbeing that is being stacked heavily with information on both sides.

Perhaps the most circular element of wellbeing is defined as “the value of recognising the importance of well-being in the lives of consumers and customers”.

That is, it adds to your wellbeing to know that someone cares about your wellbeing. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Simply being asked what we think can make us feel a bit more, well, worthwhile.

This stuff is easily derided. But it’s worth noting that a withering dismissal from Labour brought the strongest rebuke to his own side that I’ve seen in the five years since Lord Jack McConnell left the Scottish Labour leadership. He reckons wellbeing and mental health must be taken much more seriously in politics.

More Happiness & Wellbeing Stories This Week

Olympicstastic! From Grumpy to Happy ! – Shelley Silas

I can understand if you don’t like or care about sport, but this is about so much more, a community and city coming together, collective enjoyment, London being transformed in a way it probably never will be again in my life time, of people being happy, talking to each other, getting into the spirit of the games and having fun…

And during all of this, I have been overcome by how lovely people have been, in the streets, in tubes, school kids and parents and teachers, total strangers, all out there enjoying what I am enjoying, laughing and having fun and bringing us together. I know the world isn’t in great shape, and while we are enjoying, people are being slaughtered and wars continue, I don’t think any of us is unaware of that, but it’s a joy to let go of it for a short time, to revel in our stunning city, at what the organisers have actually worked towards, an amazing feat of planning and skill and creativity. And I find that I am happy and excited and enthused and passionate and I hope I can stay this way, when the Olympics and Paralympics end and London is restored to its usual beautiful self, when the sand has gone and the grass is restored, when I am allowed into the pool for a length or two, and the city returns to normal. And I will use public transport more because it works, and it has been easy and a joy to let someone else do the driving.

Happiness On The Podium – OECD Better Life Index

“The Olympic movement gives the world an ideal which reckons with the reality of life”, so said Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern games: This ideal goes far beyond the world of sports and echoes a universal quest for happiness and well-being. It is also a valuable reminder that while keeping track of reality, one should constantly strive towards a better life.

The Olympics are all about universality and humanity, opposing nations in sport while uniting people throughout the world. The three Olympic values, of “excellence”, “friendship” and “respect” underline the universal appeal of the Olympic Movement.

His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck King of Bhutan, when outlining his vision of “Gross National Happiness”, referred to similar ideals: “As citizens of the world, our unifying force, our strength must come from something that is not bound by nation, ethnicity or religion – from fundamental human values. Values shape the future of humanity.” How do we reconcile these ideals with everyday life concerns? If asked about the Olympics, Londoners are more likely to raise more mundane concerns, revolving around overcrowded streets and the difficulty of obtaining tickets for their favourite sporting event. So can we say citizens around the world unite in their definition of happiness and do their priorities coincide? Well not really, to judge by people’s choices when building their own Better Life Index.

Some common trends across countries emerge. Governance, for example, is surprisingly unimportant to many people…Life satisfaction and health, on the other hand, are very popular across the board…

London 2012: let’s turn our Olympics venues into community arts centres

Crispin Truman: the long-term legacy of the games depends on a bottom-up approach, not a top-down volunteering model

St Paul's Church, Circomedia

If churches can do it, so can we: St Paul’s Church, Bristol, home to Circomedia. Photograph: Circomedia

If we believe Sebastian Coe, London 2012 legacy plans are further ahead than that of any previous Olympic host city with the best in sustainable, inclusive and innovative architecture. But to deliver a positive and lasting legacy of economic impact, social cohesion and enhanced community identity, it is imperative that we adopt a bottom-up, community and volunteer led approach. It’s also imperative that we turn our Olympic venues into long-lasting, community-serving sites. Reusing and regenerating them as arts and culture venues is just one of the possibilities…

‘Happiest Olympic Worker’ video sensation, Rachel Onasanwo, talks to the Daily News

Rachel Onasanwo, 23, became the talk of the Olympics Monday after a video showing her enthusiastically welcoming the crowds to the opening ceremony went viral.

84% of British holidaymakers claim holidays are worth more than the money they spend on them

Kuoni Travel and Nuffield Health have revealed 84 per cent of British holidaymakers claim holidays are worth more to them in terms of wellbeing than the money they spend on them.

The UK’s largest healthcare charity and Kuoni Travel surveyed 2,845 UK adults between 14 April to 30 June 2012 to find out how a holiday can help to alleviate the effects that everyday life has on the public’s mental and physical wellbeing.

The research showed that taking a break can improve people’s lives in four key ways:

– It enables to break out of a routine

– Offers an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones

– Puts a fresh perspective on people’s lives

– Enables us to relax and recharge our batteries

Our economic ruin means freedom for the super-rich

A programme that promised freedom and choice has instead produced something resembling a totalitarian capitalism, in which no one may dissent from the will of the market and in which the market has become a euphemism for big business. It offers freedom all right, but only to those at the top.

Clinging to Economic Growth Suffocates the Imagination

Listen to the news today and you would think that economic growth was the only answer to all our problems. But 40 years ago The Limits to Growth, written by a group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and published by The Club of Rome, broke a modern taboo: it suggested that growth itself might be the problem….

There is a popular view that economic growth can be saved by efficiency measures, recycling and technological substitution, such as nuclear and renewable energy replacing fossil fuels. Yet the model allowed even for these variables, and crashed under the pressure of growth just the same…

Clinging to growth suffocates the imagination needed to devise more convivial ways to share a finite planet. At the very least, and with so much evidence to the contrary, the burden of proof now lies heavily on those who reject the original message of the Limits report, for them to demonstrate how, and under what circumstances, we could possibly enjoy “growth forever” in a finite world. Kenneth Boulding, the founder of general systems theory, thought this to be a view held only by “madmen and economists”.

“Localization is the Economics of Happiness”

We know what makes us happy—but too often our economic decisions stand in the way. Helena Norberg-Hodge, director of the Economics of Happiness and winner of the 2012 Goi Peace Award, on how to change all that.

Our global economy is effective at many things—moving huge quantities of goods across great distances, for example, or turning mortgages into profits. What it’s not so good at is determining whether these activities are worthwhile when it comes to improving the lives of the people who live and work within the economy (not to mention preserving the natural systems on which the whole shebang depends). In many cases, economic policies that increase trade or production actually decrease well-being for millions, even billions, of people.

 That’s the reality that’s leading more people (and, increasingly, governments, from Bhutan and Bolivia to Britain and France) to ask a very simple question: What’s the economy for, anyway? Do the rules and policies we create to govern the flow of money and goods exist to create ever more money and goods, or to improve our lives? And if we decide we’d like to prioritize the latter, how do we rewrite the rules to do that?

The Economics of Happiness tackles these questions on six continents, examining ways our economic decisions promote, and diminish, human happiness. I spoke with Helena Norberg-Hodge, the film’s director and the founder of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, about what her research tells us about the relationship between economics and happiness.

Wellbeing, sustainability and economic prosperity: connecting the dots

Addressing these issues collectively rather than pitting them against one another is key for creating a better future

The ONS’s broader conception of wellbeing, which is based on the public’s views, offers greater potential for compatibility. For example, there are strong links between healthy lifestyles and sustainable lifestyles. If Britons ate more vegetables and less meat, we’d be healthier, and so would the planet. Sustainable travel behaviours (eg driving less, and cycling and walking more) can improve fitness, reduce stress, reduce traffic and improve air quality.

These links between wellbeing, sustainability and economic prosperity should be central to the government’s thinking as it seeks a positive agenda beyond deficit reduction. Unfortunately, ministerial responsibility for the three objectives is spread across several departments: the Cabinet Office leads on wellbeing, Defra on sustainable development, the Department of Energy and Climate Change on climate policy and the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on economic policy. This casts the three critical issues of our time as competing priorities, when in fact there are huge opportunities to develop complementary policies and solutions, and create a better future for people and the planet.

Cows’ social habits ‘may be a way to improve wellbeing’

HOW cows make friends is to be investigated in a three-year study.  Scientists want to understand more about “social networking” within Britain’s dairy herds.

The aim is to help farmers improve the health and welfare of their cows, thereby increasing milk yields.

Study leader Dr Darren Croft, from the University of Exeter’s Animal Behaviour Research Group, said: “Emerging evidence on wild animal populations supports the idea that the group structure and relationships between the animals affect their health and wellbeing.

Bhutan Bets Organic Agriculture Is The Road To Happiness

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan drew international attention a few years back for saying gross national happiness should trump gross domestic product when measuring a nation’s progress. If you’re going to prioritize happiness, the Bhutanese thinking goes, you’d better include the environment and spiritual and mental well-being in your calculations.

 But Bhutan, which has only 700,000 people — most of whom are farmers — has another shot at international fame if it can make good on a recent pledge to become the first country in the world to convert to a 100 percent organic agricultural system.

Sustainable Happiness — Lessons From Bhutan

I recently had the pleasure to sit down with the honorable Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigme Y. Thinley. He had profound things to say about the importance of Gross National Happiness for individuals, as well as for societies looking at the well-being of their citizens. Here are some ideas that can increase your long-term happiness.

More money does not equal more happiness. As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “[Gross National Product] fails to take into account the social and environmental costs of so-called progress. We need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental wellbeing are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.”

Social Well-Being:  “No man (or woman) is an island. We are part of the whole.” — John Dunne. People need people — it’s pretty simple. Yes, food and shelter are imperative, but “after the baseline has been met happiness varies more with the quality of human relationships than income.” What then helps create good relationships?

• Thoughts Influence Actions: How you respond to a situation often influences the outcome. Are the thoughts that you are thinking (and the actions that result from them) making the situation better or worse? People often feel your intentions and thoughts even if it they are not spoken. Being present to your thoughts is powerful.

• Practice Gratitude: This is one of the foundations of sustainable happiness. If you regularly jot down or even notice three things you are grateful for, you can raise your happiness level substantially. By focusing on what brings you happiness, whether it’s a smile, a sunset or a sweet conversation, you will become attuned to that and notice it in the most unexpected places. Do it for 28 days and you’ll see the change.

• To Feel Good, Do Good: The kindness that you extend another helps them, but actually serves you even more. It provides a long lasting good feeling that no one can take away. One of my favorite quotes is: “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” — Saint Basil. Create the community that you want to be part of.

Economic Well-Being: One thing that has perhaps been forgotten is that “economies exist to serve the well-being of people; not visa versa.” What does that really mean?

• Success and Happiness: Many people share the belief that happiness comes after you achieve success. “If I just had this salary, title or toy, then I could…” New research states that if you want to be more productive and more successful, cultivating happiness is the way to get there. “Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than at negative, neutral or stressed … The hormone dopamine that permeates your system when you are positive also turns on all the learning centers in the brain.” To influence your bottom line and your well-being, activate your happiness.

• The Idea of Balance: Having high-quality work definitely contributes to happiness, but focusing on the material pursuit alone can cause major stress and depression. The happiest countries in the world value a vibrant community, trusting relationships and time together over the workaholic attitude that more is more. Economic well-being is important, but so is the balance that comes with a meaningful and connected life.

Environmental Well-Being: Let’s first look at the inner ecosystem and then the environment at large.

• Happiness Is Contagious: The truth is that we are social animals, and every human being is influenced to some extent by those around them. Emotions are contagious. A scientific study has suggested that happiness is contagious to the third degree. By being happy, you are actually raising the happiness levels of three other people, who may not even know why they’re feeling uplifted. We have the power to improve the emotional environment around us and to create ecosystems of well-being. The cost is zero and the benefits are immeasurable.

• Think Inconvenient Truth: Unless we look out for one another, the generations to come will be in dire straits. There are tangible things to do. At the personal level, leave somewhere better than you found it, and buy from companies that support your future. On the societal level, encourage corporations and governments to make decisions that are good for the long term and for the generations to come.

In the words of Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Jigme Y. Thinley, “Sustainable development means survival. It is about how we, as a species, must live within the bounds of what nature can provide. Sustainable development is not a choice. It is an absolute necessity.” The good news is that it is not too late. Each and every person has the power to move toward greater well-being on all levels. You can make a difference in your own life and actually be the difference for someone else.

Brain Images Predict How Smart You Are

New research making the case for the predominant importance for intelligence of left-brain thinking…

While other regions of the brain make their own special contribution to cognitive processing, it is the left prefrontal cortex that helps coordinate these processes and maintain focus on the task at hand, in much the same way that the conductor of a symphony monitors and tweaks the real-time performance of an orchestra.

Nevertheless, we remain convinced by the arguments for the need to value and develop our right-brain thinking made by Ian McGilchrist in his brilliant book, The Master and his Emissary – The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World – see:

RSA Animate – The Divided Brain

Explore – The big thing’s that’s changed has been the external environment of what it means to teach in university

“The big thing that’s changed has been the external environment of what it means to teach in university. Universities used to be communities; they used to be places where intellectual life really happened. They were also places where avant-garde stuff was happening. And that’s – in England anyway – completely ground to a halt. Universities are largely sold as factories for production of increasingly uninteresting, depressed people wandering around complaining. There’s been a middle-management take-over of our education, and it’s depressing. So universities, like the university I was at – Essex, which was a radical, experimental, small university, but had a bad reputation but did some great stuff – have become a kind of pedestrian, provincial university run by bureaucrats. That was one of the reasons why I got out when I got out in 2004.”  Simon Critchley

Study: Kids’ Friends — Not Grades — Lead To Adult Well-Being

Stories of parents pushing kids to succeed in school above all else have been making headlines lately, but new research has found that social relationships are a much better predictor of adult well-being than a kid’s grades.posted about 23 hours ago

An obsession with academic success and college acceptance (at least in the media) has been giving way recently to an anxiety that a certain class of over-involved so-called helicopter parents”may be pushing their kids too hard. And now, new research shows that academic success may, indeed, not be the perfect preparation for a good life. One team looked at a group of New Zealanders over a period of more than thirty years, and what they found may offer a corrective to twenty-first century American achievement obsession…


Regardless of the length of their lives, children with trisomy 13 or trisomy 18 — a chromosomal abnormality that can cause shortened lifespans and severe disabilities — not only led happy lives, but enriched the lives of their families, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics July 23.

“Despite the fact that often these children live less than a year and they are disabled, families find they are happy children. They find joy in their children. They enrich the family, enrich the couple and the child’s life had meaning,” said study author Dr. Annie Janvier,

“Part of what we would like to do is expand the imagination of the providers — based upon the data that is available — to a range of possibilities for these children,” Benjamin Wilfond of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute at the University of Washington said.

The Secret Society of Happy People will celebrate the 13th Annual Happiness Happens Day on August 8th.

The day originally began to encourage people to talk more about happiness, says Society Founder Pamela Gail Johnson. “But we’re also realists,” she says, “and understand that life is a mixture of good and bad events and moments. Even on a day known for its overall unhappiness like Sept. 11, 2001, people still had babies, celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, and fell in love. We don’t seek to suppress the bad news, but instead to keep it in a balanced perspective to our happy moments.”

Secret Society of Happy People.  Founded: August 1998.  The Secret Society of Happy People encourages the expression of happiness and discourages parade-raining. Parade-rainers are those people who don’t want to hear your happy news. And no, we don’t tell people to be happy if they aren’t or how to be happy.

Scientists in Britain have launched the first study of how dairy cows interact with each other, in the hope of finding ways of making them happier and more productive.

Happiness & Wellbeing At Work

Routes To Resilience

Happiness & Wellbeing At Work workshops for disabled artists that we are making in collaboration with Ardent Hare 

Be Happy, Creative AND Productive

crayons

Ardent Hare has partnered with BridgeBuilders with whom we’ve had a long standing and successful realtionship and secured funding to invest in a pool of Resilience Advocates to champion the message of the importance of well being to effectiveness and success for a wide variety of business and community audiences.

We will be staging the first seminar in London at Whitechapel Gallery on Monday 17th September exploring the link between the ‘harder edged’ side of self employment and survival with what we might think of as the ‘softer edged’ side of personal and professional happiness and wellbeing and how this affects productivity and creativity.

Ardent Hare has confimed the first of 2 FREE seminars exploring the link between the ‘harder edged’ side of self employment and survival with what we might think of as the ‘softer edged’ side of personal and professional happiness and wellbeing and how this affects productivity and creativity.

The first event will be staged on Monday 17th September, 1-5pm

at Whitechapel Gallery, Clore Creative Studio, Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX

These Seminars will:

  • Provide a guide to achieve personal and professional happiness and wellbeing
  • Explain the steps towards successful self employment
  • Share insights into productivity and creativity
  • Connect like minded creative people

The day will offer networking opportunities with other artists, refreshments and an information pack.

Highly inspiring speakers including Mark Trezona from BridgeBuilders.

The venue is wheelchair accessible. BSL interpreters and a speech to text operator will be present. Information will be available in large print. Some travel bursaries may be available (book early to benefit from these).

To book your place please contact Suzanne Rose email: suzanne@ardenthare.org.uk

Advance booking required as limited places available.

Want To Find Happiness At Work? Focus!

A well-documented study conducted by two Harvard researchers who set out to measure happiness, shows that 47 percent of the time people think about something other than what they are doing, and that mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.  Even when they looked at more pleasant mind-wandering, they say it’s not as good as just being focused on what you’re doing.

 The key, as many philosophies and religious traditions have taught for centuries, is to first notice when you’re not “present” — like the conceptual artist who was worrying instead of listening to the question he was asked.

 Then make a conscious decision to “be there” for the here and now.

10 Steps To Happiness At Work

“The exact attributes of what you are looking for do not exist in any job,” says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work, who taught “Creativity and Personal Mastery,” one of the most sought after courses at Columbia Business School.

He believes that the single biggest obstacle to workplace happiness is the belief that we are prisoners of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to us. To change your job, he says, you must change the way you think about it. “We create our own experience,” he insists…

Happiness @ work: Change the story to change your life

First a blunt truth: There is no such thing as job security any more if it ever existed. Your only security is your ability to deliver recognisable value, which has two parts – understanding of processes and methodologies and the ability to relate to others.

The story you are telling yourself is that young managers, or at least this particular one, don’t like you, presumably because you are old, and that you could be fired. No wonder you are under a great deal of stress. What you probably do not see is that you create this busily by the nature of the story you tell yourself.

Instead, say something like – I have spent more than 20 years with my company and have a wealth of institutional memory and knowledge that will be invaluable to the company that has acquired mine. My job is to use the knowledge and skills I have to make sure that my managers’ energy is channeled and does not drive the train off the tracks…

Happiness@Work: Don’t Crib, Count Your Blessings

Here is what the author says in a posting in  The Economic Times

Right now you are focusing more on how much you dislike your dreary job than you are in doing it. Reverse this. Then consider your co-workers — how can you make their day better in some way? Consciously try to do this to one person each day. The more you give attention and help, the better YOU will feel.

The more you do so, the more others will want to be a part of your circle. First your boring job will become less boring and then downright rejuvenating and finally it will disappear by morphing into something that really turns you on.

In Pictures: 10 Steps To Happiness At Work

1) Avoid “good” and “bad” labels

2) Practice “extreme resilience”

3) Let go of grudges

4) Don’t waste time being jealous

5) Find passion in you, not in your job

6) Picture yourself 10 years ago and 10 years from now

7) Banish the “if/then” model of happiness

8) Invest in the process, not the outcome

9) Think about other people

10) Swap multitasking for mindfulness

Six Principles for Business Ethics

“Pass the New York Times Test”  The test is simple. “If you would not feel comfortable with everyone you know reading about what you are currently doing, don’t do it.” The contrary is also true: If you would be proud to make headlines, redouble your efforts.

“Be accurate: When I say something as if it is a fact, be sure that it is a fact.”   “I don’t have a problem with someone saying, “I’m not sure but my best guess is…  But I do have a problem with someone stating something as a fact when it is not a fact.”  Better to be uncertain than unreliable.

“Listen to the buzzing: It’s there for a reason.”  The buzzing we hear when we know that something is wrong but we can’t quite put our fingers on it. At work, this often happens when we get requests from superiors that aren’t illegal or even obviously immoral but that strike us as peculiar and ill-advised. Listen to the buzzing and be forthright when something is wrong.

“Maximise happiness, not wealth.”  “Measuring ourselves and others in terms of the amount of money they made and the positions they had reached is hazardous and dreary. Our goal in life is happiness, not richness”, a goal that is mindful of a wider variety of concerns — family, friends, health, peace of mind — than simply the size of one’s bank account.

 “Be as disciplined morally as I am financially”  Moral decision-making will always be open to dispute, but we should aim to ensure that whatever decisions we reach are the consequence of careful thinking.

“Continuously reevaluate my principles.”  Business ethics begins as a commitment, but strengthens by habit. At the same time, our experience at work can complicate and even change our moral convictions. By reevaluating our principles, we make them more relevant to the challenges we face. Our principles must live through us if business ethics is to be a way of life.

Struggling Through Change? Let ADKAR Help You

Changing involves learning, which takes up resources (mainly our time and energy). If we can’t see the benefits in changing, we will struggle to motivate ourselves to change. Even when we commit to the change, we can still struggle to see it through.

The ADKAR model addresses the people dimension of change management and sets five goals for successful implementation: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement

Internal Time: The Science of Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired

Debunking the social stigma around late risers, or what Einstein has to do with teens’ risk for smoking.

Inflight wellbeing companies emerge to give your weary mind and body a reprieve

Let’s face it – long-haul, economy-class travel can be brutal. Passengers suffer any number of indignities and exasperations in the back of the plane.

But some of the physical repercussions of lengthy flights – dehydration, dry eyes, leg pain and, if you’re like me, swollen feet – are a particular nuisance if you don’t have time to recuperate (or even shower!) before running straight into meetings upon landing.

It’s little wonder, then, why the inflight wellbeing market is starting to gain the attention of airlines. Below are four companies working to help make your mind and body feel better in-flight.

In Praise of Downtime

Americans work more hours than any other group in the Western world, but we’re not necessarily more productive. This has to change.

Making Friends at Work – Survey Says Majority of Canadians Have Close Relationships with their Colleagues

Parker says workplace friendships can be a good thing for a company’s overall business.

“There is no denying that workplace friendships can contribute to a positive workplace culture. It means increased productivity and creativity, heightened morale, enhanced personal performance and stronger team cohesiveness,” she explains. “Employers who encourage a positive and collaborative workplace will gain a competitive edge when it comes to recruting top talent.”

Happiness In Gender Equality Movement

In the early days of the second wave feminism, a feminist canard stated that “feminists need happiness like a fish needs a bicycle”. In Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan devoted the whole first chapter of her book to “the problem that has no name”, which is the widespread unhappiness of women, thus underlining women’s desire in something more than just a husband, children and a home.

 Now that equal opportunity and equal pay statutes apply, happiness has again eluded women. Indeed, women’s overall level of happiness in Western countries has dropped since 1972, both in comparison to where they were 40 years ago, and in comparison to men (Buckingham 2009). More than 1.3 million men and women have been surveyed in the US and other developed countries through six major studies of happiness, which all gave the same result: greater educational, political and employment opportunities have corresponded to decreases in life happiness for women, relative to men.

 If the above conjecture implies that financially independent women are not necessarily happy, the inverse must also hold true; financially dependent women are not necessarily unhappy. What then, are the non-quantifiable components of their happiness, given that happiness is not about economic prosperity only?

Happiness Secret: A Greened-Up Office

For a fresh weekday pick-me-up, add foliage to your work space. A study in the journal HortScience found that employees who worked in an office with plants were more satisfied with their jobs–and their co-workers and bosses–than those whose spaces were less green…

 New Economics Foundation launches guide on measuring wellbeing of beneficiaries

A new guide aims to help charities measure how their services improve their beneficiaries’ lives.

 Measuring Well-being: a guide for practitioners, from the think tank the New Economics Foundation, is intended to hlp them gauge their impact on wellbeing.

 NEF hopes that charities and voluntary groups will use it to gain a better understanding of their beneficiaries’ needs and assist in improving the design and delivery of projects, improve fundraising efforts and help direct services towards those most in need.

Life after university – 14 careers tips for arts graduates

A round up of all the best comments, insights and examples from our live chat last week – what next for arts graduates?

Covering letter tips: expert advice for graduates

A panel of career advisers on how graduates can ensure their covering letter survives an employer’s cursory glance and spells out why they are perfect for them…

Leadership and Happiness At Work

The HRZone Interview: Dr Cary Cooper on well-being at work

NB: To read this interview in full you will need to register for free with HRZone, but here is a long extract from it…

Dr Cary Cooper is professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School and author of more than 150 books on topics ranging from occupational stress and women at work to organisational psychology.   He is also a regular contributor to TV, radio and the press and, in 2001, was awarded a CBE for his contribution to occupational safety and health.

 Here he talks to HRZone about such issues as well-being, the need for a new breed of manager and the importance of engendering hope and pride in the workplace.

My theory is that we don’t select managers with high social and interpersonal skills, we select on task competence. When you study for an MBA, do you learn how to manage people? No.

We train them on knowledge of HR and of operational management, but don’t select on interpersonal skills. So if business schools aren’t doing it and we carry on hiring in the same way, then we will carry on getting the wrong people in.

In tough times, you need people with great social skills. We need a two-pronged attack: select with social skills as a significant feature of recruitment and, if they are already in a job, then train them – there are some people who are trainable and there are some who are not.

Bad managers can lead to high turnover and lower levels of job satisfaction. People could leave, physically or psychologically through presenteeism.

Leaders are people who set a vision. Managers build teams and work with people. Visionary people often have good interpersonal skills, but not all of them – look at all the things coming out about Steve Jobs.

Everyone thinks employee engagement is a magic bullet for all our problems, but it’s not. HR will say ‘our employee engagement has gone up from 75 to 76’ but cynically say that they don’t see any improvement in morale.

Engagement is great, but let’s make sure good work-life balance is there, we manage by praise and reward and make sure employees are clear about what is required of them in their jobs.

Wellbeing – having little stress and a lot of satisfaction and contentment – is down to how you’re managed, how you’re paid, whether you are trusted, valued and whether you have good relationships.

Things that take that away well-being are a bullying boss, an insecure job, long hours, lack of clarity about job role, lack of flexibility and poor work-life balance.

 Q Why is well-being such a big issue right now?

A lot of companies don’t like to talk about stress or be perceived as a stressful organisation so they talk about well-being. Well-being is about reducing stress and being positive and giving hope.

You need positive psychology – get rid of negatives and create positivity about hope, and make people feel good about where they are. Pride and hope are important.

The driver for well-being has been for organisations dealing with stress. Sickness numbers are dropping, but what we are dealing with instead is presenteeism. People are frightened of taking time off sick, but a good manager can see someone who’s not well.

A good manager with social skills will tell someone to go home or ask the worker who’s been off sick a lot if there is something bothering them. Instead they think that someone turning up like that is good because it shows commitment.

Some HR people are frightened of doing that and finding negatives and worried about being seen as responsible for those negatives.  I think HR needs to do four things:

 + Fight for flexibility for everyone, not just those people with kids

+ Recruit people on their social skills

+ Audit well-being/stress in companies and then bring employees together to solve the problem. You might get someone from outside to do the audit but it’s important to get employees to decide what to do. You wouldn’t want to walk into your GP’s surgery and find they’ve already written you a prescription before you open your mouth. So you need to find out what’s wrong and do it in an anonymous way

+ The biggest thing we can do for the UK is get women in senior operational management jobs, not on the board, because you need to get senior and middle managers who are going to move into those jobs. Women have higher EQs generally so, in manager roles, have more natural social skills.

We should forget the traditional work pyramid and look at it as a square: If you’re a teacher, why shouldn’t you get paid as much as the head? Why shouldn’t a good chief engineer earn as much as a CEO?

Using data to direct employee wellbeing initiatives

It is becoming increasingly popular for organisations to make significant investments in the health and wellbeing of their staff. But how can employers measure exactly what they are getting for their money?

Astute employers and HR teams in large organisations are rapidly realising that the state of their employees’ wellbeing has a direct impact on performance and productivity in the workplace.

Indeed, studies (Mills et al, 2006/7) have proven this link and highlighted the opportunity for returns in productivity that far outweigh the investment required in health and wellbeing solutions. The big-ticket health issues, such as stress and lack of sleep, are proving to be productivity killers in many organisations. Businesses are becoming aware that a good degree of nurturing people into ruder health and, equally as important, a more positive state of mind about their health, can pay dividends for a brand’s reputation and its bottom line.

Collecting, analysing and acting upon data are critical elements to any successful organisational change and employee health and wellbeing is no exception. It is not, as often is believed, hard to measure and manage.

On the contrary, it is at the heart of making successful and measured improvements, whether that is on a one-to-one personal level for individual employees or in terms of driving the big changes within your organisation’s culture.

Data is important before you begin a wellbeing programme, throughout the early stages and remains so through the course of your organisation’s life.

Once you’re gripped by health and wellbeing data as a source of insight into performance, neither you nor many of your employees will want to let go.

Leadership and Followership

The people who turn out to be the best leaders are those who have previously been the best followers.” —Alexander Haslam

The leader needs to be multifaceted and emphasize different facets at different times. Those who fail to do that have a limited shelf life.” —Stephen D. Reicher

When we think about leadership, we tend to focus almost entirely on the leader. Yet without followers, there is no leader. Leadership is participatory: leaders and followers exist in a mutually beneficial relationship where each adds to the effectiveness of the other.

Key to this process is listening, because leadership is as much about listening as it is about talking, or perhaps more so…

Servant Leadership: Helping People Come Alive

In his book Drive, best-selling author Dan Pink talks about the evolution in our understanding of what really motivates people, especially in our professional lives. According to Pink, the latest behavioral science research points to three key drivers: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Another way to frame this is empowerment, perfectibility, and purpose, and servant leaders endeavor to create a culture that fosters each of these three intrinsic motivations…

Arts organisations need to engage their own staff as well as their audiences

Give everyone the same message at the same time and never say nothing, says Nick Loveland of Town Hall & Symphony Hall, and these ideas would work for any organisation.  For example…

Give your team a voice

That’s exactly what we did. We created a staff forum called VOICE (Views, Opinions, Ideas, Comments, Expectations), chaired by a senior manager but made up from elected people right across the business. It meets four times a year and discusses everything from feedback on our new appraisal scheme, to the date of the next Christmas party!

Staff are encouraged to post agenda items in bespoke mailboxes around the building (called VOICE boxes – get it?) and everything raised is discussed and fed back, both up and down the communication channels. VOICE has been going for four years now – it’s made a real difference to the way in which people feel their views are being heard.

I Want it Yesterday: The Dangers of the Business World’s Obsessive Focus on the Short Term

We are a society consistently in search of a quick fix—from diets to energy, we want the quick and easy solution, and we want it today, to hell with what tomorrow brings.

Research conducted by Andrew Haldane and Richard Davies of the Bank of England and PriceWaterhouseCoopers on “short-termism” in the investment arena provided results that most of us would find shocking.  They found that the majority of FTSE-100 and 250 executives (those running the largest companies in the world) would choose an investment with a low return option if they could get it sooner.

When you extend this logic out over a longer time period, the result is that investments, or projects with long-term payback beyond the 30- to 35-year time frame, are treated as having no value at all!

It’s time to recalibrate our lens to see the value in the long-term, and not be blinded by a myopic focus on only the here and now.

The Ten Most Influential Women in Technology

Marissa Mayer’s appointment as CEO of Yahoo! was an exciting development for her legion of fans — both male and female. It was also an undeniable cause for celebration among those who would like to see more women in positions of power, not only in Silicon Valley, but throughout corporate America. In 2012, it’s hard to believe that only 19 companies out of the Fortune 500 are led by women. The tech industry has made somewhat more progress than other sectors — at least at the very highest levels — as the accomplished and inspiring women on this list demonstrate.

One hopes for a day not too far away when the appointment of a woman — yes, even an expectant mother — as CEO of a major American company is noteworthy not for gender, but for the executive’s experience, accomplishments and track record of achievement. Hopefully one day soon lists like this one will no longer be necessary. But until then here is a collection of the most influential women in technology, led off by Mayer herself.

7 Things Successful Leaders Do Differently

Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of coaching, teaching, and talking to thousands of leaders from varied walks of life. What I’ve noticed is that while most are successful on some level, a handful of them have that something extra. Their path hasn’t always been easy, and they’ve encountered numerous challenges, but this select group of leaders thrives both personally and professionally. Here is what they do differently…

Personal Happiness & Wellbeing

“The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” — Pascal

This is a curious quote, and certainly counter to common wisdom, which tells us that connections and community are the road to bliss while solitude and silence lead to serial killing.

Of course, I’m being facetious. As an introvert, I’m all for staying quietly in one’s room, and I find solitude not only pleasant, but necessary. Staying quietly in my room is easy. But has that inoculated me from unhappiness? Of course not.

Granted, Pascal is not saying that solitude prevents unhappiness, only that the inability to be alone is the cause of unhappiness. And not just a cause, the sole cause.

That’s big talk.  I don’t buy it…

Take the Happiness Experiment

Take the entertaining video test above to get a taste of some of the counterintuitive findings (NB only Parts 1 and 2 are available)…

Happiness is a state of mind. We all know that. But when it comes to deciding whether another person is truly happy, our perceptions are colored by our own states of mind–in particular, by our  value judgments. A person can have all the mental characteristics of a happy person, but if he or she is living what we consider a “bad life,” we are far less likely to judge that they are happy. Surprisingly, the same moral evaluations do not seem to enter into our concept of unhappiness.

Don’t Know What To Do?  Try Kindness

The original meaning of kindness, according to Oxford Dictionary, is “kinship; near relationship; natural affection arising from this”? Acting kindly and showing affection as Caregivers and partners to those close to us can bring immediate and long-term positive results to stressful, difficult, traumatic situations.

Kindness helps improve any situation, even with those not so close to us.

Charlie Mafei: Finding Happiness

So many people make the mistake of saying, “my life sucks right now so I am going to get into a relationship to make it better.” My advice is that this never works. If you are feeling unhappy alone, bringing someone else into your unhappiness is not going to fix the problem. Instead, change the things in your life that are making you unhappy first! Once you have found happiness in your life, it will be so much easier to find someone else to invite into your life.

We all deserve “IT.” We all deserve happiness, love and success. If you do not have these things in your life, give it some thought and ponder, “What can I do to make my life happier?” For many of us, looking at our lives closely and asking ourselves this question is not an easy endeavor. But trust me. You have to do this before you can move on to happiness. Start the journey today by looking into yourself and find what makes you unhappy. Once you have determined what is making you unhappy take actions to fix it. If you need help, seek it. Some people turn to friends or family, some turn to therapy or religion while others may even stop into that fortune teller’s shop they pass all the time. Whatever it takes, do it! You deserve it!

Happiness is … ?

Well what is it anyway? A conference gets to the science of our smiles…

“Happiness is not just one thing,” says Lambert. “To pleasure, engagement with life, meaningful relationships and achievement, I would add health because health is really the foundation of the five pathways to happiness.”

In life, the glass is both half empty and half full. “On a happiness scale of 10, most people are a seven or eight,” says psychologist Jamie Gruman. “To focus exclusively on happiness would mean you are blinded to real life.”

Positive, not pop, psychology

“Positive psychology recognizes that you have to see the light and the dark,” says social psychologist Jamie Gruman, “whereas pop psychology (in the how-to-be happy guides) focuses on the glass being half full. That is not the valid scientific way.”

Too happy?

People who are optimistic bode better than those who are pessimistic, says Gruman. But you can be too optimistic. You don’t want a pilot flying into a tornado because he thinks he’ll be fine. You don’t want to wake up with a mole on your arm that has changed in size and ignore it. You want to go to a doctor to make sure it isn’t skin cancer.

 Happiness is?

 “Happiness is a myth. It was invented to make us buy nice things.” — Author Gregory David Roberts

 “Rules for happiness: Something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.” — Philosopher Immanuel Kant

 “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” — Spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi

 Here and now –  Happiness is also about living in the moment, adds Alberta psychologist Louise Lambert. “We create a lot of our distress when we are living in the past or projecting ourselves too far ahead to the future. Wherever your feet are is where your brain needs to be today.”

One Key to Happiness: Let Go of Some Long-Term Goals

I suggest something radical. I believe it’s time we let go of outcome-based goal setting and instead focus on the process of living the lives we want right now. Letting go of outcome-based goals can bring us freedom. We can start by:

1. Letting go of expectations.  Just in case life hasn’t already shown you otherwise, the world doesn’t necessarily owe you anything. Goals are great, and they can help us focus our efforts toward doing and being better. But you need to focus on having them remain goals and not turning them into expectations.

2. Letting go of outcomes.  Focusing on the process is a far better way to set goals.

3. Letting go of worry.  It’s a hard habit to break, but it doesn’t do us any good. Can you think of one single thing that got better because you worried about it? Obviously it’s different from sitting down and crafting an action plan to solve a problem. All worrying does is create an uncomfortable rut.

4. Letting go of measuring.  We’re competitive. We like to compare ourselves to other people. We love to race to see if we’re good enough to win. As I wrote earlier this year, we’re all striving for happiness. But we don’t have units of happy we can measure.

5. Letting go of mindless tracking.  A bit different from measuring or comparing yourself against others is letting go of tracking every penny in and out. The goal isn’t to track every penny but to know where your money goes.

Goals can be a great things. We just need to do a better job making sure they don’t turn into expectations that leave us disappointed and unhappy.

Index of Wellbeing: Our duty to be perpetually happy

As Bruckner explains in his principle work on the Cult of Happiness, Perpetual Euphoria: On The Duty to Be Happy, the idea that everyone must be in a constant state of happiness is a rather new one. With the final overthrow of Christian values by th 1968 generation, of which Bruckner was part of, a new moral order, one which said everyone must be happy, replaced the traditional Christian idea that happiness could only be achieved by salvation in the afterlife, while pursuit of earthly happiness was sinful. The Communist attitude, of self-sacrifice now, through manual labour in hope of the brighter red future of happiness is also gone.

That is not to endorse either Christian or Communist attitudes towards happiness, nor condemn the idea that people can be happy on earth in the here and now. What is problematic is the idea that everyone has some sort of duty to be happy or should be happy.

You Are Probably Wrong About You

Relying on our intuitions alone for self-knowledge is dangerous, because thanks to the nature of the adaptive unconscious, they are often no more accurate than a shot in the dark.

James Duncan Davidson, TED’s official photographer, on why we don’t like looking at photographs of ourselves.

Good social relationships in your youth might translate to happiness as an adult, while doing well in school seems to have little influence on well-being later in life, new research suggests…

Early Relationships, Not Brainpower, Key to Adult Happiness

Social connection is a more important route to adult well-being than academic ability…

We know very little about how aspects of childhood and adolescent development, such as academic and social-emotional function, affect adult well-being — defined here as a combination of a sense of coherence, positive coping strategies, social engagement and self-perceived strengths.

The researchers found, on the one hand, a strong pathway from child and adolescent social connectedness to adult well-being. This illustrates the enduring significance of positive social relationships over the lifespan to adulthood. On the other hand, the pathway from early language development, through adolescent academic achievement, to adult well-being was weak, which is in line with existing research showing a lack of association between socioeconomic prosperity and happiness.

The analyses also suggest that the social and academic pathways are not intimately related to one another, and may be parallel paths.

What Children Can Teach Us About Happiness

The How of Happiness. The Now of Happiness. The Tao of Happiness. Looking for Happiness. Map To Happiness. Finding Happiness. Authentic Happiness. True Happiness. The Happiness Hypothesis. The Happiness Plan. The Happiness Project. The Happiness Solution. The Happiness Diet. And my favourite, Eat Your Way To Happiness.

Books on happiness are almost as popular as ones about teenage vampires in love. Yet, for those of us with small children, it’s hard to find time to read an entire book (or rinse shampoo out of our hair). But here’s the good news: we’re surrounded by real-life examples of people who are successfully pursuing happiness each and every day.

Here’s why I think little kids are happiness experts… 14 Things Kids Know About Happiness

Does Having Kids Make You Less Happy?

Those worried about children and what they do to us point to studies indicating that children reduce parental happiness. In one, published in 2004, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and associates found that among 16 activities, taking care of children ranked above only housework, work and commuting in its enjoyableness for working women. Other studies concluded that marital quality declines significantly after a couple transitions to parenthood.

However, research that takes into account parents’ different circumstances indicates that parents who are able to spend more time taking care of their children “take much less of a happiness hit from having kids,” according to economist Betsey Stevenson.

We may be answering the wrong question. The question is not how much happiness children bring or take, but how good is the happiness? We need to return to a precept that social philosophers and religious texts have long extolled: that a good life is not one centered around squeezing as much pleasure out of life as possible.

What My Son’s Disabilities Taught Me About ‘Having It All’

Maybe it’s my Buddhist outlook, but I’m not consumed with worry and frenzy and despair like I’m “supposed” to be. I don’t enjoy that my 12-year-old son is still in diapers and sometimes purposely makes a mess in the bathroom. Or that he dumped his Thanksgiving dinner on my sister-in-law’s pregnant belly. Or that he screams in the parking lot of Whole Foods until people call the cops on us. On the other hand, he is my son, and he is what I have. And he has a nice smile.

When I look at friends and acquaintances, many with perfectly beautiful children and wonderful lives, and see how desperately unhappy or stressed they are about balancing work and family, I think to myself that the solution to many problems is deceptively obvious. We are chasing the wrong things, asking ourselves the wrong questions. It is not, “Can we have it all?” — with “all” being some kind of undefined marker that shall forever be moved upwards out of reach just a little bit with each new blessing. We should ask instead, “Do we have enough?”

Educating for Empathy

More and more educators are helping kids develop empathy—and a recent contest highlights some of the most inspiring projects…

“In terms of where we are culturally and as a changing world, empathy is more essential today than it has been in any point in history,” says Lennon Flowers, who is helping to run the initiative (her official title at Ashoka is “change manager”). “What are we educating kids for? I would suggest it’s probably not the ability to take tests for the rest of their lives, but rather the ability to work with others and collaborate effectively in the future.”

Hating Ms. Maisy: The Joy, Sorrow and Neurotic Rage of Reading to Your Children

For the past eight years, off and on, I’ve been reading picture books aloud to my children. You read the same book out loud every night for two years, and you wind up spending a lot of time thinking about it.

A lot. Of. Time. Arguably too much time.

Inevitably you start to develop strange, intense, sometimes unhealthy relationships with those picture books. Especially the ones that are in heavy rotation.

12 Frugal Ways to End a Bad Day on a Good Note

Although I’m all for indulging in activities to boost your mood, retail therapy is definitely a pricey way to do it. And it might make you feel worse in the long run if your shopping expedition makes a dent in your bank account. Here are some wallet-friendly ways to turn around a bad day…

Drew Ramsey MD: Eat For Happiness: 5 Rules

Emerging research in the fields of neuroscience and nutrition show that people who eat a diet of modern processed foods have increased levels of depression, anxiety, mood swings, hyperactivity, and a wide variety of other mental and emotional problems. One study found that adolescents with low-quality junk food diets are 79 percent more likely to suffer from depression. Another found that diets high in trans fats found in processed foods raised the risk of depression by 42 percent among adults over the course of approximately six years. And a huge study of women’s diets by the Harvard School of Public health concluded that those whose diets contained the greatest number of healthy omega-3 fats (and the lowest levels of unhealthy omega-6s) were significantly less likely to suffer from depression.

As a physician, I know all too well that strict regimens of any kind are almost always doomed to failure and then often leave people feeling worse off than before. That’s why the best prescriptions are often those that are simple and easiest to follow. With that thought in mind, here are the five basic rules I give to patients, friends, and family who want to simplify their choices at mealtime and maximise their brain health.

1. Skip the processed foods.

Brain-healthy nutrients are found in whole foods such as seafood (vitamin B-12, omega-3 fats), leafy greens and lentils (folates and magnesium), whole grains and nuts (certain forms of vitamin E that protect brain fat), and tomatoes and sweet potatoes (top sources of lycopene and other carotenoids, fat soluble antioxidants that decrease inflammation). Once you start eating a plant-based diet of nutrient-dense, whole foods, your moods will level out, your blood sugar will stop spiking and crashing, and your thinking will get clearer.

2. Go organic.

Many insecticides and pesticides are neurotoxins, and although some claim the science isn’t settled about their health risks, remember that the same was said about cigarettes for decades before their dangers were officially recognized. Organic food usually costs a little more, so it’s smart to start by switching to organic apples, celery, peaches and other produce that normally rank highest in contaminants.

3. Don’t fear fats.

Trans fats still found in many packaged baked goods are among the unhealthiest substances around, which is another good reason to stay away from processed foods. But the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, which are found in whole foods like fish, butter, yogurt and full-fat milk, are great for your brain. One researcher calls them “nutritional armor.” Studies show that these two fats help protect your brain against mood disorders, while low levels of DHA have been associated with increased risk of suicide. And these fats don’t make you fat! In fact, foods with healthy fats help you feel satiated, so you end up eating less.

4. Mind your meat.

Meat is brain food. Along with other animal products like seafood, eggs and dairy, the right meat is a protein-rich source of omega-3 fats DHA and EPA and another fat, CLA, which is associated with fighting cancer and reducing levels of deadly abdominal fat. A plant-based diet is essential for brain health, but a diet completely free of animal products has its own problems. It forces one to take nutritional supplements, which are expensive and aren’t always absorbed sufficiently in the body. Not all meat is created equal, though. “Grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” beef and chicken have more beneficial nutrients in them and are free antibiotics and harmful hormones fed to factory farmed animals. Eggs that are “farm fresh” have higher nutritional value because they were laid by hens with a healthier natural diet.

5. Make friends with farmers.

Shopping at your local farmers market can give you added motivation to stay away from a pre-packaged processed-food diet. Getting to know the people who grow your food also offers you the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what you’re eating. The goal is not to become a food snob, but to make that vital connection between your fork and your feelings and choose foods that support your emotional well-being and enhance your sense of vitality.

Good Mood Food: The Link Between Happiness And What You Eat

A USA TV show with the author of Mood Food – enjoy…

It turns out that what you put in your grocery basket could be affecting the way you feel. Dr. Drew Ramsey, co-author of “The Happiness Diet” visits The Couch to talk good mood food.

Explore – So you know, how pain relievers work, animated by the team at TED-Ed.

Percy Bysshe Shelley Frets About Information Overload … in 1821

…just as our complaints have their plus ça change quality, so do their corollaries. We end up finding ways to make the sea of information seem less sea-like. We find ways, essentially, to fool ourselves into a sense of sense-making. As controversial as Shelley’s ideas about poetry may have been at the time, they speak also to an enduring assumption: that the workings of human creativity — the clarity of curation, the filter of poetic understanding — are what will finally save us from ourselves.
Whether we are buoyed by the floods of information or drowned by them will depend on our ability to make wisdom out of knowledge, and knowledge out of data. For humans of the 21st century as much as the 16th, our intelligence is contingent on our ability — just as Shelley said — “to imagine that which we know.”

Guardian Books podcast: The pursuit of happiness

Is positive thinking the route to happiness? Oliver Burkeman and Jules Evans make the case for looking on the dark side, while the narrator of Joanna Kavenna’s latest novel takes off in search of a new way of living

Art, Performance and Sound

Unlimited – Southbank Centre

Unlimited at Southbank Centre: 30 August – 9 September, 2012

‘Unlimited celebrates disability, arts, culture and sport on an unprecedented scale and encourages disabled and deaf artists to push beyond their personal best alongside Paralympic athletes, by creating work which opens doors, changes minds, and inspires new collaborations.’ Arts Council England

 

88 Years of Olympic Games Logo Design

London 2012: Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony history is only a partial truth

Boyle gave us a tear-jerkingly optimistic sense of the inevitability of progress. Here was social history as taught to my generation and Danny Boyle’s, where we learned how – from Factory Act to Tolpuddle martyrs, from Chartists and Reform Act to the Butler Education Act – power was gradually wrenched from a small elite. See how the Voldemort tendency is still trounced by the people’s enduring affection for the collective good of the NHS and the BBC.

That’s the romantic history, the struggle retold in most of literature and art, where ragged-trousered heroes are pitted against villainous landed aristos and satanic mill owners…

Here’s the catch to the Boyle vision. Since the days of those confident history textbooks charting milestones of social advance, so much has gone into reverse. Imagining ourselves social democratic doesn’t easily make us so, when economic forces are stronger than the power of mere votes. Our postwar founding myth as social democrats is in danger of becoming as unreal as the prewar empire-building story. We can no longer count on the march of progress.

The 10 Craziest Moments of the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Digital Age, As Imagined by Artists

Imagine a device that allows people to engage in cultural exchange through the distribution of videos and images. Users can create media libraries and share them via telecommunications technologies. Sound like the internet? Artist Stan VanDerBeek envisioned it in the 1950s. Comprised of seventy contributors whose work spans fifty years, the New Museum’s new exhibition Ghosts in the Machine is a “prehistory of the digital age,” in which artists use simple technologies to imagine our technological future.

Anais Nin on Paris vs New York, 1939

“The ivory tower of the artist may be the only stronghold left for human values, cultural treasures, man’s cult of beauty.”  Anais Nin

The Happy Post Project: Spreading Cheer Via Post-It Note

“What makes you happy?” For GOOD Maker’s “Stories for GOOD” finalist The Happy Post Project, this question acts as a springboard for all of its global movements, ranging from art displays at festivals, college campus visits, TEDx conferences, and man-on-the-street interviews.

The Happy Post Project has been to Japan to help collect and spread positive messages of hope and happiness to Tsunami victims. In the Bronx, organizers paired up with artist Dan Paluska as part of the “This Side of Paradise” installation, in which Happy Post filled an entire room with Post-Its and invited visitors to add their thoughts.

The project has visited cities across the United States and set up an installation in landmarks like Times Square and Chicago’s reflective Cloud Gate. The next project involves heading back to Chamarro’s roots in Colombia to in attempt to spread happiness to three communities affected by the nation’s ongoing civil conflict. The project has even received the stamp of approval from President Juan Manuel Santos.

Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei – A Short Documentary

Ai is unique among his contemporaries in the art world for his willingness to confront social issues not only through visual media but also through media commentary. As Klayman puts it, “Weiwei the artist had become as provocative with his keyboard, typing out a daily diatribe against local corruption and government abuses” on his blog. Ai claims his political involvement is “very personal.” “If you don’t speak out,” he says above, “if you don’t clear your mind, then who are you?” He has written editorials for English-language publications on why he withdrew his support from the Beijing Games and what he thought of last Friday’s opening ceremony in London (he liked it). And, of course, he’s become a bit of a star on Twitter, using it to relentlessly critique China’s deep economic divides and suppression of free speech.

But for all his notoriety as an activist and his well-known internet persona, Ai’s sculpture and photography speaks for itself. Unfortunately, due to his arrest and imprisonment by Chinese authorities in 2011, he was unable to attend the opening of Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads in LA, and he is still under constant surveillance and not permitted to leave the country. But, true to form, none of these setbacks have kept him from speaking out, about his politics and his art. In this short video, he discusses the significance of Zodiac Heads, his most recent monumental vision.

A portrait of India in The Indian Memory Project

Ordinary photographs of everyday people can tell us as much about the past as history books, Anusha Yadav, curator of The Indian Memory Project, tells Shiva Kumar Thekkepat

‘Happiness’ reigns in chalk art fest

The sidewalk chalk drawing said it simply: “You Can’t Stop My Happiness.”

Unusual Art: The Body as Canvas

Last weekend, Austria played host to the 15th Annual World Bodypainting Festival. Over 200 participants from 40 countries worldwide competed in categories ranging from ‘brush and sponge’ to ‘airbrush’ to ‘special effects.’

Ukulele Ladies of Ellen Wilkinson School: I will survive

Book review: Mrs Ali’s Road To Happiness

The road to happiness is never straight and Farahad Zama has got that right with his sequel to The Marriage Bureau for Rich People. Set in Vizag, it follows the story of the extended Ali family, a quiet God-fearing people who find themselves in the eye of the storm when they break with convention.

A Treasured Event – A Unique Theatrical Event of Titanic Proportions

Tickets are now on sale for Treasured – a large scale, multimedia theatrical event which will be performed in Liverpool’s stunning Anglican Cathedral from 1 – 6 October 2012. Inspired by the story of the Titanic and its 2012 centenary, Treasured will feature cutting-edge film and light projection from Illuminos and jaw-dropping aerialist performances from Wired.

Escape Velocity

Places available for disabled children and young people at September workshops
As part of the build-up to Treasured, Aspire will be providing a series of creative workshops for disabled children and young children and their families. The two hour workshops, funded by BBC Children in Need, will be held at Liverpool Cathedral every Saturday in September. The workshops will be inspired byTreasured and will involve participants in a variety of creative and performing arts activites.

London’s Necropolis Station

Few cities can boast a railway line for the dead. The London Necropolis Railway station was constructed by the London Necropolis & National Mausoleum Company, specifically to serve their Brookwood Cemetery, 25 miles away in Woking, Surrey. The Company’s logo was, somewhat ghoulishly, a skull and crossbones.

Murder, Marple and Me at the Gilded Balloon Teviot Wee Room, Edinburgh at 3.15pm, until August 26 (not 13-20)

If you’re at Edinburgh Festival this month go see this – the supersonically talented Stella Duffy directed and Martyn Duffy has made the sound…

Preview: Murder, Marple and Me, Gilded Balloon Teviot Wee Room

Festival regular Janet Prince stars as Margaret Rutherford in the play

Festival regular Janet Prince stars as Margaret Rutherford in the play

IT was the outcome neither wanted. When Margaret Rutherford took on the challenge of playing Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple on the big screen, both women baulked at the prospect.

 Eventually they overcame a mutual dislike and distrust to form an unlikely bond, and it’s this relationship which forms the subject of a new play, directed by acclaimed crime writer Stella Duffy and starring Festival regular Janet Prince….

Happiness At Work ~ route map to edition 4

Happiness At Work ~ edition 4 (27 July 2012)

Here is guide to through this week’s collection of articles, news, reviews, ideas, pictures and sounds linked to Happiness & Wellbeing in our work and in our lives.  

The collection is published every Friday.
To view postings in the previous collections, go to Archives and choose 6 July for edition 1;  13 July for edition 2; and 20 July for edition 3.

We hope you find something here to delight, something you can use, something that confirms what you knew already, and something that improves your happiness.  At least…

Out To Sea

Photo by Jason Owen, nathanowenphotography

“When was it, in his lifetime, that people first spoke of attitudes that are either positive or negative?  

In his childhood, they were happy or sad, those people, depending on their characters.  No one, then, described a miserable neighbour as having  a negative attitude, and his limitlessly cheerful Aunt Rose, who looked on the bright side when there was no brightness visible, would have been mystified to hear that her attitudes to the problems she refused to acknowledge with more than a few slightly clouded moments of reflection was of the positive kind.”

from Paul Bailey’s novel: Chapman’s Odyssey (2011)

This Week’s Top Happiness Story

First ONS Annual Experimental Subjective Well-being Results 

The Report itself…

This report presents experimental estimates from the first annual Subjective Well-being Annual Population Survey (APS) dataset, April 2011 to March 2012. Overall estimates of people’s views about their own well-being are provided as well as estimates for: key demographic characteristics (such as age, sex, ethnic group), different geographic areas and countries within the UK, aspects which are considered important for measuring national well-being (such as personal relationships, health and work situation) These first annual estimates of subjective well-being are considered experimental statistics, published at an early stage to involve users in their development. ONS is collecting subjective well-being estimates to complement existing socio-economic indicators to allow a fuller statistical picture of the nation’s well-being.

The Story…

As part of the UK government’s attempts to develop an alternative measure of national performance to GDP, the Office for National Statistics has published its first tranche of detailed subjective data exploring how happiness and anxiety levels vary according to factors including sex and ethnic group.

Responses by 165,000 people in the annual population survey reveal the average rating of “life satisfaction” in Britain is 7.4 out of 10 and 80% of people gave a rating of seven or more when asked whether the things they did in their lives were “worthwhile.”

As might be expected, these statistics are being given different spins by different reporters.  Here are a range of these…

The Economist…

National Wellbeing: The Importance of Being Happy

ACCORDING to Bobby Kennedy, speaking in 1968, the problem with GDP is that it “measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” As he pointed out, GDP “counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armoured cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programmes which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.”

Forty-four years later, one group is trying to catch up—the British government. This morning, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the first provisional “national well-being report”, which attempts to measure the “subjective well-being of individuals, which is measured by finding out how people think and feel about their own lives.“ The idea started with David Cameron, who, back in the (possibly?) happier days of November 2010, denounced the “incomplete” GDP statistic, and called for a better measure of national happiness—dismissing the idea that it would be “wooly and impractical.”

So how has it turned out?

Surprisingly, black Britons are far less happy than other ethnic minorities or than white people. Londoners are also the grumpiest, least self-assured and most anxious of all—the capital comes out worse than all other regions (that may not be a surprise). And middle-aged people are also less happy than younger or older people—the mid-life crisis is not a myth, it seems.

All of which is interesting, but hardly ground-breaking. You don’t need an ONS database to know that if you make people healthier and give them work then they will be happier.

But an interesting thought is what will happen over time.

The Young Foundation

In A Recession, Does Wellbeing Matter?

In this period of economic downturn, measures that focus on ‘wellbeing’ and ‘happiness’ may appear out of sync with the national mood and may not resonate with an anxious public. With public sector cuts, changes in benefits and reduced public services, there will be many who suggest that material deprivation is perhaps a more acute concern than the nation’s happiness and wellbeing. We would assert that a better understanding of the nation’s wellbeing and resilience will be one of many aspects that will help us to weather the current financial conditions.

Nonetheless, measures of wellbeing are a way of capturing the bundle of experiences and circumstances that add up to what is generally described as life satisfaction. The use of objective and subjective data – understanding the way in which people describe their lives, as well as objective indicators, provides a more rounded view of what is social progress.

The Guardian…

Wellbeing index points way to bliss: live on a remote island, and don’t work

First annual results of Measuring National Wellbeing Programme show teenagers and pensioners have key to happiness…

Far more significant, however, appears to be the impact of work: not only not having it – which leads twice as many unemployed people to rate their satisfaction levels as low or very low as those in a job – but also what kind of work you do. The highest average life satisfaction was reported by those in professional occupations such as teaching, medicine or law and was lowest among “process, plant and machine operatives”.  Higher scores were given by groups of employees “with more responsibility and control over their work, as well as higher incomes”.

The Daily Mail…

Feeling down? Up sticks and move to the Shetlands! PM’s ‘well-being’ survey shows that’s where Brits are happiest

  • Scots and Northern Irish are happier than the English and the Welsh
  • People aged between 16 and 19 and 65 and 79 are the happiest people in Britain
  • Britons are most unhappy if they live in urban areas in South Wales, the West Midlands and London

Lord O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary behind the survey, said the results showed it is ‘bliss’ to work outdoors.  He added that the findings proved it isn’t just money that matters.  ‘If you are working in forestry, or in agriculture, then you really are close to bliss,’ he said.

BBC News…

ONS well-being report reveals UK’s happiness ratings

People who are married, have jobs and own their own homes are the most likely to be satisfied with their lives, the first national well-being survey says…

Three quarters of people aged 16 and over in the UK rated their overall “life satisfaction” as seven or more, with women more likely to report higher levels of well-being and a sense that their life is “worthwhile” than men but also higher levels of anxiety.

The Scotsman…

Analysis: Serious business of government cannot afford to ignore happiness of its people

In the 19th century, when economics was first forming as a discipline, it was thought impossible to make reliable comparisons of happiness between people. So income was used as a proxy measure, and this way of thinking stuck.

However, as Robert Kennedy pointed out during his 1968 presidential campaign, economic measures are a very narrow guide to policy – they count spending that leads to “air pollution and cigarette advertising” but not “the health of our children or the quality of their education”.

Over the past 30 years, a wealth of scientific evidence has built up showing that we can now measure people’s overall happiness with life.

This sort of evidence has led to growing calls for wellbeing indicators to be used as headline measures of national progress, to help judge the success of overall government policy.

 This Sky News report comes with an interview with a very smug man ridiculing these measurements as meaningless, and suggesting that our crime, divorce and employment statistics already tell us everything we need to know about people’s wellbeing.  If you say so Edward Skidelsky…

Well-being Report: UK’s Happiness Revealed

The results of the first “happiness index” reveal that age, sex and ethnic background impact peoples’ satisfaction across the UK.

The director of the Measuring National Well-Being Programme, Glenn Everett, said: “By examining and analysing both objective statistics as well as subjective information, a more complete picture of national well-being can be formed.

“Understanding people’s views of well-being is an important addition to existing Official Statistics and has potential uses in the policy making process and to aid other decision making.”

Wales Online…

Wales’ happiest place to live is Anglesey – as William and Kate can testify

People in Torfaen were the least happy with their lives, with nearly a third giving a low score for their levels of satisfaction with live and a quarter not feeling the things they do were worthwhile.

Councillor Bob Wellington, leader of Torfaen Council, said: “It’s no surprise to see that those areas hit hardest by the decline of industry in the 80s are at the lower end of this index and, of course, the associated social issues have been made worse by the ongoing recession.”

“As a council we’ve got an important role to play in protecting and supporting our most vulnerable people, particularly during the current economic situation. We will continue working with our public sector partners in police and health to help make Torfaen a safe, prosperous, sustainable place where everyone has the opportunity to be the best they can be.”

and The Rutland Times…

Rutland is the happiest place to live in England says Office of National Statistics

NB Orkney and Shetland are the happiest places to live in the UK.  Or so say these statistics..

Revealed: The Happiest Place In The UK

The top five was made up of:

  1. Eilean Siar, Orkney & Shetland
  2. Rutland
  3. Anglesey
  4. Wiltshire
  5. West Berkshire

The bottom five, meanwhile was:

  1. North Ayrshire
  2. Blaenau Gwent
  3. Swansea
  4. County Durham
  5. Blackpool

 

Bright Blue Blog – Contributors – Richard Layard

Values and Action For Happiness

Richard Layard, Friday 20th July 2012

What is needed is one single principle which can guide and inspire us in all that we do. In a secular age that principle should be “Produce as much happiness in the world as you can, and as little misery”. That is the great Enlightenment idea that brought Europe out of the Middle Ages and needs to be at the centre of our culture for the 21st century. It should guide us personally in the decisions we make about our families and our work. And it should guide our politics. The whole debate about specific values and specific policies should be conducted with reference to that objective.

Can Happiness Be Measured?

Can we measure wellbeing scientifically?

Economist Richard Layard, supporter of the new national happiness index, believes we can; philosopher Julian Baggini is having none of it…

Richard Layard: Unless people have the feeling they are making their own way through life, they can’t be happy. This is not a formula for a totalitarian system, which we know empirically produces the most miserable societies

Julian Baggini: You could only have an international index if it were constructed around one specific idea. That is the fundamental danger of this. It is not credible that there could be a single understanding of wellbeing that all people at all times would settle on…the moment you try to create this single wellbeing index, you’re trying to nail down wellbeing to one conception, and I think that is in a way totalitarian.

David Cameron: The Next Age of Government TedTalk

Here is David Cameron in 2010, quoting Bobby Kennedy with some passion, and setting out his intentions to begin measuring Gross National Wellbeing in the UK…

More Happiness & Wellbeing News and Stories

Depression And Heart Disease On Global Health Agenda

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) compiled a list of the 10 leading causes of global disease, comparing 2004 with predictions for 2030, it came up with some surprising results.

In 2004, lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal disease were the world’s No 1 and No 2 causes of ill health and premature death. But by 2030, depressive disorders and heart disease are forecast to replace them at the top of the global morbidity and mortality table.

By 2030, Depressive Disorders And Heart Disease Are Forecast To Be At The Top Of The Global Morbidity And Mortality Table

In many countries, job cuts have left fewer people in work. Those who remain are having to cope with almost unmanageable workloads, increased job insecurity, and longer hours. Their managers are often under increasing pressure, too, leading to more abrasive and aggressive management styles. This, in turn, leads to greater stress for workers.

But we shouldn’t despair. There are solutions to these workplace issues, such as training managers to improve their social and interpersonal skills, or using technology to create more flexible working arrangements. We can learn to work smarter, not longer, and create “engagement cultures” where employees and managers work together more collaboratively.

James Meadway – The Worsening Recession Reveals Chronic Weakness

Breaking the decline starts with ending austerity. But it has also to include a fundamental effort to improve energy efficiency, and the provision of sustainable, decent work. That would mean a plan to transform the economy – shrinking finance, investing in green infrastructure, creating jobs.

Damning Verdict on City: ‘No Longer Fit For Purpose’

A high-level government review into the City of London has concluded that it is riven by short-termism and staffed by too many people earning too much money.

A report commissioned by business secretary Vince Cable was made public this morning and finds a financial sector that is no longer fit for purpose.

In particular, Mr Kay says that regulation needs an overhaul and that traders seeking short-term profits are not acting in the wider interests of the public and should be marginalised.

Is it possible to combine the words love and business in the same sentence? I ask this question because of the self-censorship that is prevalent in the corporate world. While business is made up of human beings, its mechanised approach has turned many of us into human doings. For far too long employees have been expected to leave large parts of themselves at home before they head off for the office or factory.

The lexicon of the corporate world has been dominated by the words of war and scarcity; battling for market share, hostile takeovers, invading new territories and the like. That loud and crude battle cry has largely shut out the quieter voice of community and collaboration and, dare I say it, love.

I know of many management consultants and sustainability professionals who bring spirituality into their work but do it under a cloak of business speak for fear they will be ridiculed and ostracised.

As companies recognise their connection to society goes deeper than the impacts of their share price movements, the time has come to tear down this particular defensive wall that many businesses have built around themselves. All the signs, from the collapse of financial markets to the Occupy Wall Street movement, are highlighting the need to return to core values and a better way of doing business.

Stressed parents, Depressed Kids

Children today are more depressed than they were at the height of the Great Depression, researchers say, and second-hand stress is a major culprit.

Too much visual stimulation from devices such as television, computers and video games are partly to blame, Dr Shanker says. But high parental stress from factors including economic crisis, marital breakdown and urban living are significantly affecting a child’s ability to self-regulate.

“Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own energy states, emotions, behaviours and attention, in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals, such as maintaining good relationships, learning and maintaining wellbeing,” he says.

“The solutions are real easy, the solutions themselves are not rocket science. Get your kid to bed, have your kid eat properly,” he says.

He also says some activities can help children to “top up the gas” when they are depleted of energy.  Sports, music, yoga and non-competitive Tae-Kwon-do all play an incredible role at helping kids regulate themselves.

Personal Happiness and Wellbeing

Defining wellbeing is not straightforward – not least because  the word mutates a lot around the context in which bis being used, for instance, in health terms there will be emphases on diet, exercise, and mental health; whereas in a work context the focus will be more on confidence, autonomy, sense of meaning or purpose, contribution and accomplishment, high quality relationships, feeling respected and recognised, and continuous learning and growth: a feeling of being able to achieve our full potential.

Our baseline framework continues to be Martin Seligman’s Flourishing framework: Positive Emotion + Engagement + Meaning + Accomplishment + Relationships

What Is Wellbeing?

This article provides a helpful enough explanation of wellbeing to help get a sense of what it means…

 The term wellbeing is very popular. If you type the word wellbeing or well-being in Google then a multitude of pages will be displayed. However, it is not easy to define the term wellbeing. Wellbeing is not the absence of illness.

Wellbeing is not simply maintenance and survival; it also includes growth and fulfillment (the actualization of potential). A wellbeing person has good physical, psychological and social wellbeing. Such people has sound health, more energy, feels satisfied, spreadhappiness and command respect from others.

Attributes of wellbeing: the various attributes of wellbeing are highly correlated.
1. Understanding others’ difficulties and situations ( empathy)
2. Honesty and reliability in behavior ( ethical conduct)
3. Seeing positive features in others and being positive ( positive thinking)
4. Taking cognizance of realities of life and dealing with them accordingly( realistic orientation)
5. Having confidence in oneself ( self-respect)
6. Taking care of what one says or does ( self-discipline)

Not All Happiness is the Same

…it seems that we experience two different kinds of happiness. The calm type of happiness is related to a focus on the present moment, and is most common in older adults. The excited type of happiness is related to a focus on the future and is most common in younger adults.

Although we are unaware of it, these types of happiness also affect our preferences. We seem to like products that will maintain the type of happiness we are experiencing right now. So, if we are experiencing calm happiness, we select calm products. If we are experiencing excited happiness, we select exciting products.

Happiness: The Female Perspective

As a woman, my subjectively female theory is that women are no less happy now than past generations were. I have interviewed over 100 women for articles and for books. They ranged in age from those in their 20’s to those in their 60’s, and they were from all walks of life and educational levels. Not being happy had no age, educational or social limit. The pursuit of happiness is an ongoing activity.

Does Sunshine Make Us Happier?

As much of Britain basks in longed-for sunshine one senses that, despite all the economic gloom, our national spirits have been lifted. We instinctively believe that warm weather makes us happier. But is it true?

Yesterday’s well-being statistics suggested the opposite. The happiest region of the whole UK is the most northerly – Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. Some islands see only around 1,000 hours of sunshine a year compared to a UK average of 1,340 hours.

Science is still trying to make sense of what is going on. The link between cold, dark climates and depression seems so plausible and yet Icelanders exhibit remarkably low levels of SAD. Some suggest this might be down to a genetic factor (Canadians of Icelandic origin also appear to have lower levels of SAD), while others think they may be protected by eating lots of fish, a diet high in Vitamin D.

The British public, it seems, remains largely committed to the view that if it lived in a warm, sunny environment instead of enduring waves of Atlantic cloud and rain, everyone would be a lot happier. For proof, people confidently assert that suicide rates are higher in countries straddling the Arctic Circle.

But proportionately, far more people kill themselves in the warmth of South Korea than in the ice of Scandinavia. Finland, which has the highest suicide rate of the Nordic nations, has a similar level to France and Belgium.

Probably not then.  Still feels like it does though.

Faster. Higher. Stronger – How will the Olympics affect you?

On the eve of the Olympics and Paralympics, Christian Jarrett dives into the psychology of competition

BBC Podcasts – FORUM – A World of Ideas

The secrets of Endurance. Rasmus Ankersen, Rachel Sussman, Marek Kukula. 21 July 2012

Sat, 21 Jul 12

Duration:
41 mins

Available:
24 days remaining

Why is it that so many top long distance runners are from Kenya? Is it genetics that leads to the high performance we can expect to see in the London Olympics? Or maybe the stamina of the world’s best athletes is above all about their mental attitude, the ability to deliver excellence, no matter what. Just some of the aspects of endurance we are exploring on the Forum this week with high-performance anthropologist Rasmus Ankersen. Also on the programme, award winning photographer Rachel Sussman takes us hunting for the longest living organisms on Earth. And endurance that dwarfs anything found on our planet: the mind boggling staying power of the stars in the sky. The UK’s Public Astronomer Marek Kukula is our cosmic guide.

Happy All The Time

New research offers hope for those seeking a durable boost in happiness…

The idea that a person can get happier and stay happier after a major life change has taken major hits in recent decades, with researchers finding that lottery winners are no happier than nonwinners after 18 months and the happiness boost that follows marriage fades, on average, in about two years.

But a new wave of research is suggesting that the picture is more complex, and rising above your long-term happiness level or “set point” may be possible, at least for some individuals.

“Long-term levels of happiness do change for some individuals,” Diener and his colleagues wrote. “The more intriguing question, then, is why happiness set points change for some individuals more than for others.”

The jury is still out on that one, but Sheldon’s study suggests that some of us may be better at savoring positive changes and that some changes may create a more durable happiness than others.

36 Scientific Facts About Happiness

A list satisfyingly worthwhile clicking through.

Project Compassion Stanford: Putting Compassion to Work: Google, Gratitude and Getting Canned

When facing adversity, we can either shut down or we can open up. Our immediate, defensive inclination is to close, to follow the seductive but narrowing pull of emotions such as anger or fear. Opening up is better for clear-headed decision-making and creative problem solving (so the data show). But it is difficult. It requires a good measure of self-compassion and a softness toward the situation and those involved.

 Are We Addicted to Gadgets or Indentured to Work?

Sound familiar: Mind racing at 4 a.m.? Guiltily realizing you’ve been only half-listening to your child for the past hour? Checking work email at a stoplight, at the dinner table, in bed? Dreading once-pleasant diversions, like dinner with friends, as just one more thing on your to-do list?

Guess what: It’s not you. These might seem like personal problems — and certainly, the pharmaceutical industry is happy to perpetuate that notion — but they’re really economic problems.

Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life

 

When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. In this moving talk, McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience — and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life.  Reality is broken, says Jane McGonigal, and we need to make it work more like a game. Her work shows us how.

A traumatic event doesn’t doom us to suffer indefinitely. Instead, we can use it as a springboard to unleash our best qualities and lead happier lives.” (Jane McGonigal)

Positive Psychology Special Issue, March 2003

Although now eight years old – and that’s a long time in the science of happiness of wellbeing – this special edition of Psychology Today contains some really helpful background to the genesis of Positive Psychology in its first article, Positive Psychology: Fundamental Assumptions

FOR the last half century psychology has been largely consumed with a single topic only – mental illness – and it has done fairly well with it. Psychologists can now measure with some precision such formerly fuzzy concepts as depression and alcoholism. We now know a fair amount about how these troubles develop across the lifespan, and about their genetics, their biochemistry and their psychological causes. Best of all, we have learned how to relieve some of these disorders. But this progress has come at a high cost. Relieving the states that make life miserable has relegated building the states that make life worth living to a distant back seat.

plus the later article  Trauma and Personal Growth, is helpful reading around the idea and development of resilience, especially as it manifests as Post Traumatic Growth…

It has been found that between 30 and 90 per cent of people who experience some form of traumatic event report at least some positive changes following trauma, with the figure varying dependent on the type of event and many other factors.  These positive changes can underpin a whole new way of living that embraces the central tenets of positive psychology.  People may

  • change their life philosophy, learning to appreciate each day to the full (i.e. positive subjective experience) and renegotiating what really matters to them in the full realisation that their life is finite;
  • believe themselves to be wiser or act more altruistically in the service of others (i.e. positive individual characteristics) and have a greater sense of personal resilience and strength, perhaps coupled with more acceptance of their vulnerabilities and limitations;
  • dedicate their energies to social renewal or political activism (i.e. positive institutions and communities); or
  • report that their relationships are enhanced in some way, for example valuing their friends and family more (i.e. positive social relationships).

plus  some of the initial research that was happening in 2003 linking wellbeing with organisational life, leadership style and work loads in the article Positive Organisations

Many staff now seem to be granted greater autonomy over when they work and how they achieve their work goals. Many academics, for example, now primarily work at home.  Kanter (1997) and Handy (1995) argue that it is now commitment to common values that forms the glue that keeps the modern organisation together.

But at the same time increasing workloads plus an increase in measurement of the work being done has led to greater stress for many workers. It appears to be largely for this reason that job satisfaction measures have tended recently to go down rather than up.

Book Review:  What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth

“Ordinary people have the power to live lives just as dramatic and driven as those of superheroes, overcoming traumas no less daunting.” So claims Dr. Joseph, who uses part of Nietzsche’s time-tested phrase “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” as part of the book’s title. His experience, research, and writing back up this proclamation and provide perspective and hope for everyone who has, is or will, experience a traumatic event(s) in their life. That includes about 75% of humanity who must face some form of trauma during their lifetime.

Building better philanthropy for a better society

The government supports charitable giving because it wants to encourage individuals to contribute to social wellbeing. With the dust settling on the coalition’s ill-fated attempt to cap personal tax relief on giving, now is an opportune moment to look, not only at ‘how we do good’, but whether we are doing it as well as we could.

The UK is one of the most generous nations in the world, but how far can our charitable impulse meet the gaps in social wellbeing arising from austerity measures? A new research report from the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP) concludes that to increase the impact of philanthropy in our troubled times, we have to address its geographical, attitudinal, ethical and policy dimensions.

Where markets fail, philanthropy needs to go beyond mere charitable hand-outs to mobilise the skills and expertise of successful entrepreneurs behind struggling communities. It also needs to provide financial support and safety-nets to help innovative smaller-scale enterprises move beyond grant dependence to long-term sustainability.

Why Society Doesn’t Change: The System Justification Bias

“Society’s tendency is to maintain what has been. Rebellion is only an occasional reaction to suffering in human history: we have infinitely more instances of forbearance to exploitation, and submission to authority, than we have examples of revolt.” (Zinn, 1968)

Study Awe – Inspiring Experiences Change Our Perception of Time

In addition to confirming the expansion of time, the study shows that awe can ease impatience and actually make you more willing to volunteer time in the name of others. People also begin to prefer an actual experience over a material good. And just in case that wasn’t good enough, an awesome moment can increase your overall satisfaction and happiness in life.

TEDxExeter – Mike Dickson – What is enough?

How much is enough for you to live a happy and fruitful life?   How we are better to think about how we can maximise our lives rather than maximise our incomes.

Chela Davison: A Love Story – Coming To Terms With The Human Experience

If we spent one-third of the energy that we spend on chasing happiness on getting better at being in pain, our experience of being alive would dramatically expand. We’d need to chase less and run away from less. We’d be open to a wider range of experience and not slapping assessments on these experiences and what they mean for our worth in society. We’d actually be able to drop into deeper states of happiness and bliss when they arise because we’re not fending off the pain that is just around the corner or seeping through the cracks of our high state. We’d be able to more fully, authentically and intimately show up for the events of our lives because we wouldn’t be spending the majority of our energy and attention on trying to dodge, stuff down, sidestep or prevail over pain.

Happiness At Work

It’s Official: Work Makes People Happy, Says ONS

HR Magazine’s response of ONS National Survey of Wellbeing brings a comparison with…

separate analysis by the CIPD suggests the finding that work affects happiness, only holds true if people are managed well and engaged with their work.

The CIPD’s Employee Outlook survey includes the four subjective wellbeing questions asked by the Office for National Statistics. The survey of more than 2,000 employees found that employees who agree they trust their senior managers and feel they are consulted about important decisions have much higher levels of wellbeing than those that disagree.

Getting more people into work should boost national happiness – but there’s also a huge amount more happiness to be had if people who already have jobs can be managed better.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said:  “How people are managed on a day to day basis is central to their wellbeing beyond the workplace. Good managers spend time coaching and developing, providing high quality feedback, and rewarding and recognising good performance. Managers also need to have an interest in people as individuals and where possible provide flexibility and support if they are going through difficulties in their lives outside work.”

Explore – “Artists and salespeople are fundamentally…

Generation Sell – a provocative Creative Mornings talk by William Deresiewicz

This is an intelligent thoughtful critique of today’s creative entrepreneurial culture and a lament of the lack of any true avante garde in art or thought that it has brought with it.  An excellent lecture fully worth the investment of time it asks for: the talk itself is 28minutes, followed by the Q&A, also worth hearing.  Highly recommended listening…

 Artists and salespeople are fundamentally different people. It’s the nature of being an artist to be always consumed with doubt. That’s the nature that fuels your exploration. And it’s the nature of the salesperson to suppress all doubt and to speak in exclamation points. Now those functions have to exist in the same person.”

Here are two stories that bring the other side – the excitement and enthusiastic case for the new technology-driven entrepreneurialism…

TaskRabbit Looks to Expand Cities and Offer an API 

Founder Leah said TaskRabbit and similar companies are gaining in popularity as consumers change their views about ownership and sharing. “We are at the beginning of a change on the Web where more companies are popping up that allow people to share resources,” she said. “You see people swapping clothing, sharing cars and bicycles. TaskRabbit is allowing people to share their free time. We can empower people to share themselves.”

See the TedTalk video of Leah Busque talking about the changing habits of consumers, and urging all of us to take the leap with anything we feel passionate about.

Disruptions: Looking Beyond Silicon Valley’s Bubble

There are truly excited inventors, designers and programmers here, some of the brightest people in the United States, who are trying to build something that will fix a problem in the world. This is why I love working in Silicon Valley.

Luckily for people who live outside the bubble of Silicon Valley, there is a wonderful group of creators here who believe that everything is broken and that technology, creativity and guts can actually fix it.

Why Creators Need To Be professionals

So why is it so important for every aspiring creator to turn pro?

Because if you don’t, then you won’t have what it takes on those days – and trust me, there will be plenty of them – when you wonder why you’re doing this, and you’re tempted to give in to Resistance. Or to give up altogether.

Life in Lady Writer Heaven

It turns out that the outside world and all its demands aren’t just distractions from writing, as most writers tend to think, they are also buffers for our bruised psyches. They pull us away from our muse, to be sure, but they also protect us from our own demons. When there are phone companies to fight with, deadlines to meet, aging mothers to be nursed, eyebrows to wax—who has time to schedule in soul searching?

The good news is that when you face down the demons, the muse gets inspired by the fight. One morning, I woke up pickled in melancholy. Why am I so sad? I kept wondering as I wandered around the cottage. I’m supposed to be in lady writer heaven. I’m supposed to be productive as all hell. I’m supposed to be ecstatic, my fingers dancing across the keyboard…

As Woolf wrote about a woman’s experience of finally being alone: “All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others…it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.”

Increase Your Productivity and Happiness At Work

Whether you love your job or not, there are times of the work day that just aren’t as enjoyable as others. The typical work day is full of ups and downs, times of the day that fly by and others that you just can’t wait until they’re over with. When you’ve “hit the wall” and feel like you’re accomplishing nothing, or when you are just hating life at work, here are a few things that you can do to cheer yourself up and get back on track.

3 Simple Ways to Make People Happy at Work

This straightforward set of guidelines for improving people’s happiness at work suggest three key things to get, which we have given alternative headings to, drawing from Martin’s Seligman’s framework of five essentials for what he calls Flourishing: Engagement in what we are doing; a sense of Meaning beyond and unrelated to our own egos from what we are doing; and  high quality Relationships, feeling a part of strong supportive network, team or family.  The other two essentials are Positive Emotion, or the emotional feeling of happiness; and Accomplishment, the satisfaction and fulfilment of a job well done.

Here are Margaret Hefferman’s Top Three…

Learn these three strategies to make your employees happy, and extravagantly execute them. You’ll create a better business…

Professional growth (Engagement)
People want to stretch, to develop their natural talents, feel their life has a narrative and is going somewhere. When they feel that they are growing, they may be exhausted but they’re also inspired, energetic, and willing to take on a great deal. (That’s one reason why investing in people can deliver a higher return that investing in new technology.) Anyone who reports to you (and anyone who reports to them) should have a professional development plan. That will keep everybody engaged, busy, and–eventually–happy.

Strong community (Meaningful Work)
Everybody wants to be proud of where they work, to feel that they are investing the most precious thing they have – time – in something that matters.  Superficial social-responsibility projects won’t fill this gap for you. You need to create direct links between the success of the business and the community you serve. These need to involve the entire work force and should be active, public, visible, and long lasting. Many companies get their staff to choose the causes or charities they support. The more they’re engaged in these commitments, the more meaningful they will be to them–and your company community.

Fair treatment (Strong Relationships)
“Everybody here is somebody.” That’s how one call-center rep once explained to me why he loved the company where he worked. The job wasn’t thrilling, the pay wasn’t great, but every single person was treated with love and respect. Just walking through the door, he said, made you glad to come to work. When people got sick, co-workers worried. When someone was due to retire, she most likely came back to work part time, just for the camaraderie. Sooner or later, everyone in a company like this talks about it as being like “family.” The CEO knows everyone’s name–even the names of everyone’s kids and pets. This kind of fair–and kind–treatment also means startlingly low turnover rates, which also saves money. But it’s not really about the money.

These themes are extended and developed further by Psychologist Carol Ryff on wellbeing and aging

Six key components of well-being seem to capture what it means to function positively. One is positive self-regard, what I call “self-acceptance.” Another is having high-quality relationships with other people – “positive relationships with others.” Another is having a sense of direction in your life – “purpose in life.” Another component is feeling that you’re making the most of your talents and potential, utilizing your capacities, which I refer to as “personal growth.” Feeling you can make choices for yourself and your life even if they go against conventional wisdom is referred to as “autonomy.” The last one is managing the demands and opportunities in your environment in ways that meet your needs and capacities. We call that “environmental mastery.”

Embedded within these reflections is the idea that varieties of well-being around the world each are prone to their own forms of excess and inadequacy. However, until we look at well-being in multiple contexts, we may be blind to what these forms of excess are. The way to gain this understanding is to look at the experiences of, and ideals about, well-being around the world.

It’s like looking in a mirror. We see ourselves and our own views about what it means to be well by looking in a different cultural mirror. Maybe that helps us we see that what we do isn’t always the best. Maybe it needs to be slightly shifted this way or that.

That’s a bias I bring. I think learning about cultural differences enriches everybody.

Employee Satisfaction and Talent Acquisition: Why Wellbeing is a Must

In the current employment market, small and medium enterprise (SME) employers need to do everything possible to attract and retain the best staff. And while it’s true that SME organisations have traditionally scored well on important points such as employee satisfaction, there are always opportunities for gaining an edge over the competition and demonstrating how staff are valued.

Domestic violence has a significant, yet invisible, impact on the wellbeing of a large number of UK employees

Compared with 20 years ago, employers are now much more likely to be open to the view employee well-being is a mainstream business issue. Some are even becoming more comfortable with the notion that they have some role to play in supporting their staff to make and sustain lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or eating more healthily. But there remains a dark corner of the wellbeing landscape where almost nobody goes, even though it affects a shockingly high proportion of the workforce.

I am referring to domestic violence, a topic that, for too many, remains a taboo; and I realise that just by raising it, I am exposing the uncomfortable boundary between an employee’s private business and an employer’s duty of care. So why is domestic violence a workforce wellbeing issue at all?

One in four women report being victims at some point in their lives and 20% of women at work report taking a period of absence as a direct consequence of domestic violence.

If your strategy is focused on healthy options in the canteen or subsidised gym membership, perhaps it is time to assess whether there are less obvious threats to employee wellbeing, to which you should also be giving priority…

UST Work & Well-being Study – Some initial findings

The central concept to the study’s links between well-being, performance and retention is a word coined by the project team: presenteeism.  They describe presenteeism and its connection to well-being:

We believe, and our initial evidence suggests, that your employees’ well-being, satisfaction with elements of jobs and satisfaction that their reasons for working are being met lead to higher performance through reduced presenteeism, heightened engagement and increased feelings of inclusion.
Presenteeism comes from the term “absenteeism” and refers to being at work physically, but unable to concentrate fully. This notion comes from the health and wellness literature, where it originally meant coming to work sick and therefore not performing well. We expanded the concept to consider lack of concentration due to a series of work-related and personal factors. Low well-being in any area of one’s life may cause presenteeism, which impacts performance.

In addition to presenteeism and engagement, the study also comprehensively measures well-being, satisfaction, performance and intention to quit. The researchers plan to follow up in six months to see whether those who intended to quit actually do.

The lowest levels of intention to quit were for those with high overall life well-being and high satisfaction that the job was meeting the employee’s purpose for working.

The next lowest levels of intention to quit were for anyone with high well-being, regardless of their levels of job-specific satisfaction.

Five Keys to Success as the rate of Change Accelerates

For hundreds of years, people have felt the world was changing faster and faster. You can find writing from two hundred years ago lamenting the rate of change that you would believe was written yesterday, yet with the perspective of history, there is no question that the rate of change today, in nearly any category, is greater than it has ever been before.

While all this change may seem daunting and cause you frustrations or stress, the reality is if we want to succeed, we must learn to do more than just “live with” or “deal with” change – we must learn to understand and master it.  The full-on task of learning to understand and master change is a much larger topic than can be addressed here, yet there are five key ideas that will help you when you apply them.

The Incubation Effect: How to Break Through a Mental Block

At a time when we always seem to be in a hurry, we need reminding that taking a break is a simple but effective tool for boosting creativity. To come up with creative solutions to problems, your chances are increased by incorporating breaks into your work-flow.

Creative? Introverted? Then You’re Probably Not Seen As A Leader

“Our results show that regardless of how open minded people are, when they feel motivated to reduce uncertainty either because they have an immediate goal of reducing uncertainty, or feel uncertain generally, this may bring negative associations with creativity to mind which result in lower evaluations of a creative idea. Our findings imply a deep irony. Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for and generation of creative ideas… yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most.”

Happiness and Career… if you know what we mean… 

Adrienne Burke talking about the two types of working style identified by Howard Green concludes that happiness for all us depends on our sense of doing something that matters, whether we prefer ‘administrative’ style work or ‘entrepreneurial’ style work…
In the end, what makes people happy is probably in large part irrelevant to the question of entrepreneurship and working in small companies. More often, what we find is that people think about happiness independent of their vocation.  More relevant are questions like: What are your passions? What gets you excited? What will make you feel you have added value?

Do you just want to make a lot of money and then kick back? That works for some people, but it’s striking how many people we encounter who have done well in their careers still say they arelooking for something to do with their lives. They now have the financial freedom they chased, but it has not made them feel their lives are worthwhile. “Worthwhile” seems to come from doing something that feels like it is adding value, helping other people or somehow making the world a better place. That, at least, seems to be the common thread among the people we meet who are on fire, at any age. The mission can be almost anything, but in every case it is something.

Why Career Plans Are Dangerous

In hi s twice-weekly blog Action Trumps Everything he is suggesting that more of us are set to lose our jobs in the changing world, and identifies only three categories who can reasonably rely on having future work:
1) skilled trades people;
2) people who can tolerate how their jobs are going and
3) people who can afford to coast into the sunset

Perspectives – the new economics foundation magazine

Download the very first edition of the new nef Perspectives magazine…

Perspectives explores some of the latest insights into human behaviour and how they can help organisations make better decisions.

Most adults are producers as well as consumers. In fact we spend the majority of our waking hours working. And work is often a social activity: we usually produce alongside others, in teams. We started to gather perspectives on this line of inquiry with the premise that individuals at work are just as irrational as individuals at the shopping mall.

How do we form and instil habits within the organisations we work for? How does an organisation balance its instinct to survive while exploring new opportunities? Corporations are not engines that robotically maximise shareholder value; nor are charities machines that blindly deliver an altruistic purpose.  Both rely on the power of fallible minds to achieve their goals.

This edition of Perspectives stems from our ambition to better understand what makes organisations effective – and that means understanding the individuals that work in them.

Leadership

Overcome Leadership Challenges

As a leader how and what do you do to maintain resiliency in leadership?  By resiliency, I mean, recover speedily from problems and maintain elasticity, bend, stretch and not break during challenging situations.

All organizations encounter challenges, issues and difficulties everyday including financial shortfalls, downsizing, increased workloads, and succession issues.

These challenges force the organization to turn inward and look at itself and its effectiveness. It is a time to regroup and assess where the organization stands.

If the organization embeds and nurtures a culture based on mutual trust and where all members of the organization strive to be trustworthy and treat one another with respect and caring then you have a solid foundation to deal with the challenges and issues you face. But where do you begin? It begins with a focus on people and a focus on building and enhancing positive relationships.

Most peoples want to be part of the solution. They would like to have a sense that their ideas are heard, not necessarily accepted but considered with some action taken. They want to be part of the team, participating, engaging and solving some of the challenges.

Here are 6 steps to take when you face leadership challenges…

Leaders, Engage Then Train & Realise the Results

How Far Along Are You in These 3 Components?

  1. Empowered Learning Culture. Employee engagement starts and flourishes in a learning culture where all question, explore, are accountable, and learn from mistakes. When formal training occurs in this culture, the participants both apply it themselves and teach it to colleagues through the engagement that occurs each day. Leaders realize the results of the training as it spreads throughout the organization.
  2.  Engage for Accountability. If you mistakenly implement employee engagement primarily as rewards and recognition, you miss the true benefit — employees who are excited to be accountable. From this vantage point, any training the employees receive feeds back into the business in thorough application. Conversely, if as leaders you are delegating rather than engaging, you once again miss the true return on training — ownership to apply where appropriate.
  3.  Skin in the Game. Perhaps the most controversial component is offering advanced training to those who have shown personal initiative to learn some on their own. Of course there are training programs that you would want all employees to take. Yet for the advanced training that everyone hopes for, you must know how you will choose. Current job description has a been a default for years. Yet for leaders to truly realize company results of training, it makes sense to consider initiative and action as an indicator of developmental success.

Better Way to Coach Employees

Coaching is the process of preparing your employees to succeed.  Good coaches can create the mental resources, emotional resilience, business skills, and career development that employees need to achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, while coaching is a well-established part of the sports world, it’s a neglected art in the world of business. Much of the time, coaching is relegated to a five-minute conversation at the end of a yearly performance review.

There’s a better way to handle business coaching. Try this five-step process…

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” (Simon Sinek)


The Power of Conversational Leadership

Intimacy
Inclusion
Interactivity
Intentionality

Art, Performance and Sound

East London – Photo Gallery – Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine

East Side Story
The “other London”—gritty, gratified, but with a rising cool index—gets ready for its close-up as the venue of the Summer Olympics.

Neil Harbisson: I Lsten To Colour (TedTalk)

Artist Neil Harbisson was born completely color blind, but these days a device attached to his head turns color into audible frequencies. Instead of seeing a world in grayscale, Harbisson can hear a symphony of color — and yes, even listen to faces and paintings.

Natalie Kossar’s “(You’re My) Stereotype”

Something to smile through.  Enjoy…

Maira Kalman on Identity, Happiness, and Existence

“How are we so optimistic, so careful Not to trip and yet Do trip, and then GET up and say O.K.”

Mysteries of the Vernacular

This one is PANTS

Yoko Ono on NBC Nightly News: “I envisioned the world smiling together”

YOKO ONO: “If we all start to smile in the world something will happen. I think that it will be better for the world maybe.”

An ‘Unlikely Pilgrimage’ Toward Happiness

Hear and/or read an extract from Rachel Joyce’s new novel: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry 

Rachel Joyce’s novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fryis about a man who very suddenly, with no warning or planning, sets off on a pilgrimage from the very southernmost part of England to the very northernmost part…

The unlikely pilgrimage is also utterly spontaneous. Harold originally intends only to mail a letter to his friend, but he walks past the mailbox … and just keeps walking, north to Berwick-upon-Tweed on the Scottish border… and ‘this is a man who’s only ever walked to the car,” says the book’s author, Rachel Joyce, “And without his mobile phone, and wearing completely inappropriate shoes, and just with a light waterproof jacket,” Joyce says. “He sets off with no props. …

Tno Seghal Fills Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall With Storytellers

For the millions of visitors who are expected to pass through Tate Modern’s doors between Tuesday 24 July, when the work opens to the public, and 28 October, when it closes, the experience of being stopped and spoken to by a complete stranger may be uncomfortable. For Chris Dercon, the director of Tate Modern, it is “the most complex, difficult and dangerous project we have ever put into this museum”.

According to Sehgal the work is about the relationship between the individual and the mass: “It is about what it means to belong to a group, which is also quite a personal question for me.”

Handheld Time Machines

Cities are full of noise and scuffle, and they don’t always reveal their history.

Armed with a fistful of maps from 1901 and a smartphone bristling with data-recording apps, one man tries to uncover a city’s secrets…

Mark Ware will produce a multi-channel soundscape installation that will be sited within the Cathedral’s Chapter House for three consecutive days during March 2013.  The sound installation will feature only sounds that have been in existence for 900 years (for example, the sounds of the sea).  The work will last ninety minutes and will be repeated throughout the day.  The aim will be to create a piece of work that encourages contemplation and relaxation.
Some more history from the archives via Open Culture, this Is Karl Jung being warm, relaxed and utterly charming…
To celebrate the birthday of Carl Gustav Jung, founder of analytic psychology and explorer of the collective unconscious, born on July 26, 1875 in the village of Kesswil, in the Thurgau canton of Switzerland…we present a fascinating 39-minute interview of Jung by John Freeman for the BBC program Face to Face. It was filmed at Jung’s home at Küsnacht, on the shore of Lake Zürich, and broadcast on October 22, 1959, when Jung was 84 years old. He speaks on a range of subjects, from his childhood and education to his association with Sigmund Freud and his views on death, religion and the future of the human race. At one point when Freeman asks Jung whether he believes in God, Jung seems to hesitate. “It’s difficult to answer,” he says. “I know. I don’t need to believe. I know.”

Stephen Covey has given us a lasting legacy of habits, principles, and cornerstone concepts, as well as a rich vocabulary to think about, express, and live our personal leadership.  The language that Covey gave us is all about choice and change, commitment, continuous learning, discipline, efficiency and effectiveness, happiness, integrity, freedom, listening, personal development, perspective, principles, time management, trust, spirit, values, and vision.

It’s a big deal.  It’s a lifetime of contribution.  His legend lives on through his legacy.

Here is a taste of that legacy and the wisdom that Stephen Covey has shared with the world  …

Happiness At Work 3 ~ a route map to edition three

Here is guide to through week’s collection of articles, news, reviews, ideas, pictures and sounds linked to Happiness & Wellbeing in our work and in our lives.  

The collection is published every Friday.
To view postings in the previous collections, go to Archives and choose 6 July for edition one and 13 July for edition two.

We hope you find something here to delight, something you can use, something that confirms what you knew already, and something that improves your happiness.  At least…

The Tanks: Art in Action (Tate Modern)

Happiness At Work – edition 3

Our Top Story

The most important story we found is the publication of the Quality of Working Life 2012 report by the Chartered Institute of Management.  It tells a bad news story about how UK management has deteriorated into much more controlling and untrusting style and the damaging consequences this has for organisations and its people, especially in the public sector. See Quality of Working Life 2012 – people are less happy than in 2007 and need training and new support

The Tanks: Art in Action (Tate Modern)

The Story Making the Biggest Noise This Week

Why are conservatives happier than liberals?

The Big Story Last Week on all the North American sites is the study showing that conservatives are happier than liberals.

Right-wing (vs. left-wing) orientation is associated with greater subjective well-being and that the relation between political orientation and subjective well-being is mediated by the rationalization of inequality … increasing economic inequality from 1974 to 2004 has exacerbated the happiness gap between liberals and conservatives, apparently because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality.

This debate has yet to have an impact here in the UK, but this question is surely worth us asking.

Happiness & Wellbeing At Work

Talent Management – July 2012 – Does Happiness Really Drive Results? is a beautiful e-book and thoroughly worth reading…

Promoting happiness in the workplace is now a scientifically motivated practice that has proven benefits for productivity, profits and people…

Curtis Roosevelt: Austerity? Stimulus? Or Happiness? presents some more strong arguments for why policy makers must take happiness and wellbeing findings seriously.

See too Have Your HR and Leadership Practices Become irrelevant?

25 Qualities Of The Leader In A Happy, Profitable Workplace support the findings from the Quality of Work Life 2012 research starting with…

1) Believes in herself

and completing with…

23) Creates an environment where all in the organization can lead 

In Workplace Happiness: What’s the Secret? Ben Waber’s research reveals factors that affect happiness at work and can increase productivity by up to 25%:

having a tight-knit group that you can commiserate with is a critical, as is a having largish network with plenty of diversity and branching out to talk to people in groups you wouldn’t normally talk to.

In The Right Emotional landscape for High Employee Retention, Granvilled d’Souza draws on a variety of research to show ‘the happiest employees are the most productive and this happens when their bosses are candid, relaxed, trusting and are approachable,’ and concludes with this wonderful musical metaphor:

‘Work satisfaction and keeping people happy at work requires an environment that adds value, fosters encouragement and stresses on people development. This only serves as a constant reminder that each person starting from the top strums the right chord to resonate what the organization stands for.’

In How To Motivate Subordinates Professor Srikumar Rao, author of Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated and Successful – No Matter What  brings what he calls…

a somewhat contrarian view about ‘motivation’. I think that it is NOT the function of a manager to motivate subordinates. It is his – or her – function to find out what is de-motivating them and systematically get rid of these factors.

This is a clear practical straight forward and helpful piece, but language really matters…

has anyone ever been happy to be called a ‘subordinate?’

Volunteering Makes Happier Employees – see the full technicolour pictorially presentation of what this research is saying.

A new gallup poll reveals The Five Essential Elements of Wellbeing

career + social + financial + physical +community wellbeing
Physiological -> Security -> Love & Belonging -> Self Esteem -> Self-actualisation
and this article provides a good Maslow history lesson (or a reminder for those who are already familiar with his model)

A happy mind is an open mind  is one of the elements of  The Science of Happiness  post How To Solve Problems By Doing Nothing …

Several studies have shown that positive emotions lead to greater internal awareness of our brain’s subtle signals whereas negative emotions cloud our thinking. The happiness you feel after a vacation presents a great opportunity to see problems from a fresh perspective.

Chris Dede’s Five Things I’ve Learned, Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard, as well as being in fact four things, are not the usual list, but definitely worth a read…

  1. Leadership requires envisioning opportunities.
  2. Leadership requires displacing cherished misconceptions.
  3. Leadership requires inspiring others to act on faith.
  4. Leadership requires inspiring others to act on faith.

If Women Ran Hollywood…2012

Irresistible.

Understanding and Playing To Your Strengths

8 Secrets To Happiness (part 4) – Proactive Living concludes its survey with

Know Who Are and What You Love

and offers this link to a free online Personality Test based on Jung Briggs Myers typology

And for an alternative understanding of the different MBTI styles, check out 16 Fiction Characters’ Myers-Briggs Personality Types

Knowing and activating our top strengths and working preferences automatically makes us feel good – about ourselves and about what are able to do and contribute to the world.  Another excellent and free online questionnaire is the Via Me Character Strengths Profile

Personal Happiness

Stefan Sagmeister: 7 rules for making more happiness  TedTalk is a beguiling personal response to the happiness statistics and information…

Using simple, delightful illustrations, designer Stefan Sagmeister shares his latest thinking on happiness — both the conscious and unconscious kind. His seven rules for life and design happiness can (with some customizations) apply to everyone seeking more joy.

A feeling of energy is a key to feeling happy

When you feel energetic, you feel much better about yourself. On the other hand, when you feel exhausted, tasks that would ordinarily make you happy — like putting up holiday decorations, getting ready to go to a party, or planning a trip — make you feel overwhelmed and blue.

Read The Happiness Project Grethchen Rubin’s 7 Tips to Boost Your Energy Levels Fast. The 6th one is Talk to friends.

Happiness Boosts Heart Health  Reported by the Daily Mail as “Cheer up and save yourself a heart attack,” new research seems to show…

The quality of optimism they say is most robustly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events. Hedonic wellbeing (based on pleasure and enjoyment) has a stronger association with positive cardiovascular health than eudaimonic wellbeing (based on fulfilling one’s potential and wider social goals)’.

Want To Be Happy? Don’t Pursue Happiness Steve Maizie’s very readable summary – with a link to an e e cummings poem – of how to be happy using Emmanuel Kant’s teachings…

For a truly different account of happiness — one that takes the pursuit of happiness to be fundamentally misguided — we turn to Immanuel Kant, who might sound preachy to the modern ear, but his message is an important antidote to the apparent consensus that we should spend our lives aiming to make ourselves happy.

Maizie’s big think post comes complete with a link to an e.e.cumming poem: three poems

(While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

each dream nascitur, is not made . . .)
why then to Hell with that: the other; this,
since the thing perhaps is
to eat flowers and not to be afraid.

On Happiness Equations is a great review of the irresistibility, futility and worth of equations to try and measure happiness, and in particular the now famous happiness formula advanced by Positive Psychology supremo, Martin Seligman: H(appiness) = S(set point) + C(ircumstances) + V(oluntary actions), out of which Jeremy McCarthy concludes…

For me, all of these equations are useful.  They force us to use an analytical part of our brain to consider the forces at play between variables that are unquantifiable.   To the critics of these equations, I’d like to share the same advice that Conley gives to his readers . . . “try not to let the math distract you from the bigger message.”

Here is another Happiness Formulae our research has thrown up…

M = (B + S) x A  = BA + SA and therefore

BA = M – SA = M – 1

and B = M-I/A

In the latter case

M = (B-S) x A = BA – SA; therefore BA = M + SA = M + I and B = M+I 33

_____

A

Answers by the end of class please.

In Fame Not Key to Happiness  some words of wisdom about resilience from celebrity panelists to a school group in India include these from video jockey Juhi Pande

The idea is to give that best attempt because you never know when, what you consider success, shall come to you and you need to hang on till then. When you start working you don’t determine whether it will be appreciated by others or not, that comes later. But, no matter what happens you should not lose conviction or doubt yourself.”

Shut Your Face! 5 Things Women Should Not Say To Men.  No further explanation necessary.

Which Experience Is Best For You? Enjoyment of Experiences is Influenced By Life Priorities and Values research findings include not one but two arts experiences in the top five…

Using data from 142 adults who completed a values survey and an experiential preference survey, Beyond the Purchase was able to determine the top five most appealing activities:

1. A day trip/weekend vacation
2. A dining experience
3. Museums/galleries 
4. A concert 
5. Hiking

No Joke: 5 Guaranteed Ways to Increase Happiness.  We have no idea if these things will work but most of them look fun to try and all of them are small and immediate enough to take a chance with.

Art, Sound and Performance

The Tanks: Art in Action opened Tate Modern’s new performance art space this week including  Suzanne Lacey: Crystal Quilt long luxurious soundscape of women talking about being about life, living, love and relationships at an age when they are…

“not old – ripening…”

Tate Magic Ball is a fun app that you shake to get different selections from the Tate collection based on a complicated algorithm of where you are, weather conditions, time of day and ambient noise levels.

Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw’s  Peace Camp is only live for 3 days around coastal locations around the UK this weekend, but you can download and enjoy Mel Mercier’s 70minute love poetry soundscape from their website.

Graeme Miller’s new sound show On Air sounds exciting and fresh way to experience the city:  

a durational site-specific radio broadcast that compacts the elements of local radio into a simple poetic system. Graeme Miller will create a continuous commentary on the everyday life of Exhibition Road for nine days from 28 July to 6 August 2012.

This is part of the bigger Cultural Olympiad project On Exhibition Road

a place for Londoners and visitors alike to unwind and recharge during London 2012 with games from the vintage collection at the V&A or readings from ROAD STORIES, a compendium of specially commissioned short stories by well-known authors and music and exhibitions.

Art and the Pursuit of Happiness Further away Londoners, artists Balasbas and Sonio, the Pinoy sense of happiness is best captured in the everyday communal rituals of the streets, soundtracked by the charivari of gossip, intoxicated banter and laughter.In their shared humility and lack of any artistic pretense, both artists map out for us a path to unencumbered happiness in the virtues of contentment and simplicity in their Makati City exhibition.

And we couldn’t resist posting this story about A Shortcut To Happiness, a new Roger Hall play in touring New Zealand with our old acting colleagues Alison Quigan and Stuart Devinie.  Apparently…

“There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.”

UK weather has remained cold, wet and miserable this week, but in New York they’ve had a record-breaking heat wave – wish we were there – which inspired Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings post: A Vintage Love Letter to New Tork’s Heat Wave as the Ultimate Class Equaliser

When a heat wave left the whole city gasping and sweating, a powerful fellowship blunted the edge of the common misery, bridging the most insuperable linguistic barriers, or the most unclimbable social barricades, if only with a wink or a grimace.

Book Reading

Book Review: The Coming Jobs War  Although written very specifically about the USA, Jim Clifton’s conclusions based on a huge amount of Gallup statistics are worth at least looking at.  I have re-presented his findings here substituting ‘America’ with “the country’ – see if you think they have validity for where you are:

  1. The biggest problem facing the world is adequate jobs.
  2. Job creation can only be accomplished in cities.
  3. The three key sources of job creation are: the country’s top 100 cities, its top 100 universities, and its 10,000 local ‘tribal’ leaders.
  4. Entrepreneurship is more important than innovation.
  5. The country cannot outrun its healthcare costs.
  6. Because all public education results are local, local leaders need to lead their whole cities and all youth programs to war on the dropout rate, with the strategy of one city, one school, and one student at a time.
  7. The country must differentiate itself by doubling its number of engaged employees.
  8. Jobs occur when new customers appear.
  9. Every economy rides on the backs of small to medium sized businesses.
  10. The country needs to more than triple its exports in the next five years and increase them by 20 times in the next 30 years.

Or for more positive sustenance, see Book Review: Strengths Based Leadership that highlights Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope as the four crucial capabilities of good leaders.

Video

Enjoy Bill Plympton’s Animated Guides to Kissing and Making Love

Stephen R. Covey dies, author of ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ was 79

Stephen Covey dis this week after a bicycle accident.  Covey’ was a unique, intensely human and special voice, and his ideas and techniques have long been a central vein of our work, especially in our Managing Multiple Priorities Win-Win Negotiating and Leadership Communications  training.

Here is remembered beautifully by his friend, innovation specialist and provocateur Tom Peters…

Remembering Stephen Covey

By Tom Peters
Monday, Jul 16, 2012

Let’s forget the content of his books. Or the gazillions of copies The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, or any of his others books for that matter, have sold around the world. Let’s forget his memorable seminars—and his business success. 

One simply cannot pay tribute to Stephen Covey without saying at the outset that he was a lovely human being. 

Stephen and I have both been figures in the world of “business thinking,” or some such. And in our world, the response to his death seems rather parallel to Tim Russert’s. All in the news industry agreed that Mr. Russert was a remarkable journalist whose body of work had been highly influential. But the heart of the matter was Tim Russert the person. Every tribute oozed warmth for an extraordinary human being. 

Professionally, the term “humanist” could have been invented to encapsulate Stephen’s work. He was a man of the world, and, though in my view an optimist, he was hardly naïve and knew humanity’s darker side. 

Nelson Mandela’s greatest weakness, he has said, may be that he expects the best of all those with whom he comes in contact, including his most intransigent enemies. While I’m not quite drawing a parallel between Covey and Mandela, I will say unequivocally that Stephen expected the best of all of us—and he provided us with straightforward tools and advice to help us get from here to a better there. 

As also in the case of Mr. Mandela, many with whom Stephen had direct or indirect contact surprised themselves as they marched forward with their own enhanced humanism, courtesy of his work and example. 

Let me resort, finally, to the vernacular: I just liked being around the guy. 

I am a pessimist by nature (some find that difficult to believe), and a little dose of Covey from time to time would boost my spirits enormously—and strengthen my commitment to one or another quixotic pursuits. Though we were hardly bosom buddies, I would occasionally get an absurdly generous note from Stephen recognizing this or that that I had done. I often joked with him that, with the passage of time, I was ripping him off more and more. That is, I increasingly underscored essential principals he had articulated clearly and to which I had often given short shrift.  

In short, I will miss Stephen. He stirred my better angels, as he did for millions of others in truly every corner of the world. 

His book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is high recommended reading.