Happiness At Work #86 ~ resilience: the amour-plated twin of happiness

Resilience is becoming one of the loudest clarion calls across our lives: no longer just an application restricted to times of extreme trauma or crisis or the specialist domain of the armed forces, resilience now is being heralded as the must-have capability for us all.  It has suddenly become the leading capability for our professional survival as much as it is for the ongoing survival of the organisations we work for.  It is being handed back to us as the new first and increasingly only response to any problems we might be facing in our relationships, our mental health and now, too, our physical health, spanning out across our lives into our how we are expected to make and upkeep our families, our careers, our communities, our cities and our societies.

I have real concerns about this.  I am a long and passionate advocate for self-centred learning and have long championed the principle that the more choices and possibilities for doing things differently that we can find for ourselves, the greater will be the reach, range and positive effects we will achieve.  And this principle lies at the heart of all that 21st century intelligence is giving us about how to build our happiness – and its armour-plated twin, resilience.

But I worry that resilience is quickly and too unquestioningly becoming the new panacea for our times, a polished pretender to a final solution and a caveat to deflect any serious challenge to policies and programmes, leadership and governance, that leave people unequally equipped to grow and progress beyond the limitations of their circumstances, and silenced by the new rhetoric that tells us that our own happiness – and our resilient ability to bounce back from any misfortunes we may encounter – is entirely within our own gift.

I know about the immense and literally life-changing power of resilience and its ignition switch, optimism, from the research and testimonials of dozens of people who have done just this, and even come through their torture, trauma, loss, imprisonment, disability, illness and pain somehow stronger and feeling finer than they thought themselves to have been before their ordeal.  And I know about this from watching people I love face up to and get beyond life-threatening illness, drawing real strength,  courage, presence, stamina and renewed life-force through their skilful and disciplined resilience and optimism.

And yet, and yet, and yet…

Perhaps we need to remember extra well that resilience, as an armour plating to help us to withstand the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’  does not stand in for, even less replace, the human being it protects.  Resilience, like armour, is what we suit up in to face hard, threatening and unusual circumstances.  It has to be made, fitted and worn in.  It has to be contoured to our special and particular selves and fit us well and comfortably enough to assist us to be our finest selves when we most need to be.  It must not, should not and cannot be our default, our everyday wear, our always on and in mode.  That would cripple us.

Happiness is an aspiration – a never-to-be-finally-arrived-at complex mix of ways of being and thinking and acting that we can constantly be leaning and lifting towards, and that replenishes as it polishes as it extends as it enriches and refuels us.  And happiness helps to forge and fit and finesse our resilience capabilities for when we might need them.

Resilience is for the tough times.  We will all face them, but for most of us these will be exceptional times.

Unless we start to allow ourselves to believe that resilience – especially in a narrowly defined ‘toughening up’ sense – is a universal everyday normal requirement, as much as is the requirement for most of us to have to work, to pay our taxes, to obey our laws and to bring no harm upon our neighbours.

So yes, let us all learn – and keep learning – new and better ways to become more resilient.  And let us all, too, look first to ourselves for what we might each do to expand our options and amplify our sense of control and influence over the circumstances and challenges we find ourselves facing.  But let us make sure we don’t stop there and assume that this is all that should be needed to make a good life, a good world.  Especially now for the times that are coming to us in consequence of the world we have made for ourselves.

On Happiness Inequality

Chris Dillow raises similar questions in this post in his blog, Stumbling and Mumbling

Do we need policies to reduce inequality, or should we simply allow economic growth to do so? This is the question posed by a recent paper by Andrew Clark and colleagues. They find that, in the UK and elsewhere, economic growth reduces inequality of happiness.

This isn’t simply because it reduces the amount of abject misery. Growth also reduces the number of people who say they are very happy. This might be because wealth increases our options and hence the opportunity cost of our preferred choice. For example, work isn’t too bad if it gets you out of a joyless slum, but it can be a misery if it keeps you off the golf course or guitar.

This finding is awkward for the left. If we believe that what matters most is people’s well-being, it suggests that the most important inequality should be addressed not by redistribution by simply by promoting growth.

So, what answers might the left have to this? I can think of three:

1. Policies to promote growth require redistribution, to the extent that wealth inequalities are an obstacle to growth. This is the thinking behind wageled growth and the asset redistribution ideas of Sam Bowles.

2. If people adapt their desires to their circumstances, or if other cognitives biases reconcile them to inequality, they might be content with injustice, but this would not necessarily legitimate the system: we would consider slavery wrong even if all slaves were content. As Amartya Sen said:

Consider a very deprived person who is poor, exploited, overworked, and ill, but who has been made satisfied with his lot by social conditioning (through, say, religion, or political propaganda, or cultural pressure).  Can we possibly believe that he is doing well just because he is happy and satisfied? (The Standard of Living lecture, 1785 (pdf), p12)

3. Inequality can matter for non-welfarist reasons – for example to the extent that it undermines equality of respect or the democratic system.

Personally, I think these are good answers. But Clark’s paper should force leftists to think more about why inequality matters.

Link to the original article

We know that inequality is one of the greatest destroyers of happiness.  We are also starting to realise better that it cuts away at trust between people, something which is becoming increasingly vital as more and more of us across the planet come together to live in cities.  And in a work context, too, perceived inequality is one of the fastest and most virulent ways that unhappiness and disengagement takes root, calcifies and becomes embedded.

We all need to know that my resilience is self-contained, where I can be resilient without any need for you to be resilient too.  Whereas my happiness is only possible if and when you are happy too, and anything I do to make you happier automatically makes me happier too.  Resilience draws from others but is mostly self-sufficient, whereas happiness depends upon a virtual reciprocity and co-creative interdependence.

So yes, let us all learn, and learn to help others to learn, to build the capabilities of resilience.  But let this be our back-up only, our ready-when-we-have-to get-out-of-trouble special clothes.  Much much more than this, let us keep learning and aspiring and stretching and wondering and imagining our own and each other’s greater happiness

For the rest of this post I have gathered an array of what seem to me to be genuinely helpful ideas and approaches for shaping and shining up our own and others around us resilience.

I hope you find something here you can use too.

Emotional resilience: it’s the armour you need for modern life

By 

The latest self-improvement technique is finding favour with everyone from anxious adolescents to stressed executives

First, there was mindfulness – a brain-training technique aimed at achieving mental clarity – which came to the fore in 2011. Fast-forward three years and it’s being taught at organisations as diverse as Google, AOL, Transport for London, Astra Zeneca and the Home Office, with high-profile users such as Bill Clinton extolling its benefits. Next, the great and good took up “transformational breathing”, a US craze that arrived on our shores last year to teach us how best to use our lungs.

But already there’s a new technique in town – and it’s fast-becoming the buzz word of 2014.

“Emotional resilience” is more hard-hitting than many of the other methods promising to keep us cool, calm and collected. Originally developed to help victims of natural disasters and massacres cope with catastrophe, it’s reached our shores and is slowly infiltrating offices, schools and communities.

Ten ways to build your emotional resilience

– See crises as challenges to overcome; not insurmountable problems

– Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family

– Accept that change is part of life, not a disaster

– Take control and be decisive in difficult situations

– Nurture a positive view of yourself – don’t talk yourself down or focus on flaws

– Look for opportunities to improve yourself: a new challenge, social situation or interest outside work. Set goals and plan ways to reach them

– Keep things in perspective: learn from your mistakes and think long-term

– Practise optimism and actively seek the good side of a bad situation

– Practise emotional awareness: can you identify what you are feeling and why?

– Look after yourself, through healthy eating, exercise, sleep and relaxation.

Link to read the full article

Is Happiness Up To Me? – Happiness & Its Causes 2013 Panel Discussion

– Where does happiness come from?
– How much impact do external factors such as work and relationships have on our wellbeing and happiness?
– How does the pace of life affect happiness?
– Are altruism and compassion the secret ingredients to a good life?
– How can we increase our overall wellbeing and happiness?

Panellists: Professor Ed Diener, Dr Helen Fisher, Carl Honoré and Jerril Rechter.
Moderator: Lynne Malcolm, Presenter All in the Mind, ABC Radio National

Ed Deiner

“Think about your hair colour – you inherited it but you can control it too.  Happiness is like this.” …

“Be more actively positive to others.  Express the gratitude you feel to them more often.  Express compliments to other people.  That makers them happier and it also makes you happier…”

Dr Helen Fisher

“Happiness evolved millions of years ago to help us to survive” …

“There is data now that giving compliments to others lowers your cholesterol, lowers your blood pressure, boosts your immune system, so it’s giving to others but it’s also giving to yourself.  But if I had to sum it up in four words: marry the right person…”

Carl Honore’

“Turn around that old John Lennon quote that ‘Life is what happens to us when we’re making other plans’ and into Happiness is what happens to us when we’re making the right plans” …

 “I just suggest that people stop and breathe.  Just a few deep breathes and you get an automatic quick fix…Another suggestion is the ‘speed audit’ – as you’re going through your day, every once in a while, just stop and ask yourself ‘am I going at the right speed?’… And I think we need to look at our schedules and do less.  We’re all chronically trying to do too much…having it all is just a recipe for hurrying it all…”

Jerril Rechter

“In oder for an individual to be happy we need to live in a happy society” …

“Get involved in the arts.  We know from research that there’s really strong connectors via the arts.  You can build really strong relationships and you can express yourself as well…”

Daily Self-Improvement Exercises that will take you 5-10 minutes

This is a great set of possibilities for growing greater resilience and happiness from Ann Smarty the serial guest blogger running My Blog Guest, and her own personal blog ManifestCon

Many experts recommend taking ten to fifteen minutes daily to improve yourself or your life. This could take on literally any form. But here are ten suggestions that you might find helpful, or may at least assist you in thinking up your own.

1. Meditation

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to just slow down and breath, which is essentially what meditation is: the chance to calm your mind, focus on your breathing, and find the quiet within yourself.

Any time you are feeling stressed, just take a few minutes and meditate. This can be a spiritual action, or not. The important thing is that you are moving past the tensions of the day.

Featured tool: If you want something guided, try Calm.com.

2. Mini Workouts

Did you know you can burn a couple hundred calories in just ten minutes? There are mini workouts all over the web that help you do it. But there are many more benefits to taking these active breaks.

They will help keep you healthy, boost your energy, assist in your sleeping cycle, relieve stress and tension, and improve your mood, all in just ten to fifteen minutes a day. Amazing, isn’t it?

Featured tools: Sparkpeople has plenty of these short exercise videos, both strength and cardio. So does Tiffany RothePopSugar and many others.

3. Learn Something New

Knowledge is power, but it is also fun. Learning something new every day is a great goal to have, and incredibly easy to keep up with. Newsletters, websites and groups are all over the web, just waiting to let you know something you didn’t before.Featured tools: Some great places to start are Reddit’s Today I LearnedHow Stuff Works many articles and podcasts, and the Now I Know newsletter. You can even use a site like DuoLingo to learn a new language.

4. Go For a Walk

Sometimes a bit of fresh air is all you really need to improve your day. Going for one every day, even a small one, can help habitually clear your mind and eliminate stress.It gives you a chance to organize your thoughts, or think through a problem. Plus, it is just an enjoyable pastime that doesn’t cause any strain on the body (for most). Try using one of your breaks at work for a short walk, and see the difference it makes.

5. Write Down What You Think

I don’t mean a professional article; that doesn’t improve yourself at all. But write something for yourself, whether it is shared or private. Speak about something you are passionate about, something you enjoy.

Write a letter you never intend to send, to go back and see later. Write a poem or some prose. Write about something that is bothering you, or that made you laugh. Just write.

Featured tool: OhLife is one of the journaling tools that will help you organize your writing by sending friendly email reminders and inviting to write on what happened that day.

I also like 750words

6. Read Something

Prefer to be on the reading end of words? Then take a few minutes in blocks to read something. Maybe it is half of a chapter of a book. Maybe it is an article or editorial. Maybe it is a couple of poems from your favorite poet. Just read something that enriches you.

Featured tools: There’s a quick review of Goodreads and how to find friends there. There are a lot of reading FireFox addons to choose from. Here are more quick reading hacks for short time.

7. Speak to a Friend/Relative

I don’t mean online. Too much of our communication has become reliant on such technology that hides us behind a computer screen. Take ten minutes instead to speak face to face, or on the phone.

Connect with your loved ones and make it a priority. Not only will you feel great by the end of it, but it will strengthen your relationship with that person.

8. Watch TED Talks

TED Talks are amazing, and you probably already know that. They encompass every industry, with leaders in those industries speaking about any topic at all.

They come in all different lengths, in multiple formats such as podcasts and videos. You will be sure to find truly inspiring and even life-changing lectures here.

9. Clean and Declutter

So many things can be improved by having a clean work or living space. Just ten minutes a day can make a lot of difference in a room, no matter what that room might be. Even if the area is a disaster, doing little bits will make an impact over the coming days. Plus, it will improve your mood to be somewhere tidy, as clutter can really mess with your thinking and emotions.

10. Do Something You Love

Ultimately, it comes down to this: do something you love. No matter what it might be, engaging in things you enjoy is perhaps the best path to self-improvement. Even if it is only ten to fifteen minutes a day.

Link to the original Lifehack article

Working With Mindfulness: Overcoming the Drive to Multitask

Jacqueline Carter writes…

There is a good chance that at some point while you are reading this post, you will be tempted to do something else at the same time. Don’t worry, I won’t take it personally. I won’t think badly of you and I won’t even be particularly surprised. Every work place I visit, there is a prevailing modus operandi – multitasking.

Yet there is a growing body of scientific evidence that multitasking makes us less efficient, less effective, more stressed and more likely to make mistakes…

An experiment conducted by Levy, Wobbrock, Kaszniak and Ostergren looked specifically at the effects of mindfulness training on multitasking behavior of knowledge workers in high stress environments. They found that when asked to do multiple tasks in a short amount of time, those who had been trained in mindfulness, compared to control groups, were able to maintain more focus on each task and had better memory for work details. They were also less negative about the experience and reported greater awareness and attention. In short, they were able to perform multiple tasks more mindfully.

If you are familiar with mindfulness practices, this makes sense. One of things developed in mindfulness training is to become more aware of your attention and increase your ability to choose your focus. If we can train ourselves to have more awareness and control over our attention, it makes sense that we would be better equipped to deal with a demanding work environment.

So when you have a lot to get done and you are tempted to try to do more than one thing at a time you have the mental discipline to choose. Do you continue trying to type the email and answer your colleague’s questions? Or do you let go of either the email or your colleague so you can do one or the other more efficiently and effectively? It’s your choice. But it only becomes a choice if you are mindful of your attention…

According to Gallop’s 2011-2012 study of employees, 70 percent of Americans are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their work. As noted in the report, there is significant evidence that disengaged workers are less productive, make more mistakes, and can be more costly to employers in terms of absenteeism and sick leave.

A study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior demonstrates mindfulness training can help improve employee attitudes towards work and specifically increase engagement. Again, this makes sense. One of the basic methods of mindfulness training involves paying attention to your breath with alertness, relaxation, and a sense of curiosity. If you can train your mind to be comfortable and curious attending to your breath, it stands to reason that you could choose to apply that same orientation towards any task at hand.

Let’s say you are faced with a large pile of invoices to process. If your mind starts to look for more interesting things to do, it is going to take you longer and you will likely make mistakes. If you could look at this task with a calm, clear, present and engaged mind, you will be more efficient and effective and you might even find some enjoyment in the process.

So if you managed to read to the end of this post without doing other things — good for you! If on the other hand, you had to come back to it a couple of times, don’t feel bad. Maintaining focus and interest on one task at a time is not easy. Whether we work in highly-demanding environments or are doing tasks that aren’t particularly stimulating, we can all benefit from training ourselves to be more mindful about where and how we place our precious attention.

Link the original Huffington Post Blog

Why You Really Need To Quiet Your Mind (and how to do it)

Meditation is an under appreciated practice, especially in a high-stress workplace – but that’s where it’s needed the most. Stephanie Vozza offers these guidelines for how to quiet your racing thoughts from Victor Davich, author 8-Minute Meditation: Quiet Your Mind, Change Your Life.

“With technology, economic pressures, work, and family, it’s impossible to be on top of everything and it’s upsetting our natural balance.” says Victor Davich, and this overload and overwhelm often lead to anxiety, fear, and depression, and while you can’t check out of life and avoid responsibility, you can approach things in a gentler way.

“Meditation is one of the quickest tools for finding inner peace and quiet,” Davich says. “It’s an Eastern tool for Western results.”

Davich describes meditation as a state of mindfulness. “Being mindful doesn’t mean quieting your mind in the way most people expect,” he says. “The mind isn’t going to stop thinking. A zen master once told me the goal of mindfulness isn’t to suppress thinking, but to surpass it.”

The key is how you react to your thoughts. If you focus on your thinking, your mind is like an electric fan with thoughts blowing everywhere, says Davich. When you focus on your breathing or your body, however, thoughts can come and go like clouds across a sky. “You can look at them, realize they are just thoughts, and let them go,” he says. “You don’t have to have an emotional attachment to them.”

Being mindful means being present, explains Davich. “Once you are present and centered and here, your mind will naturally quiet down.”

Mindfulness isn’t another thing to put on the to-do list; it’s a daily commitment. Davich says an eight-minute meditation can have a profound affect on your wellbeing. An attorney, he says the practice helped him survive the stress of law school and boosted his GPA. He shares three simple steps you can take to quiet your mind:

1. Get into a good position

Take a deep breath and sigh it out. Sit comfortably and relax your body as much as you can. “We have these visions of needing to have a full lotus position,” Davich says. “It’s not necessary.”

2. Get in touch with your breathing

Close your eyes and find the place in your body where you feel your breath most prominently. Davich says it could be your abdomen, diaphragm, or under your nostrils. Start to focus your attention in a gentle way to your breathing–this will be your anchor point.

3. Detach from your thoughts

Within a few seconds, distractions like thoughts, body sensations, or images will start to bubble up. Realize that this is normal and gently return to the anchor point. Continue this for eight minutes. To keep track of the time and set the tone, you can use an app, such as Davich’s Simply8 or Buddhify or Headspace, a favourite of ours,

Davich says most people find morning to be a quiet and convenient time of day to meditate. Others do it before bed, to help them sleep. You could meditate during your lunch break or any other time that works for you.

There is just one rule: “Keep a daily consistent appointment with your mediation practice, just like brushing your teeth,” he says. “It’s a wonderful tool to help put space between you and the world’s distractions.”

How to Cope, Bounce Back and Thrive in Times of Change and Uncertainty

Some people seem to cope with change better than others, even though change is inevitable. Change is happening all the time. The ancient Chinese book of philosophy and guidance, The I Ching is known as ‘The Book of Change(s)’, recognizing that we are living in a state of potentiality. How we cope with change and how we bounce back is largely down to perception. Change can be a threat, an opportunity or a time for reflection.

Black and white categories and cognitive-economy

We make sense of the world, mainly through selective attention and simplification. We wouldn’t be able to cope if we had to process every bit of information that comes our way, so we run a sort of cognitive economy filter. One of the way we simplify is to carve the world up into black and white categories, just like those TV barristers who demand yes or no answers to their questions. These black and white categories are really a model of the world than an accurate representation of the world. …Seeing confidence as an ‘either-or’, ‘have-or-have-not’ state is not very useful. Often there is a lot to be gained by considering the grey area, the excluded middle. This is often where real-life is live and where we can find solutions.

In/tolerance of Uncertainty

…As with all aspects of psychology, the human experience inhabits a spectrum of difference. We all need structure to varying degrees, that same with our tolerance for ambiguity or uncertainty. Those who are more tolerant fare better in times of change. It’s tempting to use the ‘that’s just the way I am’ card, but it is possible to work our tolerances. We can adapt to change by changing our attitudes and perceptions.

Competing Needs: Novelty versus familiarity

If you’ve ever attended a training course, chances are you’ve encountered Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. After our biological needs have been satisfied, one of the fundamental needs is our need for security. A key aspect of security is that things are familiar and predictable. However, just to mix things up, if you’ve ever observed a baby or a toddler you’ll know that they are drawn to new things. This doesn’t change as we age. Throughout our lives we balance novelty and familiarity. Often they are at odds with one another. We do a kind of mental accounting to assess whether we should play it safe and stick with what we know or take a chance.

The buffering effect of Psychological Hardiness

When I was writing and researching Unlock Your Confidence, I happened upon the concept of psychological hardiness (like resilience) and how it provides a buffering effect for health and well-being when dealing with stressful life changes and times of uncertainty. Much of the research was carried out with people in stressful jobs, such front-line services fire-fighters and people in the military. Three key attitudes were found that help some people cope with uncertainty and change better than others. These are the three Cs of:commitment, control and challenge.

  •  Commitment is the attitude of taking a genuine interest in other people and having curiosity about the world and getting involved with people and activities. The opposite of commitment is alienation, which involves cutting yourself off and distancing yourself from other people.
  • Control is the tendency to hold the attitude that control is something that comes from the inside and act as if you can influence the events taking place around you by your own efforts. It is The opposite of control is powerlessness which includes the perception that your life is controlled by external forces (fate, government) and that you do not have the means or capabilities to meet your goals. Our sense of control is often based on perception and not objective facts.
  • Challenge is the attitude that change is the norm, as opposed to stability and that change offers opportunities for personal development and not threats. The opposite of challenge is security, and the need for everything to stay the familiar and predictable, allowing you to stay in your comfort zone

Keeping a journal to cope with challenges and change

Journaling is a simple and effect technique of coping with challenges and change. When stressed our focus and thoughts narrow to survival options. This means that we overlook past experiences that could be the key with coping with a current situation. Journaling helps in two ways: (i) It helps you to organize your thoughts as you are going through the situation, (ii) It provides a permanent record of your personal coping strategies. Keeping a journal is also one of my top three tips for getting the most out of a self-help book.

Cognitive tricks for coping in times of uncertainty

It’s tempting to write off techniques as mental tricks. I’ve heard people claim that such methods are just fooling ourselves and are not authentic. I’d argue that the exact opposite is true. We use mental tricks all the time to make sense of the world. We actively filter things out. Taking control of our lives is in part about being aware of how we structure our experience. It’s also about being more aware of the range of our experience. One trick that I used when I moved home and found it difficult to settle into a new routine was to pretend I was on holiday. So I set myself a time limit of two to three weeks and I’d be as flexible as I have to be on holiday. …This change in attitude was all it took to help me to settle in. I’ve shared this idea with countless people (friends, family and clients) and it has worked for them too.

Another technique I use with clients is the personal experiment. When we agree a possible way forward or solution, I don’t ask clients to commit to it with every fibre of their being. It makes much more sense to treat it as an experiment and try it on for size. So we agree a time span and then after that we have a review and discuss how the experiment went. This removes an implicit sense of failure. At the end we are discussing the results as feedback, such as what didn’t work, what did work and what adjustments we can make.

Distraction is also a useful technique. When my parents moved house, my mother found it difficult to adjust. I’d tried for a few years trying to persuade her to do an evening course at college. They moved house in the middle of the summer and that year she decided to ‘take the plunge’ and sign up for a course in flowering arranging. It’s become her passion in life. Moving house became a blessing in disguise as it was her way to discover a passion and a new talent. Taking up a hobby is about choosing to do a newt hing. This sense of choice fits in with the psychological hardiness attitude of control.

Seeking Professional Help: Coach or Counsellor?

If you feel you can’t make a break through on your own then it maybe time to consider engaging the help of a professional. Obviously with something like a bereavement then a few cognitive tricks may not cut it. When the issue or problem sparks strong overwhelming emotions it may help to [get some coaching or counselling]. Keeping a journal is also useful as when things get better you will have a record of how you got through it.

…The beauty of coaching is that it’s a totally tailor-made personal development course. It’s not an off-the-peg experience. You bring the agenda and the coach provides the tools and techniques in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Coaching is a way to help you discover more ways in which you cope, adapt, bounce back and thrive.

[But you can help yourself too by reviewing] your life and writing down some ways in which you have coped with change and uncertainty in the past that rely on your abilities, skills and strengths. These become your own personal toolbox in challenging and uncertain times.

Link to the full article

The Neuroscience of Good Coaching

By Marshall Moore

“If everything worked out ideally in your life, what would you be doing in 10 years?”

new research suggests that nurturing a mentee’s strengths, aspirations for the future, and goals for personal growth is more effective at helping people learn and change; for instance, it helps train business school students to be better managers, and it is more effective at getting patients to comply with doctors’ orders.

recent study indicates why this more positive approach gets better results, using brain scans to explore the effects of different coaching styles. Based on what’s happening in the brain, it seems, a more positive approach might help people visualize a better future for themselves—and provide the social-emotional tools to help them realize their vision.

…As the researchers predicted, the students indicated that the positive interviewer inspired them and fostered feelings of hope far more effectively than the negative interviewer. Perhaps the more intriguing results, though, concern the areas of the brain that were activated by the two different approaches.

During the encouraging interactions with the positive interviewer, students showed patterns of brain activity that prior research has associated with the following qualities:

  • Visual processing and perceptual imagery—these are the regions that kick into gear when we imagine some future event
  • Global processing—the ability to see the big picture before small details, a skill that has been linked to positive emotions and pleasurable engagement with the world
  • Feelings of empathy and emotional safety—like those experienced when someone feels secure enough to open up socially and emotionally
  • The motivation to pro-actively pursue lofty goals—rather than act defensively to avoid harm or loss.

These differences in brain activity led the researchers to conclude that positive coaching effectively activates important neural circuits and stress-reduction systems in the body by encouraging mentees to envision a desired future for themselves.

Although the authors acknowledge that much more research needs to be conducted on the topic, their results offer a first glimpse at the neurological basis of why people coached by positive, visioning-based approaches tend to be more open emotionally, more compassionate, more open to ideas for improvement, and more motivated to pro-actively make lasting behavior changes than are those coached in ways that highlight their weaknesses.

Link to the full article

9 Stress-Reducing Truths About Money

If we’re struggling with money problems, these ideas may not alleviate our worries as completely as Joshua Becker seems to believe they will, but they are sure to do us no harm and very likely to help…

According to a recent survey, 71% of Americans identify money as a significant cause of stress in their lives. Of course, America is not alone in this regard.

Looking inside the numbers, we get a glimpse as to why the percentage is so high: 76% of households live paycheck-to-paycheck and credit card debt continues to grow. No doubt, these statistics contribute to the problem…

If you struggle with financial-related stress, begin thinking different about money by adopting a few of these stress-reducing thoughts. They have each worked for me.

1. You need less than you think. Most of the things we think we can’t live without are considered luxuries to most of the world—or even our grandparents. Think: cell phones, microwaves, cars, matching shoes, larger closets, just to name a few. The commercialization of our society has worked hard to stir discontent in our hearts. They have won. They have caused us to redefine their factory-produced items as legitimate needs. And have caused great stress in our lives because of it. Meanwhile, there are wonderful benefits for those who choose to own less.

2. Money won’t make you happy. It is simply an illusion that money will bring you happiness— study after study confirms it, so does experience. Some of the most joyful people I know are far from wealthy and some of the wealthiest people I know are far from joy. Now, certainly, there is a measure of stability and security that arises from having our most basic financial needs met. But we need so much less than we think we need. And the sooner we stop assuming more money will make us happy tomorrow, the sooner we can start finding happiness today.

3. Money is not the greatest goal of your work. Financial compensation does not succeed as a long-term motivator and the association between salary and job satisfaction is routinely shown to be very weak. In other words, a larger paycheck will not improve your satisfaction at work. There is a significant amount of work-related stress that can be removed by simply deciding to be content with your pay (assuming it is fair). Don’t work for the paycheck alone. Work for the sake of contribution and benefit to others. This approach is idealistic, but it is also fulfilling and stress-reducing.

4. Wealth has its own troubles. There are troubles associated with poverty, few of us would debate that fact. But there are also troubles associated with wealth. Unfortunately, we give little thought to them. As a result, we think the presence of money is always good, always a blessing. And we desire it. But money brings troubles of its own: it clouds moral judgement, it distorts empathy, it promotes pride and arrogance, it can become an addictionFears of the wealthy include isolation, anxiety, and raising well-adjusted children. In other words, if you are thinking money will solve your troubles, you are mistaken. And once we change our thinking on this, we can stop searching for answers in the wrong places.

5. The desire for riches robs us of life. We have heard the love of money is the root of all evil. But often times, the mere desire for more of it robs us of life as well. The desire for money consumes our time, wastes our energy, compromises our values, and limits our potential. It is wise to remove its desire from our affections. This would reduce our stress. But even better, it would allow true life-giving pursuits to emerge.

6. Boundaries are life-giving. Orson Welles once said, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” I agree. And the enemy of life is the absence of boundaries. Whether they be social, financial, or moral, boundaries provide structure and a framework for life. They promote discovery, invention, and ingenuity. Boundaries motivate us to discover happiness in our present circumstance. This is one reason a personal spending plan (budget) is such a helpful tool — the financial boundary forms a helpful framework for life. It allows us to recognize we don’t have to spend more money than we earn to be happy. There is no joy in living beyond your means — only stress. Live within the boundaries of your income. And find more life because of it.

7. There is joy in giving money away. Generosity has wonderful benefits. Generous people are happier, healthier, more admired, more satisfied with life, and have deeper relationships with others. Their lives are filled with less stress. It is important to change our thinking on this topic. One of the most stress-reducing things you can ever do with your money is give some of it away. And generosity is completely achievable today regardless of our current situation.

8. The security found in money/possessions is fleeting at best. Too many of us believe security can be adequately found in possessions. As a result, many of us pursue and collect large stockpiles of possessions in the name of security or happiness. We work long hours to purchase them. We build bigger houses to store them. We spend large amounts of energy maintaining them. The burden of accumulating and maintaining slowly becomes the main focus of our lives. Meanwhile, we lose community, freedom, happiness, and passion. We exchange some of the most basic elements of life for mere possessions. Our search for security and life and joy is essential to being human—we just need to start looking for it in the right places.

9. Money, at its core, is only a tool. At its heart, money is nothing more than a tool to expedite trade. It saves us from making our own clothes, tools, and furniture. Because of money, I spend my days doing what I love and am good at. In exchange, I receive money to trade with someone else who uses their giftedness to create something different than me. That’s it. That is its purpose. And if we have enough to meet our needs, we shouldn’t live in stress trying desperately to acquire more.

Stress has some terrible affects on our bodies. It results in irratability, fatigue, and nervousness. Unfortunately, money consistently ranks as one of the greatest causes of it. But that doesn’t need to be true of us.

Let’s change the way we think about it. And start to enjoy our lives a little more instead.

Link to the original article

How can I support my partner when they’re stressed with work?

by Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone

Work stress can affect our personal lives and our relationships, particularly if both partners are under significant stress. But learning to support each other in productive ways can strengthen the relationship, reduce stress and improve mood.

Research suggests that couples who actively manage stress together improve their relationship durability over time.

  • Listen and support: Questioning, challenge and offering solutions are important, but listening and offering support are most valuable. Research from eHarmony suggested that people who are supportive when their partners share bad events maintain relationship satisfaction and contribute towards an environment with fewer arguments.
  • Recognise and respect different coping mechanisms: People cope very differently with stress. Some people like to talk everything out as soon as possible, while others need silent downtime. It’s important to recognise you and your partner might not cope in the same way, and there isn’t necessarily a “right” way. Try to accept differences and find ways to accommodate and facilitate your partner to cope in their own way.
  • Kill comparisons: There are two types of comparisons couples make that enhance stress. The first is to compare yourself or your partner to others, professionally, which is a poor form of attempted motivation. The second is to compare your own stress levels with those of your partner. You should learn to listen and offer help to your partner, even when dealing with your own. The key is to solicit help and empathy from your partner without minimising and invalidating their own feelings.

Link to the original HRZone Article

If resilience is the question, is music the answer

by Joanne Ruksenas, a PhD Candidate in Music and Public Health at Griffith University,

A growing body of research from a number of diverse fields point to the benefits gained by actively making music. The most obvious field is music therapy. A relatively new therapy with its formal origins in the years following the second world war, music therapy is a complex and diverse field.

Not surprisingly, music therapists use music to form their therapeutic relationship and provide group and individual interventions in diverse settings including schools, prisons and hospitals.

Research by US researchers published last month points to improved positive health outcomes using music therapy.

The research, conducted with adolescents and young adults undergoing high-risk stem-cell treatment for cancer, used music therapy to target their resilience.

Stem-cell therapy is risky, painful, and causes high levels of distress in patients. This distress can have a heavy impact on the treatment outcomes – which are affected by the patient’s ability to cope with the illness and treatment, and their relationships with other people.

As with many resilience interventions, this intervention was “strengths based”, aiming to build on known protective factors for resilience and minimise risk. They found the individuals in the active music therapy group were able to cope better with the treatment, and had better relationships with their family and others. The effects of the music therapy intervention were still obvious 100 days after the intervention.

Resilience is an important characteristic often referred to as an umbrella trait. It does not remove problems – but it provides shelter and protection while people make choices about how they will deal with what they are facing.

It does this by pitting protective factors of resilience against the risk factors. A person exhibiting more protective factors than risk factors is resilient. A person who exhibits more risk factors is “at risk”.

The protective and risk factors are flip sides of the same coin. The three most prominent factors – self-regulation, initiative and relationships with other people – are the factors targeted in the US study. That’s why the music therapy intervention, which strengthened all of these, was particularly effective.

…Would education be more effective if resilience was fostered and developed from the earliest years, and what role does music play?

Active engagement with music has a number of intrinsic properties that mirror and enhance the protective factors of self-regulation, initiative and relationships with others. Resilience supports learning in other areas in the same way that it supported better health outcomes in the music therapy study.

Whether these skills translate for normal children on a normal day is yet to be seen.

What is understood is that 60% of people are naturally resilient. Even children who suffer horrendous abuse generally sort their lives out by the time they are 40. How different would the life trajectories of “at risk” children be if they were given the tools of resilience from the earliest ages?

How different would our schools be if we built on children’s strengths and gave all children tools for self-regulation, initiative and building better relationships with other people from the start of their education rather than applying remediation and punishment once problems occur?

What if the solution is engaging with music?

Link to the full article

Schools urged to promote ‘character and resilience’

By Patrick Howse, BBC News, Education reporter

Britain’s schools must be “more than just exam factories”, a cross-party parliamentary group says.

Its report argues that more importance should be given to the development of “character and resilience”.

It says schools should make it part of their “core business” to nurture pupils’ self-belief, perseverance and ability to bounce back from set-backs.

It is supported by the CBI, senior politicians, and the government’s social mobility adviser.

The Character and Resilience Manifesto is the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Mobility, and has been produced in collaboration with the CentreForum think-tank.

The main focus of the report is a need to avoid concentrating solely on academic measures of success as children move through the education system and into the workplace…

It also wants the standards watchdog Ofsted to build “character and resilience” measures into its inspection framework, and for teacher training and career development programmes to “explicitly focus” on the area…

‘Soft skills’

The report argues that a belief in one’s ability to succeed, the perseverance to stick to a task and the ability to bounce back from life’s set-backs are qualities that have a major impact on life chances, both during education and, later, in the labour market.

Speaking on behalf of the parliamentary group, Baroness Claire Tyler said they had seen “clear evidence that what are often misleadingly called ‘soft skills’ actually lead to hard results”.

“However many GCSEs you have, where you are on the character scale will have a big impact on what you achieve in life,” she said.

Damian Hinds, the chairman of the APPG on Social Mobility said self-belief, drive and perseverance were “key to achievement at school and at work”.

“But they are not just inherent traits,” he added, “they can be developed in young people.

Wide support

The Confederation of British Industry has been promoting a similar agenda for some time.

The CBI’s director-general, John Cridland warned that schools were in danger of becoming “exam factories, churning out people who are not sufficiently prepared for life outside the school gates”.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said the report “tackles one of the most pressing questions currently facing our education system: how do we educate resilient young people that have a sense of moral purpose and character, as well as being passionate, reflective learners?”

Link to the full article

Teaching – and Learning – Resilience through Reflection

By Kevin D. Washburn, executive director of Clerestory Learning, and author of “The Architecture of Learning: Designing Instruction for the Learning Brain”

Written as a guide for teachers, this article contains wisdom that we all can take and grow our resilience from…

In addition to imagination, fostering [our] reflection abilities helps develop resilience. We can become more equipped to think our way out of defeat and into healthy mind states where learning — deep learning, in fact — can happen.

Reflection

Reflection comprises the ability to monitor one’s own thinking — metacognition — and to engage strategies — self-direct — that make positive adjustments. It involves three phases.

Phase 1: What am I thinking now?

This seems basic, and yet this first step may be the most elusive. To redirect thinking, which precedes renewed effort, an individual must first recognise her or his current state of mind. …Self-awareness is not the mind’s default state.

A study conducted a few years back illustrates this. Researchers theorized that young people diagnosed with ADHD might be able to redirect their attention if they are made aware of their distraction. To test this, researchers set up mirrors near the work areas of several students. When a student became distracted and looked up from his work, the first thing he saw was his distracted self in the mirror. Once they recognized this, most students were able to redirect their attention and complete the assigned task.

This unawareness of one’s current mental state is not limited to individuals with ADHD. Research suggests most of us have blind spots where a mirror — literal or figurative — could help. Daniel Goleman explains, “…those who focus best are relatively immune to emotional turbulence, more able to stay unflappable in a crisis and to keep on an even keel despite life’s emotional waves.” Keeping on an even keel requires recognizing when the boat is being rocked. Awareness precedes course correction…

Phase 2: What can I tell myself to redirect my energy?

Self-talk is one of the most powerful cognitive tools available. As Jim Afremow explains, “thoughts determine feelings,” and “feelings influence performance.” Using self-talk effectively is an act of control. When [we] take control of our mental messages, we are on our way to redirecting our efforts and increasing our learning.

In the famous “marshmallow test,” researchers asked the children who resisted eating the marshmallow right away what they did to withstand the temptation. Several indicated that they talked to themselves. They told themselves messages like, “You can do this. Try to wait for one more minute.” and, “Make this fun. Imagine what else that thing could be besides a marshmallow.” What an example of using self-talk to distract oneself! “The mind guides action,” explains Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis. “If we can succeed in regulating our thoughts, then this will help our behavior.”

Instructive self-talk, the act of “talking” through the details of how to do something successfully, is more effective than self-esteem boosting messages (e.g., “I’m the best!), in part because the brain has difficulty accepting a compliment that doesn’t have an associated accomplishment. But also because instructive self-talk increases the mindfulness with which a student approaches a challenge…

Phase 3: What went wrong?

[Working] through the process of self-awareness and redirecting [our] mental energies creates a powerful learning opportunity. When our brains do not achieve an expected outcome from our efforts, be they cognitive or physical or a combination, we experience a feeling of disappointment. That feeling indicates that at that moment we are primed for learning, but — and this is critical — only if we are willing to attend to and examine our errors.

That means that when [we] make errors, when we struggle, we have a great opportunity to spark deep learning, but only if we respond to [our] mistakes effectively and [reflect on what went wrong and analyse what we can learn from this].

Link to the full article with  Kevin Strategies for working with students

Professor Toni Noble ‘Build self-respect, not self-esteem’ at YoungMinds 2013

Highly recommended to update your thinking about what matters more in growing our resilience and success and helping the people around us to do the same.

Despite the unfortunate audio noise from Toni Noble’s earring against the mic, and even though it is directed at teachers and students, this is a richly-packed talk that challenges many of the assumptions a lot of us still carry about the primary importance of self-esteem that will reward the time and attention you give to its hearing.

 – What is the difference between self respect and self esteem?
– Has an emphasis on self-esteem at home and school been detrimental to our children’s wellbeing?
– What strategies can we use to build young people’s self respect?

Professor Toni Noble, leading educator and educational psychologist with expertise in student wellbeing and positive school communities; Adjunct Professor, School of Educational Leadership, Australian Catholic University

Resilience: An HR Manager’s Guide

Building resilience in your workforce takes just five ‘Rs’, according to Cranfield School of Management and Airmic, the association for risk management. They are: risk radar; resources; relationships; rapid response; and review and adapt — and it is not enough to have just one, employers need to adopt them all to truly achieve resilience…

“Resilience isn’t just about avoiding risk or being risk averse; it’s about actively taking it on, learning from it and understanding the business gain,” he says. “It’s a task for all our leaders, from the chief executive to our frontline supervisors, to provide a transparent and open culture in which people feel confident and able to flag when things don’t go well.”  John Scott chief risk officer at Zurich Global Corporate.

Link to read the full article

Sound of success: finding perfect acoustics for a productive office

Sound in a space affects us profoundly, claims acoustics expert Julian Treasure. He offers his tips on creating positive soundscapes

Overlooking sound can cause a lot of difficulties. An otherwise well-designed collaborative space can get scuppered by poor sound management. Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business and chairman of The Sound Agency comes across the problem often.

“We experience every space in five senses so it’s strange that architects design just for the eyes,” he says. “Sound in a space affects us profoundly. It changes our heart rate, breathing, hormone secretion, brain waves, it affects our emotions and our cognition.” His research suggests that trying to perform knowledge-based tasks in a space in which other people’s conversations are clearly audible is difficult. “Productivity can be degraded by up to two thirds,” he says.

This isn’t just a case of unfocused workers. If someone is talking right next to someone else, it’s instinctive for the passive listener to process their words. The issue is that, according to Treasure, people have the bandwidth to process 1.6 conversations at any one time. So if they’re already processing one happening just next to them, they have limited capacity for their actual task.

“There is also a lot of research to demonstrate that noise in offices changes people’s behaviour – it makes them less helpful, more frustrated, absenteeism goes up and so does the rate of sickness.”

So we need to work in silent offices, right? Actually that’s a no-no, too. “People often mistake our mission at The Sound Agency for a crusade for silence, but actually silence is in many ways just as bad as too much noise,” says Treasure.

He was visiting a client recently and the environment was completely silent and it was positively oppressive. “In a room full of 60 to 70 people which is open plan and absolutely quiet, it’s very intimidating to make a phone call. And if you do so, you’re upsetting about 15 to 20 people because they’re put off by your phone call.”

The answer is to have the right level of ambient noise – referred to as a masking sound. “It needs to be there in order to mask those conversations so that you can get on with some work without your concentration being degraded by other conversations,” he explains. Too much of this noise and the stress levels increase. Most offices work best at around 50 to 60 decibels, he explains. “So if you were to introduce some masking sound that doesn’t require cognition – nature sounds, bird song, rainfall or some very slow-paced soundscapes played by a computer – you release the productivity.” This masking sound can be played through earphones just as easily if it’s difficult to negotiate among a group.

However, raw noise is only one thing to analyse when you’re evaluating your workspace. Acoustics are also very important – few employers and managers will be aware of the reverb rate of their meeting room, but if the sound comes back to you in, say, one second it’s going to be annoying to work there. If two people are in there talking, they can become frustrated and end up with what’s known as the Lombard Effect, where it all escalates. Think about shopping centres, where there’s an echo and people have to shout to be heard while having a coffee, even when they’re sitting opposite each other.

The issue can be cumulative, as in the Lombard Effect, or just a combination of things. The first step to take is just to listen to the office and what’s going on in it. Walk around. Treasure sometimes advises people to get someone to walk them around with a blindfold or at least to close their eyes, and just ask whether the sounds are the most conducive to getting tasks done.

The results can be surprising. People don’t always go and listen to the fridge, the printer, the air conditioning unit or any number of other things – they can all be masked with acoustic absorbers. There may be a need for a sound system to create masking sounds. Treasure advises considering the communal areas and their objectives – people go to the café space to converse but find they can’t because the music is too loud and there’s too much chatter.

Treasure says: “I was at a workplace the other day where they had commercial radio in the canteen so you had the DJ’s chatter, you had advertising and you had loud music.”

Above all, ask people what they think. Noisy environments are among the biggest complaints people have in workspaces – and many bosses are in sound-insulated offices and unaware there’s a problem. Don’t forget to revisit the issue as well. Hearing changes over time and if you’ve employed someone for a long period their hearing and ability to process sound won’t be the same at 45 as it was when they were in their late 20s.

It’s not just hearing that changes, explains Treasure: “The difficulty of extracting signal from noise does get worse as you get older,” he says. “If you’re trying to listen to one person in an office and the background noise is very loud, it becomes harder and harder. It’s a listening thing, the brain is having a struggle.”

In an era in which we have an ageing demographic, this isn’t an issue that’s going to go away. And yet in office design, sound comes into consideration a poor second – if it comes in at all.

“We need architects to start designing offices that are fit for the ears as well as the eyes,” says Treasure. “We really need to start designing for all the senses and end up with offices that are truly fit for purpose.”

Link to the original article

Radical Wellbeing: Where We Need To Get To (Part 2)

by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph E. Hanzi

Radical well being jettisons the model of body as machine for something closer to reality: a model that is living, dynamic, fluid, and adaptive. This new model leads to a state of higher health controlled and monitored by each person. The reason that directing your own health is so powerful can be summarized in a few insights that have taken decades to develop. As we emphasized in our book “Super Brain”:

• Every thought, feeling, and sensation in the mind sends a message to every cell in the body.
• Cells operate through feedback loops that mesh with the feedback loops of tissues, organs, and the body itself.
• Disease begins with subtle imbalances in these feedback loops.
• The brain’s ability to consciously direct a person’s life depends on intelligence embedded in every cell.
• Behaviour today has consequences for our genes, altering their expression in profound ways.

Which leads to the conclusion that each person must decide to take advantage of the new model. The things that health-conscious people already do aren’t negated. It remains of primary importance not to smoke, avoid excess weight, and minimize use alcohol (with perhaps an exemption for drinking a glass of wine a day, at most). If you already have taken these steps, the new model also supports other familiar advice: exercise moderately, eat a good, balanced diet, and avoid environmental toxins. But these steps bring us only to the very edge of radical well being.

The really fascinating area to explore is known as “self-directed biological transformation,” which has enormous implications for your present health and everyone’s future evolution. Change is inevitable, and transformation is taking place in your body many thousands of times a second. For the most part, each of us has played a passive role in our own transformation, allowing biological processes, governed by our genes, to run automatically. The problem is that, as miraculous as the body’s feedback loops are, they deteriorate over time and are susceptible to imbalances that aren’t self-correcting. The result is unhealthy aging and disease. Short of that, the level of well being you experience is vulnerable to degradation biologically, much of which can be avoided.

Intervening in the body’s feedback loops comes down to a simple principle: The more positive the input your body receives, the more positive its output. Your body, down to the genetic level, is altered by the events of everyday life. (It’s already known that positive lifestyle changes directed at preventing and healing heart disease alter as many as 500 genes.) The time is right for proving just how much overall control we have over this enormous potential in the mind-body connection. One can foresee the future as self-directed biological transformation.

The platform for self-directed transformation is available to everyone. It includes yoga and meditation, exercise for strength, agility, endurance and play, a balanced farm-to-table and Mediterranean diet, good sleep, and stress reduction. These are well-established ways to improve bodily function. But there’s more to explore, given another basic principle: Every experience in consciousness has a physical correlate. A mystic experiencing deep inner silence, a Buddhist monk meditating on compassion, or a saint having a vision of angels isn’t exempted from this principle, because the label of “spiritual” doesn’t diminish the mind-body connection – that connection is actually amplified.

Whatever activity you undertake is a step in self-directed biological transformation. Knowing this, how should you choose to live? Certainly a higher priority should be given to those things that make you more conscious, with the aim of being more centered, free of psychological deficits, capable of experiencing love, bonding with others, and pursuing happiness with the dedication we show in pursuing success.

Link to the full article

15 Quotes To Help You Smash Your Negative Thinking

by Aidan Tan, Pick the Brain 

Here are 9 of these quotes to help you smash negative thinking

1) “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”   ― Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden

2) “You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”   ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

3) “Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings and emotions” – Will Smith

4) “Always think extra hard before crossing over to a bad side, if you were weak enough to cross over, you may not be strong enough to cross back!”   ― Victoria Addino

5) “If you are positive, you’ll see opportunities instead of obstacles.”   ― Widad Akrawi

6) “If we are not currently experiencing the danger of war, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, the pangs of starvation, we are ahead of some 500 million people in the world.” -Unknown

7) “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t either way you are right!”   ― Henry Ford

12) “Take a walk outside – it will serve you far more than pacing around in your mind.”  ― Rasheed Ogunlaru

13) “Start thinking positively. You will notice a difference. Instead of “I think I’m a loser,” try “I definitely am a loser.” Stop being wishy-washy about things! How much more of a loser can you be if you don’t even know you are one? Either you are a loser or you are not. Which is it, stupid?”  ― Ellen DeGeneres, The Funny Thing Is…

Link to read the full set of 15 in the original article

Happiness At Work Edition #86

All of these stories are included in this new collection of articles about happiness and resilience at work and in our lives.

Link to the Happiness At Work Edition #86

Happiness At Work #81 ~ resilience, sixth senses & letting go of control

photo credit: LyndaSanchez via photopin cc

photo credit: LyndaSanchez via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #81

This week’s collection is headlined by Steve McCurry’s latest photo collection.

McCurry’s photos are always intimate, beautiful and exquisitely held moments of  human strength and vulnerability, and this new collection is just as powerful and moving as always.

Portraits of Resilience (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Resilience
is the ability to overcome adversity,

cope with setbacks, and persevere in the face of  
trauma and deprivation.

The greatest glory in living
lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall. 
– Nelson Mandela

…more than education, experience, or training,
an individual’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds & who fails.
– Harvard Business Review, 2002

Link to see Steve McCurry’s  Portraits of Resilience

The Common Getty Collection Galleries

The Common Getty Collection Galleries

Resilience to become key attribute of future employees

Gabriella Jozwiak

More than 90% of HRDs believe employees’ ability to cope with change and uncertainty will determine their likelihood of being hired in five year’s time, according to a survey.

Talent and career management company Right Management polled 250 line managers and 100 HR decision makers in organisations with more than 500 employees, and revealed resilience has become an important employee attribute.

The results showed 79% of line managers and 75% of HR decision-makers thought employee wellness would be formally measured and reported by 2018.

However, 72% of line managers admitted their organisation could do more to support employees through persistently stressful periods.

Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School, told HR magazine the recession was responsible for HR’s developing focus on resilience.

“As a result of 2008, in almost all workplaces, whether in the public or private sector, there are fewer people,” Cooper said. “Those fewer people are doing more work and working harder, and most organisations are too lean and too mean.

“Whereas before the crash we were probably a bit fatter, and could tolerate people burning out or leaving, now what I’m hearing HRDs talk about is that they cannot cope with regrettable turnover – they cannot afford to lose some key people.

Cooper added: “The way we think we can keep them now is by making them more resilient and creating an environment that’s into wellbeing. Whether it’s flexible working or better management of people – whatever it is, we really have to retain people.

“This has become more of a bottom-line issue – it’s a retention issue and an attraction issue. But retention is key. We have to manage people by praise and reward, not by fault-finding.”

The survey highlighted flexibility as a key feature of future workers. Among HR decision makers, 79% expected employees to have multiple simultaneous careers by 2018, and 60% thought workers will be hired on temporary contracts or working as contractors or freelancers.

Almost all respondees (92%) thought older workers would opt to work part-time rather than retire.

Right Management UK & Ireland general manager Ian Symes said the results suggested employers needed to “put people at the heart of their plans and provide their employees with the support, structures and vision they need to cope in an ever-changing environment”.

 “Organisations need to strategically plan their workforce and look at the systems they have in place to support employees and the business through turbulent times,” Symes said.

“Without this, they will always be reacting to what is happening rather than being in control. This will only add to the stress and exhaustion that many staff are feeling so it’s important that businesses look at ways to boost the resilience of their organisation and their people. Planning ahead and being flexible are central to making this a reality.”

Link to read the original article

Sheryl Sandberg: So we leaned in … now what?

Continuing the resilience theme, Sheryl Sandberg talks in this video interview about her own trips and tribulations at work alongside the stories of many other women.

Sheryl Sandberg admits she was terrified to step onto the TED stage in 2010 — because she was going to talk, for the first time, about the lonely experience of being a woman in the top tiers of business. Millions of views (and a best-selling book) later, the Facebook COO talks with the woman who pushed her to give that first talk, Pat Mitchell. Sandberg opens up about the reaction to her idea, and explores the ways that women still struggle with success.

Giving Up Control: It’s Key to Unleashing Your Workforce’s Power

by ronald thomas

And the walls came tumbling down.

Last week I read the article about Zappos doing away with all job titles and replacing them with what is called Holacracy.

Developed by entrepreneur Brian Robertson, Holacracy is a system of governance that takes things like managers, job titles and bureaucratic red tape out of the equation, distributing leadership and power evenly across an organization.

Instead of a standard hierarchy, companies in a Holacracy are comprised of different “circles” and employees can have any range of roles and responsibilities within those circles.

Coming to an organization near you

There was also the article about the company that instituted a policy that no one is to be contacted while on vacation. The thinking behind this concepts makes sense. We have become tethered to technology that we feel that we have to have in order to be on 24/7.

Some of the other “employee friendly” policies I found were free beer Fridays, pets allowed in the workplace, volunteer days, PTO instead of sick days, yoga at work, paternal leave, etc. Hopefully we all have tasted tele-commuting, however, that has taken a back seat at some companies. This list could go on and on and we know that these perks are not one size fits all.

Bye-bye Industrial Age

The walls of the Industrial Age management are slowly crumbling. This is aided by the fact that not only are the organizations changing, but the new worker mindset is already there waiting for their companies to come along.

Workplaces today are embracing innovation, new technology, diversity and inclusion in order to build sustainable success. The linchpin that drives these innovative efforts depends on the quality of leadership, culture, and management practices at all levels of the organization. Each one must play a part in the change required to achieve these aspirations.

The organizations that are leading this charge realize that all these initiatives requires thinking and doing things in different ways from what has been done in our relatively slow-changing, and disconnected, Industrial Age past.

The challenge ahead is to unwind more than a century of Industrial Age thinking about work  – mindsets that are controlling, mistake-averse and “know it all,” and evolve them into ones that are enabling, learning and willing to try new things and fail.

The notion of worker versus manager is outdated, and a collaboration between these two is needed to move forward with a new agenda

The primary drivers of the Industrial Age were equipment and capital, and that was what was important. Employees were seen as necessary but replaceable. Thus the term “hired hands” or “warm bodies” was born.

However, we now are living in a new economic era and the main drivers are knowledge and intellectual capital. The problem is that many of our management practices today originated back in the Industrial Age and the older manager was probably steeped in these practices.

Management knows best?

Whatever our systems and processes, they were conceived at an earlier time. Recruiting, hiring, training, and performance reviews all came along as organizations grew.

Communications were top down, if at all. Managers and bosses had all the answers. It was “my way or the highway.” Employees were not considered a part of the process in any way.

Our job descriptions force us, in a lot of cases, to try to fit a square peg into a round hole. The manager of this era saw his people as employees and subordinates.

Some of the companies mentioned earlier do not refer to their people as employees; you hear different terms such as associates, partners, etc. Today people want to be treated as part of the process and not just a cog in the wheel.

Controlling vs releasing

The Industrial Age mindset is one of controlling people while the modern era is more about empowering people to achieve their highest potential. Survival in this extremely competitive economic era demands that our people be allowed to bring forth their unique contribution. Isn’t that is what we hired them for?

Bottom line: we manage THINGS, but THINGS don’t have the freedom to choose. We lead PEOPLE who do have the power to choose.

Unleashing the potential of this age will require a fundamental break with the control paradigm. It will require leaders to embrace what the late Dr. Steven Covey referred to as “The Whole Person Paradigm.”

Link to read the original article

Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better

by Sigal Barsade and Olivia (Mandy) O’Neill

“Love” is a not word you often hear uttered in office hallways or conference rooms. And yet, it has a strong influence on workplace outcomes. The more love co-workers feel at work, the more engaged they are. (Note: Here we’re talking about “companionate love” which is far less intense than romantic love. Companionate love is based on warmth, affection, and connection rather than passion). It may not be surprising that those who perceive greater affection and caring from their colleagues perform better, but few managers focus on building an emotional culture. That’s a mistake.

In our longitudinal study, ”What’s Love Got to Do With It?: The Influence of a Culture of Companionate Love in the Long-term Care Setting” (forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly), surveyed 185 employees, 108 patients, and 42 patient family members at two points in time, 16 months apart, at a large, nonprofit long-term healthcare facility and hospital in the Northeast. Using multiple raters and multiple methods, we explored the influence that emotional culture has on employee, patient, and family outcomes. What we learned demonstrates how important emotional culture is when it comes to employee and client well-being and performance.

Employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork.  They showed up to work more often. Our research also demonstrated that this type of culture related directly to client outcomes, including improved patient mood, quality of life, satisfaction, and fewer trips to the ER.

While this study took place in a long-term care setting ­— which many people might consider biased toward the “emotional” — these findings hold true across industries. We conducted a follow-up study, surveying 3,201 employees in seven different industries from financial services to real estate and the results were the same. People who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another­ were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.

So what does a culture of companionate love look like? Imagine a pair of co-workers collaborating side by side, each day expressing caring and affection towards one another, safeguarding each other’s feelings, showing tenderness and compassion when things don’t go well. Now imagine a workplace that encourages those behaviors from everyone, where managers actively look for ways to create and reinforce close workplace relationships among employees.

Some large, well-known organizations are already leading the pack in creating cultures of companionate love. Whole Foods Market has a set of management principles that begin with “Love” and PepsiCo lists “caring” as its first guiding principle on its website. Zappos also explicitly focuses on caring as part of its values: “We are more than a team though…we are a family. We watch out for each other, care for each other and go above and beyond for each other”.

You might think all this “love business” would be hard for some people. We did, too, before we started this study, but we found love in some unlikely places. For example, we talked with employees at a large aerospace defense contractor who told us about a newly acquired division that had a strong culture of love.  Employees there routinely greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek. Visiting executives from the parent company were alarmed to see this gesture, finding it not only inappropriate but possibly an invitation to sexual harassment lawsuits. Although they initially tried to prohibit such displays of affection, ultimately they decided to allow the culture to flourish within the division, simply acknowledging that it was not consistent with the more muted values of the rest of the organization.

Surely not every manager will want to gather his team for a group hug every day (nor would every employee be comfortable with that). But there are many other ways to build an emotional culture of companionate love. We suggest leaders do at least three things.

First, broaden your definition of culture. Instead of focusing on “cognitive culture” — values such as teamwork, results-orientation, or innovation — you might think about how you can cultivate and enrich emotional culture as well.  Emotional culture can be based on love or other emotions, such as joy or pride.

Second, pay attention to the emotions you’re expressing to employees every day.  Your mood creates a cultural blueprint for the group.

Third, consider how your company policies and practices can foster greater affection, caring, compassion, and tenderness among workers. For example, Cisco CEO John Chambers asked that he be notified within 48 hours if a close member of an employee’s family passed away. At some companies, employees can forego vacation days or organize emergency funds to help fellow employees who are struggling and need help.

Most importantly, though, it is the small moments between coworkers — a warm smile, a kind note, a sympathetic ear — day after day, month after month, that help create and maintain a strong culture of companionate love and the employee satisfaction, productivity, and client satisfaction that comes with it.

Link to read the original article

Sixth sense a myth, heightened awareness a truth

amie Lawrence reports on new research for HRZone

New research suggests people can reliably detect a change in their surroundings, even if they cannot accurately describe what the change was.

The research suggests the ability is due to cues picked up from conventional senses such as sight. Because it has been little understood in the past, it has formed a key part of the field extrasensory perception (ESP), which also included things like clairvoyance.

The research, which came out of a year-long study from the University of Melbourne, is – according to the author – the first to show people can sense information they cannot verbalise.

When I interviewed Daniel Pink, author of NYT bestseller Drive, he told me that mindfulness and attention to detail are two of the most constant predictors of workplace success.

The complexity of the modern working environment means that those who can identify risk factors and changes from the norm can help companies stop bad things happening.

Identifying candidates who are capable of processing their environment thoroughly should be a priority.

A related term is high sensitivity, which has been historically gravely misunderstood in the workplace – to the detriment of productivity worldwide.

Link to read the original article 

Another seeeeeeeriously cool workplace

To see what can happen hen artistry meets office design, see Alexander Kjerulf’s report and  pictures of how a design company in Detroit have converted an old bank vault into their offices.  This gives a very visual sense of just how the world of work is changing to become more and more suited for human life as our 21st century progresses…

There are boring offfices, cool offices and offices that just take your breath away!

In December we got a tour of dPOP in Detroit and what we saw there blew us away completely.

This is hardly surprising – dPOP’s business is to design office spaces for their clients – but still, this space was beyond awesome.

…I’m not going to claim that redecorating the office space is a surefire way to create a happy workplace. I’ve seen some very unhappy workplaces, that had beautiful bright airy office spaces but completely toxic cultures. I’ve also seen incredibly happy workplaces, whose offices look like crap.

But I still think that office design matters. And on a more fundamental level, why does every workplace have to look the same? Why does every office or meeting room inside a company have to look the same? We know that our minds thrive on variety and I think you can let the office design reflect that.

Here are a few of the pics we took at one seeeeeeriously cool office…

Link to see the photos and the original article

Ryan Holladay: To hear this music you have to be there. Literally

Our love of sound and listening makes these artists’ work compelling. One of the many wonderful conditions of sound and listening is that it can only happen in real time – you can’t glance or flick through a sound – it can only be experience as it unfolds itself, moment by moment, cadence by cadence.  Just like what we have to do really listeni to someone talking to us…

Makes you think…..

The music industry has sometimes struggled to find its feet in the digital world. In this lovely talk, TED Fellow Ryan Holladay tells us why he is experimenting with what he describes as “location-aware music.” This programming and musical feat involves hundreds of geotagged segments of sounds that only play when a listener is physically nearby.

Happiness At Work #81

All of these articles and more can be found in the Happiness At Work collection #81

 

Happiness At Work #67 ~ the art and practice of patient nurture

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

If you would know strength and patience,
welcome the company of trees.  
– Hal Borland

This week’s Happiness At Work theme is inspired by Steve McCurry’s beautiful photo portrait of trees in his blog collection

Sentinels and Sanctuaries (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Steve McCurry’s new photo collection shows us in our relationships with trees and in these heart-lifting images, illuminates the timeless wisdom we associate with these majestic cohabitants of our planet.

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a
claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something,
that quality of air that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
–  Robert Louis Stevenson

Follow this link to see Steve McCurry’s Sentinels and Sanctuaries and to enjoy a certain lift to your day

photo credit: joiseyshowaa via photopin cc

photo credit: joiseyshowaa via photopin cc

Following on from these thoughts, here are some of the articles from this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #67 that draw on ideas of nurture, cultivation, slowness, patience, subtlety and longevity.

We’ve Gotten The Pursuit Of Happiness All Wrong, Until Now

Aside from basic survival, the pursuit of happiness is arguably one of the most fundamental concerns of every human being on the planet (not to mention a driving force behind the $10 billion-a-year self-help industry). But according to Cornell cognitive psychologist Shimon Edelman, author of The Happiness Of Pursuit: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About The Good Life,, we’ve been going about it backwards…

According to Edelman, understanding the workings of our own minds can help us to comprehend not only the nature of happiness but, perhaps eventually, how to optimize the brain for well-being. Recent developments in cognitive science have shed light on how positive emotional states (including pleasure, happiness, and euphoria) occur in the brain — and why we’re hardwired for happiness.

“In the past 10 years, neuroscience has witnessed a revolution. We used to treat the brain as a black box into which very limited glimpses were available, but we are starting to comprehend the basic principles within which the whole thing operates,” says Edelman, explaining that these simple principles are accessible to anyone who’s interested in getting to know his or her own mind…

Part of the reason we’re always seeking happiness is that it’s so fleeting in nature. As Edelman explains, “[Happiness] seemed difficult to grasp and hold onto… One has this compelling need to go on.”

This “need to go on” — to continue the pursuit — is one of the brain’s evolutionary advantages. “A species that rests on its laurels wouldn’t be doing that for very long,” he says.

But not all happiness is gone at a moment’s notice: eudaimonic happiness, which has to do with the way we evaluate our own lives and the feeling that we have lived well, is inherently longer-lasting than any state of pleasure, joy or euphoria (“hedonic happiness”). The distinction of these two domains of happiness goes back to Aristotle, who said that eudaimonic happiness happiness (also translated as “human flourishing,” or “living well,”) could be had by living in a way that follows a larger purpose beyond oneself. Happiness, for Aristotle, wasn’t the result of a life-long pursuit — it was the activity of pursuing.

“Eudaimonic happiness happiness is something you build up over a lifetime,” Edelman says. “In a sense, it’s a great consolation for older people — it’s nice to know that on that component, people can get more and more happy as they age if they led good lives.”

This eudaimonic happiness pursuit of the good life can also keep us in good physical health, according to recent research. A University of California study found that the two different types of happiness were associated with different gene expression. People with high levels of eudaimonic happiness happiness had low inflammatory gene expression and high antiviral gene expression, while those with high levels of pleasure-seeking happiness exhibited higher inflammatory gene expression.

“What happiness does in the short term, it also does in the long term,” says Edelman. “This [eudaimonic happiness] is what can be built and cherished and enhanced and preserved.”

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

Do You Want A Meaningful Life or A Happy Life?

In this long, erudite and thoughtful article,  reports on his findings and conclusions from a a survey that asked nearly 400 US citizens, ranging in age from 18 to 78, about the extent to which they thought their lives were happy and the extent to which they thought they were meaningful.

Happiness is not the same as a sense of meaning.  How do we go about finding a meaningful life, not just a happy one?

Parents often say: ‘I just want my children to be happy.’ It is unusual to hear: ‘I just want my children’s lives to be meaningful,’ yet that’s what most of us seem to want for ourselves. We fear meaninglessness. We fret about the ‘nihilism’ of this or that aspect of our culture. When we lose a sense of meaning, we get depressed. What is this thing we call meaning, and why might we need it so badly?

…We found five sets of major differences between happiness and meaningfulness, five areas where different versions of the good life parted company.

The first had to do with getting what you want and need. Not surprisingly, satisfaction of desires was a reliable source of happiness. But it had nothing — maybe even less than nothing ­— to add to a sense of meaning. People are happier to the extent that they find their lives easy rather than difficult. Happy people say they have enough money to buy the things they want and the things they need. Good health is a factor that contributes to happiness but not to meaningfulness. Healthy people are happier than sick people, but the lives of sick people do not lack meaning. The more often people feel good — a feeling that can arise from getting what one wants or needs — the happier they are. The less often they feel bad, the happier they are. But the frequency of good and bad feelings turns out to be irrelevant to meaning, which can flourish even in very forbidding conditions.

Meaning and happiness are apparently experienced quite differently in time. Happiness is about the present; meaning is about the future, or, more precisely, about linking past, present and future. The more time people spent thinking about the future or the past, the more meaningful, and less happy, their lives were. Time spent imagining the future was linked especially strongly to higher meaningfulness and lower happiness (as was worry, which I’ll come to later). Conversely, the more time people spent thinking about the here and now, the happier they were. Misery is often focused on the present, too, but people are happy more often than they are miserable. If you want to maximise your happiness, it looks like good advice to focus on the present, especially if your needs are being satisfied. Meaning, on the other hand, seems to come from assembling past, present and future into some kind of coherent story.

This begins to suggest a theory for why it is we care so much about meaning. Perhaps the idea is to make happiness last. Happiness seems present-focused and fleeting, whereas meaning extends into the future and the past and looks fairly stable. For this reason, people might think that pursuing a meaningful life helps them to stay happy in the long run. They might even be right — though, in empirical fact, happiness is often fairly consistent over time. Those of us who are happy today are also likely to be happy months or even years from now, and those who are unhappy about something today commonly turn out to be unhappy about other things in the distant future. It feels as though happiness comes from outside, but the weight of evidence suggests that a big part of it comes from inside. Despite these realities, people experience happiness as something that is felt here and now, and that cannot be counted on to last. By contrast, meaning is seen as lasting, and so people might think they can establish a basis for a more lasting kind of happiness by cultivating meaning.

Social life was the locus of our third set of differences. As you might expect, connections to other people turned out to be important both for meaning and for happiness. Being alone in the world is linked to low levels of happiness and meaningfulness, as is feeling lonely. Nevertheless, it was the particular character of one’s social connections that determined which state they helped to bring about. Simply put, meaningfulness comes from contributing to other people, whereas happiness comes from what they contribute to you. This runs counter to some conventional wisdom: it is widely assumed that helping other people makes you happy. Well, to the extent that it does, the effect depends entirely on the overlap between meaning and happiness. Helping others had a big positive contribution to meaningfulness independent of happiness, but there was no sign that it boosted happiness independently of meaning. If anything, the effect was in the opposite direction: once we correct for the boost it gives to meaning, helping others can actually detract from one’s own happiness.

If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself

A fourth category of differences had to do with struggles, problems, stresses and the like. In general, these went with lower happiness and higher meaningfulness. We asked how many positive and negative events people had recently experienced. Having lots of good things happen turned out to be helpful for both meaning and happiness. No surprise there. But bad things were a different story. Highly meaningful lives encounter plenty of negative events, which of course reduce happiness. Indeed, stress and negative life events were two powerful blows to happiness, despite their significant positive association with a meaningful life. We begin to get a sense of what the happy but not very meaningful life would be like. Stress, problems, worrying, arguing, reflecting on challenges and struggles — all these are notably low or absent from the lives of purely happy people, but they seem to be part and parcel of a highly meaningful life. The transition to retirement illustrates this difference: with the cessation of work demands and stresses, happiness goes up but meaningfulness drops.

Do people go out looking for stress in order to add meaning to their lives? It seems more likely that they seek meaning by pursuing projects that are difficult and uncertain. One tries to accomplish things in the world: this brings both ups and downs, so the net gain to happiness might be small, but the process contributes to meaningfulness either way…

The final category of differences had to do with the self and personal identity. Activities that express the self are an important source of meaning but are mostly irrelevant to happiness. Of the 37 items on our list that asked people to rate whether some activity (such as working, exercising or meditating) was an expression or reflection of the self, 25 yielded significant positive correlations with a meaningful life and none was negative. Only two of the 37 items (socialising, and partying without alcohol) were positively linked to happiness, and some even had a significant negative relationship. The worst was worry: if you think of yourself as a worrier, that seems to be quite a downer.

If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself. Even just caring about issues of personal identity and self-definition was associated with more meaning, though it was irrelevant, if not outright detrimental, to happiness. This might seem almost paradoxical: happiness is selfish, in the sense that it is about getting what you want and having other people do things that benefit you, and yet the self is more tied to meaning than happiness. Expressing yourself, defining yourself, building a good reputation and other self-oriented activities are more about meaning than happiness...

Questions about life’s meaning are prompted by more than mere idle curiosity or fear of missing out. Meaning is a powerful tool in human life. To understand what that tool is used for, it helps to appreciate something else about life as a process of ongoing change. A living thing might always be in flux, but life cannot be at peace with endless change. Living things yearn for stability, seeking to establish harmonious relationships with their environment. They want to know how to get food, water, shelter and the like. They find or create places where they can rest and be safe. They might keep the same home for years. Life, in other words, is change accompanied by a constant striving to slow or stop the process of change, which leads ultimately to death. If only change could stop, especially at some perfect point: that was the theme of the profound story of Faust’s bet with the devil. Faust lost his soul because he could not resist the wish that a wonderful moment would last forever. Such dreams are futile. Life cannot stop changing until it ends. But living things work hard to establish some degree of stability, reducing the chaos of constant change to a somewhat stable status quo.

By contrast, meaning is largely fixed. Language is possible only insofar as words have the same meaning for everyone, and the same meaning tomorrow as today. (Languages do change, but slowly and somewhat reluctantly, relative stability being essential to their function.) Meaning therefore presents itself as an important tool by which the human animal might impose stability on its world. By recognising the steady rotation of the seasons, people can plan for future years. By establishing enduring property rights, we can develop farms to grow food.

Crucially, the human being works with others to impose its meanings. Language has to be shared, for private languages are not real languages. By communicating and working together, we create a predictable, reliable, trustworthy world, one in which you can take the bus or plane to get somewhere, trust that food can be purchased next Tuesday, know you won’t have to sleep out in the rain or snow but can count on a warm dry bed, and so forth…

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

My own efforts to understand how people find meaning in life eventually settled on a list of four ‘needs for meaning’, and in the subsequent years that list has held up reasonably well.

The point of this list is that you will find life meaningful to the extent that you have something that addresses each of these four needs. Conversely, people who fail to satisfy one or more of these needs are likely to find life less than adequately meaningful. Changes with regard to any of these needs should also affect how meaningful the person finds his or her life.

The first need is, indeed, for purpose. Frankl was right: without purpose, life lacks meaning. A purpose is a future event or state that lends structure to the present, thus linking different times into a single story. Purposes can be sorted into two broad categories. One might strive toward a particular goal (to win a championship, become vice president or raise healthy children) or toward a condition of fulfilment (happiness, spiritual salvation, financial security, wisdom).

Life goals come from three sources, so in a sense every human life has three basic sources of purpose. One is nature. It built you for a particular purpose, which is to sustain life by surviving and reproducing. Nature doesn’t care whether you’re happy, much as people wish to be happy. …It doesn’t care what you do on a Sunday afternoon as long as you manage to survive and, sooner or later, reproduce.

The second source of purpose is culture. Culture tells you what is valuable and important. Some cultures tell you exactly what you are supposed to do: they mark you out for a particular slot (farmer, soldier, mother etc). Others offer a much wider range of options and put less pressure on you to adopt a particular one, though they certainly reward some choices more than others.

That brings us to the third source of goals: your own choices. In modern Western countries in particular, society presents you with a broad range of paths and you decide which one to take. For whatever reason — inclination, talent, inertia, high pay, good benefits — you choose one set of goals for yourself (your occupation, for example). You create the meaning of your life, fleshing out the sketch that nature and culture provided. You can even choose to defy it: many people choose not to reproduce, and some even choose not to survive. Many others resist and rebel at what their culture has chosen for them.

The second need for meaning is value. This means having a basis for knowing what is right and wrong, good and bad. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are among the first words children learn. They are some of the earliest and most culturally universal concepts, and among the few words that house pets sometimes acquire. In terms of brain reactions, the feeling that something is good or bad comes very fast, almost immediately after you recognise what it is. Solitary creatures judge good and bad by how they feel upon encountering something (does it reward them or punish them?). Humans, as social beings, can understand good and bad in loftier ways, such as their moral quality.

In practice, when it comes to making life meaningful, people need to find values that cast their lives in positive ways, justifying who they are and what they do. Justification is ultimately subject to social, consensual judgment, so one needs to have explanations that will satisfy other people in the society (especially the people who enforce the laws). Again, nature makes some values, and culture adds a truckload of additional ones. It’s not clear whether people can invent their own values, but some do originate from inside the self and become elaborated. People have strong inner desires that shape their reactions.

The third need is for efficacy. It’s not very satisfying to have goals and values if you can’t do anything about them. People like to feel that they can make a difference. Their values have to find expression in their life and work. Or, to look at it the other way around, people have to be able steer events towards positive outcomes (by their lights) and away from negative ones.

The last need is for self-worth. People with meaningful lives typically have some basis for thinking that they are good people, maybe even a little better than certain other people. At a minimum, people want to believe that they are better than they might have been had they chosen or behaved or performed badly. They have earned some degree of respect.

The meaningful life, then, has four properties. It has purposes that guide actions from present and past into the future, lending it direction. It has values that enable us to judge what is good and bad; and, in particular, that allow us to justify our actions and strivings as good. It is marked by efficacy, in which our actions make a positive contribution towards realising our goals and values. And it provides a basis for regarding ourselves in a positive light, as good and worthy people.

People ask what is the meaning of life, as if there is a single answer. There is no one answer: there are thousands of different ones. A life will be meaningful if it finds responses to the four questions of purpose, value, efficacy, and self-worth. It is these questions, not the answers, that endure and unify.

Link to read this much longer original article in full

photo credit: Il conte di Luna via photopin cc

photo credit: Il conte di Luna via photopin cc

Why You Should Stop Trying To Be Happy

MARK MANSON writes…

Happiness is the process of becoming your ideal self

Completing a marathon makes us happier than eating a chocolate cake. Raising a child makes us happier than beating a video game. Starting a small business with friends and struggling to make money makes us happier than buying a new computer.

And the funny thing is that all three of the activities above are exceedingly unpleasant and require setting high expectations and potentially failing to always meet them. Yet, they are some of the most meaningful moments and activities of our lives. They involve pain, struggle, even anger and despair, yet once we’ve done them we look back and get misty-eyed about them.

Why?

Because it’s these sort of activities which allow us to become our ideal selves. It’s the perpetual pursuit of fulfilling our ideal selves which grants us happiness, regardless of superficial pleasures or pain, regardless of positive or negative emotions. This is why some people are happy in war and others are sad at weddings. It’s why some are excited to work and others hate parties. The traits they’re inhabiting don’t align with their ideal selves.

It’s not the end results which define our ideal selves. It’s not finishing the marathon that makes us happy, it’s achieving a difficult long-term goal that does. It’s not having an awesome kid to show off that makes us happy, but knowing that you gave yourself up to the growth of another human being that is special. It’s not the prestige and money from the new business that makes you happy, it’s process of overcoming all odds with people you care about.

And this is the reason that trying to be happy inevitably will make you unhappy. Because to try to be happy implies that you are not already inhabiting your ideal self, you are not aligned with the qualities of who you wish to be. After all, if you were acting out your ideal self, then you wouldn’t feel the need to try to be happy.

Cue statements about “finding happiness within,” and “knowing that you’re enough.” It’s not that happiness itself is in you, it’s that happiness occurs when you decide to pursue what’s in you.

And this is why happiness is so fleeting. Anyone who has set out major life goals for themselves, only to achieve them and realize that they feel the same relative amounts of happiness/unhappiness, knows that happiness always feels like it’s around the corner just waiting for you to show up. No matter where you are in life, there will always be that one more thing you need to do to be extra-especially happy.

And that’s because our ideal self is always around that corner, our ideal self is always three steps ahead of us. We dream of being a musician and when we’re a musician we dream of writing a film score and when write a film score, we dream of writing a screenplay. And what matters isn’t that we achieve each of these plateaus of success, but that we’re consistently moving towards them, day after day, month after month, year after year. The plateaus will come and go, and we’ll continue following our ideal self down the path of our lives.

And with that, with regards to being happy, it seems the best advice is also the simplest: Imagine who you want to be and then step towards it. Dream big and then do something. Anything. The simple act of moving at all will change how you feel about the entire process and serve to inspire you further.

Let go of the imagined result; it’s not necessary. The fantasy and the dream are merely tools to get you off your ass. It doesn’t matter if they come true or not.

Live. Just live. Stop trying to be happy and just be.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Is There Any Value In New Age Thinking?

MICHEL BAUWENS writes…

…One of the first tangible benefits of the New Age was to reintroduce the importance of consciousness to the western world and to recognize that spirituality was not just a matter of belief but of experience. New Age traditions contained a vast array of methods that could open up new vistas of perception. For many people, they created an opportunity to re-integrate these methods into their lives and experiment with different alternatives.

New Age thinking also provided a vehicle to overcome the separation of mind and body that was characteristic of western individualism prior to 1968. In many ways it represented what Freud called a “regression in service of the ego”, a return to repressed areas of bodily energy, instincts, emotions, mind and consciousness. Unfortunately, it frequently stayed in that regressive mode. New Age thinking was too anti-rational, too disdainful of the critical subjectivity that was one of the hard-won features of the West. But to paraphrase Lenin, it was probably a necessary “infantile” stage in the development of alternatives. It also offered avenues for people to work on themselves, a positive orientation in an otherwise dark period for social change.

In other ways, New Age thinking was an heir to utopian socialism. Given the difficulty of changing society in radical ways at the macro level, people began to change their own lives by abandoning blind trust in the mechanistic approaches to the human body that were espoused by Western medicine; and by leaving aside the knowledge-stuffing, rote-learning style of education they were fed in order to treat children as whole persons. These changes have made the world unrecognizable from thirty years ago.

Whatever the negative features of the neoliberal age, many institutions have become more humane, more egalitarian, more respectful, and more attuned to the whole individual. People have changed, institutions have evolved, and many small-scale communal experiments have yielded valuable learning experiences even if they have failed to change the bigger picture…

If both New Age thinking and anti-spirituality are exaggerated reactions to each other, the task now is to find a critical subjectivity that rejects the ‘dictatorship of the mind’ – the belief that societies already know the direction or end-point in which they are heading.

What would that consist of? For me, the key step is to reject the view that sees spirituality in terms of individual experience alone, and replace it with a spirituality that functions around relationships between different people.

In pre-modern times, people lived as members of communities with roles that were largely externally defined; in modern times they live as atomized but autonomous self-directing individuals who are bound together through social contracts and institutions. Post-modernity, seen as a critique of neoliberal capitalist structures, sees the individual as increasingly fragmented, and it has developed a strong critique of all the forces that have shown us that we are not nearly as autonomous as we think, including language and power. But this process has also left us stranded as fragmented individuals without much sense of a direction, forever deconstructing realities but rarely reconstructing them with much success. Therefore it is time for something new.

In an age of peer production, in which more and more individuals are socialized through the internet, a relational spirituality can be born among people who cooperate with each other in a wide variety of networks. As we become engaged in communities of our peers that produce collective value, the horizontal dimension of spirituality returns to center stage.

In this new context, the view of human beings as fragmented is no longer a reason for despair. On the contrary, our inner multitude of interests is what enables us to contribute to a range of different, peer-driven projects. The individual psyche can then be constructed through each person’s contributions to the life of the whole, and through the recognition they receive from the communities in which they take part.

Today, individuals are no longer defined only by their membership in traditional communities or rigid roles. In my world, for example, an increasing number of people see themselves as contributors to open-source software systems like Linux rather than employees of Microsoft or Google. In this context, the key to an integrated self is to construct a rich identity of contributions that stem from active participation in many different communities. No longer New Age or Old Age but building on elements of both, a relational spirituality could form a cornerstone of the contributive societies on which the twenty-first century will be built.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: leo.prie.to via photopin cc

photo credit: leo.prie.to via photopin cc

Staying Sane In Insane Times

 writes

If we look at what is happening around us today, it can feel that the world is spinning out of control.

Open any newspaper, turn on any TV, read the headlines online or even check your phone’s text alerts and you’re bombarded…and that’s without even taking into account personal and work issues.

For many of us it seems overwhelming, especially if we allow ourselves to care.

So, how do we remain sane in these insane times?

I believe the tools lie with our inner resources, as expressed in a series of relationships.

Relationship with self:

The relationship we have with ourselves starts with being wholly self-aware without being judgmental or self-effacing. Only then can we cultivate the capacity to sense our strong emotions without being defined by them. When we know ourselves we can be more open with ourselves – relating to ourselves not as we think we should be, but as who we truly are, and giving us a chance to be our best self. If we are aware of ourselves inwardly, we learn to stand strong outwardly.

Relationship with others:

Relationships with others also begin with self-awareness, the characteristic that allows us to relate to others in recognition of our common desire to feel safe, trusted, loved and nourished. We all desire for someone to listen to us, pay attention to us, even challenge us. We form much of ourselves within the framework of our relationships with others as we develop, grow and change within relationships. Our own self-awareness and our connection to others are the strongest forces in staying sane.

Relationship with stress:

Stress is a double-edge sword — it can be a wake-up call or it can cause our demise. Stress can make us sick, but it can also stimulate us to make changes and learn new things. When we differentiate between the bad stress that causes us to feel overwhelmed and the good stress that causes us to keep us fit and purposeful, we can forge ahead without feeling overwhelmed by circumstances.

Relationship with our stories

We live in relationship with our own stories — the ones we believe, the ones we edit as we grow and we change, the ones that come from our beliefs. Many of us have stories that begin I am never going to be… I can’t handle… I don’t… I can’t…. When we realize what we are saying, we can work on changing the narrative. Instead of defining ourselves, we can adjust ourselves. Learning how to revise our own stories gives us the power to navigate sanely through chaos and confusion.

It’s never going to be easy to remain sane when we’re surrounded by insanity, but it is worth trying.

These inner resources — our relationships with ourselves, with others, with stress and with our stories — are the cornerstone to our sanity. They give us choices in how we react to what is happening around us, and the capacity to live with what we deal with on a daily basis…

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: zagor64. via photopin cc

photo credit: zagor64. via photopin cc

Is Resilience In Hibernation?

Phil Vernon writes…

Resilience is a wonderful metaphor. It somehow conveys in a single word the qualities of bending without breaking, of healing after an injury, of tensile rather than brittle strength.

Oak and palm trees are resilient to the power of strong winds, before which they bend and then straighten again. Resilient people pick themselves up after being knocked down, draw on their reserves of ideas and strength to deal with difficult challenges, or hunker down until the gale has blown itself away. Resilient economies bounce back, and resilient ecosystems restore themselves after the fire or the flood has passed.

Resilience is not necessarily a good thing, of course. Patrimonialism and corruption can be resilient to change, as can power dynamics which sanction the marginalisation and harm of women, children or vulnerable people.

American academic Andrew Nathan writes of the Chinese Communist Party’s “authoritarian resilience”, i.e. its ability to adapt and continue to thrive despite its authoritarian, undemocratic approach to power. But most often resilience is used to describe positive and useful features of society.

International Alert is a peacebuilding organisation. We say peace is when people anticipate, manage and resolve the inevitable conflicts which arise in and between societies, and do so without violence; and we describe communities and societies as resilient when they do so.

Their resilience in the face of stress is largely due to the nature of relationships and institutions, which provide them with tensile, rather than brittle strength. Freedom and equality of opportunity are key indicators of relationships and institutions conducive to peace…

Nassim Nicolas Taleb , in his book Anti-fragility – things that gain from disorder, published last year by Random House, explains that resilience is demonstrated best in decentralised and organic societies which can flex and respond locally to stress, and least in over-centralised and rigid societies where individual and local initiatives are discouraged. This is no doubt one reason why, as Andrew Nathan recently wrote, “the resilience of the authoritarian regime in China is nearing its limits”.

So, resilience is not merely a useful metaphor, but one which expresses a powerful idea which we would do well to try and understand. If societies resilient to stress are less vulnerable to disaster and violent conflict, and if critical factors in their resilience include freedom and equality, then building resilience to stress must presumably be an ambition worthy of us all…

But if “resilience” is indeed headed for another period of hibernation, I suspect there is a deeper reason why. It is a very powerful conceptual approach and analytical tool, allowing a broad, comprehensive analysis of the extent to which households, communities, regions, countries, societies or states are able or unable to deal with, survive and bounce back from natural or man-made stress.

For those with patience, the concept lends itself to participatory approaches to identify factors which increase or limit resilience (or, for those who prefer the glass half-empty approach, factors which increase or reduce fragility and brittleness). So far, so good.

SHORT-TERM PROJECT PROBLEM

The problem is, those seeking levers through which to make significant changes which can be measured in terms of the typical lifespan of development projects, are unlikely to find them easily in a resilience analysis. Resilience is – almost by definition – not something that can easily be “built”, and certainly not built to order.

The clue is in the word itself – resilience is something to be found in the nature of societies, hence a quality which grows organically. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains, it is the effect of finely woven networks.

Resilience comes from education, and especially the kind of education which helps young people develop their curiosity and ability to adapt and continue to learn. It is to be found in networks of diverse reciprocal relationships between individuals and groups, on which they can draw to get ideas, help, resources in time of need. It is to be found in the freedom of men and women to make their own informed choices, and to participate in politics.

It is to be found in competent and accountable governance, in a free, functioning press, in fair-systems of justice, and so on, and from the interwoven combination of all of the above.

Unfortunately, those in power in more fragile, less resilient societies often see these kinds of features as good in theory, but unwelcome in practice. Rather like St Augustine who prayed for chastity – “but not yet, O Lord” – they’d often prefer to enjoy the spoils of power for now.

Meanwhile those in international development organisations who support these kinds of features in principle, are unable to promote them because they simply do not lend themselves sufficiently to logframes, short-term projects, and the like.

Our development institutions and organisations may not be adequate to the task of promoting resilience in fragile societies. And so ‘resilience’ may be destined to pass back into hibernation. That would be a shame. Because ironically, it describes the problem of underdevelopment, human insecurity and inadequate governance too accurately to be useful.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: ** Lucky Cavey ** via photopin cc

photo credit: ** Lucky Cavey ** via photopin cc

A New Level of Leadership Thinking

By 

“The problems that exist in the world today can’t be solved by the level of thinking that created them.”

Albert Einstein

Sometimes I’m tempted to think my win must cause someone else to lose. Put another way, I often am tempted to believe that if someone does what I’m doing, they’ll limit my freedom or my market or my opportunities to experience success. We view the world as a particular size and we must carve it up in a way that everyone gets a little. When things like money get scarce, we think we have to hang on to what we have, and if we give someone too much there won’t be enough left for ourselves.

Back in the 1970′s and 1980′s, that was the prevailing mindset. A market could only be “so big” and each company had to get their share. We had to climb our way to the top and often to get ahead, we had to get ahead of someone else.

“Exceptional insight, productivity and generosity make markets bigger and more efficient.

This situation leads to more opportunities and ultimately a payoff for everyone involved.” Seth Godin, Linchpin.

I wonder how much of our current leadership model needs a mental overhaul.

Why do we have leaders who seem committed to “if you win, I must lose” thinking? Do we see any problems, or situations where we use what Stephen Covey called two-alternative thinking? Two-alternative thinking is based on “if you win, I must lose” thinking. His great book, The 3rd Alternative was a great reminder that synergy is the answer to two-alternative thinking. Synergy is when everyone agrees to find a win-win solution. Compromise means everyone gets less than they hoped. Synergy means everyone gets more.

…to what degree do my own actions and old-world thinking create the problems we experience today?

What can I do to introduce a level of thinking that rises above the problems and works together for a synergistic solution?

What’s it going to take?

Link to read the original article

photo credit: USFS Region 5 via photopin cc

photo credit: USFS Region 5 via photopin cc

A Better Work-Life Balance Attracts Top Performing Parents & Millennials

Greg Moran writes…

…A recent Pew study found that 56% of working mothers and 50% of working fathers find balance their work with their family life is either somewhat or very challenging. Similarly, 40% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers always feel rushed. …More than half the workforce is feeling the squeeze when it comes to time and flexibility.

 But working parents may be more passive about their need for a positive work-life balance than those from Gen Y. Unlike their predecessors, Millennials are explicitly demanding flexibility. In fact, 69% believe that regular office attendance is unnecessary, according to a Cisco study. What’s more, according to findings from Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, 75% of Millennials are unwilling to compromise on their family or personal values. As a result, young top performers are choosing work environments in which the benefits are less about pay and more about creativity, personal meaning and adaptability…

Firms that adapt to the changing wants and needs of the workforce are naturally going to improve their employer brand, or their reputation among prospective employees. In time, this will not only increase candidates’ attraction to the firm, but it will attract those individuals with the best culture fit. What’s more, the sourcing process will be less complex, reducing both time to hire and cost to hire. While all of this takes time to develop, it’s a win-win for candidates and employers alike.

Experiencing this upward spiral of hiring benefits isn’t difficult, but it does require change. In essence, the essential components to this entire process are (1) acknowledging a problem faced by the parents and millennials in the workforce that is causing a noticeable shift in work culture demands and (2) accepting short-term costs for significant long-term gains…

Link to read the original article

photo credit: kdee64 via photopin cc

photo credit: kdee64 via photopin cc

Developing next generation leaders for a sustainable future – the stewardship model

Kai Peters, Chief Executive, Ashridge Business School writes…

…The global financial crisis and the rapid pace of globalisation are radically changing the definition of what makes a good business leader. Traditional heroic models and charismatic styles of leadership are under attack, largely because corporate scandals have destroyed trust in the integrity of many of those in power…

A new post-heroic approach to leadership is needed, where executives empower, inspire and strengthen the leadership of others. This will enable the executives of the future to build strong sustainable organisations that are held in trust for future generations – in sharp contrast to a conventional command and control leadership style focused on reducing costs and creating profit.

The steward leader – a model for next generation executives
Leaders should rededicate themselves to care and the principles of stewardship – a form of leadership that focuses on others, the community and society at large.

Stewardship advocates service over self-interest and provides a road-map for developing the next generation leader. Steward leaders have both the desire and the skills to develop organisations which are sustainable in every sense of the word.

What does a steward leader look like?
Steward leaders are those who are motivated by justice and dignity and who can see the bigger picture. Their emphasis is on delivering results with others – and they are skilled in bringing networks and resources together in pursuit of a common aim…

Can stewardship be developed?
In our new book ‘Steward Leadership’, we identify the nine essential dimensions of stewardship and debate what they are and how they can be developed.

Development of a stewardship mindset cannot, however, be ‘taught’ by a teacher or facilitator – it requires the individual to have some kind of internal impetus to evolve in this way and a willingness to move away from conventional approaches.  Our research suggests that non-rational resources, such as dreams, insights, creative and spiritual experiences and emotions, are important in developing sustainable leaders. People who are prepared to step outside of the ‘norm’ and draw on these resources have less to fear from being authentic and wearing their heart on their sleeve.

What does this mean for organisations in terms of talent management and leadership development processes? 
…Managers least likely to succeed are those who place high value on ‘conforming’ to the expectations of others.  They may think the right thoughts and want to make the ethical decisions, but find the accepted social environment of the organisation difficult to break away from.

In practical terms, organisations who want to develop steward leaders need to shift their approach to development and place higher priority on providing immersive, experiential learning which impacts leaders on an emotional level and motivates and inspires them to embed sustainability in the business.  Witnessing the effects of climate change or deforestation first hand, for example, can be a transformative experience.

The following five points are key to helping organisations achieve real shifts in mindsets and develop new sustainable behaviours:

  • Experiential learning is crucial. Getting a first- hand experience of what today’s global and societal challenges are all about is what makes a rationally understood idea at the back of the mind come alive and makes someone want to act on it.
  • You can’t just give people a random experience; you have to help them work out its business relevance. The best mechanism is a project-based business challenge, where participants have to develop some kind of project with business value based on their experience.
  • Clear sponsorship and involvement from the CEO and other senior leadership is vital. This is one area is where walking the talk really counts. The stories those at the top tell must be true, consistent and authentic if people are to believe and follow.
  • Unconventional approaches to development may be met by scepticism within the business at first – but it’s important to allow potential leaders to explore their spirituality, work on psychological issues (i.e. Perfectionism, fear of failure) which may be impeding their progress and to support them in their attempts to embrace a wide spectrum of thoughts and feelings.
  • Provide active support when individuals return to the organisation after an experiential development experience.  This helps convert a shift in mind-set to a habitual new behaviour. Consider things like giving people enhanced job roles, encouraging line managers to be supportive, having a dedicated co-ordinator to provide on-going encouragement recognising and rewarding positive new behaviours.
  • Steward leadership is a more empowering form of transformational leadership. These developmental activities help leaders adopt the qualities of ‘stewards’ earlier in people’s careers, and earlier in their lifetimes, to help create a new, more sustainable, future.

Link to the original article in full

photo credit: MedEvac71 via photopin cc

photo credit: MedEvac71 via photopin cc

Showing That You Care

Mary Jo Asmus offers some practical advice about how to lead in ways that nourish people…

…Many managers get so caught up in the day to day work of keeping themselves and others on task and working toward achieving the bottom line that they forget about the people who are making it all happen.

A leader creates, sustains and repairs relationships. They care about the people who are getting the work done.

What have you done lately to show your leadership?

How are you demonstrating to your employees that you care about them?

Start today to:

Get to know them. It’s not that hard, it just takes some intention and time. Walk around. Greet people. Pick up the phone and call those who work remotely. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them about their life outside of work (family, hobbies, etc.). Ask them what you can do to make things easier.

Delight in their individuality. People don’t come to your organization as clones. Everyone is different and each deserves to be treated as a unique individual who is full of potential. Get to know what they do well, what they enjoy doing, and give them the freedom to do it their way. Enjoy and celebrate their uniqueness.

Support them. When things get tough, be there to support them. When things are going well make sure they know that you’ve noticed. Remove the barriers to their ability to achieve their full potential by guiding, giving feedback, and coaching them.

Stretch them. One of the highest compliments you can give an employee is to provide an opportunity for them to stretch; it shows that you care enough to see them achieve something more. Watch for those who are ready, and encourage them to stretch in assignments that will help them to grow and develop.

Demonstrate your gratitude. A quick thank you on the run to your next meeting is not always enough. Reach into your heart and express your gratitude for the things they do that have meaning to you and the organization. Look them in the eye and let them know what they did and explain how their actions touched you and others around you.

Show them that you care. Reach into your heart to repeat the above over and over again.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

2013 World Mental Health Day: Taking Care 

By LISA KANTOR

Today (10th October 2013 ) is World Mental Health Day. Today, I take a moment to reflect on the many challenges faced by those living with mental illness, especially those who are unable to access treatment.

Today is the perfect day to urge others to support mental health prevention, mental health education, and improved access to mental health treatment. Today is our chance to restart the conversation about mental health, to speak openly about uncertainties and misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses, and to move toward eliminating the damaging and unnecessary stigma that lingers around mental illness…

Promoted by the World Health Organization, World Mental Health Day is dedicated to increasing awareness of the mental health issues that affect the lives of millions of Americans. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four adults experience mental illness in a given year. These millions of people are our acquaintances, friends, loved ones, co-workers — ourselves.

How can we become more attentive and compassionate to those who suffer with mental illness? In addition to education, early intervention, and increased resources – I believe in the power of mindfulness, taking good care of yourself (self-care), and being able to reach out for help when you need it. Although often regarded as self-indulgent, self-care is such an important piece of mental health and wellness. Jennifer Louden expresses this concept so gracefully:

Self-care is essential for our survival; it is essential as the basis for healthy, authentic relationships; it is essential if we honestly want to nurture the people we care about. Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance. When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of. And they feel renewed too, instead of guilty. We have something precious to give others when we have been comforting and caring for ourselves and building up self-love.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: shoothead via photopin cc

photo credit: shoothead via photopin cc

Taking Care of Yourself When You’re Depressed

By 

These are several simple but meaningful ways you can practice self-care, even when that’s the last thing you want to – or can – do.

Your Holy Trinity

Borchard suggested starting with three basics: sleep, diet and exercise. She referred to these as her “holy trinity.” She goes to bed at the same time every night and sleeps for the same amount of hours. (She needs eight hours.) “Diets full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids promote mental health,” she said. So her diet includes salmon, dark green vegetables and whole grains. “Exercise has antidepressant capabilities, plus you are essentially telling yourself that you intend to get better. I think sometimes we have to lead with the body, and the mind will follow.”

Feed Your Senses

Whenever Serani feels her “depression looming within,” she focuses on nourishing her senses. “Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness” by J. Karat is packed with studies showing how feeding your sense of sight, smell, sounds, taste and touch produces dopamine, serotonin, melatonin and oxytocin – feel-good neurochemistry that helps heal depression.”

There are many ways you can supply your senses. Serani suggested opening up the windows to let sunshine soothe you; sipping a warm cup of tea or coffee; wrapping yourself in a blanket; listening to soft music; and lighting a candle.

Be Prepared

Self-care requires preparation, Serani said. That’s why it’s important to keep the things that soothe you by your side and in your home. It makes moving into self-care mode much easier, she said. “Stock up on comfort foods, teas and coffees, store scented candles or incense nearby, pre-program radio stations to soothing music you like, drape a velvety blanket on a couch or chair.”

Practice Self-Care Daily

Self-care also requires regular practice, Serani said. She encouraged readers to avoid waiting until you’re drained or depleted to attempt self-care. “Use [the above] sense-oriented techniques often so there’s an ease that comes from their use.”

Self-care is critical for healing depression. As Borchard said, “You get well faster and stay well longer.” But some days, self-care will feel especially far away. On those days, “Be easy with yourself.” Beating yourself up only makes you feel worse and stops you from getting better, she said. “Consider yourself a good friend, and speak to yourself as such.”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: United Nations Photo via photopin cc

photo credit: United Nations Photo via photopin cc

Simple Ways to Cultivate Happiness in Schools – and at work too

This article is written as a guide to increasing happiness in schools, but Elena Aguilar‘s suggestions offer great value too for increasing our happiness at work, so I couldn’t resist a little tweaking to adapt them into a more adult-friendly set of guidelines…

1. Slow Down

When we slow down, we notice more, we appreciate more, we take stock of relationships, learning, and goals. Everyone can benefit from slowing down… There’s a direct correlation between our levels of contentment and the pace at which we live our lives…

2. Get Outside

Being outside, even for just a few minutes a day, can heighten our state of well-being. We breathe fresh air, feel the elements on our skin – the warmth of the sun, the sting of wind, the moisture of rain – which connects us to the natural world. Even when it’s cold out, or when it’s warm and glorious, we can [get] outside for a quick (5 minute) walk, or we can do silent reading outside and our feelings of happiness might increase.

Furthermore, when the weather is comfortable, why can’t we have some of the many meetings we all have to sit in outside? Last year I took my instructional coaches to the forest for one of our professional development days. In addition to hiking, we read, talked, learned, and wrote — all of the activities we usually do in our office.

3. Move Your Body

We all know this already, but I’m going to remind you anyway: Moving our bodies increases our happiness. Even if you can’t [get] outside, you can incorporate stretching breaks into [your] days…  Moments of movement are great and our brains start producing the endorphins that make us happy right away.

4. Blast Good Music

Music in a fast tempo and in a major key can make us feel happy and it has a measurable positive impact on our bodies – it can even boost our immune system, decrease blood pressure, and lower anxiety. Playing music as [people enter a room] can be welcoming and can create a positive atmosphere. Those of us who facilitate learning for adults can also do this. Imagine coming into an early morning staff meeting to the sounds of salsa or to Johnny Nash singing, “I Can See Clearly Now.” You probably feel happier just thinking about this.

5. Sing

Now sing along with those tunes, or sing in your car or in the shower — and see how you feel. Singing requires us to breathe deeply, which makes us happier. Singing along to some of our favorite music makes our brain release endorphins…

6. Smile

Even if you’re not a smiley person, try smiling more often – aim for authentic, genuine smiles, but if you can’t produce one, go ahead and fake it. Yes, even fake smiles can move you along towards a more content state of being. And more than that, they can have an affect on those looking at you. … just see what happens if you smile more often at the people you interact with on a daily basis.

7. Incorporate Quiet Time

My new email pen pal in Bhutan, a teacher in a school for boys aged 6-18, describes how all students in Bhutan practice meditation. Of course, this makes sense given that this is a Buddhist nation. He describes this as a primary way in which his country works to build a happy populace. There’s an abundance of evidence about how meditation causes changes in our brain chemistry that produces feelings of calm and wellbeing. In our country, some schools are incorporating mindfulness meditation, but I also think we could work towards similar ends by simply incorporating more quiet time into our daily routines.

Link to read the original unadapted article of guidelines for use with students

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

10 Easy Things That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

The above suggestions are matched and extended in this list, offered in The Mind Unleashed

I would love to be happier, as I’m sure most people would, so I thought it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually backed up by science. Here are ten of the best ones I found.

1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression…

You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight…

2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions

We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.  In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger…

Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it. …

3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy…

4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that it’s beneficial for you, I’ve found some research that proves it can make you happier right now.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally…

5. Go outside – happiness is maximized at 13.9°C

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives…

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested…

7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain

Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

According to PsyBlogsmiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees…

8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Lifeshowed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier live…

10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction

This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you…

Quick last fact: Getting older will make yourself happier

As a final point, it’s interesting to note that as we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend to grow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

So if you thought being old would make you miserable, rest assured that it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: bies via photopin cc

photo credit: bies via photopin cc

Happiness 101 – Teaching our Children the Habits of Happiness

What happens when people learn the habits of happiness and practice them every day?

Do you know how to be happy?

Erin Michelle Threlfall is a theatre artist, activist and educator whose passion is making the world a better place via theater, the arts, her infectious exuberance and the classroom. Originally from the US, she’s taught at schools in Ghana, South Korea, Togo, and Bali. She focuses on nurturing global citizenship, happiness, and social activism within her students and leads dynamic workshops on inquiry-based learning and integrating the arts into the classroom.

photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

Want To Be An Artist? Try A Little Narcissism

Jillian Steinhauer reports

A new study has found that narcissistic people are more likely to consider themselves creative and do creative things than their non-narcissistic counterparts. Um … we needed a study to tell us that?…

In the end, people with narcissistic tendencies were not only more likely to say they were creative; they also were more likely to do creative things. The personality traits of extraversion and openness also corresponded to increased creative activity, which is telling about what this study really shows: that self-confidence goes a long way.

If you believe you’re good enough at something, chances are you’ll do it, even if it’s unstable or difficult, as so many creative pursuits are. And chances are you’ll continue trying to do it even in the face of rejection, which is also required in creative fields like art and writing.

Link to read the original article in full

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

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

Are Your Strengths Holding You Back?

Sue Roberts, a very wise and wonderful trainer and occupational psychologist we sometimes get the joy of working with, says that our strengths can be problematic in two ways:

  1.  on the one hand, the stronger we are in any particular quality, the further away we are from its opposite (which is why the opposite of our strengths are weaknesses if we haven’t learned to practise them up into our skill set);
  2. less well-known, our strengths can become liabilities if we deploy them inappropriately in situations that call for quite different qualities and behaviours.

This idea is picked up and discussed by Michelle McQuaid – a positive psychology researcher, author and workplace trainer – who writes…

Do your strengths ever get you into trouble? You know those moments when the things you like doing and are good at, go just that little bit too far. For example, when your strength of humour has you making one joke too many. Or your strength of creativity has you take one idea a bit too far. Or your strength of kindness has you give and give to everyone else until there’s nothing left for yourself. We’ve all been there at some point, haven’t we?

For me it was my strength of zest. As a senior leader for many years in large organisations, my abundant energy and vitality made it possible to drive and deliver solutions that literally left people’s heads spinning. It was great from a task achievement perspective, but probably burnt through more relationships with my colleagues than I’d care to count. You see other people simply struggled to keep up.

Of course this was pointed out to me more than once during my performance reviews, but “going too fast” was always presented to me as a weakness that needed improvement. Can you imagine how that sounded? Here I was thinking what a great job I was doing, feeling really engaged, energised and enjoying my work and delivering results. Only to hear later that others felt my efforts were completely misfiring.

I walked away from those meetings feeling confused, disillusioned and completely burnt out…

Can a strength really derail your work? A growing body of evidence suggests using your strengths makes you more likely to achieve your goals, to feel less stressed and to have a greater level of well-being. Outcomes most of us are longing for.

However, researchers are also discovering that to use your strengths optimally you need the right strength, in the right amount, in the right way and at the right time. You need to find the ‘golden mean’ – where you’re neither underplaying, nor over overplaying what you do best.

How can you avoid overplaying a strength? Sometimes our strengths are overplayed because the context has changed. For me this would happen when I was busy storming through a project and our business needs would suddenly shift meaning we should slow down for a bit. Learning to read the signs about when my zest was needed – and when it wasn’t – was one way I started to turn around my negative feedback.

The biggest shift came though when I finally became aware that I had the choice to dial up – or dial down – my strength of zest. Turns out I didn’t have to run through life with my foot flat to the floor all the time just to do what I did best. Perhaps I’d just been going too fast, for too long, to see I had the choice!

By learning how to manage my strengths, I became more aware of how my zest could be intimidating for my team who feared they’d never be able to keep up. I learnt to value the need to give others time to get on board before I took off. And I began to appreciate the power off being willing and able to slow down – at least some of the time. As a result, my professional and personal life soared.

Link to read the original article in full

Here is a link to where you can get your free VIA Me Character Strengths profile built from the six virtues of Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence, and Wisdom

photo credit: sachman75 via photopin cc

photo credit: sachman75 via photopin cc

Tune Out Distractions – and Tune Into Happiness (Shawn Achor)

HARVEY SCHACHTER reports…

Too much noise can knock you off balance.

That’s the warning from Shawn Achor, San Antonio, Tex.-based author of the bestselling book The Happiness Advantage and the recently published Before Happiness. But Mr. Achor is not talking about the noise of a neighbour’s stereo blasting away or drilling at a construction site across from your office. For him, external noise is the flood of information, often negatively tinged, that washes over you each day. And the internal noise, usually negative, that invades our thoughts throughout the day.

Our ancestors looked to external noise for clues to threats. In a sense, we are doing that as we scan e-mails, newspapers and other information each day. At a basic level, noise distorts our reality – Las Vegas casinos overload our brains with sounds and lights to distract us from the reality that we’re losing money. He says that the noise from the information we receive, so much of it negative, pushes us into a “negative reality,” in which our equanimity is tipped, our stress heightened, and our potential limited.

“If you can decrease the noise, it can have a huge impact on happiness. If we can find some balance – turn away from constant messages – the brain can scan the present for things you are grateful for,” the positive-psychology lecturer said in an interview.

He points to a Fortune 100 company where he recently worked with the management team. They have a policy to use no technology on Sundays – to shut down. The result, they found, was greater productivity during the week owing to that day of rest. The policy, it’s worth noting, applied only to the top team, not others who work for them, which he found ironic.

He distinguishes between signals and noise. A signal is information that is true and reliable, alerting us to the opportunities, possibilities and resources that will help us attain our true potential. Noise is everything else – information that is false, or unnecessary, or prevents us from seeing a world where success is possible.

He lays out four criteria for identifying noise:

Unusable: Your behaviour won’t be altered by the information. “Once you start applying this mental algorithm, you’ll realize that, sadly, most of the information that floods your brain on a daily or even an hourly basis fits into this category,” he writes in his latest book. An earthquake or coup in a country across the globe may be tragic, but it’s essentially extraneous to your life, so don’t let it jolt you into a negative space.

Untimely: You are not going to use the information imminently, and it could change by the time you use it. If you intend to hold stocks for the long run, why check the stock market each day?

Hypothetical: It is based on what someone believes “could be” instead of “what is.” Economic and weather forecasts head the list. “What if you could have back all the minutes of your life you’ve spent listening to predictions – 90 per cent of which have been wrong?” he asks in the book.

Distracting: It distracts you from your goals. Much of the e-mail you received today, let alone your surfing of websites, took you no further toward your big goals.

He urges people to start distinguishing between the signals and noise that come at you, and reduce your brain overload by stopping the addiction to noise. Eliminate the things that are hypothetical, and the reports about car accidents in foreign countries. “Don’t turn a blind eye to the world, but focus on the things that are meaningful,” he said in the interview. “The more we focus on noise, the less we hear the important signals.”

At companies he works with, he asks people to experiment by decreasing their information intake by 5 per cent – specifically information that qualifies as noise. Set boundaries as well, looking at your e-mail only periodically. When you head to a website, scan only for information that matters to you. “Five per cent is a small number, so people feel it’s possible. It turns down the volume a bit,” he said. Perhaps that 5 per cent is spread through the week, or only a chunk of weekend time when you grab a respite. You’ll find reducing the noise, even slightly, increases your social connection with others, which he says is the greatest predictor of happiness.

He has noise-cancelling headphones for flights so he can isolate himself from the din around him. Similarly, you want to reduce the noise from internal doubt, fear of the future, and self-criticism. Studies show that if an employee or child is fearful, they will often fail on the next project or math test. Your noise-cancelling headphones allow you to think of positive moments that counteract those fears, such as three successes you had in similar situations.

He offers three principles to live by:

I will keep my worry in proportion to the likelihood of the event.

I will not ruin 10,000 days to be right on a handful. “Some people worry for 10,000 days about various things to get past one bad day. They give themselves 10,000 bad days to have one good day,” he says.

I will not equate worrying with being loving or responsible.

In short, be conscious of the noise coming at you – external and internal – and reduce the incidence of the noise to increase your balance and happiness.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: pfarrell95 via photopin cc

photo credit: pfarrell95 via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #67

All of these stories, and more, are part of this week’s new Happiness At Work collection, which I hope you enjoy…

Link to see the full Happiness At Work Edition #67 collection

photo credit: pfarrell95 via photopin cc

photo credit: pfarrell95 via photopin cc

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.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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.

Being Home & Not Being Home ~ a reflection on the sounds and silences of living in London

by Mark Trezona

(This was a guest post originally written for Shaking Out ~ the Shaky Isles Theatre Company Blog. which publishes a new piece by a guest every artist every Tuesday)

Colin McCahon's 'This Is The Promised Land' + South London

Colin McCahon’s ‘This Is The Promised Land’ + South London

Have you ever done that thing in London where you go outside – especially in the smallest hours of the morning – and just listen in to as many sounds of the city as you can hear?

‘…that indefinable boom of distant but ever-present sound which tells that London is up and doing, and which will swell into a deafening roar as the day grows older [and] now rises faintly but continuously upon the ear’.  (Charles Manby Smith, 1857) 

The ‘roar’ here suggests the presence of some great beast, but more significant is this sense of continuous, distant sound as if it were a form of meditation or self-communing…

London has always been characterised by the noise that is an aspect of its noisomeness.  It is part of its unnaturalness, too, like the roaring of some monstrous creature.  But it is also a token of its energy and power.  

Its noise is ancient but always renewed,  a perpetual sound that’s variously compared to Niagara, in its persistence and remorselessness, and to the beating of a human heart.  It is intimate and yet impersonal, like the noise of life itself…

A celebrated American of the nineteenth century, James Russell Lowell,  has written: ‘One other thing about London impresses me beyond any other sound I have ever heard and that is the low, unceasing roar one hears always in the air; it is not a mere accident, like a tempest or cataract, but it is impressive, because it always indicates human will, and impulse, and conscious movement; and I confess that when I hear it I almost feel as if I were listening to the roaring loom of time.’  (Peter Ackroyd, London The Biography, pp.71, 75, 76)

Tuning in acutely to these sounds and feeling a connection to this vibrating chorus of so many different lives and possibilities and relationships and stories happening –  and heading towards happening – gives me a rush so strong that I always want to hug myself and shout out how fucking lucky I feel to be living here and calling this great over-sized mess of a city my home.

This same rush of euphoria pulses through every cell of me if I stop myself walking midway across any of London’s bridges and take time to stand and stare‘. In these moments the sights of the city overwhelm its sounds, and I hear, instead, myself, sounding out again: This is my city.  This is where I live.  This is my home.  This is the feeling that I felt the first day I arrived here and I feel it still just as strongly 27 years later.

And, even if it’s the middle of the day and London is glistening and prickling in its busyness, the feeling I get is of a moment locked into its own steel blue circular intensity that unstoppably re-conjures whatever echoes I can remember that moment from William Wordsworth’s enduring poem:

Upon Westminster Bridge

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

All this powerful presence.

All this history and all this yet to be.

All this that I live in and amongst and call my own.

This is London, my home.

Yeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!

It is the feeling I recognised instantly when I read  the start of Katherine Mansfield’s 1918 short story, Bliss:

Although Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when she wanted to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off the pavement, to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and catch it again, or to stand still and laugh at – nothing – at nothing, simply…

What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street you are overcome, suddenly, by a feeling of bliss – absolute bliss! – as though you’d suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks into every particle, into every finger and toe?

Oh is there no way you can express it without being “drunk and disorderly”?  How idiotic civilisation is!  Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle?

These lines are used by Matthieu Ricard to start the first chapter of his book, The Art of Happiness: A Guide to Nurturing Life’s Most Important Skill.  I am reading Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist monk, photographer and author, and a man whose happiness has been widely studied and is considered to be the happiest man on the planet as part of my ongoing exploration through the subject of happiness and human flourishing.  (Check out Happiness Is A Skill, and his TEDTalk The Habits of Happiness for an introduction to his gentle wisdom.)

It pleases me very much to find the words of one of our New Zealand writers helping to elucidate wisdom from the happiest man in the known universe.  Just as it pleased me to discover that Katherine Mansfield is the only writer Virginia Woolf ever felt jealous of.  It makes me feel plumped up about being a New Zealander.

But back to the blissed out Bertha Young, home now in her London house of 100 years ago:

…in her bosom there was still that bright glowing place – that shower of little sparks coming from it. It was almost unbearable.  She hardly dared to breathe for fear of fanning it higher, and yet she breathed deeply, deeply.  She hardly dared look into the cold mirror – but she did look, and it gave her back a woman, radiant, with smiling, trembling lips, with big dark eyes and an air of listening, waiting for something…divine to happen…that she knew must happen…infallibly.

And here is the second dimension of what living in London feels like to me – that sense of possibility, that at any moment at any time in any part of the city you could meet someone extraordinary and make a connection and something intense and special could happen, maybe just for the shortest moment, maybe for much longer, maybe even for the rest of your life.  And that, if it didn’t happen today, this week, it will happen, and happen again many times more.  This city is too rich and magnificent and full of people with all of their experiences and expectations and dreams and demands and eccentricities and impossible certainties and jangling anxieties for you not to bang into someone, something, that feels… what?  meant?  important?  uniquely personal?  only possible here?

It happens for Bertha with a woman she has newly met and invited to a dinner party in her London home:

…the two women stood side by side looking at the slender, flowering pear tree.  Although it was so still it seemed, like the flame of a candle, to stretch up, to a point, to quiver in the bright air, to grow taller and taller as they gazed – almost to touch the rim of the round silver moon.

How long did they stand there?  Both, as it were, caught in the circle of unearthly light, understanding each other perfectly, creatures of another world, and wondering what they were to do in this one with all this blissful treasure that burned in their bosoms and dropped, in silver flowers, from their hair and hands?

For ever – for a moment?  And did Miss Fulton murmur: “Yes. Just that.”  Or did Bertha dream it?

This is what living in London is for me.  An ever-present effervescence of possibility, where any time could bring surprise and discovery, where there is still more potential and life to be uncovered than any living yet done could use up.  And where you can be whoever you decide to be today – so far as you yourself will allow – and walk out into the city and the city will absorb and make a perfect fit of the you you’ve made – or are imagining – yourself to be.

You can be.

Just that.

All that.

And yet, and yet…

Alongside the heady hearty noisy rush of my claim to this city, there is always a parallel track of feelings of alienation, foreignness, displacement, nostalgia and longing for people, places, smells, tastes and sounds from another country.

I am not from here, of here.  I am like the other 3 million of London’s 8.5 million residents, the 37% of Londoners who were not born in the UK, and, for as long as I live here I will always be living ‘away from home’.  For us, as much as this place is about the thrill and possibility of its noise, the full quality of our presence here is as ambiguous and hard to discern as London’s silence, sensed only sometimes and partially as

…an absence of being…a negative force…

There is almost a theatrical aspect to this silence, as if it had been tainted by the artificiality of London.  It is not a natural silence but a ‘play’, one of a series of violent contrasts which the inhabitants of London must endure.  It is in that sense wholly ambiguous; it may provoke peaceful contemplation, or it may arouse anxiety. (London, p.81, 82)

No New Zealand Londoner I know makes their home here for a quiet life.  That is what New Zealand is for, what pulls many New Zealanders back, and what those of us who stay here never quite stop romanticising up and longing after: that little piece of our own wide and spacious  utterly natural and wildly beautiful New Zealand serenity.  The Sounds.  The Huka Falls.  A Northland Beach.  South Island’s West Coast. An art deco boutique hotel in Napier.  Walking any one of our National Parks.  The Coromandel.  Substitute your own place of choice: even if you’re not a New Zealander, if you’ve been to New Zealand, you’ll have one.

We New Zealanders know why those of you who go there tell us it is such a special place.  When we are ‘back home’ we expat New Zealanders are always re-amazed at the number and brightness of stars in our southern sky.  We hold our homeland dear and remain constant and true to its natural wonderfulness, something we never expect London to begin to compete with.  This is the universal call of our homeland: its promise of perfect uncontaminated astoundingly beautiful wide open silence.

(In fact, when I was last in Auckland I was shocked at how shouty and loud and noisy our city dwelling native birds are – until I got to Sydney, where the birds are even louder still.)

But in London the birds sing all night.  London is never silent.  London’s silence has to be heard and felt in the contrasting relative quiet of our bedrooms (we hope), and in the moments when we are stopped in our lives just long enough to feel its echo, and in the delay we still hear across our telephone and skype calls to friends and family ‘back home,’ and in the felt absence of a newsy email update sometimes, (or, much more likely in my case, in the guilt of still not yet having written one), and in the marking of big moments happening across the world in another time zone without us being able to be there, in ‘being there in spirit’, in missing the lives we are forced to live apart from.

This longing back to New Zealand is part of being a New Zealander.  Katherine Mansfield very deliberately chose to live most of her life in Europe, but in March 1922, ill with the TB that she would die from less than a year later, she wrote ‘home’ to her father:

“ …the longer I live, the more I return to New Zealand.  A young country is a real heritage, though it takes one time to remember it.  But New Zealand is in my very bones.”

Our silence is felt in a kind of constant sense of loss, that, like the bereaved’s grief, after a certain period of time, becomes too shameful, illegitimate, not really allowable to be voiced in public or even to ourselves, because, of course we know this, there are noisier more important life-must-go-on and we-really-do-feel-lucky-for-what-we-have moments of living to be had and cheered and enjoyed and – well lived.

 The noise of living will always drown out the sounds of silence.

The silence of the living-away-from-home blissfully-at-home-here-in-London is mostly just that: silent.

And silence, just as is the case with listening, is mostly unappreciated, a passive not real thing, an un-action, a not-happening, an absence of dynamic, merely a pause in things before play is resumed.

Silence is the sound of not working, not making money. 

This is not the silence of the countryside, where repose seems natural and unforced.  The silence of London is an active element; it is filled with an obvious absence (of people, of business) and is therefore filled with presence.  It is a teeming silence.  (London, p.83)

For us Shaky Isles folk the noisy silence we hear lying in the depths of this city, never quiet if mostly out of sight, is the creature we call our Taniwha:

It is the pull of this dirty and excessive city when you yearn for another home.  It is that feeling … of knowing that someone – something – is just … over … there.   (Taniwha Thames)

I have grown to love this unquiet silence just as fervently as I love the noises of this city.  I know I will always have New Zealand, my motherland, in my veins and I love the pride this difference gives me as truly as I love the special pride I have for the courage and risk and expectation my nineteenth century ancestors must have had when they left England on their long uncertain voyage to make a better life for themselves and their families in New Zealand.

Being not from here, in fact, helps me to feel more of a true Londoner, for London is, and always has been, a city of outsiders.  London is one of those cities where you can wear your outsideness loud and proud as a badge of authenticity.  And this perhaps is the other dimension of what I love so much about London: its theatricality.

For Londoners, whether by birth or adoption, the theatricality of London is its single most important characteristic.  (London, p.152)

London does not offer uncontested peace and tranquility, because its silences are as full of ambiguous nuanced potent possibility as are its noises.  Strain your ears in to listen and hear the overrunning of its stories.  London is a permanently live performance.  London is a place and space of constantly amplified profound ambivalence, not just for its immigrants but for all of its inhabitants.

Ambivalence is, of course, the sense of having at least two – usually contrasting – feelings about the same thing… Being a theatre or performance audience or maker … can be an affirmative act of conversation and cosmopolitanism, an opportunity ambivalently to respect our differences and recognise what we share, to recognise the challenges we live with in our cities and to take up our cities’ opportunities.  (Jen Harvie, Theatre & the City, 2009 p.77)

The theatre we are engaged in making in Shaky Isles, and the ways in which are making it, are in many ways a microcosm of the complex messy fluctuations of noise and silence in which London works itself out as a city.

There are rules, but these will be broken when they do not fit the purpose of our lives.

There is intention and desired outcomes, but these are deliberately kept absorbent, porous, malleable, a living system of multiple intentions and  desires constantly infecting and being affected by each other as they rub into and through themselves.

There is apparent chaos, but it is really the forward fluidity of the flock that prevents stasis and keeps enough flow to be always in progressive movement, re-circling, re-firing, re-living, each iteration a bit different and a bit better than before.

These are the energies and rhythms we are learning to ride in Shaky Isles.  We are interested in what unfolds from bringing different voices together to tell a stories that are simultaneously intimate, personal and particular and, at the same time, recognisable, eternal and universal.  We use Open Space and Action Learning to uncover and discover our work together through and from and in our not-knowing.  We are practicing and slowly mastering the skills and qualities of trusting and sharing and questioning and experimenting and listening and saying and reworking and refining.  We are trying to get better at getting more of us in the room more often to do more of the work together.

And we know that the only way to make all of this work is to make it work together, as we go, as messy and as noisy and as ambivalent as this needs to be.

 

…the city is a model of dynamic relativism, a space where everything means more than one thing – a nondescript doorway, invisible for some, is for others the gateway to a magical garden… 

Because the tensions they have out there, the secrets they have out there, the journeys they go on, things they wish for or fear out there are the things you might well seek to amplify, uncover or remix on the stage.  Because what we might call the temporary community of the auditorium (negotiated each night, triangulated off the stage) reflects and refracts the temporary communities outside.

Because the city is a nexus of motorways, TV signals, Internets, dreams, global currents and trickle-downs, a place where our desires wash up, are fed, disrupted, chained, dodged or neutered by what people call late capitalism.

Because the city contains small beauties, zones of possibility…

Because it reflects the life you must reflect and must reflect on and the life already reflected in you.

Because the city can trap you, nurture you, teach you, unravel you, unspeak you.  Because you are just one among many here, and the dynamic of one in relation to many (conversation, dialogue, difference, the negotiation of public space) is what theatre emerges from and thrives on, what art must address and what cities must somehow contend with if they are to survive. (Tim Etchells, Foreword to Theatre & the City, p.xii, xiii-ix)

Katherine Mansfield did not survive her illness and died away from home aged 34.  The epitaph on her grave is one of her favourite quotations from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I which she had chosen for the title page of  Bliss and Other Stories:

“…but I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle danger, we pluck the flower, safety”

In her short story , Bliss, despite the intense emotional re-firing her heroine experiences, Bertha’s night does not end happily.  And yet…

…the pear tree was as lovely as ever and as full of flowers and as still.

Living in London is built on the most fragile of frameworks:  and being at home / not being home / making a home / missing home in London is perhaps the umbilical chord that holds many of us in together.  And helps to make us work.  Just as these same strands entwine to make London work around us.

Just Listen…

 

Mark Trezona has a passion for sound and listening and, with his partner Martyn Duffy, makes sound with and for Shaky Isles shows.  Through their company BridgeBuilders STG they make bespoke learning programmes in happiness at work, creativity, leadership, learning, team working & communications.  He has his own blog, performance~marks, dedicated to an exploration of happiness, creativity & resilience and what makes great audience experience.

 

The next Shaky Isles  Shake It Up evening is a theatre scratch night

7.30pm Wednesday 5th June, 2013 

 

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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….