Friday, July 19, 2013

Ted Talks: Shawn Achor & The Happiness Advantage

A dear friend of mine was visiting this weekend from Washington DC. We hadn't seen each other in quite a long time and every day was filled with long talks about happiness and the joys and frustrations we have and can't seem to find in our lives at the moment. Both us of us are women, both of us are in major transitional moments in our lives, both of us are optimists, and both of us truly strive to find the good in the everyday. Lately, for both of us, this has been difficult. Mostly this has been due to the rapid rate of change that has infused our lives for the past few years and the struggle of learning and growing into our adult selves. The TED: Talks summits have been a place that we have both found really inspiring people who are offering constructive solutions to finding joy, happiness, and bravery especially in moments of uncertainty and doubt. I was so inspired by them that I thought I would periodically share some of them with all of you. 

Shawn's talk is totally worth 12 minutes of your time. He is fast talker and by the end of his video you will want to take some concrete action to shift the happiness in your life. The amazing thing about Shawn's view on the world is that it stems from science and can be tangibly applied to your life in a way that will deliver concrete results. 

Shawn studies "positive psychology" which he defines as "the lens though which your brain views the world  and how that lens then shapes your reality". He suggests that "if you can change the lens, not only can you change your happiness, but we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time."He has found that a person's level of happiness is determined 90% by our internal perceived world view and 10% by the external world. This means that we are in control of 90% of our happiness. That's incredible. That means that the power to be happy lies WITHIN ourselves and the outside world has a very small impact on our happiness levels, even though we perceive it to be flipped. 

About halfway through Shawn's conversation, he talks about our warped perceptions of happiness. He goes as far as to say that "we've pushed happiness beyond the cognitive horizon"which means that "every time your brain has a success, you've just changed the goalpost for what success looks like and when happiness is on the other side of success your brain never gets there". We created an unsustainable model for happiness that can never be fully obtained because we measure happiness through the lens of our success. 

Shawn posits that the way to be happy to is "be positive in the present". This presence is what he calls, "The Happiness Advantage" which means that "your brain at positive preforms significantly better than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed." Happiness stimulates the dopamine receptors in your body and when you are happy dopamine turns on all the learning centers in the brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a totally different way. When we begin to understand that the power to be happy lies in how we see ourselves, we can begin to define our lives by the things in the world that make us feel grateful, accepted, content, and less by the things that consume our negative perceptions of the world. 

Try this at home. Challenge yourself to be present, mindful, and filled with gratitude for yourself and those around you. 

My friend and I challenged ourselves to Shawn's 21 Day Challenge. I'll update you half way through to share my thoughts and see if I start to feel more deeply connected to myself and the world around me. 

Shawn's 21 Day Challenge: Creating Lasting Positive Change: Rewiring You Brain
1. Write down 3 new gratitudes a day: scan the world for the positive not the negative 
2. Journal about one positive experience over the past 24 hours: allowing you to re-live those moments
3. Exercise:  teaches your brain that your behavior matters 
4. Meditate: helps us gain control of our cultural ADHD
5. Random or Conscious Acts of Kindness: Write one positive email or note (or tell them in person) praising someone in your life or social support network

Doing this daily for 21 days creates a new normal, makes a shift internally for you to create a revolution in yourself to help inspire a ripple affect in the world around you. 

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