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Today, 20th March, is the UN International Day of Happiness.  But can you create happiness by deliberate acts? And what happens if you don’t feel happy?

 

Psychologists have researched many ways to increase individual levels of happiness, community happiness and create a happier society.  Indeed, Action for Happiness, run their own 8-week course on Exploring what Matters to help individuals understand these different levels and encourage us all to take some action in anyone of those areas.

 

But what is happiness?

Happiness is a fleeting, positive emotion.  I like to use the analogy of a rainbow… there are times when you see it, there are times when you feel it but you cannot really touch it.  To experience happiness you need to also experience sadness and a whole spectrum of emotions in between; to see a rainbow there needs to be both sunshine AND rain.  So, today, the #internationaldayofhappiness please don’t feel compelled to be happy, just notice how you are feeling.

Having studied positive psychology for the past two years I have become increasingly aware that the media’s view of creating happiness is not the same as an individuals reality.  We might think the new car, the bigger TV, the flash clothes will bring us happiness. And to be fair, for a short while they do.  But not a meaningful type of happiness.  When we buy these material things, we experience hedonic adaptation… that is our spike of happiness soon fades and we return to our previous normal way of being and feeling.  To get the next spike of positive emotions it often needs to be an even flashier car, even bigger TV or more expensive clothes.

 

So what does bring happiness?

Rainbow over Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head

Living a meaningful life (defined by what you consider to be meaningful) is one way as that creates what psychologists call eudaimonic happiness.

 

I prefer a mix of both hedonic and eudaimonic happiness…

 

…by doing what I love (see more about my work at www.kateatkin.com), giving to others through volunteering activities, walking my springer spaniel and my own hedonic pleasure which comes in the form of 85% dark chocolate!

 

 

Happy New Year everyone!

Now we’ve entered into 2016, how many of you have made new year resolutions? There is, of course, some value in the making, reviewing and following resolutions, but as I’m sure you’re aware it doesn’t have to be a new year focus. However, this message isn’t about whether or not to make a resolution, but more about whether you have included one vital factor in your resolutions.

Most resolutions tend to be of the “lose weight”, “get fit”, “earn a big bonus” or “get new clients” type – of course if you’d made those, yours will be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. BUT are you missing a factor which will impact on your long-term happiness and mental as well as physical well-being?

If you’ve followed the research on happiness you are probably already aware of this factor… social connections.

Have you specifically decided to take action in this area? What resolutions have you made to stay in touch with friends?  How will you enhance your one special personal relationship (if you have a significant other).  What can you do to create more fun time with work colleagues?

There’s a wealth of research on the importance of social connections and relationships, and the link between these and longevity, happiness, mental and physical well-being.  Here’s a link to just one study, a TED talk about a longitudinal study lasting 75 years (wow!), which shows how valuable relationships are.

Enjoy watching, it’s only 10 minutes long… and create fun, love and laughter, and quality connections in your relationships during 2016.

Kate

Ps if you’d like to meet up for a cuppa to create a personal connection, just let me know 🙂

As some of you will know in September 2013 I embarked on a two-year programme of study, for a masters in positive psychology (MAPP).  On doing so I discovered that many people equate the term positive psychology with positive thinking, The Secret or the Law of Attraction.  while they all have “positive intent” as a common thread, that is where the similarities end.

To explain a little more about what Positive Psychology is here’s a video:

What is Positive Psychology

Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar

A great read. Well-researched and gives us permission to be human.

However, that’s not the whole story.  The video focuses on Martin Seligman’s PERMA model (Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment).  I recently came across another way of explaining Positive Psychology, by Tal Ben-Shahar, who has written the book Happier.  Tal Ben-Shahar has the wonderful phrase of giving ourselves “permission to be human”.  This embodies the concept of positive psychology perfectly to me; it is about experiencing the ups and the downs of life, being real and being realistic (see my earlier post on optimism).

Positive Psychology is not about denying the negatives in life, the events we wish hadn’t happened, or the feelings we wish would go away.  It is the scientific study of what enables people to be fully human, to experience more of the ups by choice, taking empirically researched steps to increase their levels of well-being, meaning in life and happiness.

Not just “thinking positively”.

What does Mindfulness have to do with the bottom line profit and the productivity of your staff (or yourself)?

How often do you spend time being in the moment, being conscious of your actions, taking control of your thoughts?  Or do you spend time responding to the ping of a new email, switching tasks readily and getting interrupted at work?

Research from Harvard in 2012 found that for the average person (if there is such a thing) the mind wanders 47% of the time.  What they also found was that a wandering mind equated with an unhappy person.  If you feel unhappy at work how productive are you versus the times when you feel happy?  Stands to reason doesn’t it, happier people = more productive people.  There’s a great TED talk by Matt Killingsworth on this topic, showing just how important it is to stay in the moment, something which practicing Mindfulness can help with.

What has also come to light is that practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress, increase happiness and boost productivity.  Here’s a link to a fuller article on the subject by www.mindful.org

Don’t just enjoy reading it, give it a go, you’ll be amazed at the results!