Happiness is not a bus stop! Simply standing there won’t do us any good—we have to step out and grab it ourselves. If you purposefully take actions like practicing gratitude, identifying and striving towards your goals, or treating others with kindness, over time, you’ll be happier. And there’s thousands of scientific studies to back it up! (Source: Happify.com)
Need some inspiration? Below Jonathan Fader, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, offers three key ideas.
“We all want to be happier: a simple sentence, only six words long. And yet every time it crosses my mind, it’s a powerful reminder of why my job—psychologist—even exists; every patient I work with wants my help in order to enjoy their life more. These individuals come from all walks of life, and each has his or her own story, but this desire is perhaps the only thing that they have in common with each other—and, for that matter with you or me. They all want to “be happier”.
So: what’s the number one thing you can do to make that happen?
During my first meetings with them, people often suggest large, sweeping changes to their lives. I could quit my job. I could leave New York. I could get back with my ex. I could shave off my beard.
All valid ideas. But here’s my suggestion: I could try to find more enjoyment in my life as it exists right now.
It is so clear that enjoyment of life is linked to so many other positive outcomes. Some point to the possibility that enjoying exercise will lead to better performancein physical activity. But are there things that you can do practice enjoyment? What concrete behavioral changes can you make to begin your quest to enjoy your life with more vigor?
Here are three ideas for you to practice:
1. Have a daily ritual around enjoyment
Upon waking, ask yourself, “What do I look forward to most today?” At the end of your day, ask yourself, “What was the most enjoyable part of my day and why?”
You could actually take it one step further and document your enjoyment ritual. Each night, you could write down one thing you enjoyed about your day on a slip of paper, and drop it in a jar. A year from now, empty the jar and re-read the slips. I love this method because of its double-pronged benefit: not only do you get to dwell on your enjoyment every day, but you can relive it all at once, long after the fact.
2. Whenever you eat try to focus on the taste of your food for just one minute.
What does it taste like? Try to identify the different sensations. Salty? Sweet? Bitter? Sour? If you are eating with someone, comment to them about each observation.
This tip comes out of the research which suggests that eating smaller portions of food with more mindfulness can increase your actual enjoyment of what you are eating. (Of course, the trick is the smaller portions–read my post on changing a behavior for that one!)
3. Put a reminder on your phone, computer or calendar that reminds you to enjoy whatever is most important in your life.
I have a small cartoon sticker of a shining sun that my daughter gave me that’s on my phone case. In the midst of any stressful day, it reminds me to focus on what I can enjoy and divert my attention from the rest.”
Jonathan Fader, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist. He is an assistant professor of Family Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and teaches in the Beth Israel Residency Program in Family Medicine in New York City/Institute for Family Health (IUFH). Dr. Fader is also a team psychologist to the New York Mets baseball team, writes a blog for Psychology Today entitled The New You, and is bilingual in Spanish.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Measures The Profit of Doing Business, The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) Also Measures The Costs Involved In Doing Business.
Bhutan’s gross national happiness and Vermont’s genuine progress indicator are both metrics which measure a nation’s success on metrics that go beyond purely financial. Photograph: Alamy
Double-entry bookkeeping is a bitch. I remember the first time I envisioned starting a retail business, picturing all the money I’d make before a mentor taught me the basic costs of doing business. After calculating expenditures for rent, paying staff, and overhead, I learned why it’s so critical to understand the difference between net and gross profits.
This fundamental tenet of business hasn’t been incorporated into the basic measure of value the world has used for almost eight decades. By definition, the gross domestic product evaluates gross measures to determine the supposed success and happiness for a country and its citizens. Never mind the ethical issues, as recently reported, that countries such as the US and the Netherlands are factoring in revenue from prostitution and drugs into their GDP estimates.
On a basic accounting level, GDP measures haven’t historically reported the costs of doing business in areas like the environment or employee wellbeing. And in a world of finite resources, where potable water or the amount of stress a worker can handle have limits, businesses and lawmakers alike are beginning to recognize the urgent need to move beyond GDP metrics to better measure what matters in our world and lives.
These new metrics and a focus on pragmatic change were the primary themes of the recent Happiness and Wellbeing Conference held in Burlington, Vermont last week. Subtitled “building a national movement”, the event featured dozens of scientists, lawmakers, psychologists, economists and statisticians all focused on how to foster metrics that better measure the full breadth of citizen wellbeing beyond a primary focus on wealth.
A specific measure discussed at the conference immediately relevant to the business world is the genuine progress indicator (GPI). While a great deal of attention has been paid to gross national happiness (GNH) created by Bhutan, the GPI features a similar focus on measuring multiple areas of wellbeing beyond financial metrics. As John de Graaf, a speaker at the conference, noted in a recent article for Truthout, Building A Movement for Happiness, the GPI has now been adopted by the state of Vermont: “Its legislature, with support from Democrats, Republicans and Progressive Party members, has established a state GPI, that uses some two dozen measures of health, wealth, education, leisure and sustainability to measure progress.” Maryland has also incorporated GPI into state measurements of wellbeing, and features an excellent videoexplaining how it works.
“GPI is basic double-entry bookkeeping.” Eric Zencey is a fellow of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and coordinator of the Vermont GPI Project. As he noted: “Any business person knows you have to deduct costs of producing benefits from the value of the benefits you produce—you have to look at net, not gross. Under GPI, policy makers will have to establish regulatory, licensing and taxation regimes that require companies to cover these costs instead of continuing to let companies impose them as an unlegislated tax on the populace as a whole.”
The good news for businesses is that double-entry bookkeeping offers new opportunities for revenue. By taking a wider measure of wellbeing, companies are improving profits in areas such as increasing employee wellbeing at work as noted in the second annual World Happiness Report: “Harter et al. (2010) found in a longitudinal study of ten large organizations that worker engagement makes a difference to productivity. Work units in which employees were satisfied and otherwise felt highly engaged with their work led to improvements in the bottom line, measured in terms of revenue, sales, and profit.”
Other speakers at the Conference such as Laura Musikanski, co-organizer for the event and executive director for The Happiness Alliance emphasized the benefits from gross national happiness and other measures, as it’s being adopted in the US. A former executive director for Sustainable Seattle, Musikanski has created a GNH Surveythat more than 30,000 people have taken in under two years. It features hard data about multiple domains of wellbeing in an interactive page on her site. The survey is being used by dozens of cities and organizations around the US, including businesses such as Place of the Future, where founder Mika Kim incorporates the GNH Survey as part of her work. “With the research conducted to date with the GNH Index Surveys in workplaces, we were able to make a determination of the direct correlation between productivity and worker happiness with a finding that the number one issue is time balance.”
It’s time to move from gross to good. While adopting GPI or GNH metrics will take some adjustment, growing evidence highlighted at the conference is proving the net gain of measuring wellbeing beyond wealth, and the happiness that results.
John C. Havens is the founder of The H(app)athon Project and author of the book, Hacking Happiness – Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World
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