Positive psychology has got me hooked. This explosive field’s body of research is telling us that if we desire a life of happiness, and if we truly want to experience its psychological, physical, and social benefits, we need to train our brain to the “positive.” This can only be done through intentional action and choice. Yes, every day.
Shawn Achor, one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success, said this in his viral TED talk:
What we’re finding it that It’s not necessarily reality which shapes us, it’s the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality, and if we can change the lens not only can we change your happiness we can change ever single educational and business outcome at the same time.
90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way that we can then affect reality.
Do you work in a challenging and not so civil setting? Is conflict among teams high? Are people not appreciated for their work? What if we could employ simple, but rare, workplace practices to help shift how our brain processes and views the immediate world around us, so we’re happier and more productive?
The Key to Happiness: Kindness
Organizationally, plenty of research suggests that when leaders are committed to creating an environment of kindness and compassion lived out in corporate values, they will see a happier workplace and an improved bottom line.
In one study reported by Greater Good magazine, a group of employees at Coca-Cola in Spain were asked to perform five acts of kindness for their coworkers for a month — every day things like buying coffee, writing a thank-you email, or offering encouragement. Here are the results of this study as published in Greater Good:
After the experiment, givers and receivers reported greater well-being and satisfaction of their basic psychological needs, when compared to a control group. Givers felt a greater sense of competence and autonomy after the experiment; one month later, they had higher life and job satisfaction, as well as fewer symptoms of depression. Receivers felt more autonomy–and, one month later, they also felt happier.
More strikingly–according to surveys of behaviors people saw and performed during the month–receivers seemed to be performing more kind acts toward others. They were paying kindness forward.
Kindness With The Five-Minute Favor
On an interpersonal level, kindness can be delivered in many forms. One strategy is the “five minute favor.” Impacting both giver and receiver with positivity, five-minute favors are selfless giving acts you do for someone without asking for anything in return from the person whom you help. Examples of five-minute favors include sharing knowledge; making an introduction; serving as a reference for a person, product, or service; or recommending someone on LinkedIn.
Bringing this idea home, Wharton professor Adam Grant, who introduced the five-minute favor in his bestselling book Give and Take, said in a recent Facebook status update: “Giving is about more than donating money. It’s about sharing your capabilities, content, and connections–and above all, giving others the chance to be heard, respected, and valued.”
Self-Kindness With Gratitude
Now that you’ve expressed kindness organizationally and through interpersonal means, don’t neglect nurturing yourself with self-kindness. One way is by expressing more gratitude in your life, as more and more research reveals its benefits. But according to a national survey on gratitude commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation, Americans are notoriously bad at expressing it!
Shawn Achor has a solution with a simple two-minute exercise anyone can do in the morning, every day. Here’s how it works: Write in detail about one positive experience you’ve had during the past 24 hours. Make sure to bullet point each detail you can remember.
According to Achor, this allows your brain to relive the experience, which teaches your brain that the positive behavior matters. It works, he says, since the brain can’t tell the difference between visualization and actual experience. In essence, you’ve just doubled the most meaningful experience in your brain.
If you do this ritual every morning for 21 days, your brain reprograms with this trajectory of meaning running throughout your life. In fact, research found that patients suffering from chronic pain or disease who did this for six weeks in a row had dropped their pain medication by 50 percent six months later.
Originally published at www.inc.com