Science of Growing Up

The Science Behind Being Happy According to Shawn Achor

Jenny Many Editorial Team

In a world where 300 million people all over the world suffer from depression, everyone is in the pursuit of happiness. It is an incredible state of mind that makes you feel on top of the world. However, when you start walking the journey to becoming happy, you realize that there are countless ways you can reach your destination.

You don’t know which techniques to apply in your life and everything looks like it will work wonders. Every guru you look up has a different set of formulas he/she follows to reach the ultimate goal of happiness. 

However, if you want to follow techniques which follow well-defined research, then you should take a look at Shawn Achor. He is one of the leading experts in the world when it comes to studying the connection which exists between success and happiness. He spent 12 years at Harvard University and has written seven books on this topic. 

The amount of research he did in happiness got home to Harvard Business Review’s cover, which only a handful of people can boast about in this world.

His TED talk “The happy secret to better work” has millions of views, a testament of his popularity and success. He worked with several influential people all over the world, sharing his immense wisdom on the ultimate quest to happiness. 

He even assisted the U.S Department of Health to improve the levels of happiness among the public. The advice he provides in his lectures and books is indispensable and offers the key to reaching one of the best states of mind.

Due to the fact that he researched happiness for several years, it is essential to dive into his findings to learn more about the wise teachings of this incredible human being. 

Why Are People Not Happy in Life?

According to Shawn Achor, most of the people in the world follow a similar pattern. The formula is that you need to work hard to become successful, after which you will feel happy with yourself. However, the biggest problem is that this technique is broken. 

Let’s take an example to gain a deeper understanding of why this is an issue. For example, your goal is to get a raise, which will make you feel happy with this achievement. However, when you reach your target, it changes the definition of success. If you wish to be happy in the future, you need to get a bigger raise along with a promotion. 

When you take a look at your target, you start to observe that you need to do a lot more, in the pursuit of happiness. Researchers were able to prove that happiness plays a huge role in success, not the other way around. In other words, the joy you feel inside you is not because you achieved your goals. 

Happiness and success go hand-in-hand as per the latest findings in neuroscience and positive psychology.

The Happiness Advantage

While traveling around the world, he discovered that the majority of people follow the now-defunct formula. People make a list of things they need to achieve in their lives to feel the emotion of happiness. However, as they start to tick off everything they complete, the number of things they have to do continues to rise.

Shawn Achor believes that the world is using the formula wrong and that you need to use it in reverse. When you are happy with your life, you will be successful. The results turn out to be better when there is greater amounts of happiness within you.

All of this is possible by flipping the formula around and applying it to your life. You feel motivated and smarter and your performance is off-the-charts. As a result, you will become more successful.

He believes this is known as the Happiness Advantage, which is beneficial for the brain. In his TED talk, he makes a powerful statement regarding the state of mind. When you are happy, your brain will perform at its best. However, when you remain neutral or negative, the performance takes a hit.

How a Change in Perspective Can Turn Your Life Around

The happiness scientist understands that the way you look at the world and everything that is going around you determines your reality. You always have the opportunity to make a difference in your life, as long as you are willing to put in conscious effort.

For instance, your brain is able to process specific amounts of data, despite receiving tons of information from your nerves. What your brain focuses on in these moments determines how you look at the situation in front of you. 

As a result, you have the power to choose your perspective amongst several realities available at any given moment. For example, you needed to complete a specific task, but you were unable to do so. If you focus on the failure, it won’t be beneficial to you in the long run. However, when you look at it as one which opens more doors for you, then there is a significant shift in perspective. In this situation, you will observe considerable positive change, which is incredible for your life.

How Can You Be Happy in a Negative World?

Shawn Achor has an interesting perspective which will help you deal with all the negativity you see everywhere you look. It is easy to remain happy when everything is going good, but it becomes challenging to feel this emotion when things become demanding. 

When you read the newspaper or a popular site, most of the time you will come across negative articles. As everything you see isn’t good, you will only pay attention to these opinions. For example, you start to think about why you should follow a budget when you are unable to save money.

The problem with this type of perspective is that it makes it a whole lot harder to introduce positive changes to your life. When you have this type of negative reinforcement, you need to fight it so that you can think differently. 

The best solution in this situation is to think about three instances where you were able to save money. As you start to focus on what is positive in your environment, the way you look at everything changes significantly.

You need to think of happiness from a broader perspective to understand its true meaning. It doesn’t mean that you continue to believe that everything is going great even though it is far from your reality. Happiness is the belief you have inside that you can bring about positive change in your life. 

Exercises to Become Positive and Happy

Shawn Achor came up with a handful of techniques which will take you on the path of happiness. They are so easy that you don’t need to go out of your way to make positive changes in your life. Something even as little as spending two minutes on yourself will go a long way in improving your quality of life. 

Over time, you will start to think differently, which will change the way you look and reach to the external environment. Below, you will find five exercises suggested by Shawn Achor, which you need to do regularly, to become positive and happy for the rest of your life.

1. Be Grateful for 3 Things

The first exercise is to practice the art of gratitude, which will have a huge impact on your perspective. Although it doesn’t look like it is doing much, you will only notice any changes in the long run. For two minutes every day, you should make a list of three things which make you feel grateful.

It can be something as simple as waking up early in the morning, hearing the birds, taking a walk in the park, or seeing two dogs interact. You should make it a point to practice the art of gratitude for at least 21 days before the changes start to affect your life. Having an optimistic outlook on life is great for your mental and physical health.

2. Express Your Feelings to Others

Remember the time when you wanted to tell your best friend how grateful you are for having him/her in your life? You should make to let people know about your emotions so that it becomes easier to understand your inner self.

Every day, sit down and write out a letter or an email thanking the individual for all the things he/she did for you. Try to make it as sincere as possible so that the person knows you mean every single word. 

Make sure you talk about a different individual every day so that you get the opportunity to mingle with other people. The advantage is that you will start to form deeper connections with new individuals, which will help you remain happy for longer periods. 

3. Remain Active

Leading a sedentary lifestyle does more harm than good for your body. The best solution is to adopt an active lifestyle that helps you remain fit and healthy. You should make it a point to exercise every day, which comes with a lot of benefits. 

If you don’t like going to the gym, there are several workouts which you can do within the comforts of your room. On top of that, you don’t have to push your body to the limits to observe the changes. Going for a walk for as little as 15 minutes is beneficial for your health and well-being. You must make it a point to indulge in this activity every day so that it becomes a habit.

4. Take Time to Breathe

Every single day, you should take time off what you are doing at the moment so that you can relax and eliminate stress from your mind. For example, if you are editing an excel sheet at the moment, you should stop this activity immediately. Go out of your office space/home and take a look at everything that is going on around you at this moment. 

Take slow and long breaths, which is great for your memory in the long run. When you feel stressed out or anxious, you must use this technique. Your brain will be able to focus on important aspects of your life every time. As a result, it will improve the level of happiness, which will bring down how much stress you feel every day.

5. Write Down a Positive Experience

One of the most important exercises of Shawn Achor is that you must write down every positive experience that takes place during the day. Making a mental note isn’t the same, and there is a high chance you won’t remember it at the end of the day. 

Every time you come across a positive experience, you should record it in a book. If you don’t have access to this type of material, you have the option of using your smartphone to keep a track of it. When you start to write down your happy memories, there will be a significant change in your mood. The reason is that your brain relives that moment, which makes you feel better automatically.

Along with these powerful yet simple exercises, you need to make sure you follow a schedule which is beneficial for your health. For example, you should eat wholesome food full of nutrients every day. You must go to bed and get up early so that you have more time on your hands to focus on important matters. Adequate sleep is also important, especially when it comes to improving happiness and productivity levels.

Also, you should go out of your way to help other people around you. When you notice that everyone around you is happy with his/her life, you will start to feel the same. Before you know it, you will be a happy person from the bottom of your heart. As Shawn Achor says, the key is to look at everything from a different perspective, which gives you the ability to make positive changes in your life!


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