Wednesday, November 22, 2017

It's Thanksgiving: How to Live a Happy Life





Happiness has been written about extensively. Scientists have studied the elusive feeling to find out what makes us happy and what doesn’t. The New York Times has just released their latest happiness guide, which is divided into five sections: Mind, Home, Relationships, Work & Money and Happy Life. There’s some interesting points in there.

Focusing on the mind – as happiness comes from within – The New York Times suggests we should learn to tame negative thoughts and approach every day with optimism. I agree. I’m a radical optimist. It’s all about perspective. Change it and shift focus from the negative to the positive. And surround yourself with other optimists. It’s infectious! Another basic but effective one: breathe deep. Try it.

According to the happiness guide, where you live – the country, the town, the neighbourhood and also your home – all have an effect on your happiness. There are new happiness rankings for countries every year – traditionally it’s those with strong economies and high quality of life. It makes sense. But what makes a community happy? A study conducted by the Knight Foundation and Gallup has found that happiness in communities comes from openness (a welcoming community), beauty (a scenic or charming community with green space) and social opportunities (community designed to foster connection). What’s interesting about this is that your neighborhood has the potential to increase or decrease your happiness drastically. (Which is why I live on the Edge on Auckland, in England's most beautiful village Grasmere, on a farm in rural New Jersey, and in Carefree (the name says it all) Arizona (pictured).

The third area of our lives that impacts on happiness greatly is relationships. A study around happiness and social connections has found that people’s happiness depends on the happiness of others around them. Simply said someone’s happiness has the potential to influence and be influenced. Every happy friend increased your chance of happiness by about 9%! The importance of relationships in the pursuit of happiness doesn’t surprise me. Humans are social creatures. We crave community and connection. Interestingly pets can influence your happiness just as much as friends or family. Some survey respondents even said they received just as much support from pets as they did from family. (My daughter Nikki and her family of five chihuahuas subscribe to this view).

We all know the adage that money doesn’t buy happiness. While it’s true that money doesn’t necessarily make you happier, meaningful work and a little extra time will. It’s not only about finding work that is meaningful to you, but also about finding meaning in your day-to-day work. The happiness guide references a column by Georgetown associate professor Christine Porath and Tony Schwartz, chief executive of consulting firm The Energy Project, in which they state the characteristics of jobs that make us happiest: renewal, value, focus and purpose. It’s pretty straight-forward. Taking breaks at work is important. I’ve long said that. It helps to focus. Value is another no-brainer. Employees who say they have supportive supervisors are 67% more engaged than others. Purpose comes down to deriving meaning and significance from work. Simply put finding meaning in your work will make you happier. And there are three buckets to fill every day...if you give and receive Responsibility, Learning, and Recognition every day, in equal parts, you will find Joy.

Lastly the wellbeing guide references the influence of a ‘Happy Life’ on our happiness. It’s all about kindness. Being kind to others and also being kind to yourself. To me it’s also about making happy choices. In personal life and in business.  And by being generous, in outlook and action.

Read the full NYT guide to happiness here.

KR