Five habits for creating long-term happiness

Harvard-trained social researcher Shawn Achor concluded his presentation, after telling why happiness is important and sharing what happiness looks like, by telling the group the actions that we can take to create long-term happiness.

He did warn; all the knowledge in the world does not necessarily mean that we will be in action. (We all know to stay healthy we need to be active and eat well – knowing this does not mean that we actually do it.)

To create a habit – the action should be done for at least 21 days and then you may have cracked the code by reprogramming the neuro pathways in your brain.

A big trick to creating new habits is to make it easy. He called it the 20 second rule; make it really easy to do the new habit and it is far more likely to happen. He used the example of leaving your gym clothes right by the bed – or sleeping in them, so that in the morning it is really easy to get out and do the exercise.

Shawn suggested the following five habits that he has gleaned from his years of research.

1. Three acts of gratitude a day (Emmons & McCullogh, 2003). I have a lovely little iPhone app called Gratitude Journal which makes it easy to contemplate what was great about the day.

2. The Doubler (Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006). When you have a great experience –share it. Tell someone else. You get just as much pleasure when you tell the story again – effectively doubling the impact.

3. The Fun Fifteen (Babyak et al. 2000) – set aside 15 minutes in a day for a good laugh. For me, I watch something funny on YouTube.

4. Meditation (Shapiro & Schwartz, 2005) as per my post of last week. Having a moment to listen to your breathing, centre yourself and visualise – even if it is only one minute a day – but every day, then build it up to two, then three.

5. Conscious Acts of Kindness – kindness includes many things – gifts, volunteering, a smile – and of course an authentic thank you.

I had a moment to chat with Shawn about the ‘Five Thanks a Day’ project. He said anything that helps make these things a habit is a great idea. Whilst a ‘thank-you’ is just a small part of the science of happiness, it is simple, does not take long and really helps us connect to other people.

If you are interested in more about the ‘Five Thanks a Day‘ project – join us in the Linkedin Group – and share what you have learned about these.

Naomi Simson is considered to be one of Australia’s Best Bosses. An employee engagement advocate, she practises what she preaches in her own fast growth business. RedBalloon was named as one of only 13 BRW Best Employers in Australia in 2012 for four years in a row with an engagement scorecard of over 90% in each of those years – the average in Australian businesses is 54%.

One of Australia’s outstanding entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker, a blogger and a published author, most recently publishing Five Thanks a Day. She has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.


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