Lately, I’ve been reading “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor, and I have to admit – it’s an interesting take on using positive psychology in one’s life to better yourself.
Positive psychology is one of those topics that I could spend hours listening, reading, or talking about. Just thinking about it actually makes me happier. I find it absolutely fascinating that our universal experience of life can be changed for the better by practicing little actions here and there.
Admittedly, I haven’t read the book all the way through yet (I just started it last night), but I have come across an interesting tidbit of practice to make my life better already.
Without totally ripping off Achor’s fantastic work, I wanted to focus on the subject of raising one’s happiness baseline. He lists a few things that can instantaneously boost your baseline for the better and leave you not only happier, but also performing better in whatever tasks you’re undertaking (whether it be filling out your tax forms, or participating in a triathlon). It’s been statistically shown that happier people perform better at all tasks. In no particular order these instant happy boosters are:
1) Meditating (if you don’t know, now ya know)
2) Finding something to look forward towards (vacation etc)
3) Committing conscious acts of kindness throughout the day
4) Infusing positivity to your surroundings (think nature, music, friends)
5) Exercising (yep, them endorphins make ya feel real good)
6) Spending Money (not on stuff, but on experiences and memories)
and last but not least…
7) Exercising your signature strengths throughout the day (I’ll explain in a second)
If you find yourself in a funk, or are feeling a little blue, one of these options is bound to help you be a little bit happier. Even more cool, studies suggest that if you practice these boosters on a regular basis, your overall happiness baseline will increase for the long term (you can teach a new dog old tricks after all…err maybe it’s the other way around…something about neuroplasticity and all that jazz)
Most of these little boosters were not particularly novel to me, and thats not surprising as I am a bit of a positive psychology nut, but the last one was unknown to me.
Exercising a signature strength throughout the day? What are signature strengths? I had to know. And thanks to Google, I found that there is a survey you can take at www.viasurvey.org to find your signature strengths. It’s 120 questions and takes a total of five minutes from start to finish.
Lucky for me I had five minutes yesterday, so I took the survey and the following are my strengths rated 1-25.
- Appreciation of Beauty
- Love of learning
- Social Intelligence
Obviously, this test is highly subjective and probably has a great deal of personal bias…but whatever, it’s fun – plus there’s not really much quantitative work going on in psychology anyways (I say this as a biochemist).
It’s truly a test of not only your strengths, but self-awareness as well. I realize I don’t have much self-control (dieting…please) and I also realize I’m not the funniest of cats as well…and perseverance is sometimes a problem in my life as well (let’s forget about the 5 years I spent working towards my doctorate, did I mention humility is sometimes a problem for me as well?). One might say this test suggests areas of life to develop as well.
But back to the lecture at hand, according the Achor’s hypothesis if one practices their top five signature strengths consciously on a daily basis it raises overall happiness levels. So according to these findings…if I forgive people, continue practicing honesty, use good judgement, provide perspective and wise counsel to others, and appreciate beauty more often; I’m likely to be happier.
This is a hypothesis I can really dig, and test as well…one happiness boost at a time.
If you’re curious to what your signature strengths are, and how they might help you live a happier life, I encourage you to take a little time and fill out the survey. Oh, and grab “The Happiness Advantage” as well…it’s a good one. There you go…I just provided my daily bit of wise counsel and perspective, I’m happier already.
Much love to you all!