Imagine yourself getting a new job, enrolling at the university of your dream or buying the car you’ve always wanted. Does it make you happy? Yep. How long?
Just until you start thinking about the next leap.
Illogical as it may seem, happiness does not last long because we are used to concentrating on the negative. Or rather, we’re pushed to doing so, says psychologist Shawn Achor.
Turn on the TV – most of the information there is about murder, terrorism, corruption, epidemics or hurricanes. Scroll through your newsfeed – mostly the same, just on a smaller screen.
Many companies and schools stick to “work harder, then you’ll be happier” formula
According to Achor, when bombarded with bad-bad-bad, our brain starts believing that’s the accurate ratio of good to bad in the world. That’s how the reality shapes us.
Whilst one can distance themselves from that reality in some aspects, one can not escape it at work or study, for example. Fact is, many companies and schools in the USA and other countries follow the “work harder, then you’ll be more successful, then you’ll be happier” formula.
If happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there
It means that, once you reach the goal – a good mark or a good job – the stake goes up, and you start wanting better and better.
“And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. That’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier,” Shawn Achor says.
We believe we should work hard to be happy. It can be different, though. And has to.
Shawn suggests reversing the formula to adjust it to the way our brain works naturally. Human brain performs significantly better at positive than at negative, neutral or stressed because the happiness chemical dopamine also activates the learning centres of the brain. When we’re happy, we’re more intelligent, creative and energetic.
So how to we reverse this deeply rooted “harder-happier” attitude? The psychologist offers a simple mental exercise.
“In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain,” says Achor.
Step 1: Write down several positive things that happened with you today
Step 2: Reflect on them and why you feel grateful about them
Step 3: Continue for three weeks
It works similar to training your muscles in a gym. You train your brain into scanning for positive action – and after a while it will develop into an automatic habit of scanning the reality for the good.
Then, after you start thinking good, you’ll also start doing good. And ultimately, work better.
“Finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness,” Shawn Achor concludes.
Shawn is good not only at giving advice, but also at doing it with humor. Watch his full speech at TED:
Main image: chibird.com