By Caitlyn McKey
One of the many aspects of living life as a human is trying to find happiness. Most of us have been advertised a promise that someone has discovered the key to happiness. Unfortunately, what we are sold is temporary and leaves us still starving for happiness. Shawn Achor, a Harvard graduate in the field of positive psychology and author of The Happiness Advantage, is trying to change the way we quantify, define and experience happiness.
Achor’s studies have discovered how humans are intrinsically wired to connect and feed off of each other’s behaviors or “vibes.” To prove this, he provides an example where he explains that two people should sit directly across from one another looking intently into one another’s eyes. One of the participants should focus on being non-reactive, while the other simply smiles. In displays of this brief experiment, the person who is supposed to remain non-reactive eventually begins to smile. Thus, providing evidence that what or who we surround ourselves with will innately become the energy or “vibe” we carry with us. Achor explains that this happens because humans, through evolution, have come to work off an invisible network where we are influenced by our surroundings. This invisible network is also linked to our survival instinct, helping us navigate the world around us. So, what does all of this mean?
Achor has crafted his research into a list of seven principles that we can follow in order to attain and experience true happiness. The first principle discusses meditation, or what I like to think of as brain breaks. These brain breaks allow for moments of contemplation, reflection and gratitude. Achor also lists buying an experience over an object, random acts of kindness, finding something to look forward to and exercising a signature strength as a means of gaining true happiness. In the second principle, Achor discusses how shifting perspective to a more positive or optimistic outlook can drastically alter your experience into a happier one. The third principle teaches us how to notice and identify patterns in our own behavior and how we can alter them to take advantage of every opportunity we face. The fourth principle discusses the idea of “falling up” rather than failing. Achor explains that we can turn a failed experience into a positive one when we have a take-away from the overall experience. Changing the failure into a lesson learned alters the experience into a positive one because we focus on what we’ve gained (the lesson) rather than the negatives or where we failed. In the fifth principle, Achor discusses what he calls the “Zorro Circle.” This principle explains that in situations where we begin to lose our balance, there is a need to refocus on smaller steps in order to get back on track to the bigger goal. In a sense, this principle tells us to practice mindfulness by pulling our attention to what is present and what needs our attention in the now. The sixth principle titled “the 20-second rule,” teaches us how to replace bad habits with good ones by taking 20 seconds to pause and reflect on the action we are taking. Finally, the last principle focuses on social investment. Achor explains that by investing in our friends, family and community we find a key to excellence. By supporting our own socia l support system, we gain ten-fold and build an infallible network that will invest in us equally. This practice also continues the wave of happiness; your happiness becomes contagious. Having this impenetrable force proves essential in our overall success.
Achor provides evidence that we can change the neuro paths of our brain to not only seek out positivity, but to live as bright beacons of happiness and optimism for ourselves and the world around us.