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Unlocking the Power of Happiness, Gratitude and Optimism: Insights from "The Happiness Advantage"

Submitted by jreid on

Part two of a two-part blog series.

In my previous blog, I spoke about the game Tetris and the effect named after it, the Tetris Effect – the idea that our brains can become patterned by our experiences, shaping the way we perceive the world around us. Just as avid Tetris players see shapes everywhere, our minds can get stuck in negative patterns, impacting our happiness and performance. In this follow-up blog, inspired by Shawn Achor's book, The Happiness Advantage, I’ll explore three essential tools that can help students, teachers and parents alike shift focus from the negative to the positive. They are happiness, gratitude and optimism.

I know – this doesn’t seem like rocket science. Happiness, gratitude, optimism – isn’t this just what we do naturally? But according to Achor, it’s more than just wanting to be happy, knowing how to be grateful and looking to the future optimistically. It’s about committing to daily practices within each that will physically rewire the brain to look for the positives and change how we see the world around us.

Happiness: The Foundation of Resilience 
Achor's research around happiness underscores the importance of it as a precursor to success, challenging the traditional belief that success leads to happiness. Instead, cultivating happiness can reshape our mindset, enhancing our resilience and ability to navigate challenges. By incorporating daily practices like mindfulness, exercise and acts of kindness, we can rewire our brains to prioritize positivity, fostering a more resilient outlook on life.

Gratitude: Shifting Perspectives 
Gratitude serves as a powerful antidote to negativity, allowing us to reframe challenges as opportunities for growth. By actively acknowledging and appreciating the blessings in our lives, we can cultivate a sense of abundance and contentment. Whether through daily gratitude practices or expressions of thanks to others, embracing gratitude can profoundly enrich our wellbeing and relationships.

Optimism: Embracing Possibility 
Optimism empowers us to see setbacks as temporary and specific, rather than permanent and pervasive. By adopting an optimistic outlook, we can cultivate resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Setting realistic yet aspirational goals and surrounding ourselves with positive influences can help fuel our journey towards success and fulfillment.

So, what more can we do on a daily basis:

  • Start and/or end each day with some form of gratitude. Notice good things, look for them, appreciate them. Write about them, talk about them or thank someone.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, whether it's spending time with loved ones or pursuing a hobby. Put them into your schedule – it can be as simple as stepping out of your office to find a patch of sunshine, or taking a quick walk around the yard to look for and listen to nature. A quick, 5 minute moment of joy can have lasting effects.
  • Practice self-compassion and forgiveness, embracing imperfection as part of the human experience. Treat yourself as you would a friend. When you catch yourself thinking a negative thought like, “I’m so horrible for getting that upset,” try turning it around and “releasing” yourself from the feeling. Instead, try, “It’s okay that I felt upset.”
  • Shift your focus from what you lack to what you have, fostering a mindset of abundance and appreciation.
  • Challenge negative self-talk and replace it with more optimistic narratives. When you feel you’ve embarrassed yourself or failed, say to yourself, “I’m proud of myself for even trying. That took courage.”
  • Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) that inspire and motivate you to pursue your dreams.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people who uplift and encourage you to reach your full potential. Actor Morgan Freeman is quoted as saying, “Don’t take criticism from people you would never go to for advice.”

As we navigate the daily complexities of life from home, school or work, I hope that the tools provided by The Happiness Advantage offer some valuable guidance on how to cultivate a positive mindset. Life is busy, but by prioritizing happiness, gratitude and optimism, we can break free from the grip of the Negative Tetris Effect and embrace a more fulfilling and resilient way of living. Now go find yourself a happy moment!