Want To Be Happier? Could It Be This Simple?

by drstephen

We all want to be happier.  Even the happiest among us want to be happier still.

Know this:  Harvard University is deeply engaged in the study of happy people.  They have teased-out the common traits and behaviors of the happiest people they could find.  Here are some of the high points:

1.  Use your strengths. It turns out that when we get to do things that come easier to us, we are happier. Humans like to be good at things. Remember that the next time that you apply for a job, encourage your child or ask your spouse to help you do something.

2. Savor the moment.  Apparently we needed research to tell us to stop and smell the roses. (Or at least I did.) As the world speeds-by, it seems that those who stop to appreciate how freakin’ fortunate we all are experience greater happiness. I’ll have to schedule that.

3. Engagement. Once again, the evidence frowns on multi-tasking. It seems that trying to focus on more than one thing at a time not only interferes with accuracy, quality, creativity, production and safety; it turns out that it robs us of our happiness as well.

Do this: Embrace the fact that it is not only what we do that matters, but how we do it.  Accept that your mind is a magnificent single-processor that blooms in the light of purposeful work; do something that allows you to express your natural virtues and engage in the splendor of the here and now.

Happily,

Dr. Stephen Franson

Yesterday’s Weather

by drstephen

Recently I was helping my wife, Camilla, prepare a workshop entitled “Starting Well: Shape Your Children Today For Healthier Tomorrows.”  She asked me what I thought was the most important take-away message for the attendees.

I said “Yesterday’s Weather.”

Yesterday’s Weather is an expression that I learned from a behavioral expert who specializes in the field of software engineering. Social psychologists widely accept the position that the best predictor of tomorrow’s behavior is yesterday’s behavior.

As a New Englander, preparing for the brunt of yet another winter weather system, I can relate to the weather analogy. It turns out that despite all of the technology and gadgetry, meteorologists still consider better than 50% accuracy the Holy Grail - whereas if they simply said that tomorrow’s weather will be like yesterday’s, they’d be 72% accurate.

The most profound message for parents who are eager to give their children the best chance at better health and life outcomes is simply this: you create culture.

The culture of your home will shape your child’s choices…forever. Pick your battles.  Know the strategies that predict greater health, and insist on them. Be consistent and congruent.

Live these strategies out loud in front of your children. Embrace the most influential position that you will ever know: Role Model.

As I said once to a parent of five: you cannot possibly watch all of those kids all of the time. But they are always watching you.

Now go and create the future,

Dr. Stephen Franson

Choose Better Tomorrows Today

by drstephen

Quality of Life Trajectory

Quality of Life Trajectory

This graphic is highly flexible and could represent an infinite number of factors that are associated with QOL (Quality of Life): physical health, emotional well-being, financial security, happiness, and fulfillment…for the sake of this discussion, let’s keep it broad and general: Overall Quality of Life.

Not many people believe that the black line accurately represents the future quality of their life over time. This line’s trajectory would suggest that they would look, feel, and function at the same level throughout their later years as they do today – and then eventually expire.

The orange line represents the most common assumptions around QOL. This line implies a slow, steady decline over the decades, ending in a considerably poor state before your eventual demise.

In my clinical experience, I’ve met many who believe that the red line more accurately represents their expectations. Not very inspiring.

They believe that they are on a path that has been set – either by some genetic luck-of-the-draw or a penance for sins of the past. They also believe that they are doomed to a life that will be shorter and sicker than they wish; and there’s nothing that they can do about it.

The experts disagree.

As sited by Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage, it turns out that researchers have come to one hugely compelling conclusion: we should all be more optimistic.

Optimism by definition means that we recognize that our choices influence and predict our outcomes.

Want to experience the blue line? Make better choices.

Our behaviors will drive our experiences and shape our outcomes. Studies show that there is a consistent set of beliefs and behaviors that are common among these outliers. These behaviors are observable, definable, and – most importantly – reproducible.

If you want to be successful, do what successful people do.

Ultimately, this can lead to one very exciting conclusion: if I wish to be extraordinary, I should do what extraordinary people do.

The green line is illusive. It is hard to find, hard to walk, and harder still to stay on. But it’s there, waiting for you to enjoy.

Optimistically,

Dr. Stephen Franson