Did you know appiness is 90% up to you? You can do it!
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It’s that time of year in the USA: We’re saying “Happy Holidays!” and “Happy Christmas!” to each other. And for many people the holiday season is a joyous time. For others, going home for the holidays is like revisiting the scene of their childhood misery complete with the original cast. No matter which camp you’re in, you can make use of recent research on happiness. The upshot is this:
Happiness is an inside job.
According to the research of psychologist Shawn Achor, Long-term happiness is 10% due to the external world and 90% due to the way our brain processes that world. 90%! In last year’s TED talk, he made this point: It’s not your reality that shapes you, but the lens your brain sees the world through.
If you’ve ever read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, you’ve already encountered this idea. In that book, Milo, an eternally dissatisfied young boy, receives a phantom tollbooth in the mail. He sets it up, pays his toll and sets off with his dog Tock on an adventure. Soon, he and Tock find themselves stuck on an island. Milo asks a man for directions and is told:
“Why this is the island of conclusions. You can’t drive back. You got here by jumping. You have to think your way back. “
You’re going to have to think your way to happiness too.
It’s all the more important when that 10% gets a little crazy.
As this is my last newsletter of 2012, I wanted to point to three skills we’ve already covered that can help you true the lens your brain is using to view the world and have a happier holiday:
Review this to remind yourself that listening is an act of generosity and love. You listen not to show off, but to give the speaker the best conversation they’ve had all day. This holiday season, give the gift of your curiosity.
Silence is the simplest way to give someone the space to talk. Simple silence lets others gather and organize their thoughts. It’s the way you give the gift of your attention. In this ADHD world, at this hyper-busy time, dare to be silent.
It’s going to happen. Someone is going to get on your last nerve over Christmas dinner. It may be Uncle Wally who baits you about politics or your Cousin Jeffrey who keeps dropping names and flashing his Rolex in your face as he reaches for more green beans. And don’t forget Aunt Betty, who will look at you with love, yes, and deep, deep pity as she tells you that, someday, there will be someone for you too. You just have to keep your spirits up and stay in the game.
Stop gritting your teeth and say “I see it differently” as you let an angelic smile break over your face. Then gaze at her with utter affection until she breaks eye contact. Help yourself to another slice of pumpkin pie – you’ve earned it.
You may have noticed that I’ve recommended listening twice and speaking once.
Look in the mirror and answer me this: How many mouths do you have? How many ears? You see? You are your own visual aid for effective communication! And you are our best bet for Peace on Earth. Have a Happy Holiday.
I’m taking the next two weeks off. I’ll be back publishing my weekly newsletter on Friday January 11th. See you then!