A friend shared a TEDx talk at work the other day about success and happiness. The talk, The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor, flipped the idea that you’ll find happiness when you find success at work. The more likely scenario is that you’ll find success at work when you find happiness.
One of my pandemic pastimes has been to learn more about the science of happiness. I’m a sucker for psychology and cognitive science, and I love that there are people who study what makes us happy. Not what we think will make us happy, but what actually does make us happy.
What Achor talks about in his talk is something that comes up again and again in the podcasts I listen to and the science of well-being course I took. Our brains trick us into thinking we’ll be happy once we have this or that external thing or circumstance in our lives. What really happens is that we might get a temporary boost in happiness from that thing, but then we get used to the success, the relationship, the shiny thing, and we go back to whatever our baseline of happiness was before.
The more realistic path to lasting happiness is to incorporate behaviors in your daily life that are known to have a lasting impact on your sense of well-being. The course I took highlights seven well-being practices, but seven is a lot to remember, and they backfire because I feel bad about myself if I don’t do all seven every day. Achor focused on five, which is an easier number of things to hold in my mind and build daily habits around:
- Consider 3 things your grateful for
- Journal one good thing that happened
- Perform random acts of kindness
I like this list because it’s achievable. The item that jumped out at me, though, was the one about journaling. I journal regularly, but I was getting pretty bored with my brain dumps that often didn’t even touch on the events of the day. Journaling about good things that happen each day gives me focus when I sit down with my pen and paper, encourages me to be attentive to things that bring me joy or pleasure or contentment in my daily life — writing about them requires me to remember and pay attention to them — and helps me appreciate what I already have. Appreciation and gratitude are two of my favorite feelings, and this journaling practice helps me spend more time feeling them.