Over the past decade, an entire genre of books, documentaries, and movies have sprouted up on the subject of happiness. Additionally, a massive amount of research has been conducted to provide solid evidence that happiness and good health go hand-in-hand together. Scientific studies are continually finding that happiness can boost your immune system, lower heart rate and blood pressure, help combat stress, and increase longevity.
Have you ever known someone who is constantly grumpy and also happens to get sick a lot? It is an unlikely coincidence since research indicates there is a positive relationship between happiness and a strong immune system. Happy people are simply healthier and less susceptible to sickness. They’re also more resilient to the effects of stress and suffer fewer aches and pains. The ultimate health indicator is life expectancy―not simply in terms of length, but quality of living. In the end, happiness adds more life to your years, as well as more years to your life.
It is easy to think of happiness as a destination, but it is actually a way of living. Here are some scientifically proven ways to increase your happiness:
In The Tassajara Bread Book, Zen teacher Edward Espe Brown described a great truth that he learned from his kitchen practice. When Edward first started cooking, he couldn’t get biscuits to come out the way they were supposed to. He would follow a recipe and try variations, but nothing worked. His biscuits just didn’t measure up to the Bisquick and Pillsbury biscuits he made while growing up.
It didn’t seem fair. Those biscuits of his youth were so easy to make. For the Bisquick, all you had to do was add milk in the mix and blob the dough in spoonfuls onto the pan - they didn’t even need to be rolled out. The biscuits from Pillsbury came in a cardboard can. You just popped them open, put the pre-made biscuits on a pan, and baked them. They came out right every time. Now that’s what biscuits were supposed to be like – Bisquick and Pillsbury.
Edward grew frustrated because, to his way of thinking, his biscuits never turned out right, even though the people who ate them would extol their virtues, eating one after another. In his mind, these perfectly good biscuits just weren’t right, until one day Edward had an awakening, a real “ah-hah” experience, about his biscuits. “Not right, compared to what?” he asked himself. All this time he had been trying to make canned biscuits. Then came the revelation of tasting his biscuits without comparing them to some preconceived standard. They were wheaty, flaky, buttery, light, and earthy. They were exquisitely alive - in fact, they were much more satisfying than any memory of canned biscuits.
A moment of liberation comes when you realize that your life is fine just as it is. Only the insidious comparison to a neatly scripted, beautifully packaged product, made it seem insignificant or insufficient. You may have spent years striving to look “perfect,” always calm, directed, energetic, and collected. Trying to produce a Bisquick life – with no dirty bowls, no messy feelings, or hindrances, can be a frustrating experience. Effective leaders possess the wisdom to appreciate and celebrate individuality.
Are you a Bisquick leader? Always trying to fit yourself and others into a neatly packaged plan. Or are you willing to allow people to cook their own biscuits from scratch? Standards are fine. We need them to ensure continuity and quality of performance. But individuals also need a sense of independence without constantly being compared to or expected to perform exactly as others. Rigid standards lead to frustration and loss of creativity. Give yourself and others permission to be unique.
Are you currently in a new leadership position? Expect it to take somewhere between 60 and 90 days to acclimate to your new environment. Be willing to listen and observe without making immediate judgments. Become familiar with day-to-day operations to gain an understanding of the tasks people perform. Identify and make alliances with the key players, the informal leaders who contribute the most to the success of the organization. Find out what your constituents (both internal and external) think. What’s working? What’s not? Include key people in the planning stages of any organizational changes you want to implement. First, get buy-in, then engage the informal leaders as allies to influence others. Don’t try and change too many things too quickly. For major changes, draft a phased plan with plateaus built in to allow people time to rest and catch their breath before making the climb to the next level.
Life doesn’t get easier, we get stronger!
In our recent blogs, Quantum Thinking and Attitude is Everything, we wanted to convey the point of greater sustainability as a leader, as a person that strives for more in life. What is it that makes some people remain calm when faced with tough times, while others fall apart mentally or emotionally? Psychologists call it resilience―the ability to cope with stress in a positive way. Resilient people are able to draw from an inner well of strength and skills to respond to life’s challenges, regardless of what they are, instead of falling into despair. It doesn’t mean they experience less grief or distress than other people. The resilient simply face life’s problems head-on in a way that fosters greater growth, coming out on the other end entirely different than they were before, and often grateful for the experience.
Dealing with suffering and loss is an inevitable part of life that everyone faces at one time or another. Whether it is minor or a catastrophic event, how you respond to an event plays a significant role in the outcome, as well as the long-term psychological effects. Even in the face of challenges that seem utterly unimaginable, choosing to be resilient will strengthen you to not only survive but emerge even stronger than you were before.
The first rule for building resilience is to remain flexible and optimistic regarding the future. People who are resilient develop the habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, isolated, and changeable events. In the face of crisis, developing a strong sense of purpose will also play a huge role in your ability to recover and thrive. Add to that the power of confidence you can overcome challenges―develop an “I can do!” attitude.
In building greater resilience, remember to take care of yourself―get adequate amounts of sleep, eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, and engage in mindful meditation to calm both your mind and body during stressful periods. Last but not least, connect with at least one other person with whom you can share your feelings, receive support and positive feedback, and discuss possible solutions to problems.
Receive Encouraging Words Each Week Receive Encouraging Words Each Week