4 Ways To Increase Happiness By 50%

A recent USA Today story researched the happiest states in the union based on a study from mathematicians at the University of Vermont. 

They used Twitter real time posts to gauge how people were feeling looking for words like “wine” and “food” to determine that Napa, CA is the happiest city in the country.  And Beaumont, TX was dead last of 373 cities because of a lot of swearing and, as the article points out, “a shortage of ‘awesome’ and ‘amazing’”.

Hawaii is the happiest state according to this Twitter word analysis and Louisiana the last due to “an abundant use of profanity”.  Researchers did not read the tweets for context. 

Of course, you don’t need a research study to tell you unhappy people live everywhere and so do happy ones. 

A more important study shows that people who have less – like the citizens of the Fiji Islands – are happier than the more stressed and wealthy residents of major cities.

So, how can anyone anywhere increase their happiness by 50% now – today

  1. Find at least one thing to be grateful for every hour.
  2. Don’t postpone or talk yourself out of anything joyful that happens for any reason large or, more importantly, small.
  3. At least once a day, make it about someone else not about us.
  4. Be mindful of trying to live in the moment.  Experts say even trying and failing to live in the now makes us happier.

“Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it” — Jacques Prévert

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Taking Fate Into Your Own Hands

Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning writes about both the physical and mental challenges of surviving in a World War II concentration camp. 

It is a book about hope.

When Frankl told a friend that he would join him attempting to escape, he recalls an intense unpleasant feeling that came over him.

But something loomed larger for Frankl, a doctor and psychiatrist who was assigned to caring for the health of sick and dying at Auschwitz.

He decided not to attempt an escape.  He listened to his inner voice and feelings and the results were transformative.  To hear Frankl tell it:

“As soon as I told him with finality that I made up my mind to stay with my patients, the unhappy feeling left me.  I did not know what the following days would bring, but I had gained an inward peace that I had never experienced before.”

The message is clear.

Making the decision to take fate into your own hands is more difficult than knowing the right thing to do.

Courage to decide.

The immediate serenity of inward peace once the decision is made.

This serves a template for the rest of us in our workaday world where too frequently we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the fear of deciding even when we know what to do.

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How To Win Enthusiastic Cooperation

Just recently, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer issued an edict to her young workforce of Yahoos mandating that they cut out virtual work arrangements and start showing up in person.  

Mayer claims that the virtual arrangement is inefficient and that the work force needs to be more collaborative.

I asked Morley Winograd, author of Millennial Momentum and expert on Generation Y about whether the “collaborative” generation would respond well to Mayer’s ultimatum.

Winograd said that Yahoo should follow in the footsteps of rival Google which spent millions to expand what it calls the Googleplex campus.  In others words, Google is trying to make the workplace such a great place that people will want to show up rather than telecommute. 

Google is among only a handful of companies that understand the importance of motivating a changing work force.  Yahoo is probably under financial pressure from its lenders to cut costs and gain efficiencies, but to call their employees back to work is likely to fail.

To motivate others, we have to give them the burning desire to do that which we are asking.

Mandates no longer work. 

Threats to do it or else — as Yahoo is telling its workers — will backfire and their talent will migrate to more enlightened employers.

In fact, whether it’s work or home — with spouses, children or friends and family — making that which you are asking others to do more attractive is a virtual guarantee of cooperation.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”  — Viktor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning

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How NOT To Write An Angry Email

Or text message.

Or letter.

Go ahead and pound it out.  Get a load off your mind.  Tell them in no uncertain words.  Use vivid, strong and colorful language.  Give them a piece of your mind.  Don’t bother checking the spelling.

But before you hit send, save it to your outbox if it’s email, don’t hit send yet if it’s a text message and don’t mail the letter — not just yet.

Once you get it all out, here’s my secret. 

Don’t send it for 24 hours.

A day later I challenge you to review your strong message and I’ll bet you will do what I do — delete it or throw it in the trash. 

The real benefit to writing an angry letter or email is that you get your harsh feelings out to examine and consider.

The advantage to not sending it is that you don’t let those same feelings destroy relationships or further complicate them.

You can’t take it back after you hit send so hit save to save yourself from making a big mistake.

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.

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How To Improve Communication

Marriages, families, employees and managers and almost every relationship could do better at effective communication.

Here are some things you might try because even accomplishing one of them can mean real improvement, happiness or career success:

  • When receiving the message, practice repeating it back to the sender.
  • If you’re the sender, use diplomacy and the best human relations skills you know to couch the way you say it.
  • Do that which you agree you will do or else it shows disrespect to others.
  • Be considerate by always keeping those with whom you communicate in the loop on latest developments.  With all the digital tools we have, there are no excuses for waiting for another person to ask you for an update.
  • Present problems first as an opportunity — include some solutions.
  • Consider the setting, time, location as part of when and how to communicate.
  • For problems, agree on an action step and then immediately set a time to complete what you’ve promised or to schedule a follow-up conversation.
  • Never put anything in an email that you can’t imagine yourself reading in a courtroom.
  • Use email judicially for it is often misinterpreted.  Email works best when it sticks to the facts.
  • Think things through before communicating — don’t be tempted by lightning fast technology in lieu of careful consideration.
  • No one hates a smiling face when entering into two-way talk.
  • There is no one winner in effective communication — everyone must truly benefit.
  • Never try to persuade another person without hearing them out first.
  • Always have an open mind.

What do you think?  

Try one today?

“Two monologues do not make a dialogue” — Jeff Daly

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