Executive Health and Well-Being

The Happiness Advantage

15 December 2015

Edwin Sim, Human Capital Alliance managing director looks at the positive power of happiness.

People perform significantly better when their brains experience positive emotions that create a “happiness advantage”

Recently I had the pleasure of listening to a TED talk presented by Shawn Acor, an American corporate trainer, author and speaker known for his positive psychology advocacy.

The Harvard trained Acor who authored “The Happiness Advantage and founded the Institute of Positive Research and Good Thinking said most companies and schools follow what he calls a scientifically broken and backward formula for success.

Traditional success formula

For many people a traditional success formula tracks the following success factors.

“….if I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier.

That undergirds most of our parenting and managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior.’

This methodology, Acor said was scientifically broken and backward because every time a person’s brain experiences success, they change the success goal posts.

“You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it.”

“What we found is that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”

Happiness on opposite side of success

If happiness is on the opposite side of success, Acor said a brain never gets there.

“We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier.”

Our brains however work in the opposite order.

“If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage: your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed.”

Happiness advantage

Brains experiencing a happiness advantage inevitably perform with higher intelligence, creativity and energy levels, Acor said.

His research also found that every single business outcome improves. “Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.”

Salesmen were 37% more productive while doctors worked 19% faster and were more accurate with their diagnoses.

Reversing traditional formula

If we want our brains to work harder, faster and more intelligently, we must find ways to become positive in the present. The traditional formula must be reversed so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of.

Dopamine, which floods into your system when we’re positive, he said has two functions.

It not only makes us happier, but it also turns on all of brain’s learning centers to adapt to the world in a different way.

Training your brain to be more positive

In his work with many companies, Acor asked people to write down three new things they are grateful for, 21 days in a row.

At the end of 21 days, their brains begin scanning the world for positive rather than negative things first.

The exercise he said actually rewired people’s brains to work more optimistically and more successfully.

Exercising your brain

When people recall positive experiences they’ve experienced in the past 24 hours, it allows their brains to relive it.

Meditation also allows brains to get over the cultural Attention Deficit Hyperactivy Disorder (ADHD) that is created by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand.

Acor also has exercises that encourage people to open up their inboxes, to write one positive email praising or thanking someone in their support network.

By undertaking these brain-training activities, we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but a real revolution.

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