Be Well Marsha: 4/19/16

Toast to joy

By Marsha Bonhart

Shhhh … I have a secret. It’s one I am willing to share, despite a decades long career as a “protect my sources, ride or die, never, ever tell” television news anchor/reporter. With this article, I take a bow in my swan song as contributing writer for Dayton City Paper. Each week, for the last eight months, I have ended my column with the words, “be well.” I have always hoped that short scripting has been your conscience as you move along in life. So, I want to offer what I have learned from a business writer at Inc.com who says the secret to true, lasting happiness might be much closer than we think—and it’s not working harder, longer hours. Here is his scientific advice to be extremely happy every single day.

Emma Seppala is a science researcher for Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. She says, “happiness—defined as a state of heightened positive emotion—has a profound positive effect on our professional and personal lives. It increases our emotional and social intelligence, boosts our productivity and heightens our influence over peers and colleagues.”

Inc.com columnist Peter Economy continues to tell us in his writings that at work, task accuracy increases by 19 percent when employees are happier, productivity by 31 percent and sales by 37 percent. Seppala convinces us there are basic proven ways to build happiness—which she says will help you become more successful.

For one, manage your energy. Instead of always thinking about what’s next on the to-do list, focus on the task or conversation at hand. This will make you more charismatic as well as more productive. Instead of living in overdrive, train your nervous system to bounce back from setbacks. That will naturally reduce stress and thrive in the face of difficulties. And just do nothing. Make time for idleness, fun and irrelevant interests. That spawns more creativity, which will boost breakthrough ideas.

Also, step outside your comfort zone. We tend to think we’re good at only certain things and we play it safe when we should be taking risks. Understand that your brain is built to learn new things—that’s how we attain new skills and expertise.

Show compassion to others. Instead of focusing on yourself, express compassion to and show interest in those around you and maintain supportive relationships with your co-workers, boss and employees. That can dramatically improve productivity, performance and influence. There is every reason to be kind to others but think of how it can benefit you. In a University of California, Riverside study, students were assigned to perform five random acts of kindness each week for six weeks. Their levels of happiness rose by nearly 42 percent. The profound positive effect on happiness shows the outcomes of life are better.

However, in all the hubbub of helping everyone else, remember it’s okay to be good to yourself. Instead of being self critical, be compassionate with yourself. You will improve your ability to excel in the face of challenge and be more likely to learn from mistakes. Plus, the best way to help others is to help ourselves first. We can transfer that strength and goodness to other people.

Make it a habit to mean everything you do. When you compliment people on their clothing or congratulate them for getting an amazing job offer, say it because you mean it. Kindness doesn’t have to be difficult—it’s not a long, elaborate road, but it does take an active effort. There are small, easy steps to take to make sure we are being kind every single day. You know how to be kind, you probably don’t think much about exercising the habit but it’s actually a lot easier if you decide on one specific action to take every morning when you wake up. Saying “thank you” is one of the easiest ways to be kind, because gratitude is an amazing display of thoughtfulness. It only takes 10 seconds but its impact can last a lifetime. Think about how you feel when someone says it to you. And let’s stay away from saying, “thanks.” It can sound dismissive. A full “thank you” sounds more sincere.

Find a cause—something that strikes your heart and demonstrates goodwill. Look at charity, talk someone through their problems. The profound positive effects of happiness shows the outcomes of life are better. Simply put, you have to at least want to be happy. You must be consciously intentional the profound positive effects of happiness shows the outcomes of life are better. Simply put, you have to at least want to be happy. You must be consciously intentional by making the decision to be happy—choose the behavior. Opt to be in positive environments—that includes surrounding yourself with people who build and encourage character and well-being. “Live a life that is filled with people who will lift you, say goodbye to those who are ready to tear you down,” says columnist Economy. When people don’t value you, let them go. Invest time in people who genuinely want to be around you. When someone really cares about you, they will make time for you.

Get rid of the grudge. Holding on to negative feelings can affect not only your emotional health, but is also tied to anxiety, stress, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Don’t dwell on anger or hurt. Forgiveness is like a breath of fresh air. It diminishes the power of the negativity of the resentment and increases your levels of happiness. So it’s smart to make a commitment to do whatever is necessary to combat negative thoughts and feelings.

So I have shared my secrets. Actually, I have borrowed them from the aforementioned writers and I, too, have confirmed some very good advice along the way. Some secrets should be shared, don’t you think?

Be well,

Marsha

Marsha Bonhart is a freelance writer and public relations/marketing consultant in the Dayton area. She can be reached at MarshaBonhart@DaytonCityPaper.com.    

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