These Small Acts Increase Happiness

I’ve been on break from my blog for three weeks. One of the things I did during the break was attend a workshop that’s part of the year-long Certificate in Positive Psychology program I’m taking led by Tal Ben-Sharhar and Megan McDonough of the WholeBeing Institute and psychologist Maria Sirois.

Happiness research

Positive Psychology is “the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” The field holds some pretty significant values and beliefs, namely that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, we want to cultivate what is best within ourselves, and we want to enhance our experience of life overall (University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center).

Small Acts Make a Big Difference

An element of Positive Psychology is finding activities that we can do on a regular basis that have been shown in study after study to contribute to overall well-being. Some of those things are daily rituals that we can establish for ourselves.

Meditating, even for just a few minutes each day, and writing a nightly journal listing the day’s accomplishments have been shown to greatly enhance happiness and resilience. Research also shows that just having brief pleasant experiences each day contributes to happiness.

Quantity Matters

Psychologist Ed Diener talks about the long-term happiness effect of a number of small, pleasant experiences rather than the happiness felt from the infrequent big event like achieving a significant milestone, winning a client, and so on. According to Diener, “How good your experiences are doesn’t matter nearly as much as how many good experiences you have,“ (The Science Behind the Smile, HBR).

What Leaders Can Do

Since many of us spend eight or more hours a day at a workplace, incorporating moments like these into our day can make a big difference. And because research shows that happier employees are more productive, leaders in particular have a vested interest in cultivating these pleasant experiences for their teams.

What pleasant experiences can you foster in your workplace each day? They can be small, such as a smile that you give or get, a good laugh with a co-worker, a thank-you to someone for getting something to you as expected, or a specific acknowledgment to individual employees about something well done. All these make the difference in sustained happiness.

Years ago the term don’t sweat the small stuff emerged and reminded us not to let the petty annoyances in life get the best of us. We may have gotten so skilled at disregarding those minor irks that we also might have let go of taking a moment to recognize and appreciate the small joys in life that give us a boost. Why not put that back into our everyday interactions. Research shows it makes a difference in helping us to thrive.

Photo credit: Sergey

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