“The Mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” John Milton
According to The Happiness Advantage, an incredible book filled with research by Shawn Achor, we are in the midst of an unhappiness epidemic. I didn’t need him to tell me that. All I have to do is put on the news or a popular television show to see what turns us on, what we are drawn to, what sells. It’s the negative.
“A Conference Board survey released in January of 2010 found that only 45 percent of workers surveyed were happy at their jobs, the lowest in 22 years of polling. Depression rates today (this was 2010) are ten times higher than they were in 1960. Every year the threshold of unhappiness sinks lower…50 years ago the mean onset age of depression was 29.5 years old. Today, it is almost exactly half of that: 14.5 years old.” The Happiness Advantage
Here’s the challenge as I see it, we attract what we are thinking. I’ve been studying this concept, and watching it happen in my life, for a few years now. Shawn Achor now brings this to a whole new level quoting with research that proves it.
One study, performed on the cleaning staff of seven different hotels, showed how powerful our minds are in creating our realities. Half of the employees were told exactly how much exercise they were getting and calories they were burning throughout their work day, and given concrete examples of how things like vacuuming are similar to a cardio workout at the gym. The other half of the staff were not. The experiment lasted several weeks and the result was that the first group actually lost weight and had lower cholesterol levels. Both groups had done the same exact job but the first group had this new information to focus on. The second group showed no change what-so-ever.
“The mental construction of our daily activities, more than the activity itself, defines our reality.” The Happiness Advantage
In another study, a gratitude study, people were asked to make a list of three things they were grateful for. They did this every day for a week. Their positivity levels had been tested before the study began. Then, after one week they were tested again. Their positivity increased, not surprising. What did surprise me is that when they were tested again after 6 months, their positivity levels were still higher. Now this is after only one week of gratitude practice.
Why would this be? Part of the brain’s job it to serve as a filter. We have millions of things coming at us all the time and we can’t possibly focus on every single one. The brain learns what we want to focus on by our mental behaviors (what we watch, what we gravitate towards). Luckily, the brain is malleable, and we can train it. A daily gratitude practice does just that. The brain sees that we are interested in the positive and it starts to scan our environment for that.
There is so much more to say about our minds, happiness, and this book but for today I’ll leave it here. Be aware of what you are ingesting with your mind because:
- What your mind believes about your activities and your life will alter the results – are you pushing a vacuum or are you doing cardio?
- What you expose your mind to will train it to scan your environment for more of that – gratitude anyone?
- Whatever we focus on today has a lasting affect – what do we want to be our reality 6 months from now?