Do great work, you’ll get a promotion and then you’ll be happy. This is the mainstream formula for happiness.
We’re taught that working hard will lead to a great success and finally result in happiness. But happiness experts say our formula is wrong. They argue being happy first is what causes us to do great work and have great successes. A Harvard Business Review analysis of hundreds of happiness studies showed happy workers were 31% more productive, had 37% higher sales, and were three times more creative. But how can we achieve this happy state of mind? Neil Pasricha, the author of the bestselling book The Book of Awesome has now penned a second book called The Happiness Equation which outlines the steps to happiness. Pasricha argues all we need is 20 minutes a day to perform one of four happiness habits:
We know physical activity can impact our mood, but Pasricha points out a study by Pennsylvania State researchers who discovered three 20-minute walks per week caused people to outperform on a happiness scale people who were taking anti-depressants and people who were walking and taking anti-depressants, showing that exercise alone can impact your happiness.
Pasricha calls this the 20-minute replay. “If at the end of the day you journal for 20 minutes about one positive experience that happened to you during the day, you’ll be happier,” he says. The reason journaling about a positive experience can make you happier, he says, is that by journaling you get a tripling effect of the positive experience. First, you have the positive experience. Then, in writing about it, you re-live it. If you read what you wrote, you re-live it again, giving you three positive moments from one experience.
This works for weekly recaps too. At the end of the week, write down five things you were grateful for. Looking at the silver lining simply makes you feel better about the things that maybe didn’t go your way.
Committing yourself to performing five random acts of kindness over the course of a week, Pasricha says, has a greater impact on your happiness than exercise. These random acts of kindness can be as simple as holding open the door for someone or paying for someone’s coffee. The reason these acts of kindness make us happy is because they cause us to feel good about ourselves. “If I hold a door open for you, I feel good, I feel proud of who I am and that fills me up with happiness,” says Pasricha.
“If you close your eyes and do silent deep breathing, you increase the activity in the prefrontal cortex of your brain; the area responsible for focus and attention,” says Pasricha. Meditating for only 20 minutes a day means you’re less likely to be affected by distractions, allowing you to be more productive during the rest of your day. If you have trouble closing your eyes and sitting in silence, try using a guided meditation app. Pasricha uses a free app called Headspace for his meditation practices.