We are not suggesting that happiness be a challenge, far from it. That happiness is good for us is backed by tons of scientific research {{Citation needed*}}. Studies show that people with positive attitudes have lower rates of illness, are more agreeable, express more compassion, feel less stress, are more optimistic, and are even better looking. In many practices, gratitude is considered the most direct route to happiness.
Happiness is the bomb! Until today that is. A new study conducted by the Harvard Business Review suggests that happiness poses some dangers we willfully, even gleefully over look. In an article published yesterday, HBR tells us that we don’t really know what happiness is and that happiness:

  • doesn’t increase productivity
  • can be exhausting
  • won’t get you through the work day (man does not live on happiness alone)
  • could hurt your relationship with your boss, and with your friends and family
  • could make you selfish
  • could make you lonely

“Given all these potential problems, we think there is a strong case for rethinking our expectation that work should always make us happy…Most striking is that consciously pursuing happiness can actually drain the sense of joy we usually get from the really good things we experience…And maybe the less we seek to actively pursue happiness through our jobs, the more likely we will be to actually experience a sense of joy in them — a joy which is spontaneous and pleasurable, and not constructed and oppressive. But most importantly, we will be better equipped to cope with work in a sober manner. To see it for what it is. And not as we — whether executives, employees, or dancing motivational seminar leaders — pretend that it is.” You can read the whole article here.

To make work the sole proprietor of our happiness is probably not the best path to its achievement, but is not the pursuit of happiness one of our inalienable rights? The kind of happiness many of us seek through the yoga practice is not constructed or oppressive, but springs unbidden from the joy of mindful discovery and connectedness. This kind of happiness is our natural state, not something objectified to be discovered, as if preexisting. The Tantric philosophy underlying many yoga traditions suggests that the veiling and unveiling of this natural state is one of the great joys of being alive.

Gratitude, according to science, His Holiness the Dali Llama, and Oprah, is another significant primer of the happiness pump. Happiness is not a permanent state of jubilation and exuberance, but a steady, intrinsic current that carries us through life’s often unavoidable difficulties. Asana and the dancing motivational seminars to which the HBR article refers do not necessarily bring such lasting happiness, but they can contribute to a sense of fun, one of the seemingly superficial elements of happiness.

To be fair, the office may not be the best place to get your jollies or practice goofy exuberance, but deep, enduring happiness, the kind inspired by mindfulness and gratitude, can be practiced anywhere! To prove it, we’d like to propose our own group study (working in a group is scientifically proven to promote happiness and productivity)! 21 Days of Happiness! Starting August 1st, for 10 minutes each day, practice happiness. Many ancient practices counsel that we are shaped by our thoughts. Let us actively engage in good ones!

Happiness researcher Shawn Achor also from Harvard (maybe he should stop by the HBR offices more often?) told the Washington Post yesterday that a daily practice of five simple habits can make you happier. Here is the list (here is the full article):

  1. Spend two minutes a day scanning the world for three new things you’re grateful for. And do that for 21 days. You’re training your brain to scan the world in a new pattern; you’re scanning for positives, instead of for threats. It’s the fastest way of teaching optimism.
  2. The doubler: For two minutes a day, think of one positive experience during the past 24 hours. Bullet point each detail you remember. It works, because the brain can’t tell the difference between visualization and actual experience…you’ve just doubled the meaningful experience in your brain. After 21 days, your brain starts connecting the dots; then you have this trajectory of meaning running throughout life.
  3. The fun 15: 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day. It’s the equivalent of taking an antidepressant for the first six months, but with a 30 percent lower relapse rate over the next two years.
  4. Breathe: We did this at Google. We had them take their hands off their keyboards two minutes a day, and watch their breath go in and out. This raises accuracy rates. Improves levels of happiness. Drops their stress levels.
  5. Conscious acts of kindness: The final habit is the most powerful. Start work by writing a two-minute positive email or text praising or thanking one person you know. And do it for a different person each day. People who do this not only get great emails and texts back, but their social connection score is at the top end of the scale.

Let’s do it! For the first 21 days of August, take time each day to practice happiness.

Join us August 1st, on Facebook.

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” ~ Buddha

* Just kidding

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