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Happy International Day of Happiness!

The United Nations has declared March 20 a day to celebrate and encourage happiness around the globe.

For some, focusing on “being happy” may seem childish (“sure, it is nice to focus on happiness, but this is the real world, with real problems”).

In reality, happiness is a key channel to making significant changes in the world.

For example, happiness predicts better physical health. This is positive in and of itself and makes financial sense, with U.S. annual health care spending being over $3 trillion.  Specifically, people who are happier have stronger immune systems (so they are less like to get sick), have healthier cardiovascular systems, experience less pain, are more resilient to stress, and are 35% less likely to die over a five-year period.

In addition to a reduction in healthcare costs, happiness makes good business sense. Happiness increases productivity an average of 12% and sales by 37%. Those who are happier are better at negotiations, more focused on finding a solution (as opposed to being stuck on a problem) enjoy greater success at work, are 40% more likely to be promoted, 10 times more engaged at work and are more resilient when things do not go as planned (which, let’s face it, is a daily occurrence).

In fact, in general, people who are happier have greater success in life, with happiness being the precursor and not the result (as is often believed).

So, what if you are not one of those naturally happy people? Don’t worry, you can actually change your happiness level. And, no, that does not mean everyone around you needs to change so you feel happier.

Here’s the beauty of happiness: it is a skill that anyone can learn, even if you have tried without much success in the past to achieve it.

My grandmother used to teach a course in college called “How to play the piano despite years of practice.” In essence, she worked with adults who had been playing the piano for years. She helped them stop doing the “wrong” skills and start using the “right” skills to help them be better pianists.  The result? Well, if her students practiced the right skills, there was no way they couldn’t get better.

Same thing when it comes to happiness. So many people practice happiness, but they use the “wrong” skills. Examples include Ben & Jerry’s therapy, shopping therapy, binge watching Netflix, working excessive hours to get ahead… These skills do not, in fact, bring sustained and fulfilling happiness.

I like to think I help people be happier despite years of practice.

Regardless of the past, if you learn the right skills of happiness and practice them, you cannot help but be happier.

So what can you do to be happier, even when life is not so easy? 

Try any of these three strategies:

  1. Reach out: Social connection is key to our happiness. But how often do you put off spending time with friends until you “have time”? This is more than just hopping on Facebook and liking someone’s picture. It entails really connecting with a friend or loved one. Spend some quiet time with your partner. Invite a friend out to dinner. Pick up the phone (yes, it still can be used for speaking to someone) and call an old friend.
  2. Reach up: Your spiritual well-being can significantly contribute to your happiness. This is not necessarily about religious beliefs (although it may be for some). Instead, this means focusing on your purpose and meaning. Why are you here? What contribution can you make to a cause greater than yourself? How can you apply your values and strengths? Meaning boosts engagement, which helps benefit your mood as well as your performance.  
  3. Reach down: Helping out those in need can be a great way to boost others’ as well as your own happiness. Now, by “down” I don’t mean those who are inferior to you, but rather those whose situation is not as “up” as they want it to be. For you, this could mean doing some volunteer work for a group that you are passionate about or even just touching base with a colleague who is going through a tough time to offer emotional support.

Want a dose of happiness everyday? Let’s connect on Facebook for daily inspiration.

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