Happiness and Work/Life Balance14th Jan, 2013
Wishing people more happiness seems to rub off on everyone doesn’t it – whether it is ‘Happy Birthday’, Happy Anniversary’ ‘Happy Christmas’, ‘Happy New Year!, etc? But, what if we could be happier all year around?
The latest neuroscience research has found that activation of part of the brain called the left prefrontal cortex correlates with reported feelings of joy, enthusiasm, high energy, positive emotions and happiness. As part of their research scientists at the University of Wisconsin decided to measure the happiness of some Buddhist monks. The results exceeded all previous positive recordings! In fact one famous monk, a French convert, Matthieu Ricard, has been nicknamed the ‘happiest person in the world’ after his hugely positive results.
The researchers then went on to investigate if happiness could be increased in complete novices, over a short period of time, by using some of the techniques used by the monks but taught in a secular way. The answer was yes. Participants reported feeling happier and brain scans showed more activation in their left frontal cortex than before the training. Encouraged by such findings, Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced what he called ‘mindfulness based stress reduction’, a technique that is now used extensively in hospitals in the US and UK to treat anxiety and depression following excellent trial results.
Research within organisations has also demonstrated that using similar techniques resulted in less time off sick, better concentration, increased resilience, less stress and better employee engagement. Some forward thinking organisations including AstraZeneca and Google have now incorporated personal management and work-life balance training into their staff development schedules. Google’s programme is summarised in the somewhat quirky book ‘Search Inside Yourself’ by Chade-Meng Tan. Chade has distilled the techniques required to 3 steps:
- Attention training
- Increasing self-awareness
- Creating useful thought processes
So, why not try out Chade’s 3-step approach?
- Slow down and pay attention to the world around you, take a few deep mindful breaths. How often do we take a drive, go for a walk or have a conversation but our mind is miles away and we fail to notice what is around us?
- Respond rather than react. Be self-aware of how you react and the impact that makes. How often do we react without thinking through the consequences?
- Check your thoughts are helpful and create useful thoughts to use. How often do we talk ourselves down, misinterpret someone’s actions or catastrophise over something ultimately trivial?
Food for thought?
By Colin Graves