At WELCOA, we thought August would be a great month to tackle the concept of happiness—especially as it relates to health. On the Move, our online platform that helps employees thrive through physical activity, is focusing on happy moves all month, and we just published an exciting certification opportunity about the power of positive psychology. We weren’t the only ones taking a closer look at happiness this month. Time Magazine recently released a special edition issue on The Science of Happiness. In a great infographic on the impact of joy on health, Time reported that, in the pie chart of what defines happiness, 50% of our happiness is defined by our genes, 40% is determined by our behavior and 10% is the result of our external circumstances.
Let that sink in a minute. The smallest piece of the happiness pie is the area we usually focus on when we seek to increase our happiness—external factors like more money, a nicer home or a highly regarded reputation. On the flip side, 40% of the pie (the second largest determinant after our genes) is our behavior. So what behaviors can improve our happiness? One behavior highlighted in the Time Magazine feature, and one that we decided to lead with for August’s curriculum in the On the Move Initiative is movement.
“The smallest piece of the happiness pie is the area we usually focus on when we seek to increase our happiness—external factors like more money, a nicer home or a highly regarded reputation.”
If you want to start engaging in more behaviors to increase happiness, try one of these Daily Happy Moves from On the Move‘s Coach Sean Foy (spoiler: not all moves are physical).
Daily Happy Moves
- Cultivate kindness: Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that caring for someone other than ourselves creates a happier and more positive environment. Mario Mikulincer, Dean of the School of Psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, asked participants to write down the people they turn to in times of distress or difficulty, the qualities they admire in these individuals, and to recall the times when they felt comforted by them. In studying this, he discovered this simple “support practice” dramatically increased subjects’ compassion, trust, and willingness to help other individuals who may be in distress. Steps for doing this are in this week’s On the Move Monthly Challenge.
- Take it Outside: Research has shown that exposing ourselves to sunlight (safely) increases our serotonin levels and can head off depression.
- Focus on Your Strengths: According to years of data from Gallup, people who focus on their innate talents, strengths and virtues are six times more likely to be engaged in their work and are happier overall. Begin by answering these five questions: 1. What activities make me feel strong? 2. What do I enjoy and feel competent doing? 3. What strengths, virtues and qualities do I like in others and in myself? 4. What makes me feel energized? 5. What do others close to me say are my greatest strengths?
- Move to boost your mood: Exercise releases endorphins that have been proven to make us feel better. The simple act of moving is not only good for your body, but research is telling us that motion impacts emotion. Try going for a walk, doing some squats in your office or, better yet, try the On the Move Move of the Week (how-to is below).
- Stand tall and upright, with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands down by your sides.
- Slowly lower your left ear to your left shoulder. Allow the weight of your head to gently lower your left ear towards your left shoulder. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
- Next, bring your head back to center (neutral position) and slowly lower your chin to your chest. Allow the weight of your head to slowly lower your chin to your chest. Again, hold for 10 seconds. Remember to relax your breathing throughout. Deeply inhale through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth.
- Next, lower your right ear to your right shoulder. Allow the weight of your head to gently and slowly bring your right ear towards your right shoulder. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
- Continue alternating to the left, center, and right side of your neck. (Optional: Think about what you are most thankful for during your neck stretches. This is a great way to combine a physical stretch with a proven positive approach to boost your happiness!)