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The 21-Day Happiness Challenge: Five Ways to Be More Positive

A couple of weeks ago, I asked this question: “Are you celebrating your success?”

The point is that many of us are always chasing success without pausing to actually celebrate the success we’ve achieved so far. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has studied and written about this extensively.

In one of the most popular TED Talks — “The Happy Secret to Better Work” — Shawn puts it like this:

Every time your brain has a success, you just change the goal post of what success looks like. You got a good job, now you have to get a better job. You hit your sales target, we’re going to change your sales target. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. What we’ve done is we’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society.”

If we can bring more positivity into this present moment, though, our brain experiences what Shawn calls a “happiness advantage,” based on the finding that “your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed.”

So how can you bring more positivity into this present moment? Training.

Shawn developed what he calls the “21-Day Challenge,” in which you pick one of five researched habits and try it out for 21 days in a row to create a positive habit. Doing so actually rewires — or trains — your brain to be more positive.

Here are the five habits to choose from:

  1. Three Gratitudes: Pause to take note of three new things each day that you are grateful for. Doing so will help your brain start to retrain its pattern of scanning the world, looking not just for the negative inputs but for the positive ones.
  2. Journaling: Similar to the gratitude practice, but in this case, detail — in writing — one positive experience each day. This will help you find meaning in the activities of the day, rather than just noticing the task itself.
  3. Exercise: Exercising for 10 minutes a day not only brings physical benefits, but it also teaches your brain to believe your behavior matters, which then carries (positively) into other activities throughout the day.
  4. Meditation: Take just two minutes per day to simply breathe and focus on your breath going in and out. Doing so will train your mind to focus, reduce stress, and help you be more present in this moment.
  5. Random Acts of Kindness: This can be something simple, and Shawn suggests writing one positive email to praise or thank someone each day. Not only does it benefit the recipient, but it also increases your feeling of social support.

As Shawn wrote on his Harvard Business Review blog, “Gratitude, focusing on positive experiences, exercise, meditating, and random acts of kindness are all ways to change the pattern through which your brain views work.”

Are you up for the challenge? Which habit will you practice?

Or have you already taken the challenge? What did you experience?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

Here’s to happiness!

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