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Did You Inherit Your Happiness?

Posted By Hanlie van Wyk, Monday, January 27, 2020

This is part 2 of The BRATLAB ‘Behavioral Prescription’ Series

pie chart showing the percentage of control you have on your happiness, versus the influence of genetics and circumstances.

Researchers believe that we can control about 40% of our happiness. Naturally, those with a happy nature experience positive emotion more often and a happy disposition is likely to be the cause of more positive emotions. However, experimental studies suggest that positive emotions can produce beneficial outcomes even in the absence of an innately happy temperament. They also noticed that the amount of time that people experience positive emotions defines how happy they feel, not necessarily the intensity of that emotion.

Happy child listening to music.

What is ‘Happiness’ Anyway?

There are a daunting thirteen ways to define and measure happiness and different experiences might make you happy on any given day. For the purposes of this article, let’s keep it simple and categorize the various definitions into three easy to remember concepts: Pleasure, People, and Prosperity.

The first refers to maximizing pleasurable moments (such as comfort, entertainment, and enjoyment) that lead to the satisfaction of a person’s wants and needs. This might contribute to a level of life satisfaction. The second, People, is about having positive relationships with others. As social animals we crave social acceptance, strive for social contribution and integration with a community. The third, Prosperity, is about more than what money can buy. A higher income level does raise happiness, but to a smaller extent than most people think. Prosperity is more about human flourishing and includes autonomy, mastery, personal growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. In short, it’s about living authentically and actualizing one’s inherent potential as the way to wellbeing.

Making the Change: Adopting Happiness Habits at the Workplace

Happier people report being more productive, especially when happiness is thought of as the frequent experience of positive emotions. By moving from a lower level of happy emotions to a higher level, productivity improves by up to 40% in some studies. Happiness, in the form of positive emotions, is positively correlated with employees’ sensitivity to opportunities, helpfulness to co-workers, confidence, cooperation, reduced aggressiveness, and increased persistence. Feeling happy expands thinking and stimulates creativity. Overall, positive emotions improve cognitive function by 30% and stamina by 25%. Curiously, happier people seem to make more mistakes (25% more), but this could be prevented by practicing mindfulness as it decreases error rates by 25% while creating other beneficial health and productivity outcomes.

As a rule, people who frequently practice generating happiness are on average more productive and more satisfied with their jobs and lives.

Given that happiness can be ‘generated’, both organizations and individuals would do well to invest in practicing ‘happiness habits’. But as we’ve already noted, happiness comes in many different forms, so it’s not straightforward for companies to decide which happiness habits will be most beneficial. A good question might be: “Which happiness habit would have the greatest impact on my employees’ and hence my organization’s productivity? Where should we focus our limited resources?”

To answer this question, the Behavioural Research and Applied Technology Laboratory (‘BRATLAB’) identified and researched nine happiness habits that could potentially improve productivity, dividing them into three categories: Savor, Focus and Foster.


✓ Cherish positive experiences
✓ Practice being more optimistic
✓ Express gratitude often


✓ Live with purpose and meaning (know your "why’"
✓ Practice being mindful
✓ Use your unique character strengths


✓ Build positive relationships
✓ Perform acts of kindness & generosity
✓ Show self-compassion


Of the nine habits, being more mindful shows the biggest overall productivity impact, increasing stamina by 50% and cognitive function by 20%. Mindfulness techniques also reduce sick care costs, stress and anxiety brought on by mental health issues and may even beneficially impact health by lowering blood glucose, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.

Based on available research other habits like expressing gratitude, cherishing positive experiences and using your unique strengths have some impact. For example, salespeople who practice optimism sell 15% more than those who do not.

Other Habits that Combat Unhappiness

Our research tells us that both health and happiness habits contribute to an increase in personal performance. Each is mutually supportive of the other, pointing to a bi-directional, reinforcing relationship between them. For example, doing exercise, managing your stress and engaging in talk interventions (coaching or therapy) are shown to significantly decrease unhappiness more than any intervention individually.

Any organization looking to evaluate the impact of investing in these changes or wanting to understand more about how to create happy, healthy and change-ready cultures should contact Change Craft at hello@changecraft.consulting.

Background reading

Frederickson, B. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. The Royal Society. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 359, 1367–1377

Gallagher, M.W, Lopez, S.J. & Preacher, K.J. (2009). The Hierarchical Structure of Well-Being. J Pers.77(4): . doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00573.x.

Jongbloed, J., & Andres, L. (2015). Elucidating the constructs happiness and wellbeing: A mixed- methods approach. International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(3), 1-20. doi:10.5502/ijw.v5i3.1

Luthans, F., Avolio, B. J., Avey, J. B. & Norman, Steven M. (2007). "Positive Psychological Capital: Measurement and Relationship with Performance and Satisfaction". Leadership Institute Faculty Publications. Paper 11.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. & Diener, E. (2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? Psychological Bulletin, Vol 131(6):803-855.

Robertson, I., & Cooper. G. (2011). Well-Being, Productivity & Happiness at Work. Palgrave McMillan, UK

Seligman. M. & Royzman, E. (2003). Happiness: The Three Traditional Theories

Zelenski. J.M., Murphy, S.A. & Jenkins, D.A. (2008). The Happy-Productive Worker Thesis Revisited. Journal of Happiness Studies 9:521–537

Hanlie van WykHanlie van Wyk is a behavioral change expert, systems strategist, author, and Ph.D. candidate for Hate Crime Studies. Her fascination with human behavior started while growing up in South Africa. From working to prevent hate crime to humanizing the workplace, her career spans three decades and four continents researching and applying behavioral change strategies to some of the most challenging behavioral problems. As is the founder and director at Change Craft (powered by Behavioral Research and Applied Technology Laboratory) she studies, develops and applies agnostic systems and practices that make change sticky and results in high performing individuals and cultures.

Tags:  emotional wellness  genetics  Happiness 

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Neuroscience Discovers 5 Things That Will Make You Happy

Posted By Eric Barker and Alex Korb, Friday, November 2, 2018
Updated: Friday, November 2, 2018

by  Eric Barker, author of “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” and Alex Korb, author of “The Upward Spiral”.

Smile and wear those sunglasses. They can make you look cool and make you happier.

So what’s going to make you happy? Let’s get more specific: what’s going to make your brain happy? And let’s focus on things that are simple and easy to do instead of stuff like winning the lottery.

Neuroscience has answers. I’ve discussed this subject before and it was so popular I decided to call an expert to get even more dead simple ways to start your brain feeling joy.

Alex Korb is a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UCLA and author of The Upward Spiral.

Let’s get to it. Alex has some great suggestions for simple things you can do to feel happier every day…


1) Listen To Music From The Happiest Time In Your Life

Music affects the brain in an interesting way: it can remind you of places you have listened to it before.

Were you happiest in college? Play the music you loved then and it can transport you to that happier place and boost your mood. Here’s Alex:

One of the strong effects of music comes from its ability to remind us of previous environments in which we were listening to that music. That’s really mediated by this one limbic structure called the hippocampus, which is really important in a thing called “context dependent memory.” Let’s say college was the happiest time of your life. If you start listening to the music that you were listening to at that time, it can help you feel more connected to that happier time in your life and makes it more present.

I hope you weren’t happiest in elementary school because it’s going to be weird if you’re playing the Barney song or the Sesame Street theme around the house.

Learn more about what the music you love says about you.

Now you can’t listen to music everywhere you go. What does neuroscience say you should do when you have to take those earbuds out?


2) Smile — And Wear Sunglasses

The brain isn’t always very smart. Sometimes your mind is getting all this random info and it isn’t sure how to feel. So it looks around for clues. This is called “biofeedback.” Here’s Alex:

Biofeedback is just the idea that your brain is always sensing what is happening in your body and it reviews that information to decide how it should feel about the world.

You feel happy and that makes you smile. But it works both ways: when you smile, your brain can detect this and say, “I’m smiling. That must mean I’m happy.”

So happiness makes you smile, but smiling can also produce happiness. Feeling down? Smile anyway. “Fake it until you make it” can work. Here’s Alex:

That’s part of the “fake it until you make it” strategy because when your brain senses, “Oh, I’m frowning,” then it assumes, “Oh, I must not be feeling positive emotions.” Whereas when it notices you flexing those muscles on the side of the mouth it thinks, “I must be smiling. Oh, we must be happy.” When you start to change the emotions that you’re showing on your face, that changes how your brain interprets a lot of ambiguous stimuli. Since most stimuli that we experience is ambiguous, if you start to push the probability in the positive direction then that’s going to have a really beneficial effect.

In fact, research shows smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate, or $25,000.

And so what’s this about sunglasses? Bright light makes you squint. Squinting looks a lot like being worried. So guess what biofeedback that produces? Yup. Your brain can misinterpret that as being unhappy.

Sunglasses kill the squint and can help tell your brain, “Hey, everything is okay.” Here’s Alex:

When you’re looking at bright lights you have this natural reaction to squint. But that often has the unintended effect of you flexing this particular muscle, the “corrugator supercilii.” Putting on sunglasses means you don’t have to squint and therefore you’re not contracting this muscle and it stops making your brain think, “Oh my God, I must be worried about something.” It’s really just a simple little interruption of that feedback loop.

So smile. And wear those sunglasses. They can make you look cool and make you happier.

So you have your music playing, you’re smiling and wearing your sunglasses. But you can still be stressed about things. What should you think about to kill your worries and keep yourself happy?


3) Thinking About Goals Changes How You See The World

And I mean, literally. Researchers flashed a bunch of circles on a screen in front of study subjects. One of the circles was always slightly different than the others. It was brighter or smaller, etc.

But when they told people to prepare to point at or try to grab the circles something crazy happened…

If they thought about pointing at the circles, they became better at noticing the brighter circle.

If they were told to think about grabbing a circle, it was easier for them to identify the smaller circle.

What’s that mean? Having a goal literally changed how they saw the world.

So when you’re feeling stressed or challenged, think about your long-term goals. It gives your brain a sense of control and can release dopamine which will make you feel better and more motivated. Here’s Alex:

The goals and intentions that you set in your prefrontal cortex change the way that your brain perceives the world. Sometimes when we feel like everything is going wrong and we’re not making any progress and everything is awful, you don’t need to change the world, you can just change the way you are perceiving the world and that is going to be enough to make a positive difference. By thinking, “Okay, what is my long-term goal? What am I trying to accomplish?” Calling that to mind can actually make it feel rewarding to be doing homework instead of going to the party because then your brain is like, “Oh yeah. I’m working towards that goal. I’m accomplishing something that’s meaningful to me.” Then that can start to release dopamine in the nucleus accumbens and that can start to make you feel better about what you’re doing.

See the schedule the most successful people follow every day.

Sometimes you can try all these little tricks and it doesn’t feel like it’s making a bit of difference. That’s often because you’re missing something that’s really key to good brain function…


4) Get Good Sleep

We all know depression messes up how people sleep. But what’s interesting is it’s actually a two-way street: bad sleep also causes depression. Here’s Alex:

They took all these people with insomnia and followed them for a few years and it turned out that the people with chronic insomnia were much more likely to develop depression. Depression causes sleep problems but sleep problems are also more likely to lead to depression.

So how do you improve your sleep? Alex has a number of suggestions:

Get bright sunlight in the middle of the day. At night, try and stay in a dimly lit environment. Having a comfortable place to sleep and having a bedtime ritual so that your brain can prepare to go to sleep are also good. Trying to go to sleep at the same time every night and keeping a gratitude journal can also improve your sleep.

Learn everything you need to know about having the best night’s sleep ever.

All this little stuff to feel better is good. But if you’re not getting stuff done at work it’s going to be hard to stay happy. What’s neuroscience say about building good habits and conquering procrastination so you can stay smiling?


5) How Neuroscience Beats Procrastination

Your brain isn’t one big ol’ lump of grey goo that’s perfectly organized. Far from it. Think of it a little more like a bunch of your relatives arguing at the dinner table during a holiday get together.

When it comes to the choices you make and the things you do, Alex says there are 3 regions you need to be concerned with. You don’t need to memorize the names. It’s just important to realize they all get a vote:

  • The Prefrontal Cortex: The only one thinking about long-term goals like, “We need to prepare that report for work.”
  • The Dorsal Striatum: This guy is always voting to do what you’ve done in the past, like, “When it’s time to work we usually start by checking email 9 times, then Facebook, and then watching Netflix.”
  • The Nucleus Accumbens: The party animal of the three. “Email, Facebook and Netflix are fun. Work sucks.”

So guess what you end up doing? Yeah… Ouch.

But when you exert effort, the prefrontal cortex can override the other two and do the right thing. Repeat this enough times and you rewire the dorsal striatum: “We usually start reports quickly. I vote we do that again.”

That’s how the brain builds good habits. So why don’t we do that more often? Often the culprit is stress. Here’s Alex:

I have a friend who always says, “Stress takes the prefrontal cortex offline.” Stress changes the dynamics of that conversation. It weakens the prefrontal cortex. That part of your brain doesn’t have infinite resources. It can’t be eternally vigilant and so while it’s not paying attention, your striatum is like, “Let’s go eat a cookie. Let’s go drink a beer.” Anything that you can do to reduce stress can help strengthen the prefrontal cortex’s control over your habits.

So if you want to build good habits and stop procrastinating, the first thing to do is reduce stress. 

Procrastination is often a vicious circle because you delay, then you have less time to complete the project, so you get more stressed, procrastinate more, have even less time, which makes you even more stressed and… well, you get the idea.

So what’s the answer? After a little something to reduce stress, find one small thing you can do to get started. This focuses you and prevents the overwhelm that knocks the prefrontal cortex out of the conversation. Here’s Alex:

When the prefrontal cortex is taken offline by stress we end up doing things that are immediately pleasurable. Instead of getting overwhelmed, ask yourself, “What’s one little thing that I could do now that would move me toward this goal I’m trying to accomplish?”

Taking one small step toward it can make it start to feel more manageable.

Learn 5 weird but effective ways to conquer chronic procrastination.

Time to round up everything we learned. Alex gave us six great…

Wait. Did I only say “5” in the headline? Okay, you’re getting a bonus. Keep reading for Alex’s #1 easy thing to do to cause an upward spiral of happiness in your life…


Sum Up

Here’s what you can learn from Alex about how neuroscience can bring happiness:

  • Listen to music from the happiest time in your life: Let’s hope you had good taste when you were happiest.
  • Smile and wear those sunglasses: You don’t have to wear them indoors. That would be dumb.
  • Think about your goals: It changes how you see the world and releases happy chemicals in your noggin.
  • Get your sleep: Depressed people don’t sleep well. And people who don’t sleep well get depressed.
  • Beat procrastination by reducing stress and doing a simple thing to get started: Listen to those happy-era tunes and then assemble all the materials you need to get cranking.

And what’s that #1 thing that Alex says can start an upward spiral of happiness? It’s dead simple:

Go for a walk outside every morning, preferably with a friend.

Yup, that’s it. How can something so incredibly simple be so powerful? Here’s Alex:

When the prefrontal cortex is taken offline by stress we end up doing things that are immediately pleasurable. Instead of getting overwhelmed, ask yourself, “What’s one little thing that I could do now that would move me toward this goal I’m trying to accomplish?” Taking one small step toward it can make it start to feel more manageable.

I think the simplest way to kick start an upward spiral is to go for a walk outside every morning, and if possible, do it with a friend. The walk engages the exercise system and when you’re walking outside the sunlight you’re exposed to has benefits on the sleep systems and can impact the serotonin system. If you do it every day, then it starts getting ingrained in the dorsal striatum and becomes a good habit. If you can do it with a friend, that’s even better because you get the social connection.

Right now: share this post with a friend and ask them to join you for a walk tomorrow morning. That’s it. (And wear your sunglasses.)

Go outside. Put one foot in front of the other. Smile with a friend. And you’re on your way to neuroscientific happiness.

Looks like it really is the simple things in life that bring us joy.

Republished with the permission of Eric Barker, author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree and blogger at www.bakadesuyo.com


Tags:  Happiness  Neuroscience 

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Can Facebook Make You Happy?

Posted By NWI, Monday, December 5, 2016

A surprising new study about the mental well-being of Facebook users was published by the online science journal PLOS One recently.


The study infers that Facebook users are actually more happy and mentally well than non-users, though the results are mixed with some undesirable qualities as well.


The Facebook users were much more likely to score highly on narcissism, self-esteem, and extraversion, as well as values of social support, life satisfaction, and overall happiness, whereas the non-users were objectively higher in displays of depression, anxiety, and stress, though only marginally.


This study should give some people minor relief, as social media has become more common and has become such a staple of modern life for a great number of people.


To read the study published by PLOS One, click here.

Tags:  facebook  happiness  mental health  mental wellness  online  social media 

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Wellness in 10: How to get off the ‘Hedonic Treadmill’

Posted By NWI, Monday, November 7, 2016

Many of us have not heard of the phrase “the hedonic treadmill,” but that doesn’t mean we’re not on it.


The hedonic treadmill is a nickname for the human tendency to adjust our desires to positive or negative life circumstances to return to our “normal” happiness level.


In the case of negative life circumstances, this can be a positive, resilient trait. For example, the science says that if a pet dies, we’re going to be very sad for a short while, but will eventually find our “new normal,” and will return to stable happiness. That’s good.


It can be bad and self-defeating, however, when this trait rears its head in the face of positive life events. In this scenario, let’s say we got a big promotion at work, and a healthy pay raise along with it. The hedonic treadmill will allow us to be happy for a short while, but we’ll quickly adjust to our new income, find new desires that go along with it, and will return to our “normal” level of happiness – or perhaps unhappiness – unless we make the conscious choice to get off the treadmill.


Here are some suggestions for how to find your new level of happiness, and keep it:


1.     Make a budget now. Stick to it later


You probably already know how much it would cost for you to live comfortably – to have a decent house, reliable transportation, a good wardrobe, and food on the table.  Probably a fast Internet connection, a cool smartphone and a streaming video service, too.  Once you have the cost of your comfortable life paid for, the rest of the things in your life become “stuff.” So figure out what you need to live comfortably, and use that number as your guide going forward. You may need to adjust accordingly if you have major life changes, like having kids or pursuing further education, but at least you have a good idea of what your “need” amount of money is.


2.     Tie your happiness to experiences, not things


Research has shown that experiences like vacations, dining out, or going to a big sporting event have a longer impact on our happiness than having more “stuff.” If you want to be happier longer, do things. Don’t buy things.


3.     Forget about the Joneses


You know how happy your neighbor looks when he’s pulling his new boat out of the garage and hauling it away to the lake? Pretty happy, right? That’s what we all notice. What we don’t notice, though, is how he only pulls it out of the garage twice a summer, because he spends most of his time at the office making money for the payments on the boat. And when it’s not summer, he has to winterize and store the boat, which is always in his way.  Escape the “grass is always greener” mentality and assess the things in your life that are high-cost-low-reward.  You’ll find truer happiness without the things holding you back. If you really want a day out at the lake, you can always rent a boat, and you wont’ have to haul, winterize, or store it.


4.     Define your future goals


Picture yourself in 30 years, truly happy. What does your future self look like? What are you doing? Who are you with? I’m willing to bet you didn’t say, “I’m in my office surrounded by all my expensive stuff I was able to acquire.” Figure out what it is you see in your future picture that is really making you happy, and make those things your goals for the future. You’ll have a more concrete vision of what happiness means to you, and you’ll have something beautiful to work toward.


5.     Make an honest assessment of what makes you deeply happy


The key word here is “honest.”  Go back to your future-picture.  Now strip away all the “stuff.” Are you still happy with the picture? Downgrade further. Take away any cars or the fancy house. Still happy? How much can you get rid of and still maintain the happy you in the picture? This is you being honest with yourself.  You may be surprised with what you feel you need and don’t need. Adjust your goals accordingly.


6.     Invest in security


This may seem a little backward, because security isn’t glamorous. You can’t show it off to your buddies and make their eyes go wide with jealousy. But nothing downgrades happiness like worry. By investing in your retirement and appropriate insurance, you can have a solid sense that you’re going to be OK moving forward, and that feeling is worth a LOT of happiness.


7.     Make your everyday a happier day


We’ve been talking a lot about future happiness, but what about happiness now? You can have that, too, but try to make it happen without costing much more money.  Choose to develop your relationships with coworkers and family. Take breaks during the day to get some exercise and fresh air. Make time to improve yourself intellectually through books or free online courses. These things will all increase your happiness in the day-to-day without costing an extra dime.



8.     Make the happier choice


When you’re offered that new job with the pay hike, inevitably it’ll come with new responsibilities, and those responsibilities will come at a cost elsewhere. As much as you’re able, consider whether those new responsibilities are worth the cost in happiness. Will you be away from your family more? Will you have significantly more worry and anxiety? The bottom-line question is: is it worth it? Don’t feel bad if the answer is “no.” You’ve made a decision to invest in your own happiness instead.



9.     Meditate? Yep. Meditate


This wouldn’t be a good “Wellness in 10” without suggesting meditation. It’s true, though. When the business gurus over at Forbes even report that meditation increases happiness, there most be something to it. It’s a no-cost way to decrease anxiety, increase resiliency, and can increase feelings of warmth and kindness toward others. Sounds like increased happiness to me.


10.  Find relationships that matter


Building solid relationships will increase your happiness. That doesn’t relate only to romantic relationships, either. For many of us, our future-picture had us surrounded by people, whether they are friends or relatives, enjoying our shared company. You can start those relationships now by actively engaging with your coworkers and colleagues, forging friendships that can last for the next 30 years.



That’s your Wellness in 10 for November. We hope you can use this advice to escape the cycle of wanting more, and entering the state of having more and being more. All it takes is an honest assessment of what will really make you happy.


On that subject, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner (for our friends in the US), we’d like to say a hearty THANK YOU to all of you for being a part of NWI! Have a great month!


Tags:  Emotional Wellness  Happiness  Wellness In 10 

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Mindfulness as Effective as some Anti-Depressants

Posted By NWI, Monday, November 7, 2016

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry has concluded that mindfulness exercises can be as effective in battling depression as some drugs.


The meta-analysis of data collected on 1258 patients between 2010 and 2014 shows that patients who engaged in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) had a reduced risk of depressive relapse within a 5-year period compared with those who did not receive MBCT. Additionally, comparisons with active treatments such as prescription drugs also showed a reduced risk of relapse within the same period. There was also some evidence to suggest that a greater severity of depressive symptoms prior to treatment was associated with a larger effect of MBCT compared with other treatments.


To read the full study in JAMA Psychiatry, click here


Tags:  Antidepressants  Depression  Happiness  Mindfulness  Psychiatry 

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Wellness in 10: 10 questions to help you find purpose

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Some people seem to have life figured out from the time they get out of diapers, while the rest of us spend a lot of time and money and effort on the figuring out what it is that we want out of life. Even then, a fair number of us never seem to figure out our true calling. For those of us who have a little more difficult time finding our purpose, here are few questions to ask yourself to help get on the path that’s right for you:



1.    What projects make you lose track of time?


Have you ever gotten so lost in a project or an idea that you forget to stop and eat, or even go to the bathroom? That’s a huge sign that the activity you’re involved in speaks to you at a core level.



2.    What makes you feel good about yourself?


What kinds of activities make you excited, happy, and alive? Consider this question without shame. It’s been said that nobody wants to be a garbage man, but it turns out some people love working outside, lifting weights, taking care of their community, and driving big trucks. For that person, being the garbage man could be exactly what brings purpose for him or her! So be honest with yourself, and think about what makes you feel good - regardless of whether it involves bring a rock star or being a rock picker.



3.    What are you naturally good at?


What sort of skills and abilities come naturally to you? People tend to love doing the things they excel at.



4.    What do people typically ask you for help with?


This can be a HUGE indicator of traits that you don’t necessarily think of when asked what you’re good at. Are you the person that people to come to for advice? Are you the person who can figure out how to take a party up a notch? Are you the one that new parents come to for help with their kids? These are examples of skills you may have that aren’t traditionally marketable, but can have immense value - and can really set you apart from the crowd.



5.    If you were placed in front of a room full of strangers, what would you teach them?


This question relates to your passions. What subjects to you care about so much and get you so excited and fascinated that you want to share them with other people?


6.    What could you not do without doing or having in your life?


Really think about this one. The core of this question is asking you what external things you really value. Conversely, you could see this as a question about what things may be weighing you down. Try to figure out what things in your life are necessary, which are desirable, and which are holding you back.


7.    What are your strongest values?


What type of ethics do you hold dear? What issues are black-and-white for you? These can be causes for you to work toward to add real meaning to your life.



8.    What were some challenges you’ve overcome?


This question will teach you about skills you’ve learned, and about your own personal level of strength and stamina.  You may be surprised, when you’ve listed the challenges you’ve overcome, about how strong you really are.



9.    What causes speak to you?


Do you want to see less childhood obesity? How about preserving marsh land in your area? Perhaps you know a veteran who has influenced your life, and you’d like to give back by working with veterans’ causes.  Finding the cause that means a lot to you can go a long way toward feeling purpose for yourself.



10. If you got a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl to promote one thing, what would you promote?


Think of it – You’ve got a world-wide audience for 30 seconds. What cause or idea do you use your time for? It may seem silly, but this is a powerful question. At it’s root, it’s asking you what you believe in so strongly that you would tell the whole world about it if you could.



These are ten questions you can ask yourself to try to figure out your purpose and inform your decisions going forward. Feel free to share these questions with your coworkers, family, and friends who are currently trying to find their own path. What questions do you feel are missing from this list, and how would you answer them?

Tags:  Focus  Happiness  Purpose  Wellness in 10 

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Your Genes Can Make You Happy (or Neurotic)

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, May 3, 2016

For some people, it seems like happiness is in their genes. Now scientists at Baylor College of Medicine have proven it.


A study of nearly 300,000 subjects released in the journal Nature in December, 2015, has found that gene variants in the central nervous system, adrenal tissues, and pancreas have major effects on whether a person is predisposed to be happy, depressed, or neurotic.


The researchers found that there are three genetic variants which influence a person toward being more happy and feeling more well, there are two genetic variations which incline a person toward depression, and there are eleven genetic combinations which direct a  person toward neuroticism.


For now, it seems like the genetic bad news outweighs the good, but with a better understanding of these genetic permutations, we could potential have the ability to find new creative ways to combat maladies like depression and neuroticism at the genetic level in the future.


To read the study in Nature, click here.

Tags:  Brain Science  Genetics  Happiness  Neurosis  Study  Wellness 

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Happiness is found not to affect mortality

Posted By NWI, Monday, January 4, 2016

Good news for people who love bad news: a new study published in The Lancet has found that a person’s happiness does not necessarily correlate directly with their longevity.

The study of more than 700, 000 women found that those who rated themselves as “unhappy” in a survey were not any more likely to suffer from early mortality than those women who rated themselves as “happy.”

The findings are limited, however, to those women who were in good physical health. Women who had physical ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, depression, etc. were not included in the results of the mortality study.

To read the study, whether you happen to smile or frown while you’re doing it, click here.

Tags:  Happiness  health  longevity  wellness 

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10 Trees = $10k worth of happiness

Posted By NWI, Saturday, September 5, 2015

How happy would you be to get a $10,000 raise? How about a $10,000 raise for every household on your block? Sound good? Then plant some trees!

The city of Toronto, Canada found that by planting ten trees on a city block, the happiness of the residents on that block was raised by an amount similar to what they would get if their household income were raised by $10,000.

This benefit comes in the form of increased overall health. The increase in health was doubled for those with cardio-metabolic problems. This pattern of increased health for those who live in greener areas has been seen as a way to potentially disrupt the pattern of healthy wealthy people, and less healthy poverty-stricken people.

Researchers are still somewhat stumped as to why these health benefits can be attributed to trees. Hypotheses include the fact that trees reduce air pollution, provide shade, and ambiguously “reduce stress.” Researchers are also contending that natural environments can improve attention and memory.

To read more about the city of Toronto’s findings on trees and health, click here.

Tags:  Environment  Happiness  Nature 

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Wellness in 10+: What happy people do differently!

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

HappinessAfter writing about the detrimental impact of feeling lonely in another article for this month’s Wellness News You Can Use, we have decided to dedicate Wellness in 10 to the things that happy people do differently. If you are on Facebook, or get forwarded e-mails, you may have seen the Top 10 lists of what "happy people do differently." There are many of these lists in circulation. For this Top 10, we gathered our wellness favorites from around the web. You’ll notice there are more than 10. There is always room for more happiness! J

Happy people…

·         Seek balance

·         Don’t sweat the small stuff

·         Take responsibility for their actions

·         Surround themselves with other happy people

·         Are honest with themselves and others

·         Smile often and show other signs of happiness (p.s. you can fake it until you make it…it helps!)

·         Are passionate

·         See challenges as opportunities

·         Live in the present

·         Engage in activities that fit their strengths, values and lifestyle 

·         Practice gratitude

·         Practice optimism

·         Focus on inner happiness and not material wealth

·         Develop coping strategies

·         Take time out for themselves and their health

·         Cultivate spiritual emotions

·         Don’t care if they are liked

·         Love their friends and family, but don’t rely on them

·         When you ask them what they do, they don’t give you a job title

·         When you ask them where they live, they say, “at the moment…”

·         Embrace their impermanence

·         Don’t try to change people, but work to accept them

·         Believe age is just a number

·         Never stop learning

·         Don’t gossip

·         Never expect anything in return

·         Avoid complaining

·         Work on forgiveness

·         Savor the small things

·         Commit to goals

·         Take the time to listen

·         Get enough sleep

·         Eat well

·         Exercise

·         Treat everyone with kindness

·         Obey their conscience

·         Take time to relax

·         Know the difference between "need" and "want"

·         Help others thrive

·        (Comment below to add your thoughts to the list!)

How to use this list: Pick one or two items to practice each day. Wake up and say, “Today I will learn something new, show kindness to each individual I encounter, etc…”

Tags:  Emotional  Happiness  Intellectual  July 2014  Occupational  Physical  Social  Spiritual  Wellness In 10 

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