This is the advice the folks behind Greater Good in Action and it’s not all pie in the sky.
Greater Good in Action promotes science-based practices for a meaningful life, and that includes at work where we spend most of our time.
It’s all about discovering new practices that will stop you from beating yourself up and being a doomsayer—practices that will help you become more positive, more altruistic and, at work, more productive and motivated.
Dr Kim Vella, accredited executive career coach, knows a thing or two about happiness. She’s completed a Science of Happiness course through the University of California’s Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Centre.
The course proved to Kim—beyond a doubt—that there are ways we can be happier at work, home and in life in general.
‘It can be through simple random acts of kindness, finding silver linings, gaining perspectives on an argument, mindful breathing, or even writing a self-compassionate letter,’ says Kim. ‘These are open to all of us and it doesn’t have to cost a cent.’
When focusing on happiness at work, Kim says small amounts of effort can lead to big happiness gains.
‘One idea the Greater Good Science Centre has is to write down the three funniest things you heard, saw, did or experienced each day for one week,’ says Kim. ‘This could help reduce depression and boost happiness for months because it gets us thinking about fun and pleasant stuff and not on boring, problem-related stuff.’
Kim decided to put this practical idea to the test and was delighted with the results. She’s now encouraging the clients she coaches to do the same and become better leaders and employees.
‘Sure, it takes a bit of time, but we that’s better than investing heaps of time on the negative and being unhappy,’ says Kim. ‘It’s well worth the small investment. To be a better leader you need to have a positive mindset and encourage others to do the same. You can’t achieve this if you’re down in the dumps.’
Kim also agrees with the Greater Good Science Centre that writing a letter to oneself—one every day for a week—will put us in a better mood and more positive frame of mind.
‘In the letter, The Greater Good Science Centre says to express compassion, understanding and acceptance for the parts of ourselves we’re not fond of. This can lower symptoms of depression and make us feel greater happiness for up to six months. We all know that beating ourselves up isn’t productive, so why do we spend huge amounts of time and effort doing just that?’
Silver linings is another way to boost happiness. This helps us park pessimistic and dysfunctional thinking to the side, paving the way for a more positive approach.
‘Make a list of what helps you see the bright side of situations when things go wrong,’ says Kim. ‘If you do this every day for three weeks, you’ll feel more engaged and see the upside to challenging situations rather than the downsides, which can be totally exhausting.’
Being happy has many benefits at work. We can cope better with challenging problems, gain new perspectives on how to manage debate and arguments, learn to ask better questions and listen, and be a better team player.
It’s also important to remember that we’re not alone in unhappiness.
In the 2019 World Happiness Report, the annual United Nations landmark survey on the state of global happiness, Australia slipped from being the 9th most happy county in the world to the 11th.
To be happy, do we need to move to the happiest country in the world, a title Finland has won twice in a row?
‘No, we don’t,’ says Kim, ‘but we can understand happiness—what is it, how we search for it and what the science is behind it.’