Prescription for Happiness
A company wide change of health insurance provider at the beginning of the year has seen our new partner provide a number of health and wellbeing related talks throughout the year. The latest of these was delivered by Dr Mark Rowe and the subject was his ‘Prescription for Happiness’. Being a big fan of positivity and happiness in general, I was interested to hear what the good doctor had to say.
I'm afraid happiness is not a one stop shop so if you’re looking for a one line answer you’ll be disappointed. I'm also conscious that happiness will be different for every individual. There are however some straightforward steps that we can all take to improve our happiness. During the interactive session, the energetic Dr Rowe spoke about his commitments to a happier and healthier life and his tool kit for cultivating happiness and wellbeing. Here’s a few of the main points that I took home from the talk:
What is Happiness?
According to Dr Rowe, happiness is a combination of pleasure, engagement and meaning. Material things can't help us sustain happiness. We can however cultivate happiness by working towards goals that are consistent with our values.
Only 1 out of every 5 of us is living to our potential. The key in life is to ‘know yourself’. Positive psychology (or the scientific study of happiness) looks at what's right in our lives so we should be concentrating on that, not on what’s wrong! Cliona spoke about the potential that studying positive psychology released in her life in my last blog. We need to open up the possibility of potential within ourselves. Dr Rowe sees a direct correlation between improvements in happiness and reaching more potential in life.
Unfortunately, there is ‘a pill for every ill’. The reality is we probably don’t need the majority of these medicines. Exercise is the greatest pill of all. Exercise releases serotonin and increases BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF is partly responsible for improvements in cognitive function and was described by Dr Rowe as miracle grow for the brain. The key lesson here was that it’s never too late to exercise. Start with small steps, exercise whenever you have spare time. Dr Rowe gave an example of how he exercises while brushing his teeth! Small daily improvements over time can lead to amazing results.
I’ve heard this advice many times before and it was echoed again by Dr Rowe: ‘surround yourself with positive people’. Without friends and relationships there is no happiness. Positive psychology studies show that relationships are the leading indicator of our wellbeing. Harvard research backs this up with actual data: Each happy person you spend time with boosts your happiness by up to 9%. Each unhappy person you spend time with can result in a drop of 7% in our happiness! Negativity exists, that’s a fact of life however it is possible to avoid needless negativity - just like avoiding passive smoking. Absence makes the heart grow fonder is the well-known saying however it can also make the heart grow weaker – loneliness can be the most terrible poverty. It’s officially bad for your heart if you don’t have at least 4 good friends. We become most like the 5 people that we spend the most time with, so choose who you surround yourself with carefully!
According to Dr Rowe, giving thanks is the highest form of thought. Gratitude is about saying thank you with real meaning. Cultivating gratitude breathes meaning and value in our everyday relationships. An example of this is keeping a gratitude diary and either last thing at night or first thing in the morning, writing down two or three things you feel grateful for. Dr Rowe says this is a natural antidote to envy, hostility and negativity as it’s impossible to feel grateful and hostile at the same time. The art of true gratitude is learning to want what you have right now.
Dr Rowe advocates doing less but in a more productive way. This reminded me of the ‘Less Doing More Living’ movement that I have heard about but must admit I need to research a bit more. Halfway through the session, Dr Rowe invited us to join him in a short meditation. This seemed to relax everyone in the room and from my own point of view I felt more focused on what was being discussed afterwards. Dr Rowe spoke about the benefits that meditation and mindfulness can bring to an individual and why they are real silver bullets for our wellbeing. The key lesson I took from this section was to ‘make time for what matters’.
The specific tools you use from your kit for cultivating happiness and wellbeing will depend on your own situation and needs in life at a particular moment. Encourage people in your life to look at the silver lining rather than the dark clouds and suggest new practices that they can incorporate into their daily lives. Lead by example by incorporating new practices into your daily routine. Remember that small changes over time lead to amazing results.
I leave you with Dr Rowe’s final thoughts:
“A whopping 40% of our potential happiness comes from within. We need to cultivate our own happiness, no one else is going to do it for us. Don’t wait until you retire to be happy. Don’t wait for the recession to be over. Choose happiness now. Say yes to happiness. The best way to be happy, is to make other people happy. So start today and choose to be happy yourself!”
Yours in health,
P.S I love talking about health and wellbeing so drop me a line to discuss any of the above. I'd be happy to support your business with their wellness objectives.
Contact me directly with any questions you may have: firstname.lastname@example.org
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