I just discovered Shawn Achor, and, boy, am I happy.
You don’t know who Shawn Achor is? How about Dan Buettner?
Still, no light bulbs going on?
Well, then, all I can say is, you must be a very unhappy person.
Achor is the author of “The Happiness Advantage.” He is also a “positive psychologist,” which is a very good thing to be, since all the psychologists you have visited have been extremely negative, especially when it came to the question of whether you could ever be considered even vaguely normal.
As for Buettner, he’s the cat who wrote “The Blue Zone.” He also operates a nifty website called bluezones.com, where you can take a test to determine how happy you are, but more on that later.
For now, let us simply focus on the mutual theme expressed by Achor and Buettner, which is, put simply, that anyone can be happy, if only they would work at it.
Yes, even with your annoying co-workers and your miserable boss and your stressful relationships with your partner, your children, your pet marmoset and the universe in general, you, you depressed and depressing wretch, could be happy.
How to start? Well, how about creating “a happiness ritual.” That’s when you set aside a few minutes every day to write down three things you’re grateful for in a notebook. Don’t have anything you’re grateful for? How about being grateful for owning a notebook? Paid so little at work that you can’t afford to buy a notebook? How about being grateful that you can steal a notebook from the supply cabinet at work? Get caught stealing office supplies and lose your job? How about being grateful for suddenly having all the time in the world to think about how grateful you could be if you had anything to be grateful for, which you don’t.
See, you’re feeling happier already!
Looking for the positive in every situation is another happiness technique, though, I have to admit, considering what we laughingly call “your life,” it may not be easy. Perhaps the best way to think positive is to remind yourself of all the ways your life could end. There are literally thousands of diseases that could strike you down. Many of them show up suddenly and unannounced like that tiny, brown, scaly spot on your back. You never noticed it before, but it definitely doesn’t look survivable.
Bingo! More happiness!
If you’re feeling brave enough to measure your happiness level, head over to bluezones.com. You can take a free, multiple-choice quiz on the site, and in a matter of moments, confirm what a miserable, joyless life you are living. Many of the questions are strictly factual, and some, I have to say, are a little personal, such as whether you have sexual relations once a month or “multiple times a day.” (This may be a difficult question to answer, since they didn’t provide “once in a blue moon” as an answer.)
The quiz also asks if you have children, though you would think an algorithm could easily compute this answer from the sexual activity data. It also wants to know if any of those children live at home. Surprisingly, the quiz omits the logical follow-up question of: “Do they live at home, sleep all day on the couch, and eat everything in the refrigerator that’s not nailed down?” Seems to me this would be a good measure of happiness, but, then again, I’m not a psychologist.
At the end of the test, you are given a number of suggestions on how to improve your happiness quotient. My personal prescription was to reduce the time I spend watching TV, which is impossible, since I am in the middle of a “True Blood” marathon; to sleep 7-8 hours, which would mean I’d have to cut my sleep time in half; to get out more and “see the sun;” and to “hang out with happy people.”
This leads me to wonder if you could come over to my cubicle this afternoon and hang out for a while. I’m pretty sure that, as happy as I am, I’d be even happier hanging out with someone as miserable as you. Maybe we could get some of our co-workers together to go and see the sun, but we’ll have to be careful. From what I’ve learned from “True Blood,” that won’t make the vampires that work in your company at all happy.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at www.bgplanning.com.