What if I said there was a simple ingredient that anyone can add to their life that will make you more productive, better at concentrating, increase your creativity, enhance your speed at many tasks, and even improve your genius? Sounds like some kind of superhero-creating mystery potion, right?
Actually, it’s just happiness. Happiness is a key part of LDS doctrine: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25), but sometimes even as Mormons we forget to practice happiness.
In a TEDx talk that was recently released, psychologist Shawn Achor humorously delivers what may be the most powerful talk ever given on human potential at TED. And that’s saying something. He introduces us to a “scientific revolution” called “positive psychology.” It’s all about how changing the way we think, so that we’re more happy, enhances and increases our capacity and ability to do most things that we do. And the greatest thing about it is that they’ve also discovered ways we can practice happiness by doing certain things.
The talk is hillarious, and you should watch it. It’ll be among the best 12 minutes you’ll spend today (I’ve watched it 5 times in the last 3 days):
Happiness Comes from Within
Achor talks about external vs internal factors influencing your happiness. Only 10% of your long-term happiness can be predicted by external factors. That means that our LDS doctrines regarding choice are also very applicable to our attitude, in spite of external conditions. Even if your life is what everyone else would consider horrible by outside circumstance, you can still control 90% of your long-term happiness.
He uses “medical school syndrome” wherein people seem to develop all the symptoms of a sickness or condition, just by reading and learning about it, as a bad example of how thought patterns affect how we feel. Conversely, we can become happy by studying and learning about it, as well as putting into practice certain things that will help put our mind in a state of happiness. For example, a study they did “found that 75% of job successes is predicted by your optimism levels, social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.”
Happiness Comes from Obedience
Joseph Smith taught:
Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five, 1842–43, p. 255)
Interestingly Mr. Achor states that a few simple practices done daily, can “rewire” your brain to be more optimistic and happy. He recommends doing the following daily:
- Writing down 3 new things you’re grateful for
- Recording in your journal, one positive experience
- Meditation, to focus your mind (stop multitasking!)
- Random/conscious acts of kindness (email 1 person telling them why you’re grateful for them)
Its fascinating that Prophets have been teaching us to do these things at least since Joseph Smith restored the gospel to the earth. More recently Pres. Eyring has told us that we should write in our journal daily, and record the ways in which the Lord has blessed us (see 1 & 2 above). President Uchtdorf has counseled “it is good advice to slow down, steady the course, and focus on the essentials” (4 above). And while a Seventy and the President of BYU-Idaho, Elder Bednar gave a powerful talk titled “In a State of Happiness” which explores the doctrine of happiness and the essential role it plays in the Plan of Salvation (MP3 here).
So use this as your launch point for some “happiness school syndrome” by studying happiness, minimizing pessimism and negativity, and doing the things we know will make us happier, because both modern Prophets, and science, say so.
Learn more about Shawn Achor at his website.