Take Action For Happiness

Happiness.

Such a 'happy' sounding word full of so many possibilities. It's something that we all try to find, something that sometimes can be hard to come by. Something that is very important but often misunderstood when it comes to working out what really makes us happy. Not only that but what makes the community and wider world around us happy and how we can contribute to that.

Do Happiness

Well now there's a new movement in town called Action for Happiness who'd like to help us do all of the above and more! It's this organisation and what they're aiming to do that I wanted to have a chat about here on the blog today.

Happiness Advantage

I was introduced to the organisation at a conference last year and was recently looking back over the photos and notes that I took, prompting me to take another good look around their website to learn more. Plus with the International Day of Happiness fast approaching on the 20th of this month it seems like as good a time as any to consider what happiness is and how we can truly try to find it.

The idea behind Action for Happiness is to help bring a better state of wellbeing into our communities, our homes and into our our minds in general. To help us focus on the things that count. To focus on helping each other and seek out simple ways to increase our sense of feeling good and living well.

Happiness Ten Steps

Now life isn't all rainbows and butterflies as we all well know - and as was once very accurately pointed out to me by a reader. I struggle to stay positive and happy all of the time and have my personal ups and downs which is part of the reason it forms such a big part of what I share on this blog. It's something I seek and when I seek, I learn and like to share with you as readers in the hope what I've found might reach out to you too!

Action for Happiness are trying to help us take a step back and remember what it is that really makes the world a happier place. To slow down and absorb the good things instead of being so caught up in the ever increasing pace around us.

The slide above shows their Ten Keys To Happier Living which are a great place to start when it comes to thinking about how you can improve your wellbeing.

Enjoy The Little Things

If finding practical ways to take action towards a happier and healthier life is something that appeals to you then I really urge you to check this organisation out, have a look at their resources and see if you can find resonance in what they're doing in order to help yourself and those around you. Their fresh and positive approach is a great source of information for reassessing the approach we take to our lives. 

Like the beautiful quote above says, it really is all about enjoying the little things and making the most of each and every moment. It's just that sometimes we all need a little help reminding us just how and why we should do this.

Thanks again from me must go to the Hacking Happiness summit from last year, for bringing this great organisation to my attention. I really did take away so much fantastic information from that day!

Enjoy your day everyone and thanks for reading. I hope that you have a moment to take a look at the website for this organisation and perhaps find some useful and inspirational tips that you can take with you into your working and day to day life - to make things just a little brighter. Plus don't forget to get involved on the 20th of March and celebrate a great day of Happiness.

 


Finding Purpose With A Happy Start Up

"I blew it" the final words of Sam Walton on his deathbed, the hugely successful entrepreneur, businessman and constant contender for the top of the worlds richest rich lists. The man who built Walmart into a multi-mega corporation from a small general store, revolutionising the retail industry into what we recognise it as today. So how exactly did he blow it?

The truth is that in those final moments Sam Walton suddenly realised where he had failed. He had made his business and fortune the priority all of his life, and no-one could deny or do anything but applaud his entrepreneurial spirit and depth of success - in business. Yet in those last moments he realised that wasn't what his life should have been about. He knew he had never really been there as a father, husband or a friend and that an incomplete business life would have been far more preferable than an incomplete 'human life.' What Sam Walton taught us about priorities in those last minutes of his life is far more valuable than anything he ever taught us in the world of business.

I wanted to talk about this today because back at the end of last year at the Hacking Happiness conference it was a subject bought up by a fantastic organisation called The Happy Start Up School. An organisation who are on a mission to change the way that we grow our businesses and take care of our futures. Whether you are an entrepreneur at heart or are looking for better connection in your daily working life I think their ethos can give everyone a lot to think about.

Don't get me wrong, it's not about saying that people with great entrepreneurial spirit, passion and drive to get up every day, work so hard to make success happen and achieve professional success are doing something wrong. Instead it's about helping people achieve that kind of success without sacrificing their own lives and the happiness and wellbeing of themselves and those around them.

With a reported 72% of workers currently unhappy and disengaged in the work place the Happy Start Up School believe that the companies of the future have a responsibility to create environments with a sense of purpose, a strong culture and happy and engaged employees. Plus you'll be surprised just how many companies are beginning to adopt the same mantra.

Evan Williams, former CEO of Twitter who once adopted the work at 100 miles an hour even if you're running on empty approach is now a proponent of ensuring you have a good work-life balance. Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook leaves work at 5:30pm to ensure she is home in time to have dinner with her children. It's no longer about burning yourself down to the ground to succeed.

The Happy Start Up School have realised that companies with a purpose at their heart will create meaningful work that their employees can engage with and that this in turn will lead to better long term success. They encourage people to think of their legacy strategy not their exit strategy - what do you want to be remembered for? For the speaker at the conference being a great dad was far higher on the list than wealth, business and professional success. Make yourself rich in the new currency of time and balance and not just money.

I believe that whatever our professional path or journey we can all learn from these foundations and ideas and use them to move forward with a far more balanced approach. It might seem idealistic but I truly believe that balance is more important than burn out.

As demonstrated by the graph above, if we think about what we do well, what we want to do, balanced with what people will pay for - somewhere in the middle is that optimal happy place that will enable us to lead a fulfilled professional life without completely sacrificing who we are as people. 

Not only that but our fellow colleagues, customers and the teams in which we work will sense that purpose, that authenticity and transparency and engage with us far better than before.

So as Richard Branson quite famously advocates, work hard but play even harder! Make everyday unique and when opportunity knocks, open the door and make every single second count.


What Do High Performance Animals Do All Day?!

You know - Lions, Tigers and well Cheetahs and the like! I won't tell you the full answer that I was given although I'm sure you can guess, but in short they spend most of their days sitting under a tree and conserving their energy. Working smart and effectively, preserving their strength. This brilliant side note came from Ray McKiernan of Resilience International during his talk at Hacking Happiness and I wanted to share with you some more of his wisdom today! Namely some tips on how making yourself more resilient can help you deal more effectively with stress in your life.

Don't Give Up

Among many other things, as a specialist skills trainer and trainer in stress management Ray works with people in conflict, peacekeepers and people who have to deal with hostage situations. All very high stress circumstances with their own trials and difficulties. He is also a specialist trainer on stress, pressure and burnout so with that background he certainly had a great deal to offer us willing listeners at the conference. As Founder of Resilience International he has built an organisation that provides evidence based training solutions to people and organisations under significant pressure.

Dealing with high stress and extremely difficult situations is something most of us will come across at some point in our working or daily lives. For some of us, luckily, maybe only once or twice if that, for others quite possibly on a regular basis.

Human Performance

When placed under high emotional stress a key factor is how we will respond to such a situation, the more resilient will adapt much more readily without such lasting effects on their emotional and physical health. Now I'm not entirely sure I can count myself among the emotionally resilient despite being tested with I guess some of the tougher ups and downs of life through the years. The good news is that this 'armour for modern day life' can be learned and I will attempt today to show you and point you in the direction of how!

Understanding your resilience is about self awareness. Our internal unconscious mind makes up about 80% of our day to day thinking, self awareness can help us to over-ride subconscious negative patterns and find new ways to react and resolve.

Awareness Spectrum


I've gathered together some advice for building resilience into your lives through some of my own research. I thought I'd share here the five top tips that most stood out to me when it comes to learning and practising this skill:

1. Own what is happening to you and don't rely on addictive patterns. One common problem that we have when dealing with situations in life, be they good or bad, is a tendency to fall into known patterns of response. We have to learn to break these patterns and use critical thinking and reasoning to find solutions. To not just give in to unconscious negative patterns learned from previous incidents. 

2. Practice patience with yourself and maintain empathy with others. Resist the urge to blame others around you when things go wrong and learn to be patient with others but also with yourself. Be mindful, absorb the situation and don't run. Ask yourself what can you learn? How can you solve this? Be patient as you figure out the answers, find a resolution. Be courageous and not a victim of your circumstances.

3. Live to learn. Put simply the more that you challenge yourself in life and go out of your comfort zone the better equipped you will become at dealing with adversity. Let yourself evolve and grow. Experiences in life will enable you to build confidence and look for solutions rather than running from your problems.

4. Take care of yourself. It's simple and it gets said a lot but for good reason. Good health and healthy habits are the foundation of mental and emotional resilience. Eat well, catch up on your sleep, keep fit and healthy to give yourself the best chance of coping well in a crisis. Don't forget your mind - take regular mental breaks, meditate to keep the mind focused and calm. Don't let your wellbeing resources deplete.

5. Remember the funny things in life, keep your sense of humour! There's a reason the phrase 'comic relief' is popular in society (apart from being coined by the well known charity). In times of trouble don't be afraid to laugh. Laughter really can be the best medicine and can enhance our survival by reducing tension and stress to more moderate and manageable levels. 

 

 Build Your Resilience Resources - Don't Let Them Deplete Over Time

Build Your Resilience Resources - Don't Let Them Deplete Over Time

So if you want to become more resilient to challenges in your life then you could start by building on the above to fill up your resilience resources. It's when our resources deplete that we are unable to cope with stress, as we age this gets increasingly harder. Research has shown that high levels of stress actually affect the way our DNA ages, hence why people under stress can suddenly look a lot older and with increased chance of illness. The good news is that by building our emotional resources, learning and practising these techniques we can reverse these adverse affects, retain greater focus and stay healthier for longer. We just have to make the choice to do so and be active in our approach.

To finish off today's post I just had to share the quote below that I found on the Resilience International webpage - I think this sums things up perfectly and is certainly something worth bearing in mind as you work on building your own resilience toolbox.

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change"

Charles Darwin

 

So how resilient are you? Why not take this test and find out! 

 


Hacking Happiness And Getting Headspace!

You may remember a post I wrote a few weeks back about the Hacking Happiness summit taking part in London that I was planning to attend. Well that took place just over a week ago now and after a week of absorbing all of the brilliant information that I took away from the conference I thought I would share some of those really interesting bits and pieces here on the blog as promised!

There was so much to learn that I'm going to spread it out over a few posts. Today I'll begin with a round up of what was on offer and just how the day went down. Over the next week or so I then plan to dig a little deeper into some of the information and ideas offered by the speakers so if you're interested in learning more then please stay tuned.

The entire summit took place over three days but because of other commitments I was only able to take part on the Friday at the main conference. This was held at the LSO St Luke's Conference Hall on Old Street in London. This restored 18th Century Church, which I had never been to before, provided a great setting for the day. I was very impressed with it's facilities and the great atmosphere so thought it deserved an honourable mention here today! If your company or organisation are looking for a unique venue in which to host a conference or event in London then this location is well worth checking out.

The first talk of the day was from Dr. David Cox, Chief Medical Officer at Headspace who provide a unique free online app aimed at making meditation simple providing a 'gym membership for the mind.'

Now I must admit I have downloaded the app but I haven't yet got myself active in using it. It does look really great though and I very much intend to give it a go (I will start today!) So once I've delved into it in more detail then I'll come back to the blog and report my findings for anyone interested in some more information.

Dr. Cox certainly provided us with a lot of food for thought as well as a great insight into the benefits of mindfulness and daily meditation. I know that some people may pull back in uncertainty at the thought of practicing meditation and perhaps aren't so keen on this fairly new idea, to the mainstream at least, of remaining mindful. I hope over the next couple of posts I will be able to demonstrate that this whole way of thinking may not be quite what you expect and that being mindful and spending some time each day taking care of your mind as well as your body is firstly not as hard or scary as it might sound and secondly really quite an easy thing to start doing. I've talked before about the benefits of a decent work-life balance in this post here and I think that a lot of the techniques out there and offered for example by the Headspace app will go a long and useful way to helping us find this sometimes mystical and unreachable 'balance' that we keep on hearing about.

Being mindful and getting 'headspace' has increasingly been shown to have significant and surprising effects on our performance both at work and in our daily lives. You may be surprised at just what can be achieved including improvements in memory, focus and relationships and a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression. The Headspace mission? 'To Improve the Health and Happiness of the World' - sounds like a good plan don't you think?! If you're intrigued then check out their website for a lot of really useful information and to investigate further how you can start putting daily meditation and mindfulness into practice.

As I said above I want to go into some of the other talks in more detail - I have many notes to share with you! So I'll finish off today's post with a few further mentions of some of the other fun things that we got a chance to experience that day. Including a really excellent and truly pretty mind-blowing performance from London based magicians DNA Official

Now this duo were a little bit amazing with their incredible mind-reading magic tricks including completing a Rubik's cube blindfolded amongst other 'hang on a minute what just happened?!' moments. If magic or just generally being really and honestly amazed is your thing then you should really check them out, fantastic and a great pair to have at your event to really wow and intrigue your crowd.

Food also played an important part in the day and again I want to talk about this more in a separate post following a talk from Darya Rose of Summer Tomato where she discussed exactly why your brain won't let your diet work! If like me you have an ongoing up and down relationship with food then this will certainly be something to come back and read.

We were really lucky to have a variety of food and drink on offer and I tried out the Karma Cans caramelised chicken at lunch which was a delicious revelation. Karma Cans provide lunch time delivery and catering within Central London. Believing in sustainability and seasonality all of their food is delivered in re-usable tiffin tins that are collected the following day, or in disposable but completely compostable packaging. The food is freshly made on site and providing you with healthy, high protein meals for a truly delicious office lunch. It isn't about being healthy in the dieting sense but about eating fresh, quality food in the form of a truly well balanced meal. Like I say at the moment they are only London based but look out for them as hopefully they will continue to do many delicious things further afield in the future.

Oh and I washed this down with copious amounts of coconut water as well as my new found very favourite tea Lively English Breakfast Tea - the liveliness comes from the added Ginseng and it certainly perks you right up!

So there we have a round up of the day in brief with much more to come. I also wanted to quickly mention General Assembly for those of you who haven't come across them before (like me). They were one of the sponsors of the day although that has no bearing whatsoever on why I'm mentioning them here. It's just that I had kind of forgotten all about them to be honest until something popped up on my Facebook feed yesterday, completely unrelated to this event. Intrigued I took a look in more detail and have found what they have on offer really interesting. 

They basically offer a number of full and part time courses, both on campus and online, for people looking to learn coding, web design and business skills from other professionals. Originally started in New York City and, I understand, very well known in the US they are now branching out internationally. If you're a coding nightmare like me but are desperate to improve then you may find some of what they have on offer really useful. I've just signed up to learn more about their Dash course where you can learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript through fun projects that you can do in your browser. If I take the course and all goes well I'll certainly let you know more - any advice from anyone who has taken this or a similar course would be really welcome.

So for now I will say farewell for today, thank you as always for reading and join me soon for more Happiness Hacks as well as some seasonal fun and ideas coming soon here on the blog. Happy Tuesday all!