I love listening to podcasts and often walk around the house or supermarket while taking in inspiration for my life, work, and healing journey. This week was no different. And I want to share this podcast with you in particular because it confirms a lot of what I have been trying to teach you over the years: positivity pays off!

Happiness is the joy you feel moving towards your potential.
– Shawn Achor

The podcast I was listening to was Super Soul Sunday by Oprah. And the guest speaker was Shawn Achor. Before I share some of my own thoughts, here are all the details and the podcast for you to listen to.

The Life-Altering Power of a Positive Mind

In a live appearance at UCLA’s Royce Hall, New York Times best-selling author, happiness expert and Harvard-trained researcher Shawn Achor says that pleasure isn’t the only thing that brings people happiness. How do you explain the joy felt during spiritually and emotionally challenging moments, such as when your legs are burning halfway through a marathon or when you cradle your 1-year-old in the middle of the night until she falls back to sleep? He offers a definition of happiness that encompasses all things that bring us deep, lasting joy. Shawn also explains how by making a single positive behavioral change, you can spark a powerful chain of happiness in your own life.

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Why Is Positive Thinking So Powerful?

I know I say this again and again and again: Positive thinking is not denying the more complex thoughts and emotions we experience. Shawn confirms this when he says: “Positive thinking is not about sugar coating the present. Because then we start making bad decisions for the future.”

Happiness is about how we decide to view life, about seeing the opportunities for growth, change, and connection. Without that positive outlook, we would simply give in to the negative thoughts and circumstances. Why bother working toward healing? we’d say. What’s the point?

In the podcast, Shawn gives us all sorts of amazing research results of how positive connection makes for a happier and healthier world. He has some fun and amazing stories, and I highly recommend you listen to the podcast and smile at these—especially if you’re in public because that stuff spreads (as explained in the podcast).

He explains that the way we think of happiness these days is in terms of pleasure. Pleasure is dependent on circumstances and it’s quite fleeting. Instead, we should think of positivity, optimism, and happiness as the pursuit of joy. We can experience joy even when we’re not experiencing pleasure. I remember a time when I felt joy shortly after losing a friend. Of course, I was bawling my eyes out at the time, but so were my friends around me. We were all connected in our grief and that was a joyous feeling.

Shawn argues that “your outer world is not a great predictor of your happiness.” He explains that we often feel we have to succeed at something before we get to be happy. But what usually happens once we reach our goal, is that we change the goal posts. Now, we have to achieve yet another measure of success in our search for happiness. This is a pursuit of pleasure. But what if we chose happiness now; finding gratitude for our life and circumstances as they stand? We’d not only be happier but also more likely to achieve the goals and measures of success that we set for ourselves.

“Your outer world is not a great predictor of your happiness” (Click to Tweet)

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Cultivate Joy In Two Minutes A Day

From the moment we wake up, our brains are constantly bombarded with negative information on the news and social media. This onslaught of negativity has an effect on how we start our days. We need to quiet that noise so we can adjust our mindset again.

You may want to consider limiting your exposure to this type of message (especially early in your day). If you need something to fill up the time that is now available to you, here are some two-minute ideas from the podcast to help cultivate happiness and joy.

#1. Think Of Three New Things You’re Grateful For

I like doing this as my husband while we give the dog a walk at night. We each come up with three things that we are grateful for that day and explain why (like how, right now, I’m grateful that said doggie walked into my office and wagged her tail at me; giving me a great excuse for a break).

#2. Journaling About A Positive Experience Of Two Minutes A Day

Sit down with your journal and think of something positive that happened in the last 24 hours. Then start describing it in your journal for about two minutes. What happened? Where? Who was there? What was the weather like? Your brain doesn’t know the difference between experiences and re-experiences so you just doubled your joy AND firmly committed the occasion to your memory.

#3. Two Minutes Of Breath Meditation

As little as two minutes of breath meditation can help you calm your brain down. All those fears, concerns, and anxieties become much less loud. If you need some help to get started, an app like Calm can be a useful tool.

#4. Write A Two Minute Positive Email Or Text Message To Someone

I love this one and I do it all the time now. Just take a few minutes to write someone a nice message. It’s amazing! And it pretty much always leads to a lovely little email or text conversation.

“Here are some two-minute ideas to help cultivate happiness and joy” (Click to Tweet)

To Be Happy, Or Not To Be Happy

Shawn draws three important conclusions from his research:

  • Happiness is a choice
  • Happiness spreads (just try not to smile at a person who is smiling at you)
  • Happiness is an incredible influence in our life

I personally feel that finding happiness and joy in our lives is such an important factor in our healing journey. We simply can’t work through the darkness of emotional healing without finding some light. That light can come from the connections with others and from the joy we find it working towards our potential.

And finally, I’ll leave you with this quote from the podcast:

“It is not necessarily the reality that shapes us but the lens through which we view reality that changes our experience of it, and our ability to create a better world. Happiness doesn’t stop us from change. It gives us a belief that change is actually possible.”

If you want some more happiness inspiration, check out Shawn’s TED Talk here.

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While I may technically be the Director here at SwanWaters, my unofficial title is Healing Cheerleader! I’m a survivor of childhood emotional abuse and workplace bullying. And believe me when I say that I’ve walked the walk when it comes to healing from trauma. I firmly believe that we can undo some of the damage that abuse has done to us, and learn the necessary skills to handle life and all it brings us.

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This week I look at Shawn Achor's Super Soul Sunday talk "The Life-Altering Power of a Positive Mind" and discuss how I feel it relates to our healing.

This week I look at Shawn Achor's Super Soul Sunday talk "The Life-Altering Power of a Positive Mind" and discuss how I feel it relates to our healing.

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