Happiness & science. Live 9.4 years longer!

In 2000 a huge amount of data was analysed and, after talking about happiness to 1.1m people in 45 different countries, it was concluded that on average people feel quite happy. On a scale from 0 to 10 the average score for all these people was 6.75, which is quite surprising when we think of how much time and effort and money many people put into the pursuit of happiness, how many of us complain and worry unnecessarily every day, and how many life coaches or self-help and self-development books are published every year on selling tips and techniques for boosting well-being!

A score of 6.75 I think is pretty good! What do you think?

Surely the surveys were not too straightforward and consisted of a series of questions to cover various aspects of well-being rather than asking only one question directly – how happy are you?

And we know there are LOTS OF benefits of being HAPPIER – it can even protect us against colds! Also, according to research done by Danner (results published in 2001) happiness can increase our life by 9.4 years!

1.jpg

What do you think your score would be?

I think if someone simply asked us only one question about happiness the answer would depend a lot on the time of day (we feel more tired and unmotivated in the afternoon rather than in the morning). The season of the year and the weather would also affect our answer, as would our feeling disappointed, stressed, in pain, or relaxed and contented at a particular time for some reason (maybe we just finished reading or writing a book or we are terrified because we are going to the dentist?!). We may focus more on the emotion we feel at particular time than on our general well-being. We probably wouldn’t score anywhere near the maximum number. However, we actually probably should give us a very high score when we think about it for longer and remind ourselves that actually maybe we have a great family, and food every day, and a roof over our head, and fairly good health; and maybe we can work full-time while some people due to ill health may not be able to… Or maybe we have a fantastic, trustworthy and reliable friend and there are some people out there in a toxic environment that leads them to depression and even suicide.

If we try to not take things for granted and be more grateful for what we have, our happiness level increases a lot. Actually, one of the most common exercises in positive psychology which can boost our well-being is to keep a diary where we write each day a few (3-5) things that we are grateful about that day. It is proven that this works and boosts our happiness level a lot.

111

Productive Mondays! How many hours should we work, ideally?

pexels-photo-260759.jpeg

We often confuse productivity with being busy. What exactly does it even mean? We feel productive when we are very busy, when we have a lot of tasks and complete most of them. Usually the more hours we work, the more productive we feel.

HOWEVER

There has been plenty of research where findings show that if we work too many hours we decrease our productivity A LOT!

What’s more, if we work a lot of hours for a few weeks or more – that’s just a perfect recipe for depression, burnout and anxiety which may even lead to a nervous breakdown!

Labour Economics published an article by Collewet and Sauermann where the researchers outlined their study done on call-centre workers. Even with part-time employees, increasing their number of working hours created more fatigue than productivity! (more about this study here )

Too few hours = we won’t achieve much.

Too many hours = we are tired and our productivity decreases a lot.

What’s the golden rule? What’s the perfect solution, then?

Chris Bailey in his book The Productivity Project (available HERE) talks about an experiment that he did. Namely, he worked alternate weeks for a very different amount of hours. One week he worked 20 hours and another one 90 hours, and in this way he did several weeks.

An important lesson that he realised? That while working 90 hours he did only a bit more work than while working 20 hours!

screenshot_20180121-122051.png

When he had only 20 hours to do his tasks, he felt a bit of pressure that his time was so limited so he focused on using his more valuable time (when he had most energy and attention) to do the most important, difficult and meaningful tasks. With that limited amount of time it was also easier not to procrastinate too much (and, apparently, it’s impossible to completely avoid procrastinating) because he had to focus on what must be done, on priorities! During the 20-hour-work week he had more time to recharge and restore his energy levels in various ways too (meditation, exercising, sleeping well, socialising, etc.).

When we work a lot, it’s hard to remember all the time what’s most important, what we should pay more attention to, what’s the bigger picture. Although we work more, we don’t have enough energy and focus to do planning or to do it properly, and to think of possible improvements and solutions to various problems.

Chris dug deep in his research to find out the ideal amount of hours that one should be working so as not to get too tired and to be able to complete a lot of tasks in a productive way. He found that although 46 hours felt like the best working week for him most studies indicate that 35-40 hours a week is perfect to get the job done with maximum productivity.

Surely the more you enjoy your job, the more you are able to work. However, breaks and time to rest are crucial for your creativity, maintaining an innovative and open-minded thinking and approach, and your efficiency.

How many hours a week do you work? Do you have any control over it? Can you improve this aspect in your life to become more productive?

Personal Growth project. When things don’t always go as they should.

What do you do and how do you feel if some days you can’t really do what you plan to do? Do you just ignore it, accept it and keep going or do you get frustrated? Life is unpredictable and it’s difficult to be prepared for everything. We may feel hopeless, but it’s important to remember that some aspects we CAN control and some others we won’t be able to. If we can’t control something – why waste time on worrying and getting stressed about it? If we can control something – again, why allow too many negative emotions to cross our mind? We can decide what to change and how so as to make our plans work.

aaaa

This week’s Personal Growth project update isn’t what I thought it would be because the third week of January has surprised me a lot…

Apparently the last two weeks have been the worst in England in terms of the amount of people suffering with flu. Most of my family is sick, including me. I’m actually recovering from tonsillitis, not flu, but that’s not that different really. A bad sore throat kept me awake for nearly three nights. I had to keep working full-time (a long story…) and when you are in your third trimester of pregnancy such a combination of circumstances is not much fun… I felt stressed, weak and unproductive. And as you can see I still feel a bit like complaining about everything ;). I really don’t like to feel this way.

aaaaaaaaaa

On the other hand, I try to focus on the positive whenever I can and I’m actually quite surprised that I did anything at all related to my project this week! I did a bit of writing, and  I uploaded some blog posts on time according to my new schedule (Productive Mondays, Happy Wednesdays and weekends with Personal Development). I was reading books and doing some research, and kept my social media related to my project mostly up to date. I should try not to get too frustrated that I haven’t done enough/much this week when there is a good reason for that and I think being ill is probably a good reason. 😉 haha

If your week wasn’t great then maybe you will stop for a moment to consider one of my favourite quotes which  always makes me feel better in such situations:

b

What could that reason be this time? Maybe just a simple reminder to slow down once in a while, not to review your goals, but actually to forget about the goals for a few days and re-charge the batteries.

As I mentioned during the project prep time – a flexible approach is, and always will be, critical here (as long as I don’t use it as an excuse to procrastinate! ;)). I think I should write the word FLEXIBILITY on a white board in my kitchen to keep this in mind all the time 😉 Without this attitude I’d probably already feel that I’ve failed. If you allow yourself some flexibility and try to get back to a positive mindset whenever you can then surely you won’t fail and you won’t disappoint yourself! 😉

And let me share one more favourite reminder which keeps me motivated in difficult moments:

aa.jpg

How has your week been going? How have you been doing with your goals?

HAPPY WEDNESDAYS! What can make us happier?

I’ve decided to create a cycle of blog posts on HAPPINESS that will always be published on Wednesdays. There are SO MANY interesting facts, data and anecdotes to share about happiness!

25504ebc0315985c34a10c3ad9b1e0e9.jpg

I’ve noticed that in the last decade the definition of success has started to change from ‘rich and famous’ to ‘happy, healthy and with a meaningful life’. I think media and the Internet are largely responsible for this shift because we’ve learnt that celebrities’ lives are not as perfect as we used to think and that rich does not mean happy. For example, it is such a rarity to see a famous person in a successful relationship for most of their life. Like everyone else, despite all the money and success in the world, they also get sick and suffer.

Studies show that money can make you a little bit happier in some circumstances (more about this in a future blog post) but in the long-term it doesn’t mean HAPPY. For example, moving to a sunnier climate or getting nearly $10,000 more a year would make you very excited and enthusiastic for some period of time, a few weeks or months, but then it goes back nearly to its usual level giving you only approximately a 1-2% boost in your happiness level! (more info in – Christakis and Fowler’s book Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (available here).

The article What makes a life good? (in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1998) stressed nearly 2 decades ago that happiness seems to be more valuable to people than:

Pursuit of money

Moral goodness

Or going to heaven

In general most of scholars agree that 3 things/aspects can make us happier...

Before you read further try to guess what these three things are (and write in the comment if your ideas were different from what’s under the picture – let’s make the comments section an interesting place!)

20151123164527-happy-cup-happiness-feelings-good-smile-coffee-emotions

These three things are:

  1. Meaningful relationships: spending time with people who support you
  2. Finding your passion(s): doing what you love as often as you can
  3. Personal growth: it was found that grit, which by the way is believed to be more important than talent and IQ (Angela Duckworth’s book GRIT, available here), delayed gratification and emotional control can accelerate your development! (You can find out more about delayed gratification and the Stanford marshmallow experiment here: https://jamesclear.com/delayed-gratification )

I think there are still people out there who would criticise this current trend towards individualisation, towards the pursuit for a meaningful life, towards looking for and thinking about our passions, and taking care of and investing more in personal growth than ever before, because focusing on own well-being and happiness can be perceived as selfish, egocentric and more of a luxury than a necessity to some people.

However, I’m sure (or I hope…) that most of us realise that the more we focus on our passions and invest in our personal development (without going to extremes and forgetting the world around us naturally!), the more content we will be with our own life:

  • the happier relationships we will be able to create and maintain
  • the more successful we can be in different aspects of our life, such as at work or being a parent
  • and people enjoy hanging out more with happy folks, not the ones who are frustrated, angry, unsatisfied with themselves, their life and the world, right?

Actually, there was some research done by Christakis and Fowler which stressed that people can boost their happiness levels a lot by simply spending time with happy people.

And where do we find a lot of HAPPY PEOPLE? 🙂

1111

 

 

Welcome to the Productive Mondays cycle!

pexels-photo-401683.jpeg

I’ve mentioned in one or two of my previous posts that 92% of people don’t achieve their personal goals. What about their New Year’s Resolutions? So actually these 92% of us fail by exactly… 15th January (today’s date!)! Although the chances are that small, I really hope that you are doing well with your goals.  Even if you haven’t been perfectly on track you can sit back, reflect on the bigger picture and spend a bit more time on planning. Perhaps you tried some techniques and methods which did not work well. What can be done to improve this, then? Be flexible, open and kind to yourself! You can do anything you want to with THE RIGHT MINDSET!

Psychologist Dr Gail Matthews found that we are 42% more likely to achieve goals simply by writing them down! (more about it here)

And how many people actually write their goals down?……3%!!!!!!!!!!!

There is one additional rule here: write about your aims on a REGULAR BASISreview them, update them, consider different solutions and methods!

pexels-photo-768472.jpeg

This likelihood increases even more if you talk about your goal to a supportive friend who believes that you can achieve this.

Why is this all so important?

  • When you write things down and share them with a friend you need to concentrate a bit more to word your aims clearly and be specific, and this can make your plans more organised and structured
  • so this is like a first step which makes something invisible into visible & tangible
  • when you write about what’s important to you, then you’ll probably think more about it during the day too, and you will pay more attention to opportunities that you may encounter during your day
  • the more specific your goals are in terms of measuring them and with regard to time–the more achievable they will be

What do you have if you don’t write your goals down? Your dreams plus… an additional 2,500-3,300 other thoughts (per hour!) mixed up in your head… and this makes your passions and aims less significant than you’d like them to be.

pexels-photo-775779.jpeg

Apparently, sharing updates with regards to your progress is another big important step if you’d like to ensure that you increase the likelihood of achieving your goals even more. Again – sharing them only with a friend is perfectly fine

Personal Growth project – week 2

For-every-minute-spent-in-organizing-an-hour-is-earned-Benjamin-Franklin

In the last update I’ve mentioned that I felt that, although I have started to feel a lot more productive (by doing and achieving more tasks), I felt I clearly needed more structure, simpler plans and more time for stepping back and thinking about projects and goals to ensure that I don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Doing so should make my work more effective!

pexels-photo-313691.jpeg

I will tell you about my plans for blogging today. For weeks I couldn’t decide how often I want to post my blogs. I decided on creating a schedule that would make me feel organised. I’d like to post blogs in this order:

  • Productive Mondays (a lot of useful science, tips, techniques and experiments I’m learning about or using in practice)
  • Happy Wednesdays (a series of blog posts about happiness and wellbeing; a lot of interesting facts!)
  • Weekends with Personal Development (updates with regard to my Personal Growth project, research, ideas for improvements etc.)

I have a few other ideas for blog posts which I’ll just be adding randomly, such as interviews, book reviews; discussing various issues related to personal development, motivation or books. That way if someone is interested in wellbeing rather than productivity, they could visit my blog only on Wednesdays rather than keep checking what I post all the time to find something what they like.

Although I’m still working full-time in admin (I’m in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy so a few more weeks and I’ll be on maternity leave!), I manage to get up early quite often (around 5:30 am). However, not to overdo it, I think it is important to take a day off from all tasks and goals once in a while, even if we enjoy them a lot 😉

pexels-photo-415380.jpeg

According to sleep experts, early risers are more optimistic. Going to bed earlier and getting up earlier means that your body is more in tune with earth’s circadian rhythms, what leads to more restorative sleep. Most successful people get up as early as 4-5 am! They feel that they have more time for exercise and family life. Morning people also tend to spend their first (quiet!) hours on goals-setting and planning. Recent studies also have revealed that those who get up early are more likely to anticipate and minimize problems what’s very useful, for example, in business field!

What time do you get up and what time you’d like to get up every day?

pexels-photo-374003.jpeg

Have a great productive day folks!

 

Personal Growth project – week 1

_20180109_193959.JPG

A bit over one week has already passed and I feel that I should provide an update on my Personal Growth project.

The first week has been extremely active and busy for me:

  • full-time work
  • considering & researching & preparing stuff related to pregnancy and the arrival of my second baby such as finding the right pushchair… and boy, let me tell you that it is really time-consuming to find something I and my husband both would like (at a reasonable price!). At the moment we are considering purchasing this pushchair model here (if any of you have/had it or knows someone who did and can let me know what you think about it – that would be superhelpful!
  • organising some stuff at home, including taking the Christmas tree down
  • cooking lessons with mum (delicious Polish dishes!)
  • first judo lesson for my daughter
  • + there were a few other things but I won’t bore you with them.
  • And of course I was working on my personal goals such as reading and writing books and blog posts

As I expected, the project seems to be working well because I feel a lot more productive and managed to achieve most of the tasks I set. It’s a bit messy and challenging but that’s what I also expected. Nevertheless, I have been enjoying it and I spent some quality time on finishing my first book, making notes for the second one, writing & reading & posting blog posts, doing some research on personal development and positive-psychology-related topics, recording a video for YouTube, and I have managed to complete a few other smaller tasks.

startup-photos.jpg

I feel that although I narrowed my goals down a lot, I still need a simpler plan or fewer tasks so I could manage them more efficiently because currently I know that I do a lot but I haven’t managed to tick all of the boxes for each task yet. Again – expecting too much from myself is coming to light! And this is one of the reasons why goals may not be met so I’m glad I admitted it to myself now, earlier rather than later, because in the next week or two I’ll keep in mind that I need to work on simplifying and narrowing the project down even more.

startup-photos (2).jpg

What has surprised me is how much I can get done when I devote a lot of time to the planning processstepping back and thinking of the most important aspects, possible problems and solutions! I’ll continue to keep a small block of time for planning at least once a week to make sure I know what I’m doing each week and what I should focus on. I haven’t yet had time to prepare any clear & nice pictures so I can share my charts, lists or mind maps with you (they are more in stage of drafts yet and a bit unreadable), but that’s on my list to-do too!

Have a  great productive day!