Personal Brand

Happiness: Is it a skill you can learn?

Happiness: Is it a skill you can learn?

Thursday, 29 July 2021

In her book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky described happiness as ’the experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.’


It’s a state we all aspire to, but is happiness an accidental phenomenon or can we learn to deliberately cultivate it as a mindset? According to Action for Happiness, we can create the state of happiness in ourselves using Ten Keys to Happier Living, distilled from a review of the latest research from psychology and related fields. These keys are ways in which we interact with the outside world and with ourselves, and which practised regularly can lay the foundations for greater wellbeing and happiness. We look at how to unlock the door to greater happiness — and pair each key with some of the great everywoman resources available to give you a head start to a happier working life.


DO THINGS FOR OTHERS                  

Scientific studies show that helping others not only helps them, it also boosts your own happiness, increases life satisfaction and feelings of competence, improves your mood and reduces stress. It also creates strong positive working connections that appear to be contagious; a recent study showed that when we see someone do something kind or thoughtful, or we are on the receiving end of kindness, it inspires us to be kinder ourselves. Giving to others can include giving time, skills, thought or attention — anything from offering to mentor someone or volunteering for an office initiative to even just buying an unexpected coffee for someone or sincerely complimenting them on a project well done. A little thought goes a long way, so look for the opportunities to contribute to others’ happiness and you’ll bank the benefits yourself too.


Boost your feelgood:

WORKBOOKS: Role Models: Finding Them, Becoming One, Mentoring: New Thinking, Best Practice, Becoming a Mentor, Leading for Now: Creating an Environment Where Everyone Can Thrive

PODCAST: Why Wellbeing is the new KPI



If you do one thing to improve your happiness, then tend your relationships. Research shows that people with strong social relationships are happier, healthier and live longer, while networks bring a sense of belonging as well as increasing knowledge and opportunities. In emotional intelligence tests, women tend to score higher than men in areas of empathy, interpersonal relationships and social responsibility, indicating that this is a strong area in which we can make positive change. Taking action to strengthen relationships and create connections is essential: we need people to enjoy positive experiences together, to be able to talk openly and feel understood and to give to and receive support. And this action can be anything from reaching out to connect at work —offering help or volunteering for an office challenge or initiative, to personal development such as learning to listen actively —  the number one communication skill for good relationships.


Boost your feelgood:

WORKBOOKS: Building and Accelerating Trust, Negotiation Skills: Your Best Work-Life Balance, Networking: The right approach for Maximum Impact

PODCAST: How to be Happier with Sophie Hannah, The Power of Improvisation with TEDX speaker Philippa Waller



Peak performance means understanding the body-mind connection and paying attention to your physical health, even when you’re busy. Even small changes can make a difference — something as simple as starting to include a green or red vegetable with every meal, deep breathing for five minutes in times of stress or getting outside for a walk in your lunchbreak can start to build a positive cycle. Other key boosts include unplugging from technology and making sure you get enough sleep. And as women, maintaining a good work-life balance and ensuring we are not taking on everything ourselves is crucial to keeping our energy high. Learn to delegate at work and at home and embrace the power of no. And don’t forget about your hormonal health — it can be easy to mistake the signs of being perimenopausal for just coping with a busy world, but if you’re 45+ and have fatigue, weight gain, sleep problems or mood changes these could also indicate that you need to pay attention to your body’s transition – resources that can help include  


Boost your feelgood:

WORKBOOKS: Master your energy and manage your rhythms, Work: Life Integration: how to get it right. 60 Minutes to Wellbeing

PODCASTS: The Third Age: Rethinking the Menopause, Get Caught Napping: Making the Business Case for Better Sleep



Lifelong learning exposes you to new ideas and helps you stay engaged and interested, boosting happiness levels and motivation in turn. It can also be a great way to futureproof your career, paving the way for current and future success by allowing you to acquire new skills and capabilities. In addition, the sense of accomplishment when you master a skill or understand something new has a powerful effect on self-confidence and resilience levels, and research has shown can even improve brain function. Actively seek out new opportunities and chances to learn at work to create fresh pathways of thought and a strong sense of wellbeing, as well as staving off states of boredom, apathy or routine all of which are happiness drainers. Learning outside the box can inspire innovation and change the way you see your skills and abilities, all of which can continually open up new opportunities for you to grow and express your potential, often in surprising and exciting ways.


Boost your feelgood:

WORKBOOKS: Maximising your Creativity, Developing your Emotional Intelligence, Visualisation for Career Success

PODCAST: You are an Artist by Sarah Urist Green



Having a vision for the future that feels exciting and attainable is important for your wellbeing. Goals help to motivate you, organise your priorities and orient you along your life journey — and the sense of stretching yourself and growing as a person is key to feeling meaningful and purposeful. As such, keeping forward momentum in a measurable, focused and ambitious-yet-realistic-way helps you to plug into a profound sense of happiness. Choosing ambitious goals gives your life direction and brings a sense of accomplishment; goals that are unrealistic or overwhelming however will have the opposite effect. It can be hard to know which is which, but don’t underestimate your abilities and play too small — if in doubt take it one step at a time, breaking down large goals into smaller actions that can build to a bigger whole.


Boost your feelgood

WORKBOOKS: : Step Up! Are you ready to put yourself forward at work, Ambition Hour

PODCAST: How Setting Goals Can Transform Your Life with Sally Kettle



We cannot always choose what happens to us in life, but we can choose our attitude to what happens — and that will in turn affect how quickly we bounce back. Resilience expert Dr Ann Masten describes resilience as ‘ordinary magic’, while research conducted by McKinsey, the Harvard Business Review and the AMA Women’s Leadership Center showed it to be a vital tool for women in driving and sustaining success in leadership. The ability to grow, overcome and even emerge stronger than before can be one of the most important skills you possess. And crucially, resilience can be learned and developed. The American Psychological Association defines its lynchpins as connection, wellness, healthy thinking (avoiding the tendency to catastrophise difficulties or think that what happened to you as an indicator of how your future will go, for example) and meaning, all of which are integral parts of the Ten Keys to Happiness.


Boost your feelgood:

WORKBOOKS: Resilience and Agility in a Changing World, Resilience: Bouncing Back

PODCASTS: Acting with Power by Deborah Gruenfeld, Poppy Jaman on Changing the Conversation around Mental health in the Workplace



Comparison with others, ‘I should’ or just dwelling on your perceived flaws is a recipe for disaster. Instead, happiness comes from fostering a sense of acceptance, as well as being kind to yourself when things go wrong. In 1959, humanist psychological Carl Rogers wrote about unconditional positive regard as key to functioning well in the world. And self-acceptance is not denial: it doesn’t mean that you ignore your mistakes, rather than you learn from them and see them as a natural part of personal growth. If you never leave your comfort zone, you will never make mistakes — so embrace them as feedback and proof of your growth. It also means accepting where and who you are at any given time, the opportunities of and challenges of your life stage, who you are — not who you think you’re supposed to be, and your needs and wants. In the end, being comfortable with yourself not only increases your enjoyment of life, resilience and well-being, it also helps you accept others as they are too, creating better connections and healthier, happier environments around you.


Boost your feelgood:

WORKBOOKS: Smashing Limiting Beliefs, Overcome Imposter Syndrome, Knowing Your Strengths

PODCASTS: Life without Limits: how Caroline Casey took on the world on her own terms, Ashton Applewhite on Why Ageing is a Powerful Time for Women, Subversion, Pragmatic Feminism and Why You Should Ditch the Guilt with Kathryn Jacob



Learning to be more mindful can improve wellbeing in all areas of life, helping you get in tune with your feelings, reduce anxiety and live fully in the now — while stopping you dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. The benefits of training yourself to be fully present in where you are and what you’re doing, and not being overly reactive to what’s going on around you is well-documented. As such, mindfulness training for companies is increasingly popular as a way of reducing the costs of absenteeism associated with stress-related conditions, as well as improving employee retention and overall engagement. Employees themselves, whether individually or as part of company initiatives, can in turn learn to proactively manage their state of mind, increasing performance and happiness levels as a result. Little wonder then that 64% of everywomanNetwork members have embraced a mindfulness practice.


Boost your feelgood:

WORKBOOKS: An Introduction to Mindfulness, Mindful Leadership, Developing your Emotional Intelligence, Work-Life Balance: Integrating the things that matter

PODCAST: The Delicious Paradox of Slow in the Workplace with Carl Honore



Positive emotions have the effect of broadening your perceptions, helping you to see more, respond more flexibly and be more creative at work. But how do you get to those feelings from a lower state?  One way to do it with authenticity is to embrace gratitude — noticing what you have and feeling genuinely thankful for it. Not only can regular practice of gratitude help you feel more positive emotions and disengage from negative ones; new research has found that it can also have lasting positive physical effects on brain function[2]. Build this technique into your daily practice easily by keeping a gratitude journal — one study[3] showed that journaling for five minutes a day about what you’re grateful for can enhance long-term happiness by over 10 per cent — doing a short meditation or even writing thank you notes (you’ll still get the benefits even if they’re not sent!)


Boost your feelgood:

WORKBOOK: Developing your Emotional Intelligence

PODCASTS: The Third Age: Rethinking the Menopause, Courageous Conversations and Cosmic Wish Lists, Always look on the bright side: how to change your perspective by reading the news



Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology, describes meaning as a vital component of happiness and wellbeing, and people who have meaning and purpose in their lives have been shown to feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression. Broadly speaking, meaning involves being connected to and part of something bigger than yourself — and that can include what you do for a living. Research has found that ‘purpose driven’ people are four times more likely to be engaged at work[4] and have 64 per cent more career satisfaction. So take time to find your ‘calling’ — work that provides you with both personal and social meaning. For some this might mean it makes a contribution to society or that it improves the world in some way, for others that it is simply a key part of their personal vision for their life. And if you are not in a position to change jobs then contributing to a cause within work that has meaning for you, such as getting involved with D&I initiatives, environmental projects or mentoring, can also provide a sense of contribution to a larger vision.


Boost your feelgood:

WORKBOOKS: An Introduction to Personal Brand, Workplace Equality – how you can make a difference, Boost Your Career Satisfaction Levels, 60 Minutes to Motivation

PODCAST: Rev Joanna Jepson discusses the meaning of faith, religious and non-religious, in 2020


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