While I could pretend that I’ve intentionally been holding off on a new post until I could recap the end of my “healthy August” project, the truth is that this post is long overdue. Work (and squeezing in workouts) has kept me busy. The good thing about my job is that it provides the opportunity to put some of what I’ve learned from The Happiness Project and most recently The Happiness Advantage to use. See, just then I found something positive to say about a job that is frequently frustrating (although occasionally rewarding, too), an important step toward mastering The Happiness Advantage’s third principle, the so-called Tetris Effect. To quickly summarize the Tetris Effect: “You see what you look for”– look for the positive, begin to see more and more positive…and vice versa. Rather than lamenting the fact that I’m working a job that isn’t commensurate with my education, I have to remind myself of the good I’m doing. Since I work with the elderly, including those suffering from dementia, I help provide much-needed entertainment and socialization, even if calling Bingo three times a week isn’t how I thought I’d use my degree.
The Happiness Advantage contains seven principles, all of which seem simple enough. Still, we’ve all heard the phrase “easier said than done,” and that certainly applies here. The value of The Happiness Advantage lies in the author’s practical strategies for implementing these principles. For instance, since studies have proven the benefit of “even the smallest shots of positivity” when it comes to performance in stressful situations, the author suggests doing anything that will boost your mood before, say, a big presentation, even something as trivial as watching a funny video. So instead of reviewing your notes for the umpteenth time, consider instead watching that cute panda YouTube video you bookmarked two weeks ago.
Some of his other suggestions include meditation (something that I’d like to do, but have never tried because I’d feel so ridiculous…), finding things to look forward to, committing conscious acts of kindness (this hits home for me; when one of my activities at work goes especially well, it really lifts my mood and powers me through the next few hours!), infusing positivity into one’s physical environment (feng shui, anyone?), exercise, spending money on experiences (not just on stuff), and exercising your personal strengths.
Another principle I found extremely pertinent was principle #4, “Falling Up.” Fear of failure is a recurring theme in some of my earlier posts, and I still find it hard to take a leap into the unknown. I have plans to move to Germany in the near future, and the thought of not finding a job and ultimately draining my savings terrifies me. Still, without trying there is no chance to succeed, and as principle #4 explains, even within failure there can be success. The example the author uses is fabulous:
“You’ve probably heard the oft-told story of the two shoe salesmen who were sent to Africa in the early 1900s to assess opportunities. They wired separate telegrams back to their boss. One read: “Situation hopeless. They don’t wear shoes.” The other read: “Glorious opportunity! They don’t have any shoes yet.”
I want to be sure I cultivate the innovative mindset of the latter salesman, and I can only do that if I learn to take more risks, even if that means making more mistakes. After all, as the story illustrates, it’s one’s attitude when dealing with mistakes/failure that makes all the difference.
Principle #5, the Zorro Circle, is something I’ve been working on and something that I’ve already learned the value of. This principle is all about accomplishing major goals by concentrating on smaller goals first. Again, as simple as it sounds, many of us let ourselves get overwhelmed. My last semester, however, I had a major project for my stage lighting class that the professor broke down into manageable chunks for us, helping to instill this principle in us all. When I recently received a copious amount of confusing information regarding prerequisites and graduate school, I nearly succumbed to all the pressure before my boyfriend reminded me to take it step-by-step.
Overall, the knowledge The Happiness Advantage imparts seems truly vital to finding happiness and success, and the book’s style makes it a much, much different read than The Happiness Project. To me, it was a big improvement.
Also, if you’re curious, my “healthy August” breakdown (excluding the 31st):
I drank green tea in 93.3% of the mornings. I wanted half of my breakfasts to be green smoothies, and in fact ~56% of them were– yay for spinach and kale! I wanted to have salad for dinner 3 times a week, so 12 times during August, and I made it to 10. Not tooooo shabby. Having only fruit for dessert the entire month turned out to be the hardest goal to stick to, during these 30 days I strayed a whopping 10 times! Next time I will make it a little more realistic and allow red wine and dark chocolate, they have health benefits after all! Now onto exercise… Ideally I should have jogged 8 times, done yoga 8 times, and lifted 12 times… In reality, I jogged 6 times, did yoga 5 times, and lifted 11 times. I did avoid artificial sweeteners for the entire month, which I’m sure my body appreciated! Overall, I think it went pretty well. Even if the tables didn’t keep me perfectly in check, I’m guessing I was more disciplined than I would have been otherwise. I enjoyed tracking these goals, so I plan to do something similar for the 4 weeks following my upcoming trip.