We’ve been talking about happiness for thousands of years, and there is indeed nothing new under the sun. However, we have developed new ways to measure and understand happiness, and how to direct it toward productive outcomes.
That is the goal of positive psychology, says Shawn Achor, one of the leaders in this field. Why are some people thriving while other people remain average or even fall below the average?
In a lesson on Big Think Edge, the only forum on YouTube designed to help you get the skills you need to be successful in a rapidly changing world, Achor explores what he calls "the happiness advantage," or the idea that your brain works at optimal levels when you are able to sustain positivity or joy.
Achor says that sustaining happiness is important because, after all, not everyone is happy all of the time. Those that are happy all of the time have a disorder. What Achor studies are the top 10 percent of the happiest people. Naturally, these people with the happiness advantage tend to be unhappy some of the time, but their levels of happiness fluctuate around a baseline that is higher than the rest of us. So the goal of Achor's research is to move that baseline up for everyone.
There are a number of tools that can be deployed to increase the happiness advantage. For instance, Dr. Fred Bryant, a professor at Loyola University Chicago coined the term savoring. Bryant's research shows that people who are able to savor, or prolong and intensify their enjoyment, are more optimistic and more satisfied with life.
Methods of savoring include sharing an experience with someone else, taking a mental photograph when you are in the moment, slowing down meals and other activities to sharpen your sensory perceptions and reflecting upon experiences afterward through writing. One can also savor future enjoyment through positive anticipation.
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