"Positive psychology is a movement in social psychology which attempts to change the way that we think about humans," explains positive psychology expert Shawn Achor. "Instead of focusing merely on the average, which is what we normally do in traditional psychology—we would find out what the average person is like, or how the average person responds—instead, what we look at are people who are up above the curve for some given dimension. Maybe that means that they are extremely energetic, that they are very happy, they’re very productive. And our goal is to find out why that is."
In his Big Think interview, Achor, the author of "The Happiness Advantage," tells us that, unlike regular psychology, which focuses on the average or below average, he studies people who are in some way exceptional, with the hopes of applying that knowledge to the greater population.
We can actually reprogram our brains to be happier, says Achor. "The brain is like a single processor in a computer." Someone who is chronically negative or pessimistic is merely scanning first for the stresses and the hassles of life. And because the brain has finite resources, it cannot also scan for the positive elements. As a result, that person continuously reinforces his own negativity, causing himself to feel unhappy. The key to positive psychology is training the mind to divert its resources in a different way, finding ways to be optimistic and reasons to be grateful. After a period of about 21 days, the pattern of positive thinking can be retrained permanently in the brain, something Achor calls the Tetris Effect. And he tells us five ways that we can be happier by harnessing this Tetris Effect.
And you can not only change your own outlook but also influence that of the people around you, something that has always been known but never fully understood. It has to do with something called "mirror neurons" in your brain. "These mirror neurons are the reason why a yawn spreads at board meetings," Achor explains. "Your brian, when you see something in your visual field, raises the likelihood of your experiencing that as well." The same goes for positivity—as well as negativity—which is why leaders can have such a profound effect in business. "You can have one person on the room that is very expressive of their negativity and stress and it can spread to the entire team," Achor says. He also gives several other pieces of advice about leveraging the happiness advantage in the business world.
Ultimately, Achor wants people to understand that happiness should not be kept on our cognitive horizons; it is not something that will magically appear after reaching a certain level in a company or a school. "Happiness is a work ethic," Achor says. "It's something that requires our brains to train just like an athlete has to train."
Setting a simple intention and coming prepared can help you — and those around you — win big.
- Setting an intention doesn't have to be complicated, and it can make a great difference when you're hoping for a specific outcome.
- When comedian Pete Holmes is preparing to record an episode of his podcast, "You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes," he takes 15 seconds to check in with himself. This way, he's primed with his own material and can help guests feel safe and comfortable to share theirs, as well.
- Taking time to visualize your goal for whatever you've set out to do can help you, your colleagues, and your projects succeed.
Some games are just for fun, others are for thought provoking statements on life, the universe, and everything.
- Video games are often dismissed as fun distractions, but some of them dive into deep issues.
- Through their interactive play elements, these games approach big issues intelligently and leave you both entertained and enlightened.
- These five games are certainly not the only games that cover these topics or do so well, but are a great starting point for somebody who wants to play something thought provoking.
How do we combat the roots of these hateful forces?
- American Psychological Association sees a dubious and weak link between mental illness and mass shootings.
- Center for the study of Hate and Extremism has found preliminary evidence that political discourse is tied to hate crimes.
- Access to guns and violent history is still the number one statistically significant figure that predicts gun violence.