Nurture the MAGIC® Within: Adopt 12 Happy Habits

By Jean Marie Johnson

You know who they are. You admire them and sometimes feel a twinge of envy towards them, too. They are "the happy ones," people who seem to float through their days with effortless grace and a genuinely positive attitude. You may wonder how they do it, puzzled by their apparent joy, baffled by its seeming constancy. You may even know that they, like you, have their burdens to bear, their mountains to climb, and yet, they are "happy."


What's In It For You

But this piece isn't about them, really. It's about you. And the fact that "happy" isn't reserved for a chosen few. Maybe you're feeling skeptical; I was, too. You may be thinking: "they must have been born that way;" or, "it's their personality." As it turns out, there is something to that. But just as real is the fact that happy, as a state of being and a frame of mind, is available to everyone, to some degree, if we choose it. Stay with me on this, please, because there is a great deal in it for you.

 

Happy isn't simply a 'nice to have,' or a sentimental complement to MAGIC. Research over the last few years shows an indisputable link between a happy, positive attitude and:

  • a stronger immune system that allows you to ward off illness and disease

  • better health habits rooted in being motivated to take care of yourself

  • increased longevity, a longer life

And besides these major benefits, happiness studies reveal what we already intuitively know: happy people generally have better relationships, do well at work and are just plain easier to be around. 


The Science of Happy

But back to the premise that we are born with our happiness quotient signed, sealed and delivered, for better or worse. Well, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, each of us does indeed have a "happiness set point." In her book, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting The Life You Want,  she suggests that this genetic component may account for 50% of our happiness; 10% can be attributed to our life circumstances, and a full 40% is—you guessed it—up for grabs. The University of Wisconsin's Dr. Richard Davidson specializes in "happy brains," and he couldn't agree more: "In many ways, this is the most important idea in neuroscience in the last decade. Our brains are just waiting to be transformed, and they're always being transformed. But we can take responsibility and change the brain in more positive ways."

If happiness is largely within our control, then isn't the pursuit of it—or more of it—worth a shot?   Don't most of us deeply crave this thing called "happy"? Harvard University thought so highly of the merits of happy that they began offering a course on it in 2006. But we don't have to attend a prestigious university to explore the underpinnings of happiness; we simply need to be willing to learn from "The Happy."


Learning from The Happy

Lyubomirsky has identified twelve, yes twelve things that "happy people" do differently. Some of these will be familiar to you, while others may come as a bit of a surprise. As you review the list, consider which of these "happy habits" you already practice, and which you might consider exploring. 
 
  1. Gratitude: appreciating all the good things you already have

  2. Optimism: learning from hard knocks and remaining focused on positive 

  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison: a win-lose game, at best 

  4. Random acts of kindness: kindness makes you feel good and tends to be contagious

  5. Social relationships: relationship and connection

  6. Coping strategies: developed and at the ready for when stuff happens

  7. Forgiveness: to heal your own immune system

  8. "Flow" experiences: where you are completely engaged, in the zone 

  9. Savoring joy: appreciating the magic in the moment

  10. Working your goals: experiencing what you can be and do!

  11. Spirituality: feeling connected to meaning beyond ourselves

  12. Take care of your body: physical well-being contributes overall well-being

As for me, I found several strengths and two "really big" opportunities. I am far from "done." I need to sit with this for a spell, to think about how my happy habits have served me, and how I have undermined my experience of happy in specific ways. That's another way of saying that nurturing "the magic within" never ends. But there are two things I know for sure: my happiness is within my control and, yes, within my reach. I believe the same for you, too. Go ahead, start taking better care of yourself. Begin with happy.
 

Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.
 

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