Work and Career
The human brain’s default orientation is to focus on our experience in the here and now. Without that natural focus on our immediate experience, we’d never get to work on time, or appreciate the feel of the breeze against our skin on a beautiful spring day.
But there can be tremendous benefit to sometimes taking ourselves out of the here and now by imagining ourselves in a different place or time, or by taking on an outsider’s perspective. When we do this, we engage different areas our brains — areas that can help us to make better decisions, resist temptation, make progress toward goals, and resolve disputes with others.
Psychologists refer to this technique as gaining psychological distance, and it’s as simple as using our imaginations to activate the parts of our brains that aren’t so caught up with our immediate experience, perceptions, and feelings.
THIS QUESTION CAN HELP YOU BREAK THROUGH AND GET IT DONE
by Lynda Wallace
We know when we’re doing it because we start to tell ourselves our favorite procrastination stories — stories we’ve probably heard many times before.
Do any of these sound at all familiar?
Tomorrow I’ll be able to really concentrate on this report without being interrupted.
It will be kinder not to bring up this issue with my spouse just yet.
I’ll be more creative if I do this project when I really feel like doing it. (This is a personal favorite story of mine.)
I work best under pressure.
As handy as these stories can be, they don’t usually turn out to be true.
THESE COMMON HABITS CAN STAND BETWEEN US AND GREATER HAPPINESS
by Lynda Wallace
I usually write about things we can start doing to make our lives better, but it’s just as important that we try to stop doing the things that are getting in our way. So here are three things worth doing a lot less of, and some practical ideas about what to try instead.
1. Seeing Lions on the Savannah
The human species evolved in a situation of scarcity and danger where survival demanded that our ancestors react more strongly to threats than to pleasures. Reacting to a lion on the savannah was a lot more important than enjoying the sunrise. We still have essentially the same brains as early humans, but most of us live in vastly different circumstances than they did. As a result, our automatic responses are often out of synch with the situations in which we find ourselves.
Maybe it’s easy for you to stand your ground in a discussion with your spouse about vacation options, but not in one with your boss about needing to find a better work/life balance. Or you may not have to think twice about asking your neighbor to turn down the music so the baby can sleep, but you can’t seem to decline a request to chair the next PTA fundraiser, even though you haven’t gotten the last few dozen boxes of Girl Scout cookies out of your front hall yet.
Well, here are two bits of good news.
YOUR ONE-POINT PLAN FOR GREATER HAPPINESS AND HEALTH
by Lynda Wallace
It made for a hard day, didn’t it? You could see it in their glassy eyes and hear it in their frustrated sobs that they just didn’t have the resources they needed to get through the day in one piece. And if it went on for a couple of days in a row, it was bad news for everyone in the house.
Now here’s a question for you. How much sleep do you get?
If your answer is less than seven and a half hours a night, you might have a little more in common with that screaming toddler than you think.
Dear Active Happiness,
I’m a marketing manager at a big consumer electronics company. I’m good at my job, and I like the work. The problem is my boss. Nothing is ever good enough for him. He complains all day long — about his boss, about my colleagues, and about my own work.
He actually gives me good year-end evaluations, but that’s the only day I ever feel like he thinks I’m doing a good job. It’s hard on my self-esteem and it makes work a drag. What can I do?
I remember hearing back in high school that one of my classmates was taking an SAT prep class before the big test. This was back before SAT prep became a big business, and the rest of us thought that was pretty strange behavior.
We all could have told you the essentials of how to do your best on the big test. Use a #2 pencil, fill in the ovals completely, and once you answer a question, don’t change your answer. (more…)
CULTIVATING HAPPINESS: MYTHS, RESEARCH, AND REALITY
by Lynda Wallace
These age-old questions are being considered in new ways by researchers in the field of Positive Psychology. These researchers study the causes of human flourishing, and their findings are practical, encouraging, and sometimes surprising.
One of the most useful lessons from Positive Psychology is that many of our most common beliefs about happiness are simply untrue. Here are a few of those myths, along with the facts uncovered by the research.
Myth #1: Happiness is just a mood.
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BE HAPPIER –
AND ONE OF THE EASIEST
by Lynda Wallace
Last week’s post about things we can stop doing in order to be happier quickly became the most popular article I’ve ever posted to the site. This week I’ve got two more things to stop doing, one very important, and the other very easy.
FIRST, THE IMPORTANT ONE
Brooding About Ordinary Hurts and Worries
When something goes wrong at work or a friend says something hurtful, do you find yourself going over and over it in your mind, fixating on why it happened or what it means? If so, you’re not alone. Excessively replaying our negative experiences and feelings and continually focusing on our anxieties and problems is one of the most common causes of unhappiness.
Research psychologists call this sort of brooding about life’s everyday troubles and worries “overthinking” and they’ve convincingly shown that it worsens feelings of sadness and anxiety, impairs our ability to solve problems, interferes with concentration and initiative, and even makes us less attractive romantic partners and friends.
There’s no doubt about it — this is one habit worth the effort to break.
STORIES OF HOW TEACHERS CHANGE LIVES
One of the most reliable ways to feel good is to reflect on the gratitude we feel toward the people who have made a difference in our lives. And few people make as big a difference as teachers. So I asked our readers to post comments about the best teachers they (or their kids) ever had.
Here is our collective ode of gratitude to great teachers. There were so many stories that I can only offer a sample of them here, but you can read them all on our facebook page. And be sure to add your own story so we can all enjoy it! (I’ve edited some posts for length, and you’ll find the posters’ names in parentheses.)
WHAT GREAT TEACHERS DO
They show us the world.
Miss Chamberlain was a spinster who kept her tissues in her bra. I begged my parents to take me out of her class, but she taught me that there is a bigger world than our town. She took us on a pretend trip around the world and assigned us pen pals from all over the world. What an awesome year it was. (Sandy Greely)