How happiness can help in business

Wellbeing’s 5 elements, you may recall, form the acronym PERMA (see my last two blogs).

Positive psychology based interventions are proven to increase happiness, reduce depression, and lift performance. Furthermore, they alleviate stress, anxiety & burnout.

How does that help us in business? Happiness has undergone more research in the last twenty years than the whole of human history. Here are some of the things we now know about it’s impact. Happiness:

  • Enhances creativity, and…
  • Builds cognitive, physical, and social resources, and…
  • Increases productivity

Unsurprising then that wellbeing delivers superior corporate performance.

I promised you two more of the proven techniques….

4. Loving Kindness Meditation

This is a mindfulness meditation, and like all mindfulness exercises it boosts wellbeing and reduces anxiety. This particular meditation focuses our awareness on other people, and happiness is more about the social than self, so it’s highly effective.
a. Focus your awareness on your breathing and relax. After a few minutes bring to mind someone you love and say to them in your mind: may you feel safe, may you feel happy, may you feel healthy, may you live with ease. Take a few minutes and repeat the phrases a few times.
b. Then extend your awareness to everyone you love. Repeat the compassion phrases as before.
c. Next extend your awareness to everyone you know and repeat. Finally, to everybody in the World and repeat again.
d. Take this slowly and calmly. The whole meditation should last about 15 minutes.

5. Meaningfulness Exercise

This is a simple exercise in adding meaning and higher purpose.
Prepare your thoughts and set yourself up where you are unlikely to be disturbed for 30 minutes to an hour. Try some measured breathing to relax. Then start writing – describe your vision of a positive future for the human race. This isn’t a bout prediction or being balanced, it’s about setting down what could be possible, a positive, maybe even utopian view of our potential – and what we all need to do to get there.

Selling the idea of these interventions to positive people is relatively straight forward – evidence based argument usually carries the day. But what about the people who aren’t very cheerful, or to whom gratitude for life’s gifts doesn’t come easily? What about folk who are low in enthusiasm &/or energy?

Winning these groups’ participation is essential to making the difference in an organisation. E.g. it turns out that the combination of hope, optimism, resilience and belief in your ability to get things done, actually CAUSES effectiveness. Happily, the evidence is that these are the very individuals who benefit most from positive psychology based interventions.

For senior leaders the technique Seligman has had success with is very simple. Here it is in 50 words as promised!
1. Explain to the heads of a division or department that you are going to measure PERMA in their unit (see www.authentichappiness.org for the required metric)
2. Further explain they will be held accountable for delivering improvement
3. They will invent the way, they always do – and they know best.

They may need help with ideas and detail, but the point is if they are held accountable then a potential obstacle (resistance from the top) is pre-empted and neutralised from day one.

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