People often say ignorance is bliss. If this is true, does it mean only ignorant people are happy?
Ernest Hemingway once contended:
Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.
He's suggesting that the capacity to think critically leads to discontentment within the mind. And research suggests overthinking or worrying a lot may be a sign of intelligence.
Perhaps it's true that people with analytical minds find it difficult to turn the switch off. They think as deeply about complex issues as they do about little ones, producing anxiety and unhappiness.
But the truth is, it doesn't have to be this way. There is significant evidence that we can train our minds to think positively. Happiness is a choice, or as Aristotle once stated:
Happiness depends upon ourselves.
Shawn Achor, the founder of Good Think, would agree wholeheartedly with this notion. For 12 years, Achor did extensive research on positive psychology at Harvard University. He found optimism and hope are the keys to fostering happiness.
But we can't generate these qualities overnight; it takes practice.
Life is stressful and unpredictable. We can't control reality, but we can choose how we react to it. Contrary to conventional wisdom, optimism is not totally dependent on environment and genetics.
Achor contends we can coach our brains into thinking positively by developing daily routines and habits.
There are multiple ways to do this, and it doesn't take a great deal of effort: Write a positive email to a friend or colleague; be nice to strangers and perform kind gestures arbitrarily; take two minutes to write in a journal about something positive that happened to you during the day; or simply take a few moments to meditate about several positive things that happened to you since you woke up.
Finally, don't forget to exercise. Take care of your body and mind.
Optimism is not about denying the fact there are negative aspects to this world; it's about taking the time to acknowledge all of the positive things around us. It takes a significant amount of intellect to do this, which one might refer to as positive intelligence.
Hence, powerful minds are not always predisposed to negativity, as Hemingway suggested.
It's much easier to focus on the bad, but with great effort comes even greater rewards.
Most of us assume success will bring about happiness, but it's really the other way around.
Achor also argues happiness is the key to a productive economy.
Research has shown happiness leads to greater levels of productivity, creativity and engagement in the workplace.
Accordingly, businesses and companies with happier employees see higher performance levels and greater profits.
Indeed, happiness leads to success.
If you want to change your life, change the way you look at the world.
Stop waiting for success to happen, and start seizing it now by remaining unapologetically optimistic.
Citations: How A 2 Minute Exercise Can Redirect Your Brain Toward Happiness (Huffington Post), Shawn Achor (Ted), 5 Happiness Practices to Increase Levels of Joy (Huffington Post), Shawn Achor What You Need To Do Before Experiencing Happiness (Forbes), How To Increase Productivity By Employee Happiness (Forbes), Positive Intelligence (HBR), Make More Money By Making Your Employees Happy (Forbes)