Category Archives: Happiness Evangelist

Ubuntu

By Sharon Andrew, Happiness Evangelist at Happiest Minds Technologies, Bangalore

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An anthropologist studying the customs of an African tribe decided to play a game with some children of the tribe who were with him. He put sweets into a basket and placed it at the foot of a tree.

When the anthropologist said “now”, the children had to run to the tree and the first one to get there could have all the sweets to herself/himself.

The children lined up waiting for the signal. When the anthropologist said “now”, they took each other by the hand and ran together towards the tree. They all arrived at the same time, divided the sweets amongst themselves and were happily munching away.

The anthropologist was intrigued. He went to them and asked why they had all run together when each could have had the sweets to herself/himself.

The children responded: “Ubuntu. How could any one of us be happy if all the others were sad?”

Ubuntu is a philosophy of African tribes that can be summed up as “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

Bishop Desmond Tutu in his book No Future Without Forgiveness (1999) explains: One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

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Measure Your Happiness

By Sharon Andrew, Happiness Evangelist at Happiest Minds Technologies, Bangalore

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The summit of happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what s/he is (Erasmus).

Self-awareness is an important step, as part of our happiness framework, in building your capacity to be happy.

Edward Deiner of the University of Illinois, believed to be the father of happiness/well-being research, designed a simple 5-statement scale that measures happiness.

On a scale from 1 to 7, indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements, with 7 being strong agreement.

1. In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
2. The conditions of my life are excellent.
3. I am satisfied with my life.
4. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

Total score: 31 to 35: you are extremely happy with your life; 26 to 30: happy; 21 to 25: slightly happy; 20: neutral point; 15 to 19: slightly unhappy; 10 to 14: unhappy; 5 to 9: extremely unhappy

Capacity to be Happy

Sharon Andrew, Happiness Evangelist at Happiest Minds Technologies, Bangalore, writes about how to be happy by quoting the example of Anton Chekhov.

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Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904)  was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history.

Growing up in poverty, contracting tuberculosis at the height of his success as a writer, he had every reason to curse his luck.

But, Chekhov was a happy man.

His letters, his stories and his plays demonstrate that he understood how to be happy. He was most alive in the the act of discovery. He was a doctor who never stopped using his knowledge to help people around him. And his writing demonstrated his intense curiosity and his self-nurtured intelligence. He had the ability to seek out complicated human situations and make sense of them.

He found happiness in his accomplishments and was apparently not concerned with what might have made him unhappy.

If Chekhov were alive today, he would be the perfect research subject for Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychology professor who teaches courses on, among other things, the causes of happiness. Her central theme is “mindfulness,” a word that she’s made almost her own.

For Langer, as for Chekhov, the recipe for a good life is: Pay attention! She argues that “The essence of being mindful is to notice new things. Noticing leads to engagement and engagement leads to fulfilment.” After 30 years of research, she can say confidently that “mindfulness is literally enlivening.”

Life happens to us all. It is what we make out of it that determines our capacity to be happy!

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A little becomes a LOT!

In our busy work schedules, we get very little time for ourselves and even lesser time for others. Through this post, Sharon Andrew, Happiness Evangelist at Happiest Minds Technologies, Bangalore, wills us to expend effort to spread happiness out, beyond ourselves.

Well-being is attained little by little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself. ~ Zeno

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We celebrated March 20th as the International Day of Happiness.

Around the world people smiled, meditated, held flash mobs, participated in various activities that brought happiness to those around them.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the purpose of the International Day of Happiness was to “reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others. When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Compassion promotes happiness and will help build the future we want.”

A grand mandate. Lofty ideals.

Is the goodwill generated on the International Day of Happiness sustainable?

Did we renew our pledge to help one another? Did we even make a pledge in the first place?

In the hustle and bustle of life, with our timelines and our deadlines, let us take time to be happy and make others happy. Let us expend effort to spread happiness out, beyond ourselves.

This is what the International Day of Happiness is all about. It is not just one day.

It is all the days that come after, the changes we make in our lives to spread happiness, all year round.

Please do it today. And tomorrow. And the next day.

If enough of us keep doing it, we really can nudge the world to a happier place.

Mindful?

Sharon Andrew, Happiness Evangelist at Happiest Minds Technologies, Bangalore, writes about being mindful of one another and treating each other with respect and kindkness.

31Take a simple test….

Extend your right forefinger (left, if you are left-handed)…

Draw the capital letter ‘E’ on your forehead.

Did you draw the letter that it faces you or in a way that the person looking at you can read it?

Neither way is right or wrong. But the direction of the letter reveals a lot about your disposition.

Social scientists have used this simple exercise to measure perspective taking – the ability to step outside one’s own experience and see the world from another’s viewpoint. Adam Galinsky and his colleagues at North Western University’s Kellogg School of Management used the E test and some other techniques to investigate the connection between power and empathy. They found that while most people took the other’s perspective, those who had a surplus of power seemed to be connected to a deficit of empathy. They write “On the altar of action orientation and tough-mindedness, we’ve sacrificed the fundamentally human quality of empathy”.

Daniel H Pink, the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us says: The key is to strike a delicate balance between action-orientation and perspective-taking. It’s not a matter of deciding between hitting your numbers or drawing the E. It’s a matter of hitting your numbers by drawing the E.

When we empathise, we figure out what others think and feel; this forms the basis for meaningful and fruitful relationships and the ability to see things as others see them.

So let us be MINDFUL of one another. Let us EMPATHIZE more and treat each other with RESPECT and KINDNESS.

And the next time, we are asked to draw a vowel on our forehead, we know what to do :-)

Practicing Gratitude

Sharon Andrew, Happiness Evangelist at Happiest Minds Technologies, Bangalore, writes on  the importance of practicing gratitude!

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Practicing Gratitude can make us all Happier. Research finds that people’s happiness levels can increase by 25% by practicing gratitude. Such an increase in the set point for happiness can be sustained over a period of time, contrary to the held notion that our ‘set point’ is frozen at birth.

In his book,  Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nov 2008), Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, shows that a systematic cultivation of this emotion can measurably change people’s lives. He describes research he carried out with three experimental groups over 10 weeks.

  • The first group was asked to write down five things they were grateful for that had happened in the last week for each of the 10 weeks of the study. This was called the gratitude condition.
  • The second group were asked to write down five daily hassles from the previous week. This was called the hassles condition.
  • The third group simply listed five events that had occurred in the last week, but not told to focus on positive or negative aspects. This was the events or control condition.

Some grateful conditions that emerged: Sunset through the clouds; the chance to be alive; and the generosity of friends. Those in the ‘gratitude condition’ group were more optimistic about the future and felt better about their lives than those in the ‘hassles’ or ‘events’ condition.

In a second study, Emmons and McCullough asked people in the control condition group to list ways in which they were better off than others. They were making positive comparisons but not necessarily thinking gratefully. Again, the results showed that those in the gratitude condition were significantly happier than those making positive comparisons between themselves and others and those focussing on daily hassles.practicing-gratitude

In a third study that lasted 21 days, Emmons and McCullough recruited adults who had neuromuscular disorders as people with this condition have a good reason to be unhappy with what life has dealt them. Participants in the gratitude condition were found to be more satisfied with their lives, more optimistic about the upcoming week and crucially, were sleeping better.