What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again!

I’ve just had an email from Action for Happiness, letting me know that tomorrow, which is probably today by now, Wednesday 20th March, is the very first United Nations International Day of Happiness.

It seems that all around the world people are recognising that ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and well-being, not just growing the economy at all costs. In fact, all 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given a greater priority.

Recent research also shows that happy employees have higher levels of productivity, perform better in leadership roles and receive higher pay! So it seems that happiness certainly has many advantages. You can read more about it here in Shawn Achor’s article on Positive Intelligence in the Harvard Business Review.

Soon after I’d read about the International Day of Happiness the very next email into my inbox was advertising the musical ‘Singing in the Rain,’ coming to the Manchester Opera House in November 2013. That’s the random nature of in-boxes  and my inbox in particular! It’s the conduit for a vast array of emails relating to a myriad of topics which jostle with each other for my attention.

Today, this unlikely combination has not only got my attention, but got me thinking too. You have to be pretty happy to ‘sing in the rain,’ but what else can raise our happiness levels, not just for the International Day of Happiness, but every day?

If you know the song, then chances are the lyrics are swimming around your head already and you may have an inkling where this is going……

[All together now]
I’m singin’ in the rain, Just singin’ in the rain,

What a glorious feeling, And I’m happy again.

I’m laughing at clouds, So dark, up above,

The sun’s in my heart, And I’m ready for love.

Let the stormy clouds chase, Everyone from the place,

Come on with the rain I have a smile on my face.

I’ll walk down the lane with a happy refrain

I’m singin’ and dancin’ in the rain.

[Well done, you sound amazing!]

So it’s the really simple things can make you happy; singing, dancing, rain, walking, laughing and love. I’m inclined to agree.

Think of the pleasure of crisp cotton sheets that smell clean and wonderfully fresh, or how it feels when you belt out a rock ballad at the top of your voice with the car stereo turned up extra loud, or how the garden looks when you’re taking a bounce on a trampoline, or the joy of listening to children who are giddy with laughter over something silly.

There’s plenty to choose from. All wonderfully simple things that can make life richer and more vivid, there’s just one thing that stands in our way, we have to notice them to appreciate them.

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor describes how you can train your brain in 21 days to become more optimistic and therefore happier, by re-wiring your brain and scanning for evidence of the positive things that are happening all around.

It’s a simple technique inspired by the writing of Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology, a branch of psychology which focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions and strengths.

With a very practical bias, Achor suggests that by noticing, and crucially recording in some way, 3 new things that you are grateful for each day over a 21 day period, and hopefully beyond, you can build a more optimistic outlook on life. Sounds simple enough.

One of our colleagues, “the talented Ian Pettigrew” from Kingfisher Coaching has been giving this technique a go and sharing his thoughts publicly on Twitter each evening. I wondered what changes he’d noticed since he started.

Now, I don’t need much of an excuse to down tools for a chat, so this is his up-to-the-minute feedback, gathered just moments ago. I asked Ian to share with me what had happened since adopting this technique and here are a few highlights….

  • It encourages you to reflect at the end of the day, which is perfect for learning as well as appreciating.
  • Even on ‘bad days,’ of which there are very few, you can still find at least 3 thing to be grateful for, which can put a rather different spin on the day.
  • It encourages an actively appreciative ‘glass half full’ attitude, which puts in a really resourceful state for dealing with life’s little challenges.
  • And if you want to share your gratitude with the wider world, be honest and tweet like no-one is watching. If not, you’ll fail to share gems like ‘had a chippy tea’ or ‘bunked of work early to visit Mum’

Why not give it a try? Who knows, you might be dancing and singing, and appreciating the rain in no time flat!

And as a reward for getting this far, click here to go straight to You Tube and see Gene Kelly in action in a piece of iconic film.