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Marci Shimoff: The Science of Happiness

Apr 04, 2018

Marci Shimoff was speaking at the 2018 Pendulum Summit; she is one of the world's leading voices on happiness and a New York Times bestselling author. Hear more from her on Pendulum Talks.

Happiness is the one thing we have wanted from time immemorial.

How many of you would like to wake up in the morning that little bit happier? We all do. We have an epidemic of unhappiness in our society. One out of every four women are on antidepressants. We have more than we’ve ever had, yet we’re unhappier than we’ve ever been.

Thankfully, there’s good news. It’s that, for the first time in human history, science has cracked the happiness code. We now know exactly what it takes for people to become happier, and as far as I’m concerned, that should be headline news.

Some of you may dismiss this to be airy-fairy California fluff. I am indeed from California, but this is science and a major contributor to your bottom line. Happier companies outperform competition by 20% and happier employees are 12% more productive, and also take ten times fewer sick days than their unhappy colleagues.

Unfortunately, happiness is shrouded in myth. People believe that happiness can be achieved outside of themselves, that a little more success will finally bring that ever-elusive happiness. Coca-Cola’s slogan is ‘open happiness’, suggesting that happiness can be found in the bottom of your next bottle of Coke.

Your happiness set point is 50% genetic, and 10% your circumstances. That’s a tiny slice of the pie, yet it’s what all of us endeavour to change. The other 40% is our habits of thought and behaviour. That’s what we can really do something about. When we change our habits, it influences our DNA.

Money doesn’t buy happiness. Up to a certain level, increases in income will make you happier, but once you reach a certain level, money has no influence on happiness. Billionaires are no happier than anyone else.

There are three main happiness habits. The first has to do with brainwaves, creating the neuro pathways of happiness. We have a hundred billion brain cells and a hundred trillion connections within these neurocells. That’s an awful lot, and we need to retrain each one.

Happiness is based upon self-esteem. Two out of three adults have low self-esteem. We talk to ourselves throughout the day; the average person has over 60 thousand thoughts per day. I remember asking a room full of truck drivers how many thoughts per day they had; they replied just one. I told them that they had 60 thousand thoughts just like the rest of us, just that they were all about the same thing.

We must savour positives for at least 20 seconds in order to create neural pathways in the brain, but it doesn’t take you nearly as long to register negatives. If someone gives you ten compliments and one criticism in a day, what do you remember at the end of the day? The criticism.

Everything changes with the music inside. When we raise our happiness set point, the world may not change, but our perception of it does.

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