Business Women Connect: What’s the best way to get happy and stay happy?

For starters, try not to stress about the future and focus on the present with an attitude of gratitude.

We often tend to project happiness into the future, believing we’ll be happy when we own a certain thing or have a certain experience.  But when we get the things we said we wanted, the happiness we expected is often fleeting. Why is that?

Well, according to Shawn Achor in his fabulous book, The Happiness Advantage, (I just finished reading it - highly recommend it!) science shows that our brains operate in the opposite order. That happiness isn’t about getting to point ‘A’ or point ‘B’ - it’s about the attitude you bring to your everyday work.

Achor helped design the famed happiness course at Harvard (at one time the most popular course at the university), and then went on to create a study that measured the connection between positivity and production. The study suggested that to a large degree, happiness is a learned behavior. Those trained in positive psychology showed significant increases in optimism – one of the greatest indicators of performance and success. Extensive studies have shown that employees with high levels of life satisfaction are more productive, take fewer sick days, and are more resilient in the face of a challenge.

Of course, not everyone lives and works in a positive environment. It is possible to keep your brain happy no matter what your circumstances. Only 10 percent of happiness depends on our external world, the other 90 percent depends on how our brain processes the world. Instead of scanning the world for problems, mistakes, and dangers, positive thinkers focus on things to be grateful for or ways to make the situation better.

Here are four tips for training your brain to be happy:

1. Each night, write down three things for which you’re grateful and why.  Be specific. Don’t just write “my children.” Instead, list the funny remark your daughter said at dinner. Gratitude moves your brain to scan the world for things that make you happy.

2. Know your weaknesses but maximize your strengths.  If we focused on our strengths every day, we would feel more engaged in routine tasks. As your investment in the day goes up, your creativity rises with it. What are you best at? Re-craft a daily task to use that strength.

3. Journaling about recent positive experiences helps you make a connection with the most meaningful parts of your day. When this becomes habit, our brain starts to connect the dots. It begins to wrap around the things that mean the most, to notice the activities that translate into deeper satisfaction and meaning.

4. Meditate, even if just for five minutes a day. We all think we need to multitask to be more successful but if you do two tasks at once, your stress level rises and your productivity level drops for both tasks. Meditation slows our mind down to the present moment.

Shelly Aristizabal is the new President of Business Women Connect. She is a seasoned business coach, advisor and speaker who helps entrepreneurs network to success. Learn more about Shelly and her recently published book This Is Your Year at BusinessWomenConnect.com, ShellyAristizabal.com & HealthyLivingConcierge.com.