Friday, 29 February 2008

Have you got the Happiness Habit?

In my recent posting on Positive Psychology and Coaching I referred to Sonja Lyubomirsky's new book, "The How of Happiness".

The video clip from 20/20 is a great intro to the science behind the book. The case of the identical twins is fascinating isn't it?

On Tuesday I was fortunate enough to take part in a telephone seminar with Professor Lyubomirsky, in which she outlined the key messages from the book. The things which I found most interesting were:

1) that happiness takes effort - i.e. you need to be prepared to work at it; it may not come naturally

2) according to Lyubomirsky, you need to ensure that you choose the strategies which you're comfortable with. Some may not be your cup of tea. She readily admits to finding the Gratitude exercise difficult. If that's the case try something else.

3) whatever strategies you find work for you need to become habits - things that you do on a regular basis without thinking about it, like cleaning your teeth twice a day. How will you get the happiness habit?

4) some of the strategies which have been empirically validated, like gratitude, savouring and acts of kindness, may sound corny and trivial, but they do work. Plus, you have nothing to lose by trying them for a few weeks.

Let us know how you get on with her 'Person/Activity Fit' diagnostic tool (p73) and the various strategies you choose as a result.

Thanks to Christine Duvivier for the links.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Positive Psychology and Coaching

My MAPP colleagues and I were discussing the number of books on happiness being published at the moment: Lyubomirsky's "The How of Happiness" is the latest. Great book, shame about the sunny yellow cover...

Is it possible, we wondered, to broadcast the important positive psychology research findings, i.e. the ones that might make a difference to the way people live their lives, without it being accused of being merely happiology, or moralistic? For example, research tells us (if our grandmothers haven't already) that earning large amounts of money doesn't make a significant difference to our happiness levels. It also shows that building strong relationships (with friends and family, between generations, in the community and at work) is one of the most important things we can do to improve our well-being. Yet the vast majority of us still act like money is the be all and end all.

It's a difficult call, we concluded, especially when the media the world over insists on calling it happiology, as this recent article from PressTV in Tehran illustrates.

Choosing the right Positive Psychology interventions

We also discussed whether Lyubomirsky's emphasis (Chapter 3) on the importance of choosing activities to fit your lifestyle was useful or not. If, as a coach, you leave it up to the client to choose their own interventions, the chances are they won't go for the ones which look too simple, such as keeping a gratitude diary, yet activities like this can have a profound effect.

Opting for more difficult ones (such as meditation) straight off might need a great deal more perseverance. It's worth discussing these potential difficulties with your client before deciding what approach to take. Experienced coach and trainer, Lucy Ryan, suggests advising clients to try the simple interventions first - they have nothing to lose, and a great deal to gain, after all.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Which careers provide the least job satisfaction?

In response to Yang-May's question about which jobs were at the bottom of the happiness and satisfaction league tables, here's the information according to the American General Social Surveys* (GSS) carried out between 1998 and 2006:

The question asked was 'On the whole, how satisfied are you with the work you do - would you say you are very satisfied, moderately satisfied, a little dissatisfied, or very satisfied?'

The mean score ranges from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 4 (very satisfied).

The same survey also asked about general happiness:

The question asked was 'Taken all together, how would you say things are these days -would you say you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?'

The mean score ranges from 1 (not too happy) to 3 (very happy).

The survey results reveal that the least happy and least satisfied are those people doing unskilled manual or service jobs, including customer service assistants and people who handle complaints.

Research suggests that job satisfaction and well-being are less to do with salary or status of a job, and more to do with how much control you have over the job you do. Even though the amount of stress you experience tends to increase as you rise through the ranks, so too does your autonomy, and is it this, or the lack of it, which affects your sense of well-being and satisfaction.

What's interesting is that even the lowest scores aren't really that bad....

If you have any further thoughts or comments on these survey results, we'd love to hear them.