Learnings from the World Happiness Summit (WOHASU)

This past weekend, I attended the second annual World Happiness Summit, WOHASU for short, at the University of Miami. WOHASU’s mission is to make the world a happier place.

The theme of this year’s conference was Positive Disruption.

In this series of two articles, I am sharing the highlights of my learnings.

We Matter

As human beings, what makes us happy is when we belong. When we matter. Matter is related to things like self-compassion, pleasure, purpose, autonomy and more. 

We attain those things by feeling valued, but feeling valued alone does not accomplish this state of matter or happiness. There is also the act of adding value. We add value in the way we interact with others and contribute to society. We need to foster more of a “we” culture, instead of it always being about Me or I.

We all have the right and responsibility to feel valued and add value.

When people in organizations feel they matter and feel included, the levels of engagement go up. Their overall well-being goes up as well. And, their overall purpose increases. 

If there is fairness for all, everyone is treated with respect the outcome will be higher levels of wellness.

Increase your happiness

How can we create a better life for ourselves? Below are seven strategies to increase your happiness.

  1. Your mind lies to you about what makes you happy. For example, you might think that more money makes you happier, but it’s not true. When we have more money, we want even more. The target keeps moving.
  2. Make more time for social connections. Make time for people you care about. Connect with people you might not expect to connect with. A stranger on the bus or another patient in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.
  3. Helping others makes us happier than we expect. People who volunteer, donate money or help others in different ways have been shown to be happier overall. 
  4. Make time for gratitude every day. Create a gratitude list. At the end of the day, write down three to five things you are grateful for. And to add another layer to this, share what you are grateful for with others.
  5. Being in the present moment is the happiest time. We live in our minds and our mind wanders almost 50 percent of the time. Use savoring as a strategy to become more present. Savor the ice cream you are eating. Observe how your body is feeling. Do you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin? Meditation can decrease your mind from wondering after just two weeks of daily practice.
  6. Incorporate healthy practices. Build a daily exercise routine and make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep, if not eight.
  7. Become wealthy in time, not money. Make space for time and manage you time affluence. Create space in your agenda for time. For example, set aside time on Thursday, which is a day you will not have meetings, to focus on responding to emails, think, work on projects or write. 

Values and happiness

Our happiness is closely linked to our values. If we live in harmony with our values, we are generally happy. 

We define values as principles or standards of behavior. Do you know your values? Have you thought about them recently? Maybe this is a good time to take a moment and think about your three main values. What are they?

The next layer is your behavior. Do you behave according to your values? When do you do this, and when do you not? Notice what happens when you are not acting according to your values. It often feels off, frustrating or just not good. 

The third layer is your curiosity about the values of others and what they mean to them. If, for example, one of your values is freedom, it has a certain meaning for you but someone else, who can have the same value, might have a very different narrative about the value of freedom for them.

If someone if upset with you, you might have touched on one of their values. Be curious about what might have happened to them.

  1. Know your values
  2. Live your values
  3. Be interested in the values of others

Your brain will learn what you decide it will

Our brain is a three pound lump of meat. Our brain is also a neuro-network, similar to the old phone operators, where in incoming call was connected by a wire to another call. The brain works in a similar way. All day long, we are create connections in the brain.

If you go to the gym every day, your muscles grow. If you stop going, your muscles will shrink. If you don’t go at all, your muscles will not grow. 

When we focus on negative things or don’t practice self love, for example, it will become easier to criticize ourselves. You will exercise it so strongly and it will be so easy to do that you don’t notice it any longer.

Thankfully, the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. It’s what we call neuroplasticity.

We can condition the brain to build new habits, but it starts with ourselves. What you use grows, what you don’t use shrinks. 

Make sure you nourish your brain with the right information. 

Speakers included: Dr. Isaac Prilleltensky, Dr. Laurie Santos, Lord Richard Layard, Dr. Sandro Formica and Mo Gawdat.

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