There isn’t much that you can’t find out via Google, but can you really find the secret of "happiness?
Stress and dissatisfaction are common issues in the workplace; in fact, across the world the insidious march of depression’s "black dog" is claiming more and more victims. Statistically, depression in the global population does seem to be more wide-spread than it was a century ago, although the reason for this could be because the world’s population has increased and also because the condition is more likely to be recognised by medical professionals today. Our ancestors undoubtedly suffered from depressive episodes, though were often diagnosed as lunatics and committed to asylums.
Even modern drugs or psychotherapy techniques are not always 100 per cent effective, and if depression has been a problem for hundreds of years, is there really anything we can do to make ourselves happier?
The web leviathan has decided to try and solve the mystery that is "happiness," and has even employed a guy to make the mission his full-time job.
Chade-Meng Chen was one of the company’s first engineering employees in Mountain View, and during his early career observed that a large number of his workmates were stressed out and unhappy at work. He persuaded the powers-that-be at Google to let him try and put together a mindfulness course designed to enhance the well-being of his co-workers.
Not surprisingly, the title of the course – "Search Inside Yourself" – makes reference to its sponsors, and it is being co-ordinated by the Human Resources department at Google. Meng has now written a book of the same name that outlines the techniques used on the course so that the rest of the world can benefit from the programme, the methods of which he says have been scientifically proven to improve the well-being of participants.
The secret apparently lies with the application of three, straightforward steps, the first step being to "calm your mind." This process involves breathing exercises, visualisation and taking regular pauses to be "mindful" of your current state. Meng cites a study by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School that suggested mindfulness-training reduces symptoms of anxiety, and a recent review of 209 other related studies concluded that mindfulness can have positive effects on depression and stress.
Meng’s second step is to encourage course participants to “Log moments of joy;” simply put, this means to note whenever you enjoy a simple moment of pleasure rather than holding onto the negative events of the day. This can be a the appreciation of a really good cup of coffee, a shared joke with friends, or an amazing sunset, then say to yourself: "I am having a moment of joy!"
When reflecting back over our day, Meng says that consciously noting these positive events should outweigh any negative events and ensure that our lasting perception was that it was a "good" rather than a "bad" day. For evidence to prove the effectiveness of this technique, Meng cites a study by positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, which concluded we need a 3:1 positive-to-negative ratio of thoughts to overpower negative thinking.
The third step is to “Wish other people to be happy.” Altruism has been proven to increase feelings of well-being, as we can often derive more pleasure from giving than from receiving. Meng used the results of a study by the University of Kent -"Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction" – to substantiate his belief that “kindness is a sustainable source of happiness”.
Meng is convinced that his simple programme can help change the world. As one might imagine, plenty of information on the subject may be found via his employer’s search engine, Google.
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