In François Lelord’s book, Hector and the Search for Happiness, the title character embarks on a journey ‘round the globe – from China to Africa to America – to understand what makes people in different cultures happy. In the end, Hector determines that happiness is a feeling evoked by friends, family and fulfillment, and is not determined by physical location.
Clearly Hector never set foot in Hawaii.
It’s no surprise that at Mahalo Digital, we have a soft spot for the Aloha State. On the front door of the office a wooden sign bearing a silhouette of the Hawaiian Islands declares, “this is my happy place.” Mahalo Digital was founded, as the name implies, out of the love of Hawaiian culture and for living each day in the spirit of appreciation.
But the sad reality is that we can’t always be in Hawaii. Hence, we try to live the Mahalo Way both on and off the island. At Mahalo Digital that means channeling both the spirit of Hawaii and a spirit of gratitude, and living, as our company promise states, “in thankfulness for the richness that makes life so precious at work and at home.”
Living in gratitude means that happiness can be manifested wherever we are. The sign on the office door is not only a daily reminder to maintain a mentality of relaxation (and to summon Mai Tais in our mind’s eye), but it’s a reminder that “this” happy place refers to the office itself. Mahalo Digital values happiness and it should not be checked at the door, but instead welcomed in.
In fact, Shawn Achor, psychologist and author of The Happiness Advantage, says happiness is a great predictor of success. What we’ve been told all our lives, that if we work hard, success will follow, is indeed scientifically backwards, says Achor. “People who cultivate a positive mind-set perform better in the face of challenge,” he says. His research shows that the brain is 31% more productive when primed with positive thoughts, as opposed to negative or neutral thoughts, which means that happiness is in fact fuel for success, not only a result of it.
On this misguided quest for success, as we work longer hours and harder days, the outcome is not happiness, but the opposite. Stress. But there’s good news – stress has a kryptonite. Author and psychologist Brene Brown said in an interview, “it’s not possible to be stressed about something when you’re being grateful for it.” Brown, who penned the 2012 New York Times Bestseller Daring Greatly, points out that dealing with stress is just a matter of turning it on its head. This is a great reminder for us at Mahalo to say to those clients with demanding deadlines who ask for near-impossible feats, thank you for the opportunity to think creatively, to use our most powerful muscle – the brain – every day, to problem solve and move mountains.
Studies show that living a life of gratitude has innumerable positive aspects on our health, wellbeing, and our success. And while gratitude might not come easily to everyone, unlike some character traits, it’s possible to grow it. Spending just a few minutes a day reflecting on and writing down three gratitudes a day will, according to Achor, lead one to increased happiness and better work.
The best part is, it doesn’t take years of practice to rewire our brains to default to positivity, instead of negativity. A positive outlook is a self-fulfilling cycle that increases our happiness, and thereby our success. And it can all start with daily gratitude.
To add to the power of gratitude, research shows that reflecting on crisis can breed gratefulness, and in turn, gratitude can help us cope with crisis. Gratitude expert Robert Emmons says, “consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall.” When life throws curveballs (earthquakes, illness, and presidential elections), when we’re up against tight deadlines, or when we’re drained from a long week of mountain moving, gratitude is the first line of defense.
As Danielle LaPorte says, “gratitude attracts more reasons to be grateful.”
Given the goodness that gratitude can bring – from improved business outcomes to lessened stress and higher happiness levels – its clear to us that gratitude in the workplace should be as customary as company meetings. At Mahalo Digital we believe gratitude gives us a channel to keep us grounded here on the main land.
We hope that in the month of November especially, you too can learn to channel the Mahalo way of life: to practice gratitude and cultivate happiness wherever you are, in and out of the workplace.
And when the stress is beyond control, just remember, there’s always Hawaii.
Do you practice gratitude? How does it affect your success and happiness? We’d love to hear your thoughts!