The rush, craziness, joy and anticipation of the holiday season has already begun. As my gift to you, I’d like to remind you (or perhaps introduce to some of you) of tools that we have to help us deal with the challenges, not only of the busy holiday season, but also could help make our day-to-day lives more rewarding and, well, happier.
I was fortunate enough to come across a wonderful MOOC that has just finished on the edX platform called The Science of Happiness. Led by Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, this MOOC was produced by the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley. I found this course so very interesting and informative. It helped motivate me to make changes in my own life to increase my happiness. The best news of all is that you all haven’t missed the boat! The Science of Happiness is being run again beginning December 1 on a self-paced basis. Instead of the 10 weeks that my course ran, the free self-paced course will be open for a full semester, giving everyone more time to read through all the great resources the instructors provide. (Check out my previous post on Mastering MOOCs with Evernote for some hints on organizing your study. I have created a great personal notebook from my journey through the course) I also loved all the videos they had of well-known researchers and authors in the field discussing various aspects of the program. I have a long list of new books I’d like to read just from all the speakers. I highly encourage everyone to consider this course, no strings, work at your own pace.. you have nothing to lose, except maybe a sad face. Listen to the instructors introduce the course themselves and then check it out on edX here.
My second gush is about the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) itself. I never knew this great site existed prior to this course. The instructors have used a number of articles from the center in their readings and I am sold on the free e-newsletter. It is like getting an uplifting hug in your inbox. The articles are all based on real research, but they are written for a lay audience so they are easy to read and digest. The site is organized into Family & Couples, Education, Work & Career, Mind & Body and Big Ideas, or you can choose between topics like Gratitude, Happiness, Mindfulness, etc.
OK, enough gushing. Suffice it to say that this course came to me at a time when I was feeling really crushed by life and listening to the videos and reading the articles on mindfulness, gratitude, compassion (including compassion of yourself!) and trying out some of the happiness exercises helped me refocus on bigger picture. It helped remind me of some techniques and practices that centered and rejuvenated me — practices that I had let fall to the wayside in the busyness of life.
So what, you might be saying, does all this touchy-feely stuff have to do with productivity? Much more than you might initially think. We have explored some of these concepts before with regards to time management (Time Management or Focus Management? and May I Have Your Attention?). In those posts we learned that multitasking was a myth, and that managing our focus can be key when many competing priorities are demanding our attention. This is where mindfulness can come into play. As our secret weapon, the abilities that we gain through the practice of mindfulness can help us stay grounded and focused in the present moment. By knowing how to take short mini-breaks to empty our minds and release our stress, we can return to our tasks with renewed energy and clarity. Tara Healey wrote, “Mindfulness interrupts the conditioned responses that prevent us from exploring new avenues of thought, choking our creative potential.” This kind of positive return sounds like a good reason to spend some time cultivating my own mindfulness skill. How mindful are you? Take this quiz from the Greater Good Center to help you target ways to improve.
Finally, I’d like to briefly touch on two other topics from the Science of Happiness MOOC. Those of gratitude and awe. To me, those kind of go hand in hand and relate to the picture I chose to start this blog post. In it, not only do we see a Buddhist monk meditating, but we see the glorious waterfall behind him. I can almost hear the water rushing down the rocks. Nature is one easy place for me to stop and feel awe of the magnificence around me. When I take the time to focus on pictures, or even better, to actually visit some of these beautiful places where nature is King, I find my breathing and blood pressure slowing; I am reminded of the vastness and wonder of the world, and I feel an unfurling of all the tight negative emotions or troubles that may be weighing me down. And I am grateful.
I am also grateful for each of you, our readers, for taking time to visit our site, come to our talks and provide us feedback. Wishing each of you a holiday season of happiness, gratitude and awe.