At the start of the year we mentioned our goals to work on articles, in addition to our regular features, that focus around building happiness and confidence. To date, we’ve considered health, organisational aspects including finance, travel, energy, interiors, recipes- to encompass a well balanced and highly nutritional offering, as well as touching on career. Today, I’d like to introduce a book segment into this quest, starting with Emma Seppälä’s The Happiness Track.
In summation, it’s an analysis- a well considered analysis, and resource to aid us in our pursuit of happiness and success, whatever that means to each of us, be it attempting to move up the career ladder or developing stronger family relationships. But you could derive this easily from the synopsis of the book. Mostly what I found though is that for a self-help book built on academic content, it’s extremely concise and extremely relatable. I have highlighted, what I believe to be a key aspect on almost every page within this book, I could sit here and talk about it all day long. I found myself agreeing with the concepts and banging my head against a wall thinking ‘it’s so obvious’.
She touches on, expectantly, the subject of over-sensitised lifestyles and how our over packed schedules, and ‘switch-off’ time (Facebook, reading magazines etc.) is only heightening our states of anxiety, meaning each and every one of us are feeling the stress factor, almost at a constant. We’re therefore finding it harder to distinguish the difference between the effects of stress, states of ‘calm’ and how we’re truly feeling- when in reality, it doesn’t have to be like that. We’re constantly switched on because we feel we have to be. Not only that but we’ve developed an addiction to achievement and the rewards of ‘anticipatory joy’- the kudos for achievement and satisfaction, think Facebook likes, pats on the back etc. and a fear of missing out. This is leading to major problems though. Multi-tasking and a constant focus on the ‘next thing’ raises depression and anxiety, we’re becoming more self-critical (which is completely damaging) and barricading ourselves into categories of ‘achievements’ only pursuing opportunities and developments in areas we believe our strengths are in. But skills and behaviours, particularly those we admire in others, as Emma reminds us, can be learned. Instead we’re becoming more restrictive.
The stress factor is an important aspect of this book. Personally I think we’re all feeling it more so each and everyday with one thing or another. Emma doesn’t shy away from the benefits stress can bring, in short supply, but what’s key is she highlights when it’s too much so we’re more able to read the signs, further delving into the effects it has on us and ways in which we can reduce it. Interestingly, even positive emotions such as excitement induce similar reactions as stress- we seem to continuously bound from one aspect of stress to another leaving us in this hyper-sensitive state unable to work any longer and inflicting serious health and relationship complications on ourselves and those close around us be it co-workers or family. Our tendency to focus on the negatives, a term she deemed the negativity bias which is actually because of our brain function and ancestral evolution, is also harming our happiness and success potential. Although in today’s world we’ve no use for its true function (as part of our human ability it allowed us to overcome dangers to survive), it’s so ingrained that we’re unable to shift its focus. Team this with our chaotic and high stress lives and a trigger (examples used were disagreement with partner or abrasive messages from our bosses) will have us in an anxious state. The key being we’re never truly coming down from this state because of media, schedules, expectations and demands. To aid our personal development into a more intuitive way of thinking, Emma explores the concepts of meditation, breathing techniques and practices, energy reservation, mindfulness, a state of calm and play as essential practices to bringing us more joy, clearer minds and as a conducive for creativity creation and as a means to shift our negativity bias. This book is not only directive but it’s also incredibly resourceful, providing a wealth of actionable content. Reading the book alone won’t make the difference but implementing some of the changes suggested could greatly impact, beneficially, in all aspects of your life. These things take time but I believe this resource can make a huge difference.
The Happiness Track, Emma Seppälä, January 2016