The Real Secret is a different kind of self help. We debunk the empty promises of so many books and DVDs and bring you a simple, sensible approach to real life fulfillment. We don't believe you can achieve happiness, or anything else, by simply wishing for, thinking about or visualising it. Our book - and this blog - takes only the best of what really works and turns it into a positive, practical 12-step programme that will enable you to take control of your life and raise your happiness levels.

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The Real Secret is simple, sensible, scientifically supported self help
by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


The Happiness Habits Experiment

Recent developments in psychology and neuroscience have shown that you can raise your individual happiness set-point, learn to become more optimistic, increase your self-efficacy, as well as overcome anxieties and personal stumbling blocks. Whilst there is no quick fix to achieving all of the above, there are a number of exercises - all of them simple, sensible and scientifically supported - that will help you on your way.

In the Happiness Habits Experiment we have chosen six easy-to-perform daily exercises that we believe will fundamentally alter the way you experience your life. The exercises are devised to help you adopt new ways of thinking about things and new ways of doing things. Applying yourself to these exercises will help you do just that, cumulatively building your positive power and reshaping your viewpoint.

In the same way that the habit of consistent physical exercise makes your body stronger and more able, the exercises we have chosen for the experiment will help your incredibly flexible brain work for you in every aspect of your life. We ask only that you perform the daily exercises for at least three weeks - to prove to yourself that you can effect change in your life. We believe you will find them helpful, as we and many others have done. Here is a brief run-down of the exercises we have chosen and the research that supports them.

Smile - yes, really!
Just as happiness leads to success rather than vice versa, smiling can be used to create pleasure and not just express it. The physical act of smiling stimulates the pleasure centres in your brain, increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins and reduces the level of stress hormones – so get more pleasure out of life by smiling more often. The act of smiling also slightly cools the face and brain, which is associated with positive mood, whilst frowning warms them and activates changes that can make you feel sad and grumpy. Smile when you’re happy, but smile especially, perhaps, when you’re feeling down.

If you need any more persuading, smiling has been shown to make the face more attractive to other people and influence their choice of you as either a friend, colleague or potential partner.

Another more surprising finding from research concludes that fake smiling works, and it even works on ourselves. In a landmark study*, students were told that they would be helping to test different ways for paraplegic people to hold pens. Some were asked to hold a pen between their teeth - an action that produced an involuntary smile. Others were asked to hold it with their lips, which induces a frown. Immediately afterwards, the students were shown a cartoon and asked to rate how funny they thought it. The teeth holders (that is, the smilers) were unequivacally more amused.

If you'd like to join the experiment then just sign up here - Happiness Habits Experiment

In tomorrow’s blog I’ll look at the second exercise in our Happiness Habits Experiment.

post by Annabel

* Strack,F. et al., (1988) Inhibiting and Facilitating Conditions of the Human Smile. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (54) p. 768-777

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