The focus of Act Happy Week is to educate the public about purposeful actions you can take to create chemical shifts in your body and new neural pathways in your brain to support more frequent experience of what we call Positive Emotions. When you “Act Happy” you train your mind/body/heart to find Happiness, Calm, and Resilience when you choose to visit them!
This is Day 1 (537 words of content, Reading time ~2.15 minutes)
Act Happy Week has been a thing since 2004, embracing The United Nations’ International Day of Happiness on March 20. Every day this week I will offer a new tool or coaching perspective to support you on your journey of Happiness and Leadership.
My theme this year is Self. Today is about Self-Awareness. In sequence we’ll visit Self-Care, Self-Work, Self-Talk, and Self-Expression.
I. DAY 1: SELF-AWARENESS
Where Are You Now?
To plan a journey (figuratively and literally) you must answer two questions: where are you going AND where are you starting? From that place you can review available paths and possibilities.
People who are NOT self-aware can end up stumbling through challenges like a proverbial “bull in a china shop,” creating hurt, chaos, or mistakes not from intent but because they are blind to how they operate in the world. For example, they may lack good listening skills, make criminal promises, practice habits that annoy others, or ignore their own anger issues.
Self-awareness does not make you perfect, but as you become more aware of who and what you are in any moment, you increase capacity to make a CHOICE about what you think, feel, or do next. And, if you make a mistake or choose poorly, you are more likely to learn from any situation.
Increase Awareness Through Mindfulness
mind·ful·ness/ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/ noun. 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. 2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware in the moment. By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to quiet your mind, notice yourself and the world around you and make more purposeful choices – about everything – the thoughts you’re thinking, the emotions you are feeling, the actions you take.
When you behave with intention, you reduce stress and anxiety. This can help you act happy and maintain – or shift into — a positive attitude, even in challenging situations.
Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but for those of us (including me!) who have discovered sitting still for 20 minutes is neither enjoyable nor possible, trust you can build self-awareness in tiny bits as part of your daily activities. Here’s how:
Be. Here. Now. In any busy day, you keep moving forward — every hour, every minute, every moment. A practice of mindfulness invites you to pause and be IN a moment versus passing THROUGH them all.
Here are seven ideas you can integrate into your life without any special training, location, ambience, or outfit required!
- While in a meeting (virtual or in-person), think about your feet.
- At a red traffic signal, breathe in and out through your lower back.
- While eating dinner, close your eyes and savor a forkful as you chew it.
- Follow one stream of water from when the shower hits your head till it flows off your toes.
- When your phone rings, sit/stand tall as you answer it.
- After any conversation ask yourself, “what emotion(s) am I feeling right now?”
- Eat a snack one chip, one spoonful, or one popcorn kernel at a time.
Mindfulness builds the skill of self-awareness, which strengthens your capacity to choose what happens next – calm, patience, even Happiness!
Remember, Leadership is not about a title: Anyone can be a leader who is self-aware and able to calibrate their mood/emotion in the moment.
Bonus: Mindful leaders find it easier to access humility, creating a space where everyone can show up with their own flaws and gifts and feel respected for what they contribute to the team.