By Dan Solin
We recently relocated to Jersey City, New Jersey, so my wife, a portrait artist, could continue her studies at the Florence Academy of Art’s newly opened campus.
I have the luxury of working from home. I try to run every morning around 8 a.m., on the boardwalk adjacent to the Hudson River. This route allows me to take in the New York City skyline, which makes my exercise regimen much more pleasant.
Over the years, Jersey City has become a major financial center. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers “reverse commute” every morning. As they disembark from their ferries and trains, dressed impeccably in attire favored by investment bankers, I run past them in my gym clothes.
Here’s what strikes me: As a group, they seem unhappy and stressed. A small minority puff away on cigarettes. A significant number are conspicuously overweight and appear unhealthy. Most frenetically text and check e-mails while rushing to their offices.
These are highly intelligent people with good paying jobs. Why are they acting in a way that is so obviously not in their best interest?
Happiness is within your grasp
A recent article in Time magazine set forth “seven easy happiness boosters” based on research from Harvard University. These tips were taken from a book authored by happiness guru Shawn Achor, entitled The Happiness Advantage. I will summarize it below.
I have written previously about the undeniable benefits of meditation. Meditation is the only subject I have researched where I could find no evidence of adverse effects. Researchers found that after a relatively short period of meditation training (11 hours), participants experienced positive changes in their brains. These changes improved the ability of study participants to regulate their thoughts and emotions, which made them happier.
If you are unhappy (and even if you aren’t), you should seriously consider meditation.
Anticipate positive events
Achor refers to a study that found people who anticipated watching their favorite movie raised their endorphin levels by 27%. Planning for positive events is an easy way to increase your happiness level. I have been utilizing this happiness tip for many years, and it definitely works for me. I tell everyone who will listen, “Bad events will find us. We have to plan for positive ones.”
I know it sounds odd, but being kind and generous with others is actually very selfish. I mean selfish in a good sense. Achor cites empirical research showing that generosity with friends and strangers lessens stress and contributes to positive mental health.
My wife refuses to watch the news on television. She says it makes her depressed because it emphasizes negativity, which increases her anxiety. She knows intuitively what research has demonstrated; watching negative news on television and being exposed to violent programs makes us less happy.
The benefits of exercise are extensive and well-documented. It can reduce stress, make you feel happier, treat symptoms of depression, boost self-esteem and increase positive self-image. If those benefits aren’t enough to motivate you, there’s also evidence that exercising helps slow cognitive decline, increases your ability to perform tasks, sharpens your memory and makes you more creative.
Focus on experiences, not on things
Material possessions don’t appear to make us very happy. After all, new cars depreciate immediately. When we see the bells and whistles on next year’s model, we feel compelled to buy. It’s like being on an endless treadmill. In contrast, money spent on positive activities (like vacations or dinner with friends) boosts happiness.
Play to your strengths
We all have what are known as “signature (or character) strengths.” Studies have found that people who tried using their strengths in new ways each day for a week were happier and less depressed six months later.
Happiness is a choice. It’s unfortunate so many people never give it a thought.
Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC (LRPC’s) Monday Morning Minute is crafted to provide decision-maker’s with important information about the economy, investments and corporate retirement plans in a format that allows a reader to consume the information in less than 60 seconds. As an independent, objective investment adviser, LRPC has access to many sources of research and shares the best and most relevant information with its readers each week.
Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based independent, objective Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firm providing investment advisory, fiduciary compliance, employee education, vendor management and plan design services to retirement plan sponsors. The firm currently has contracts in place to provide consulting services on more than $400 million in plan assets. For more information, please contact Robert C. Lawton at (414) 828-4015 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the firm’s website at https://www.lawtonrpc.com. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser.
This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance, tax, legal or investment advice. Each plan has unique requirements and you should consult your attorney or tax adviser for guidance on your specific situation. In no way does Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC assure that, by using the information provided, plan sponsor will be in compliance with ERISA regulations. Investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. The statements in this publication are the opinions and beliefs of the commentator expressed when the commentary was made and are not intended to represent that person’s opinions and beliefs at any other time. The commentary does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC and should not be construed as recommendations or investment advice. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC offers no tax, legal or accounting advice and any advice contained herein is not specific to any individual, entity or retirement plan, but rather general in nature and, therefore, should not be relied upon for specific investment situations. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser and accepts clients outside of Wisconsin based upon applicable state registration regulations and the “de minimus” exception.