Coping With Quarantine: Be Happy Now

Being stuck inside during this quarantine has been trying on my patience because I’m so used to getting out and working at the restaurant, speaking, and doing comedy, I’m ready to pull out the few hairs I have left on my head… but I’m not going to do that – it’s going to be awhile before I can get a haircut.

Being cooped up at home, I decided, “Why not do something to help others who are cooped up?” so I decided to go through some old notebooks and I found notes from the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. It’s an easy and interesting read about positive psychology – the science of happiness – and it’s the book that got me interested in becoming a speaker in the first place. (For a general idea of the topic of the book, check out Achor’s 12-minute TED Talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M)

The book begins by talking about how most people follow a formula that we learn when we’re kids, and we keep learning it in school, the media, and our workplaces.

That formula: if we work hard, we’ll become successful, and when we become successful, then we can be happy.

This formula is broken.

If you say, “If I’m successful, then I’ll be happy,” that keeps pushing our happiness further and further out when happiness and optimism actually fuel our performance and achievement. Think about it: do you do better when you’re feeling good, or when you’re stressed out, pissed off, or have coronavirus?

The formula we’re conditioned to believe is actually backwards because, it turns out, it’s happiness that leads to success. If we keep telling ourselves “I’ll be happy when…” then our happiness will always lie in the future because our brains only understand right now, which is why it’s so important to ask ourselves, “How can I be happy now?”

When I first read this, it blew my mind because it made too much sense.

What is positive psychology?

Positive psychology breaks from traditional psychology’s focus on what makes people unhappy and returning them to “normal,” while positive psychology focuses on what makes people thrive and excel. Achor refers to this as “escaping the cult of the average” because typical psychology sees average as the goal for those who fall below that curve instead of looking at those above the curve and asking:

  • “How can we raise the average?”
  • “What makes those above the average so happy and how can more people achieve    that?”
  • “How do their brains work? How do they talk to themselves?”

This spoke to me, man.

Okay, so what are the benefits?

In one study, doctors that were put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis showed almost three times more intelligence and almost three times more creativity than doctors in a neutral state. The positive doctors even made accurate diagnoses 19% faster. Who needs coronavirus tests when you have happy doctors?

Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56% – that’s pretty good.

Our brains are hardwired to perform at their best when they’re positive, and that’s because of the dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins that counteract the cortisol (the stress chemical) that limits our perspective.

The moral of the story

“Once I get out of the house, I’ll be happy.”

“When I get back to work, I’ll be happy.”

Cool, but right now, you’re not out of the house. You’re not working. Saying the above is going to make this quarantine feel like forever. Instead, move that happiness into the present and start looking for even just one thing that makes you happy right now. For example, I have food in my refrigerator, I’m grateful for that, and that gratitude makes me feel good. Saying, “I’ll be happy when…” is like saying, “I’ll be full once I eat,” when you have food right in front of you.

Take a few minutes a day and make a list of things that make you happy, so that when you do get back to work, you’ve got a mental edge and you can help bring others into that frame of mind.

Choose to be happy NOW, so start by finding things that make you happy NOW.

Comment, reach out if you have questions, and share with people you think may benefit from a happiness injection.

6 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Quarantine

Fun fact: each second, your brain receives 11 million bits of information. Out of that, it processes 40 to 50 bits, so it chooses what it takes in. That’s great news because that means each of us is consciously choosing what bits of information to take in.

During this coronavirus crisis, it’s easy to find the negatives because we’re being constantly bombarded by bad news on TV, on social media, or from our friends and family giving us “helpful” updates on the most recent closings. Personally, I’ve been forced out of my service industry job, I’ve had speaking gigs cancelled, and I have no outlet to get on stage and make people laugh. Suddenly, I have all of this free time to swipe, scroll, and get sucked into a vortex of negativity.

NOT SO FAST

Instead, I’ve made it a goal to do my part in making other people smile when there doesn’t seem like there’s a lot to smile about. It gives my days meaning, distracts me from the negative news that I literally can do nothing about, and hopefully creates a different narrative for others, as we experience the same uncertainty.

I want you to know that you have options, no matter how limited they seem. Here are 6 ways to make the most of the coronavirus quarantine.

1. Maintain the Losada Ratio

Psychologist Marcial Losada specializes in using human behavior to develop high performance teams. In his years of hands-on study, he discovered that people perform best when they balance every negative interaction with 3-6 positive ones. Negative moments weigh heavier on our brains because our survival depends on focusing on potential dangers vs. the positives in our environments, hence the 3-6:1 ratio instead of a 1:1 ratio. If we want to outweigh the negatives, we must find 3-6 positives in our lives. Every time you read a negative news story, or are bombarded with a “the end is near” mentality of a loved one, find 3 uplifting news stories, funny memes, cuddle with a pet, send someone an email thanking them, etc. The more you do this, the more you train your brain to find what’s good.

2. Be a positive broadcaster

While the rest of the world is filling the airwaves to the brim with negative, stress-inducing stories. Instead of complaining about this, do your part and share the stories that are going to bring smiles to the faces of others. If it makes you smile, don’t hesitate – SHARE IT! Through all the negative, there’s a lot of people doing good out there. I just got a free oil change and tire rotation as a service offered by Automotive Specialty Services to ease the mental tension of their customers. Last month, after being laid off from my last job, my barber offered me a haircut, calling it a “Getting-Back-On-Your-Feet Cut.” My current workplace is preparing pre-cooked meals for any service industry employees who were laid off due to the quarantine, regardless of where they work. If you find a story like this, don’t keep it to yourself, SHARE IT.

3. Make a daily to-do list

Sitting around watching TV, falling into a YouTube vortex, and playing video games while pounding Miller High Lifes might seem like a good way to distract yourself from the fact that you’re not working, but it’s actually doing more harm than good. Our brains need stimulated so that they’re releasing dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins into our bloodstream; these chemicals counterbalance the stress that can run rampant while thinking about paying bills without work. A simple way to release these “good” neurotransmitters and activate your brain is to set and achieve goals every day. They can be as simple as finishing a book you’ve been reading, putting furniture together, learning something new, meditating daily, or finally organizing that desk. You can be as ambitious as finishing a book you’ve been writing, getting your weight down, or putting together a new resume for after the quarantine is over. Make a list of at least 3-5 things to get done the next day, right before you go to bed.

4. Create Positive Momentum

Hanging around the house in your flannel pants and ratty hoodie is comfortable, sure, but what kind of message are you giving your brain? Communicate that today is going to be a good day to get something done by treating the morning like any other busy morning – except better. Get dressed, exercise, shower, dress your best, eat a healthy breakfast, and get working on your biggest to-do of the day. Whatever you do, don’t turn on the news before you start your day. If you’re going to watch or listen to anything, put on something that motivates you or makes you laugh. Now is as good a time as ever to create new habits.

6. Practice Gratitude

Whenever you feel yourself becoming stressed, depressed, or anxious, find at least one thing you’re grateful for in that moment. For example, when I start thinking about and getting stressed out by what I don’t have, I remember to be grateful for the opportunity to get a bunch of projects finished that I’ve been working on for months, even years. At the very least, right before you go to bed, make a list, mental or physical, of three things you’re grateful for that day. They can be as simple as being grateful for air, water, or the house you live in, just do it as you lie down, so the last thing going through your head is good vibes. It can always be worse, which is why it’s important to consciously remember why it’s always better than it seems.

What we see and how we see it determines how we feel, what we do, and what we get. Shift the first thing and create some positive momentum, even when it seems like doing so is impossible =)

For your daily dose of good news: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/, https://www.sunnyskyz.com/good-news, https://www.positive.news/

 

 

The Simple Solution to Boredom

“You must get so bored.”

I’ve made the 8 hour drive from Akron, Ohio to New York City at least a dozen times, and this is the reaction I get from most people who hear that I drive as opposed to flying. I may not be able to take a nap, write a blog, or do yoga while hurtling at 70-80 miles per hour down a highway, but I don’t have to be bored either. Instead, I choose to enjoy every second of the drive, and I almost wish it was longer because I’m enjoying myself so much. Am I crazy? It’s debatable, but I’d rather be crazy and enjoying myself than be bored and dread any part of my life. We have the choice to be bored or enjoy ourselves in every situation – and life is too short to be bored for even one second. All you have to do is make the conscious choice.

How do I combat boredom? I create excitement. The it’s-so-simple-it-can’t-possibly-work solution to boredom is to stop telling yourself you’re bored. This can’t be done by saying, “Stop being bored,” because when we try to stop something, we’re thinking about that thing. That’s why I create. It’s the law of the universe: when we try to destroy or stop something, we create more of that thing (How many times have you seen someone try to stop violence by using violence?), but when we create something different, the energy used on boredom is transferred to creating something different. It’s how our thinking works

When we have a thought, we’re commanding our brain to say, “Okay, this thought must be true, so I’m going to work to make sure that it’s the truth,” and then filter out anything that says otherwise. By saying, “I’m bored,” “This is boring,” or “Time is going so slow,” our brain completely filters out anything else. It’s not our brain’s fault, it’s just doing its job, and then we take action on that thought. It’s up to you, the boss, to command your brain to see things differently. Because we have 50-65,000 thoughts a day, it can only take in so much information, so it only accepts the information we consciously tell it to accept. By getting frustrated at your boredom, you’re basically ordering a burger, then getting mad at Burger King for giving you a meat sandwich when you’re a vegetarian. Choose to order up excitement. Here are a few ways to do it:

  1. Condition your imagination

We’re all born with an imagination, but just like those 6-pack abs hiding under the Pillsbury Doughboy stomach you’ve worked so hard on, it takes practice. You’re not going to look like an Abercrombie model overnight, and you’re not going to go from droning through spreadsheets to Tolkein overnight either. Imagination doesn’t necessarily mean you’re imagining dragons everywhere you go (people will wonder why you’re randomly ducking and carrying a spear with you) Inject a little creativity into your life wherever you can: take a different route home from work every day, imagine that spreadsheet you’re working on is going to save the world from a terrorist attack, create a different meaning for street signs, or every night, write down one thing you did differently that day that was new and fun. Disrupting the previous thinking pattern is the first step towards building an imagination 6-pack.

2.   Ask “What else could this be?”

When you hear yourself use the words “I’m bored,” immediately challenge that thought with, “Which means I have an opportunity to make this AWESOME.” Train your brain to find the all of the reasons why you’re having a good time instead of finding the boring. A common opportunity is when we’re waiting. If you’re in line, that’s a great opportunity to people watch. When I’m in line, I love to observe other people and ask myself, “If they do that, what else do they do?” and then I create a story about that person based on just one observation. Try it; it can be a lot of fun. You can also notice and appreciate something you wouldn’t normally notice and appreciate: trees, the patterns in woodwork, the sound of silence, darkness, your breath or heartbeat, or the vastness of the unknown in the universe, man. There’s an infinite number of things that we don’t take the time to appreciate. When we do, it’s really amazing where our thoughts can take us. Time can start to fly in an instant.

3.   Start a fire

Fires are never boring. They make movies based on fires. You’re also helping a firefighter, who may be bored, liven up their day. Whether it’s a house, a forest, or a bon, fires, for whatever reason take a “boring” gathering and turn it into a great time with the simple flick of a lighter.

4.   Do several hallucinogenic drugs at once

Have you ever seen air? Have you ever seen air as moving colors? Have you ever thought you were dying when there was absolutely nothing wrong with you? Combine numbers 4 and 3 and chances are, you will.

Sing, dance, imagine, be grateful, use your senses, read about the census, think about tents, file for bankruptcy for fun, file for a new filing cabinet and then file files into it, paint, turn boring ol’ productivity into a game, breathe, see how long you can hold your breath, see how long you can hold your hand in the air while your hand is holding a gun, fight imaginary dragons with said gun, listen to Imagine Dragons, dress in drag, drag race, pretend you’re a racist on Facebook, re-friend everyone who de-friends you, make friendship bracelets; I don’t care what it is, but whatever you do, make sure you always create. It’s why you’re here. Life is too short not to create, and creating boredom seems silly. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to create enjoyment out of boredom, because boredom is an opportunity to create our lives how we want, and no one wants to be bored.