Lesson #4: Shawn Achor on how to train your brain to be happy

If I’ve learned anything over the past few years it’s that there is  no one way to fix depression. For Shawn Achor, positive psychology worked for him.

I first learned of Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage and founder of GoodThink Inc. at The Globe and Mail’s Executive Performance Summit in 2016. Achor was the keynote.

He was easy to spot in the crowd. In a room full of type A personalities, all  suited and taut, he was dressed business casual. He had a friendly air  and a hypnotic smile that he would cast on anyone within five feet of him. My immediate thought was that he was either on something or on to something.

Shawn Achor
Photo courtesy of GoodThink Inc.

Right off the top of his presentation, he asked the audience to turn to the person next to them and smile at them for sixty seconds. Everyone shifted in their seats reluctantly, clearly somewhat horrified at having to do this, but equally determined to succeed.

About twenty seconds in, the silent room started to get noticeably uncomfortable. Staring into someone’s eyes, a stranger’s or worse, a colleague’s, smiling, for twenty seconds is a really weird thing to do. At thirty seconds, hearing they were only halfway there, a few people started snickering. When we hit the one-minute mark, the room erupted with relief. People were laughing and chatty. They looked happy and satisfied,  proud of what they’d just accomplished.

And that was his point. That was all it took to reset the dynamics of an entire room. No money. No spreadsheets. Just sixty seconds of smiling to make two hundred people, individually and collectively, feel good, happy and optimistic. It wasn’t even 9am and already the day was looking up. Continue reading “Lesson #4: Shawn Achor on how to train your brain to be happy”