The Happy Secret

Tools of the Explorer Trade.

There is something about the feel and scent of a leather journal that evokes travel to me. Star charts, scribbled diaries and botanical sketches – the chronicles of the Age of Discovery are richly illustrated in my mind. In my imagination, the journal sits beside the telescope and the compass – always in reach of the explorer.

I have often written about my struggle to capture memories – the tension between living in the moment and documenting it. Over and over, I find myself fighting the desire to crystalize time in souvenirs or photographs – trying to unstitch the reality of transience. So far, the act of journaling has been the closest that I have come.

A realisation: the beauty of the blank page should not be reserved for your next journey.

A reckoning: chronicling your everyday life could help you access your full intelligence, creativity and energy.

Counting Sheep

When you were little, did you ever try counting sheep?




I remember looking for sheep in the darkness, casting my eye inwards. Like many, this was probably my first experience of meditation. Though I didn’t recognise it at the time, counting sheep is a sort of mental exercise, using repetition and rhythm to train the brain into a different state of being: sleep.

In the same vein, journaling can be a form of meditation. Cast your eye inwards. The act of writing about your day could train your brain into a different way of being; one in which you are more energetic, creative and intelligent.


The Happy Secret

In his talk The Happy Secret to Better Work, Shawn Achor talks about the ‘happy advantage’ – the upper hand given to those who filter their worldview through a positive lens. Anchor’s research shows that when the brain scans its environment for positive aspects….

  • Your intelligence rises
  • Your creativity rises
  • Your energy levels rise
  • You’re 37 percent better at sales
  • Your brain is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.
  • Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.

These incredible results come down to a single chemical named dopamine. Dopamine is not only responsible for happiness levels but can also activate the learning centers in the brain to change the way you adapt to the world around you. The good news is that Anchor’s research proves that you can rewire your brain to be more positive.

How to Change the Way You Think

So, do you want to know the secret to success?

Positive thinking. Anchor’s research had participants writing down three new things that they’re grateful for, 21 days in a row. This simple exercise proved to train the brain to

“scan the world for positive rather than negative aspects.”

The study showed that it is possible to train your brain in a similar way that we train our bodies. We can exercise our happiness ‘muscle’. It only takes two minutes a day. Writing down a positive experience allows your brain to relive it, and the dopamine release that it triggered.

Reversing the Formula

We can train our brain to think happiness first, success second. This goes against traditional notions that success will lead to happiness. It is in reversing this formula that the secret to success lies. That, I’m beginning to think, can only be seen as a positive thing.

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