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The Human Experiment: Episode 1

Imagine you won the lottery! Happy? Actually if you’re like most people, six months after your win, you’re no happier than you were before. Yet do a 5-minute weekly mental activity and your happiness climbs 25%.

Lotto winners get a big boost in happiness yet a University of California study found that within a few months their happiness drops back down to pre-winning levels. Contrast that with a ten-week study by Dr. Robert Emmons. At the end of each week he got a group of people to write down five things they were grateful for. Two and a half months later the group showed a 25% increase in happiness. How can expressing gratitude increase happiness more than winning millions? It has to do with the way we quickly become desensitised to new things. Have you noticed that when you get a new car, house, outfit or sometimes, partner, you’re really only exited for a few weeks, days or sometimes minutes? It’s the law of diminishing returns. Over time we tend to get less pleasure out of the things we have. Psychologists call this “habituation”.  So how can you create your own law of “increasing returns”? The answer is gratitude. When you give thanks you refocus your attention on what you have, re-sensitizing you to its pleasure. Think of it as an appreciation reboot.

This is how I do it. At the end of the day I get into a relaxed state and ask myself what’s right? We’re so good at asking what’s wrong. In fact we’ve all got a bit of a negativity bias. Our minds are a bit like the news only the news is more uplifting! Ask: What’s right? It could be a compliment you got, or the compliment you gave and the way that person’s face lit up. It could be a moment during the day when you noticed the sunlight glittering on the treetops. It could be the way you’re feeling right now, pain free, warm, comfortable, enthralled by this presentation! It could be about something great coming up in the future. Savor it. Absorb it. Intensify it. Marinate in gratitude. Taking moments throughout the day to express gratitude internally or to another person can significantly raise your happiness — and theirs. “Who is rich?” proverbs asks, “He who rejoices in his lot.”  Now experiment on yourself.

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Justin Cohen is a professional speaker and author of four books & seven audiobooks. As a leading authority on human potential, with a postgraduate degree in Psychology, Justin Cohen speaks and trains internationally in the fields of motivation, sales, service and leadership. He has presented in nearly twenty countries, and in virtually every industry to an average of 10 000 people annually. Justin is a Certified Speaking Professional and a Southern African Speaker Hall of Fame inductee.

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