What you can learn from Thanksgiving to make yourself smarter and happier?

To all of the american readers this blog post may seem a bit pre-mature but it is Thanksgiving in the great white North (Canada). For the last four years I have not been able to spend Canadian Thanksgiving with my parents as I was studying at Boston University. This year I was especially excited as it was the first Thanksgiving I was going to get to spend with my family since I was in my last year of high school.

Unfortunately, the stars did not align this year, and everyone in my family was swamped with work, including myself. Initially I was disappointed about not getting a big Turkey dinner and just getting to spend some quality time with my family.  However, it hit me that my disappointment was purely due to my expectations and NOT my reality. Do I really know that all families that have a big Turkey dinner are really happy? Anyways working on Thanksgiving is just the “Mehat” (my last name) way, I guess.

Upon reflecting on my feelings and re-watching a moving talk by Shawn Achor (Harvard Professor), I knew I had to do a blog post on this topic.

This TED talk completely changed my life when I first saw it and it continues to help support me. This talk is not only so powerful because of the actionable items you can complete immediately but also for introducing a paradigm shift. Happiness is a skill.

Shawn Achor is one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is the study the principles behind the happiest and most successful men and women. He found that the commonly held belief of conditional happiness; you will be happy when: you get that promotion, meet the girls of your dreams, earn a million dollars, retire, etc., is completely FALSE. 

No matter how much success you achieve, you will never be able to “catch” happiness and it will always find away to elude you. They key principle is to become happy with what you have, and enjoy everything you have been blessed with. This is what Thanksgiving is all about. Imagine if every day you approached the world with the same mindset you had during Thanksgiving? The world would be a much better place.

This theory is good and all, but how can YOU apply it to your life to become happier and more intelligent? The prescription is simple, every morning write down five new things you are grateful for, and journal a recent positive experience for three minutes. I do this exercise every morning without fail, and I love it because it re-orients my mind towards all the blessings I have been bestowed with.

However, this exercise not only make you happier but also improves your cognitive performance. How does it do this? While completing these gratitude exercises you will get a transient spike in your serotonin and dopamine levels. These are the jet full of cognitive performance. Also, if this exercise is performed consistently, not only will you receive a transient spike daily, but your baseline serotonin and dopamine levels will increase as well.

Regardless of what you would like to achieve in your particular sport or in life, being happier and improving cognition can do nothing but help improve your performance and enjoyment while competing and training. Leading to not only better results but a more fulfilling life.

I hope all my Canadian readers have had an amazing thanksgiving beak, and that this post has given you some food for thought while taking a break from spending some time with family and friends (they can be a tad annoying sometimes!).For all of my american readers it is never to early to make every day thanksgiving day!

Summary 

Happiness is a skill

-Happiness does not require anything! There is nothing stopping your right now from being happy

-Journal five new things you are grateful for every morning and spend three minutes writing about a recent positive experience to become happier and more intelligent

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