We officially kicked off the LMA Annual Conference today in New Orleans talking about happiness with Catherine A. Sanderson, Ph. D. Catherine’s keynote, which she prefers to call a “talk” (because “who calls someone to have a keynote with them” when they care about them?) was titled The Science of Happiness.
What Does This Have To Do With Legal Marketing Professionals and Lawyers?
Before I summarize Catherine’s talk, I am sure you will agree that, when we spend the amount of time that we do in high-stress, demanding roles, we have to deal with the happiness and balance equation in order to experience the longevity, loyalty, and pleasure we would like to derive from our careers.
The Role of Personality
Catherine broke down the scientific keys to happiness with us. Catherine tells us that happy people are generally different than the rest of the world.
- They experience better health.
- They live longer.
- They fight off colds better.
- They recover faster from surgery.
- Happy people are less hostile and more productive.
Studies also show that money, climate, and life events do not make us happy. Catherine’s point was that we can have the biggest and the best of all of these things, but they do not guarantee happiness.
When discussing how life, in general, contributes to happiness, Catherine said that married men are happier than single men (especially John Myrland ;-)…whether it’s a happy marriage or not. It doesn’t matter who they marry…just as long as they marry somebody.
Some similarities exist with women in that happily married women are healthier and happier than single women. However, there is one major difference when it comes to the health of a marriage and the point above about just being married.
For women, good marriage is good for them. Bad marriage is very bad for them.
Do Children Make Us Happier?
When it comes to having children, Catherine said that parents do experience joy more than non-parents. Their peaks of joy are bigger than the peaks of joy that non-parents have.
Parents also have more highs and lows. Non-parents have more of an even existence, meaning their highs and lows are not as severe.
What Else Makes Us Happy?
Catherine said that lots of things make us happy. The small behaviors we engage in during our daily lives can make us happy.
- Eating makes us happy, but not all foods. Cake, chocolate, and sweets are the most common foods that make us happy. Laughter and support erupted when Catherine said there is no evidence that celery makes us happy!
- Exercise makes us happier. The endorphins are the cause for that. (I agree!)
- The feeling of happiness over finding the perfect gift for someone else is much higher than when we find someone for ourselves.
- Nature makes us happy. Spending time in nature is profoundly important for physical health. One study showed that people who had the same surgery who were then placed in rooms that oversaw a park, vs. a parking lot showed they got out of bed faster, needed less pain medication, and were released faster.
How Personality Affects Happiness
There are 3 personality traits that impact happiness:
- High self-esteem
High self-esteem and optimism help us see the silver lining. People with these traits tend to always find the silver lining. They think positively and optimistically. This comes easier for extroverts.
The Impact of Age On Our Happiness
I found this happiness breakdown very interesting. Catherine shared that:
- Happiness is highest between ages 18-21.
- It starts to decrease from 26-29.
- It goes up briefly from 34-47.
- It decreases steadily through the age of 53.
- Then happiness begins an upturn from 54 through 85.
- At 70, you are about as happy as you were at 18-21.
Do Digital Devices Impact Happiness?
When people have their phones out when they are with others, they have less meaningful conversations. Prioritizing quality of relationships over quantity of relationships not only brings happiness to people, but it is a major factor in true happiness.
Conclusions About The Science of Happiness
There are 3 distinct components:
- Pleasure (for example, having a great glass of wine, great piece of cheesecake, beautiful music), but this feeling of happiness is fleeting.
- Engagement and anticipation of that engagement make us much happier because the anticipation helps us milk more of that happiness out of the situation. For example, planning for trips makes us happier.
- Doing things you find meaningful is an extraordinarily important predictor of happiness.
Do We Inherit The Happiness Gene?
Catherine might have surprised some when she said that the power of genetics explains only about 50% of our happiness. The remaining 50% of our happiness is under own control. So, those of you who like to blame your parents for all of your unhappiness…stop it.
So How Do We Control That 50%?
Our ability to adapt has a great deal to do with the happiness we will ultimately feel. We have to decide we are going to be happy. We have to decide we are going to structure our life, our time, and our happiness to find the life and the happiness we deserve.
Catherine quoted Elizabeth Gilbert, who tells us that we have to fight for this happiness. We have to make time for it.
Top 10 Strategies for Increasing Happiness
- Change your behavior.
- Get enough sleep.
- Spend time outside.
- Find Your Match
- Personally and professionally
- Read a book you love.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Don’t go to sleep pouring over your agenda. These stress you.
- Focus on what you’re grateful for right now.
- Make a “gratitude visit.”
- Identify someone who has changed your life in a profound way.
- Don’t wait for the eulogy to do this!
- Write that person a letter.
- Then travel to that person and read that letter to them in-person.
- Wow! how would you feel if someone did that for you?
- Smile (even when you aren’t happy)
- Research shows that smiling can change how you feel.
- Sometimes your joy can be the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
- The mere act of smiling changes how our body physiologically respond to pain.
- Perform random acts of kindness.
- Donate to charity
- Give a gift to anyone.
- Spend money on the right things.
- Spend money on experiences…things you can anticipate, experience, then reflect on that experience.
- Spend less on belongings: Noone ever says on their death bed “I wish I would have bought more crap.”
- Avoid comparisons
- “Comparison is the thief of joy” – Teddy Roosevelt
- We have the power to choose the comparisons that make us feel better or those that make us feel worse.
- There are people all over that are having worse experiences than we do.
- It’s up to us to choose the nature of comparisons we make.
- Build and maintain close relationships
- Relationships are the single best predictor of our happiness.
- It takes time, though.
- It doesn’t happen by magic.
- It takes lots of work to make it work.
Catherine shared a quote by Leo Tolstoy:
“He was happy, but not at all in the way he had expected to be. At every step he found his former dreams disappointed, and new, unexpected surprises of happiness. He was happy; but on entering upon family life he saw at every step that it was utterly different from what he had imagined. At every step he experienced what a man would experience who, after admiring the smooth, happy course of a little boat on a lake, should get himself into that little boat. He saw that it was not all sitting still, floating smoothly; that one had to think too, not for an instant to forget where one was floating; and that there was water under one, and that one must row; and that his unaccustomed hands would be sore; and that it was only to look at it that was easy; but that doing it, though very delightful, was very difficult.”
Catherine’s last photo was of her pet. They provide unconditional love. She teasingly said that she and her husband have an agreement that, if they ever split, one of them takes the 3 kids, and the other gets the dog. 😊
Thanks, Catherine, for kicking off our conference in such a meaningful, positive, deliberate, and happy way!
Note: Don’t miss my blog post over here where I am curating content that has been written or produced for the #LMA18 conference.
Nancy Myrland is a Marketing and Business Development Plan Consultant, and a Content, Social & Digital Media Speaker, Trainer & Advisor, helping lawyers and legal marketers grow by integrating all marketing disciplines. She is a frequent LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for Business trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers understand how to make their marketing and business development efforts more relevant to their current and potential clients, and helps lead law firms through their online digital strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases. As an early and constant adopter of social and digital media and technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasts, video marketing, and livestreaming. If you would like to reserve an hour of Nancy’s time to begin talking strategy or think through an issue you are having, you can do that here. She can be reached via email here.