The world might be all go-go-go but that doesn’t mean we are….
When Gallup researcher Tom Rath surveyed 10,000 people only 11 percent said they felt like they had a lot of energy.
When we surveyed more than 10,000 people to see how they were doing across these three areas, we found that most people struggle on a daily basis. For example, when we asked them to think about their entire day yesterday, a mere 11 percent reported having a great deal of energy.
Luckily, Tom and his team didn’t go take a nap. Instead, they pored over studies and talked to experts to get some answers on why renewable energy is a big thing everywhere but inside our bodies.
To discover what creates a full charge, my team and I reviewed countless articles and academic studies, and interviewed some of the world’s leading social scientists. We identified and catalogued more than 2,600 ideas for improving daily experience.
They found there were three factors that separated your supercharged days from your “low battery” ones. Tom summed up their results in his book, Are You Fully Charged?: The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life.
We’re going to look at some of what he found and learn how to have more energy.
Alrighty, let’s get to it….
Everybody wants happiness — but that little bugger can be quite elusive and fleeting. As Viktor Frankl once said, “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’”
But if we seek meaning in life, we often get happiness as a bonus. So what’s “meaning”?
It comes down to doing stuff that benefits other people. Research shows what makes us happy in the moment is often kinda selfish. And here’s where things get a little weird….
Because neuroscience studies demonstrate that while focusing on meaning ends up making us happier, pursuing our own happiness can make us — believe it or not — unhappy.
A 2014 study followed a group of teenagers for a full year to see how their brains reacted to self-fulfilling (hedonic) acts versus acts that created meaning (eudaimonic) using fMRI scans and questionnaires. While the participants were in the fMRI scanner, researchers posed scenarios to them about keeping money for themselves versus donating it to their families. The researchers also followed up at the end of the year to review any changes from the teens’ baseline levels of depressive symptoms. The results revealed that teenagers who had the greatest brain response to meaningful actions had the greatest declines in depressive symptoms over time. In contrast, teens who made more self-fulfilling decisions were more likely to have an increase in risk of depression. Meaningful activity essentially protects the brain from dark thoughts.
But happiness feels good, right? Isn’t that why they call it happiness? Well, oddly enough, it doesn’t feel good to your body if there’s no meaning. The bodies of people who are cheery but lack anything deeper actually show higher levels of inflammation.
Happiness without meaning is the physical equivalent of being stressed out.
When participants in a study led by the University of North Carolina’s Barbara Fredrickson were happy but lacked meaning in their lives (defined as pursuing a purpose bigger than self), they exhibited a stress-related gene pattern that is known to activate an inflammatory response. They had the same gene expression pattern as people dealing with constant adversity have. Over time, this pattern leads to chronic inflammation, which is related to a host of illnesses, like heart disease and cancer. Fredrickson noted, “Empty positive emotions… are about as good for you as adversity.” Unfortunately, 75 percent of participants in Fredrickson’s study fell into this category; their happiness levels outpaced their levels of meaningfulness. In contrast, participants who had meaning in their lives, whether or not they characterized themselves as happy, showed a deactivation in this stress-related gene pattern.
And when we feel we’re making progress in meaningful work we’re 250 percent more likely to be engaged at the office. My research suggests that the odds of being completely engaged in your job increase by more than 250 percent if you spend a lot of time doing meaningful work throughout the day. To discover what leads to better work and lives, Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile and psychologist Steven Kramer sorted through 12,000 diary entries and 64,000 specific workday events collected from 238 workers across seven different companies. Their conclusion from this research was: “Of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important — by far — is simply making progress in meaningful work.”
Okay, so how do we find this meaning stuff? Well, you don’t find it. You create it. Research in the area of “job-crafting” shows that if we tweak how we work, we can enjoy a lot more meaning in those hours at the office.
What activities give you a feeling of engagement, warmth and pride in what you do? Find a way to spend more of your time doing that stuff and less of the other stuff. Talk to your boss and co-workers to try and shift duties around if you need to.
And speaking of co-workers, who makes you feel good versus stressed? How can you spend more time with the former and less time with the latter?
Small changes in how you work can make a big difference in how you feel.
This research, led by a team at the University of Michigan, found that you can craft existing jobs to significantly improve the meaningfulness of your work. Effective “job crafting” starts by looking at how much time you dedicate to specific tasks that give you energy each day. It also entails looking at the way your relationships at work and your perception of what you do create meaning for others.
I know what some people are thinking…. They can’t change a thing about what they do or who they work with. No, you’re not screwed.
The most important factor here is perception — how you feel. And everyone’s work benefits someone else. By thinking more about who your work helps and making a little effort to see those results, you can dramatically increase the level of meaning in your life.
When university call center employees who were asking alums for donations got to meet the scholarship students who benefited from their work, productivity, enthusiasm and the amount of money coming in went up dramatically.
We’re often focused on our well-being above all else. Put a little more effort into your well-doing and your well-being often takes care of itself.
Okay, so meaning can help fill your tank. What else do we need?
When Tom looked at the research something became quite clear: across the board, people greatly underestimated how much little daily interactions affected how they felt.
You may dream about winning Oscars or slaying dragons but those won’t be the moments in life that you’ll look back on most fondly. People consistently said that the most positive times in their lives all had to do with belonging and connecting — not achieving.
When researchers ask people to reconstruct the most positive and negative experiences of their lives, they consistently describe social events as their most influential memories over a lifetime. Across a series of four studies, participants recalled the moments when close relationships began or ended, when they fell in love or when the loss of another person broke their heart. One of the study’s co-authors summarized, “In short, it was the moments of connecting to others that touched people’s lives the most.” Participants consistently rated events with other people as more influential than solitary experiences. Independent events or individual achievements, such as winning awards or completing tasks, did not affect participants the most. Instead, the researchers concluded, social experiences “gain their emotional punch from our need to belong.”
And this is true day-to-day as well. When you have positive interactions with people throughout the day your chance of feeling good quadruples.
My team’s research found that people who reported having great interactions throughout the day were nearly four times as likely to have very high well-being.
How can you guarantee that? Make close pals at work. But how do you know if you’re really friends with someone at the office?
Ask yourself how much you share your personal problems with each other.
Gallup’s research has shown that people who have “best friend”-caliber relationships at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their job. When researchers asked employees how they formed a close workplace friendship, they found that it takes about a year for an acquaintance at work to become a friend. The telltale sign of a friendship between co-workers was the amount of time they spent talking about topics unrelated to work. Then the next phase, a very close friendship at work, was marked by something less intuitive: Sharing problems from one another’s personal and work lives. This self-disclosure was the central element of the strongest relationships.
And how do you improve all of your interactions? Be 80 percent positive. Make sure four out of five things you say or do are about the good stuff, not the bad stuff.
We need at least three to five positive interactions to outweigh every one negative exchange. Bad moments simply outweigh good ones. Whether you’re having a one-on-one conversation with a colleague or a group discussion, keep this simple shortcut in mind: At least 80 percent of your conversations should be focused on what’s going right. Workplaces, for example, often have this backward. During performance reviews, managers routinely spend 80 percent of their time on weaknesses, gaps, and “areas for improvement.”
Yeah, I know: evaluating and counting interactions isn’t very realistic. Fine. Fine. Then just take a second and do your best to make someone smile. Yes, it’s that simple.
“…according to a recent study from Stanford and Harvard Business School. As part of a series of experiments, one group of participants was assigned a goal of making another person happy, while a second group was told to simply do something that made another person smile. The results showed that small, straightforward actions to make someone smile were far more effective than broad, nebulous attempts to improve overall happiness. The study’s authors wrote, “Acts with small, concrete goals designed to improve the well-being of others are more likely to lead to happiness for the giver than are acts with large, abstract goals — despite people’s intuitions to the contrary.”
(To learn the two-word morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)
So your life is meaningful and your life is filled with positive interactions…. What else? Well, doing things to make sure your life doesn’t end prematurely is quite powerful too….
Eat better. Move more. Sleep longer and deeper. That’s what it takes.
We talk a lot about eating too much, but turns out the quality of food is important too. Just because you don’t eat too many Pop-Tarts doesn’t mean you should be eating Pop-Tarts.
A landmark Harvard University study that tracked more than 100,000 people over two decades makes it clear that the quality of what you eat is more important than quantity alone. This study revealed that the types of food you consume influence your health more than your total caloric intake. Consuming 300 calories’ worth of spinach is not the same as eating a sugar cookie with 300 calories. Yet most people I speak with continue to believe the age-old myth of “everything in moderation.” As the study’s lead author Dariush Mozaffarian put it, the moderation myth is really “just an excuse to eat whatever we want.”
And the type of food you eat also affects your mood. Studies show processed foods with lots of sugar increase laziness. Trans fats increased aggression.
And “comfort foods” don’t comfort you — they can make you depressed.
A 2014 study suggests that highly processed foods with added sugar may also contribute to laziness. One experiment on this topic found that people who consumed more trans-fatty acids were more aggressive and irritable as a result. These findings were so pronounced, one of the researchers suggested that places like schools and prisons should reconsider serving unhealthy foods because they might be dangerous for others in these environments. Even “comfort foods” like baked goods actually have the opposite effect of comfort and are likely to make people more depressed.
Most people now spend more hours sitting (9.3 on average) than they do sleeping. The NIH says that even if you did seven hours a week of exercise that much time on your butt still doubles your chance of a heart attack.
Get up and move. Right now. I’ll still be here when you get back, I promise.
A 2014 study estimates that every two hours of sitting cancels out the benefits of 20 minutes of exercise. When researchers from the National Institutes of Health followed more than 200,000 people for a decade, they found that even seven hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week was not enough to protect against the hazards of excessive sitting. Even the most active group they studied — people who exercised more than seven hours every week — had a 50 percent greater risk of death and doubled their odds of dying from heart disease if they were also in the group that sat the most throughout the day.
When people exercised moderately for 20 minutes they felt better for up to 12 hours. So get to the gym early and you can boost your mood for almost the entire day.
When researchers assigned one group of participants in a study to do 20 minutes of a moderate-intensity workout, they found that the participants had a much better mood immediately following the exercise than a control group who did not exercise. What surprised researchers was how long this increase in mood lasted. Those who exercised continued to feel better throughout the day. Even two, four, eight, and twelve hours later, they were in a better mood than the control group.
Everybody knows about Anders Ericsson’s research that showed it takes (roughly) 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. But that’s not all the study showed. The experts also slept. A lot.
Yes, I literally just said that spending more time in bed is one of the keys to expertise. You’re welcome.
While many concentrated on his findings relevant to 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, the other factor that differentiated top performance was sleep. The best performers in these studies slept for eight hours and 36 minutes per night on average. The average American, in contrast, gets just six hours and 51 minutes of sleep on weeknights.
But it’s not merely an issue of sleeping more. You also want to sleep well. When people cut back on hours of sleep they tripled their likelihood of getting sick. But people who had poor quality sleep more than quintupled their chance of catching a cold.
Study participants who had lower sleep efficiency over the 14-day period before exposure to the rhinovirus were 5.5 times as likely to develop a cold. This compares with the threefold increase based solely on duration of sleep. As with other areas of health, quality of sleep beats quantity by a wide margin.
Okay, we’ve covered a lot. Time to round it all up and learn one more thing you can do to help all of the above boost your energy even more….
This is how to have more energy:
- Meaning: Do things that benefit others. (It doesn’t have to be me but I appreciate the thought.)
- Interaction: Be 80 percent positive. (I am 99 percent certain of this.)
- Health: Eat better, move more, sleep long and well. (And if I did all those things I’d have enough energy to write a funnier joke here. Blogger, heal thyself.)
Want to turn the above into habits that stick? Then help someone else start doing them. Supporting others in their goals isn’t just awfully neighborly of you; it also makes you more likely to achieve them yourself.
Research from one of the largest clinical trials in alcohol research found that 40 percent of alcoholics who helped other alcoholics during their recovery were successful and avoided drinking in the year following treatment. In contrast, only 22 percent of those who did not help others were able to stay sober. Helping someone else with a similar problem nearly doubled success rates. A subsequent study found that 94 percent of alcoholics who helped other alcoholics experienced lower levels of depression.
So being healthy produces energy. And part of that means good sleep. But other than those two, did you notice what everything else has in common?
To have more energy, don’t do less. Do more. Of the right things.
And for you to feel more alive, you shouldn’t focus on you. Focus on others.
Rest is only a small part of why you feel energized.
It’s more about what you do and how those around you make you feel.
Originally published at www.bakadesuyo.com
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