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Isn’t it true that when you work really hard, when you meet all your deadlines, when you make sure you will go to that very important congress, that that will make you much happier? Or maybe that isn’t true?

The problem is that every time you are successful in something, your brain will adept the definition of success: for instance you have met your goal and wrote that paper in time, but now you want to have good reviews from your supervisors and maybe even have the paper published with making just minor revisions. Or that the cake you are baking, has to be better, nicer and even tastier.

What first was absolutely fine, later won’t be good enough. And that is a cause of stress. The psychologist Shawn Achor explains in a TED-talk that it works completely the way round: first make sure you are happier and everything will go much easier.

He shows the surprising results: when your brain is happy – not negative, neutral or stressed – you are 31% more productive, you will be more creative, you have less change to get a burnout and you will be much more resilient. Sounds great!

This is caused by dopamine that is produced in the brain, it not only makes you happy, but it also activates the regions in your brain that make you more flexible. So if you train to make your brain happy, you not only will be more happy but also it will help you with your work.


How can you make your brain happier? Shawn Anchor has a list of tips you should use for 21 days to make sure your brain will actually adapt.

  • every day, write down three things you are grateful for
  • keep a diary to jot down each day the positive things you have encountered
  • exercise
  • meditate
  • do something nice to somebody (for instance write a nice email)

Great to start this habit now, you will see you will not only have a more happier year, but also a year where things just go a bit easier.


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