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Happiness is a very personal experience, and different people describe happiness in different ways. Some people describe happiness as peaceful, harmonious, and serene. Other people describe happiness as excited, strong, and playful. One thing we can all agree on is that it feels good to be happy, and life would be more enjoyable if we were happy more often!

Here's the problem: Happiness is fleeting. In this new digital age, our moods change quickly as we face a barrage of stimuli coming at us at warp speed. Our mobile devices can make us laugh one second (flooding our brains with serotonin) then stress us out the next second (flooding our brains with cortisol). With so much coming at us, we must first learn how to establish a strong baseline of well-being, then from there proactively train our brains for happiness in the same way we train our muscles in the gym.

Happiness is almost like a's obvious when it's on, and it's obvious when it's off. Powerful leaders understand their own wiring and develop different strategies to lift their moods in the present so they can be a source of light for others...NOW. They don't wait for something to make them happy in the future. From the outside, it almost seems as if they hold a happiness switch in their hand...and when they trigger the switch they have the capacity to light up the room, immediately boosting creativity and productivity within their teams.

What if YOU could hold a happiness switch in your hand and, at a moment's notice, you could turn on your happy? That's what the two-hour training at Coca-Cola Japan last month was all about. "Turn On Your Happy: The Switch is in Your Hand" was written with input from internationally recognized executive psychiatrist Eva Ritvo, MD, and facilitated live by 19-year old TOMODACHI alumni Misato Oi and myself (Jessica Kizorek) to approximately 90 employees from Coca-Cola Japan, Google, and UN Women.

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The morning workshop was sponsored by the Coca-Cola Women Leadership Council team (Including Vanessa, Lydia, Yumi, and Rika) and was custom-created to deliver three core tools/strategies to experiencing happiness more easily and more frequently in the professional environment:

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1. Set Up Happiness Triggers

Set up happiness triggers in your environment to train your brain. Different people get triggered by different things, and you have to have the power to assign different emotions to physical objects in your environment.

For instance: Every time I see the little red Coca-Cola ambassador pin I received as a gift for delivering the training I think of the exhilarating moments I shared with the Tokyo team. I consciously anchored those magical moments to the pin so that experience of happiness washes over me everytime I see it on my bedside table. Anything can be a happiness thing. The thing, in and of itself, is just an object, but the meaning you assign to it can make your life a better place.

Focus on cultivating happiness in the present but also think about the happiness you're actively creating for the future. Set up triggers to remind you about your future goals, aspirations and dreams. Imagine the projects you want to work on at work, the teams you want to work with, or the position you want to get promoted into. Think about writing your own future as if you were the playwright of your own script. If you have circumstances in your life that are making you unhappy day after day, you probably want to change your circumstances at least a little bit. Set up triggers that remind you about what makes you happy so you can proceed along the right path for you.

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Art created by Kizorek in her Miami studio is a high-tech variation on the tin can telephone and an exploration of how friends connect in the digital age. Light illuminates the surface, shattered mirrors invite people to see pieces themselves in the Coca-Cola brand, and gold flakes emerging from the open can represent all things happy.)

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2. Praise Others

It’s impossible not to smile when someone praises you or thanks you or is grateful for you. All of a sudden, it just feels good. Even though we might pretend we don’t want it, deep down even the toughest men like a little praise once in a while. When the community encourages each teammate to praise thier colleagues, a culture of smiling soon emerges. When you praise someone else and make them feel good about themselves, it immediately puts a smile on their face. And what do we know about happiness? It’s contagious.

People who give praise are usally emotionally intelligent, observant, and like making others feel good about themselves. Praise can be as simple as a quick email saying 'You did a great job on that. Thanks for the effort.

Relationships thrive when we know that others notice and care about us. It improves feelings of warmth and respect, and in turn builds closer teams. According to Dr. Ritvo, "Receiving praise releases serotonin, the brain's happy chemical. It feels fantastic and is very motivating especially in demanding work environments where serotonin release can immediately contribute to confidence and creativity." Giving praise where praise is due makes us feel like we're increasing someone else's sense of self. Praise not only makes someone else's day, but boosts our own feel good levels. Win/win!

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3. Listen for Happiness

If you want a surefire way to increase your mood, start by getting someone else to turn on their happiness. Invite someoe to share what makes them happy, and their happiness will light you up.

It is scientifically proven that happiness is contagious. Dr. Ritvo describes, "Brain scientists have identified a region of the brain that they call mirror neurons that fires both when we do something and when we watch someone do the exact same action." There’s even evidence that this happens on an emotional level when we observe the physical manifestations of someone else’s emotional state. She continues, "Science is revealing that we’re designed to internally mirror one another’s experiences. We are wired to feel one another’s pleasures and pains." Because of these mirror neurons, you can choose to spread happiness at any time you wish.

When someone in the room really shares authentically about what makes them happy, not only can you see the happiness on their can feel happiness radiate off their body. Inviting people to talk about what makes them happy does service to your own happiness, but also does service to your community. Happy vibes contribute to imagination and productivity. If you want to create happiness around you, you can be very powerful by doing it. Others will naturally follow when you trigger their mirror neurons. Act happy and confident, and so will the people around you. When you smile, the whole world smiles with you.

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In Summary

Realize your happiness will naturally ebb and flow like the ocean and and out. Be in harmony with that natural flow of happiness, but at the same time learn tools to be able to boost your happiness level little by little. If you're in the minute of an unhappy moment, maybe it won’t go away completely. But perhaps you can throw your shoulders back, inhale, and breathe some life into the situation. If you can train yourself to feel even 1% more happy at any given moment, then mission accomplished!

Just remember that depending on the day, depending on the month, depending on the year, depending on the circumstances, your happiness level will change. And, that too, is part of being human. Want to boost your happy-o-meter? Here's a few resources:

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10 Happiness Habits

(From Dr. Ritvo)

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Happiness Books

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Happiness Documentary

Does money make you HAPPY? Kids and family? Your work? Do you live in a world that values and promotes happiness and well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution?

Roko Belic, director of the Academy Award® nominated “Genghis Blues” now brings us HAPPY, a film that sets out to answer these questions and more. Taking us from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.


Michael Norton: "How to buy happiness"
TEDxCambridge · 10:58 · Filmed Nov 2011
Subtitles available in 35 languages

Nic Marks: "The Happy Planet Index"
TEDGlobal 2010 · 16:49 · Filmed Jul 2010
Subtitles available in 35 languages

Shawn Achor: "The happy secret to better work"
TEDxBloomington · 12:20 · Filmed May 2011
Subtitles available in 40 languages

Dan Gilbert: "The surprising science of happiness"
TED2004 · 21:16 · Filmed Feb 2004
Subtitles available in 41 languages

Happiness Articles

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