Friday, January 31, 2014

Happiness Journal? Where do I start?

Earlier this week a team of us at work showcased a TED talk for our colleagues as a jump start to a rather large technology implementation project.  We plan to show many of these as part of our change management strategy.  The first was a talk by Shawn Achor on the subject of happiness at work.

You can see that here:

One suggestion on how to increase dopamine, which helps us to achieve more, is to journal once a day about a positive experience. Journaling about positive experience allows your brain to relive it.
But what if you've never written in a journal before?

For many of us, starting something can be overwhelming. The options seem limitless.  At first, journaling might seem forced and awkward, but after time and regular practice, it will become easier.  I’d like to share an idea that can help you get started journaling. 

There is a method of self-reflection I was introduced to by a LinkedIn colleague and have found it to be invaluable.  It’s most helpful on days when I don’t know what to write.  It’s call Naikan.

Here is how the Morita School explains Naikan:
Naikan is a Japanese word which means "inside looking" or "introspection." It is a structured method of self-reflection that helps us to look at ourselves, our relationships, and our actions from a new perspective. Reflecting on our lives through the lens of Naikan often transforms long held but inaccurate beliefs about our lives. In turn this perspective will often give rise to feelings of gratitude, indebtedness, and responsibility.

This description appears in the book “Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection” by Greg Krech:
Naikan was developed in Japan in the 1940's by Ishin Yashimoto, a devout Buddhist of the Pure Land (Jodo Shinshu) sect. His strong religious spirit led him to practice mishirabe, an arduous and difficult method of meditation and self-reflection. Wishing to make such introspection available to others, he developed Naikan as a method that could be more widely practiced.
Naikan broadens our view of reality. It's as if, standing on top of a mountain, we shift from a zoom lens to a wide-angle lens. Now we can appreciate the broader panorama - our former perspective still included, but accompanied by much that had been hidden. And that which was hidden makes the view extraordinary.
Naikan's profound impact resulted in its use in other areas of Japanese society. Today, there are about 40 Naikan centers in Japan, and Naikan is used in mental health counseling, addiction treatment, rehabilitation of prisoners, schools, and business.
Naikan is simple to learn.  It is based on three basic questions:      
1. What have I received?
2. What have I given?
3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused?
Used creatively these questions can shed light on the hidden aspects of our relationship to all things; on the fundamental nature of how we view our life. Ultimately Naikan is a dedication to the truth. Not the self-centered interpretation of what we believe, but a search for the actual events of our lives as they might be experienced by those around us. This truth, though sometimes daunting, is also liberating.

A more thorough explanation about Naikan and retreats can be found at:

At first glance the third question might seem to go against the science that Achor speaks about in his lectures and books.  However, in spirit, it does not.  In the first and second questions, look for the positive first.   The third is about a reality check – accountability.  Follow up the third question with: “I will                     going forward.”  This helps propel you into a positive direction.

Whether or not you use this method is not important.  Getting into the habit of journaling is the desired goal.  This method that I introduce is just one way of getting started.  Good luck and let me know how it goes! 

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