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7 Pillars of Deep and Lasting Happiness with Marci Shimoff – World-Renowned Happiness Expert

Written by: Snježana Ana Billian, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Marci Shimoff is a 1 New York Times bestselling author, a world-renowned transformational teacher, and an expert on happiness, success, and unconditional love.


Her books include the international bestsellers Happy for No Reason and Love for No Reason. Marci is also the woman's face of the biggest self-help book phenomenon in history, as co-author of six books in the Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul series. With total book sales of more than 16 million copies worldwide in 33 languages, Marci is one of the bestselling female nonfiction authors of all time.

Marci Shimoff
Marci Shimoff

Marci is also a featured teacher in the international film and book sensation, The Secret, and the host of the PBS TV show called Happy for No Reason. She narrated the award-winning movie called Happy.


President and co-founder of the Esteem Group, Marci delivers keynote addresses and seminars on happiness, success, empowerment, and unconditional love to Fortune 500 companies, professional and non-profit organizations, women's associations, and audiences around the world.


Marci is currently leading a one-year mentoring program called Your Year of Miracles. She’s hosted Your Year of Miracle's webinars that more than 200,000 people have heard. Marci earned her MBA from UCLA and held an advanced certificate as a stress management consultant. She is a founding member and on the board of directors of the Transformational Leadership Council, a group of 100 top transformational leaders.


Through her books and her presentations, Marci's message has touched the hearts and rekindled the spirits of millions of people throughout the world. She is dedicated to helping people live more empowered and joy-filled lives.


First of all, how has the global pandemic impacted you personally?


I’ve taken this opportunity to slow down, and it’s helped me thrive during the pandemic. At the same time, I feel deeply empathetic towards the circumstances, challenges people have experienced who have lost work or whose health was affected, and what a difficult time this has been for so many.


Before the pandemic, I think that many of us were going at an unsustainable pace. And that included me. One of my great teachers, the cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien, said that nature moves from medium to slow. Before COVID-19, I didn’t even know what going at the pace of medium to slow was.


When we move too fast in life, our creativity is squelched, and we don’t have the spaciousness to reflect on our lives and what we truly want. Because I had this opportunity to slow down, I feel more creative and connected to myself than ever.


It’s certainly useful to be a world-renowned happiness expert when you’re going through challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic. What inspired you to set out on this journey and dedicate years of research to the topic of happiness?


I was born depressed. I had a great family, but I felt deeply unhappy from a very young age that lasted through my teenage years. When I was in my 20s, I wanted to be happy, so I did what most people do: I set goals for myself that I thought would bring me happiness. My specific objectives were to have these things:

  • A successful career, helping people.

  • A wonderful husband or a life partner.

  • Great friends.

  • A comfortable home.

  • The equivalent of Halle Berry’s body.

I worked hard and achieved four out of those five goals. (I don’t have Halle Berry’s body, but I have a healthy body for which I am very grateful.)


In 1998, I had a turning point moment one evening. I had three books in the top five on the New York Times bestseller list, and I had just finished giving a speech to 8,000 people. Having autographed 5,432 books, I felt like an author rock star.


After I signed the last book, I went up to my hotel room, walked over to the big windows, and took in the beautiful view of Lake Michigan. Then I turned around, fell onto the bed, and burst into tears. I burst into tears because I realized I’d gotten everything I thought I needed to be happy, and I still wasn’t. I still felt the emptiness inside that I’d felt throughout my life. I realized then that no more “accomplishments” would bring me the happiness I yearned for.


That’s when I set out to research happiness, interviewing happiness experts along with unconditionally happy people.


I found that the only difference between happy people and everybody else is that happy people have different habits. That’s it. Our habits are the key to our happiness.


Before we jump into those habits, let’s talk about the definition of happiness. Happiness means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?


My definition of happiness is somewhat different than many other definitions of happiness. Most people define happiness in terms of having everything working right in their external world. I call that the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome:

  • I’ll be happy when I have the right job.

  • I’ll be happy when I’m making enough money.

  • I’ll be happy when I get married.

  • I’ll be happy when I get divorced.

There’s nothing wrong with these reasons to be happy, except that when they get taken away, there goes your happiness. My definition of happiness—I call it happy for no reason—is having an inner state of peace and well-being that doesn’t depend on your outer circumstances.


By that, I don’t mean that we’re walking around all day long with a silly grin on our face and ignoring what’s going on in the world. I mean that even amidst all the challenges in the world right now, we have an inner state of peace and well-being that we bring to our life circumstances. We can be more resourceful and more resilient when we have that backdrop of inner happiness.


What are the habits that happy people have and others don’t?


There were 21 main habits that I discovered, and they fell into seven main areas. Altogether, I call it building your “inner home of happiness.”


There are seven main components of a home: A foundation, four corner pillars, a roof, and a garden.


The foundation for your happiness is taking responsibility for your life. The opposite of this is blaming, shaming, and complaining. If you find yourself doing this, you’re giving away your power and being a victim rather than a creator in your life.


Then there are the four corner pillars of your happiness home:

  • The pillar of the mind - Do your thoughts rob you of your happiness or support your happiness?

  • The pillar of the heart - Do you live with gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, and generosity?

  • The pillar of the body - Do you have the biochemistry of happiness? Do you have enough serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins?

  • The pillar of the soul - Do you feel a connection to your soul and greater energy in the universe?

The roof in your home for happiness has to do with living your purpose and inspired life.

And then finally, there’s the garden. The garden has to do with people you surround yourself with in life. Are you surrounding yourself with the weeds of the park—toxic people who drag down your happiness? Or are you surrounding yourself with roses and gardenias—people who support you in your joy?


If you look at those seven areas, look at where you’re the weakest, and start there. Ana, where do you think you’re the weakest?


"Right now, my body is probably my weakest area. I am moving less than I’m used to because of the lockdown. I feel that my body needs more sleep and to get in better shape."


There are some simple things that you can do for the body to help create more of the happiness chemicals. Indeed, getting enough sleep and the right kind of sleep is one of them. The quality of sleep that you got last night has a bigger impact on your happiness than your marital status or income level.


Here’s a little sleep tip:


Every hour of sleep you get before midnight is worth twice as much as what you get after midnight. Because of our circadian cycles, our bodies do so much better when we get to sleep earlier. 10 o’clock is the magic hour. You get the most restful sleep between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 am.


If you’re not feeling great, try going to sleep by 10:00 p.m. three nights in a row, and then notice how you feel on the fourth morning.


Thank you, I’ll do that.


What about our minds? Most of us find it difficult to think positively when we’re facing so many problems.


The average person has about 60,000 thoughts a day. And for the average person, 80% of those thoughts are negative. Scientists call it the negativity bias. We inherited this tendency from our caveman ancestors, who had to focus on the negative to survive. We don’t need to be that alert any longer, and yet we still operate that way.


Rick Hanson, my friend, and a happiness researcher, said that our minds are like Velcro for the negative and Teflon positive things. Negative thoughts stick to us like Velcro, and the positive thoughts slide right off.


For example, if you get ten compliments in a day and one criticism, what do you remember at the end of the day?


Most people remember that criticism.


Happy people have reversed that. They have learned to Velcro the positives and Teflon the negatives. There is a scientifically proven, three-step way to create new neural pathways in the brain so that we focus more on the positive:

  • Be on the lookout for the positive.

  • Savor the good for at least 20 seconds. It takes savoring something for 20 seconds or more to start creating new neural pathways in the brain for the positive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take anywhere near as long for the negative to stick. Therefore, if you see a sunset, take the time to take it in. If there’s good news, you stop and enjoy it. And if somebody gives you a compliment, instead of downplaying it, thank them for their appreciation. We’re not used to focusing on the positive in this way, but it becomes easier and easier when we start doing it as a habit.

  • Go for a 3:1 ratio—focus on three positives to every one negative.

We’ve talked a lot about the habits of happy people. Were happy people born with those habits?


We all have a happiness set-point, just like a thermostat setting. It might get warmer or colder, but the thermostat is going to return to its original setting.


It’s the same with our happiness. We might get happier or sad for a little while, but we’re going to return to our original happiness set point—unless we do something consciously to change it.


The happiness set-point is the key to everything. And here’s how it’s determined: It’s 50% genetic (what you’re born with), and our circumstances are only 10% of the equation. The other 40% are your thoughts, habits, and behaviors, and that’s what we can do the most about. We can create happiness habits in our thoughts and behavior.


And I’m going to take it one step further and share that scientists in the field of epigenetics, like Dr. Bruce Lipton, who wrote The Biology of Belief, say that even our DNA can be influenced when we change our habits.


That means that up to 90% of our happiness set-point can be influenced by changing certain specific habits. To me, that’s freedom. Once you know that your happiness set-point is in your hands, you have to learn what the habits are and practice those.


Today, most of us find it challenging to focus on the positive aspects of our experience. We’re worried about our health and finances, and we feel that we have more important things to do than focus on our happiness. What’s your view on this?


In times like these, when people are in so much fear, it may seem like a luxury to be thinking about happiness. But research tells us it’s quite the opposite because joy strengthens our immune system, helps us create greater resilience, and leads us to more excellent health. Not only that, happy people are more successful and more creative at problem-solving.


In a nutshell, happiness helps us get through challenging times with inner strength and peace.


How can we unplug from the fear that’s presented to us in the media? These days, we are bombarded with negative news.


This is a perfect time to practice being on the lookout for good because amongst all the negative things that are happening. There are also people generously helping each other. People are more vulnerable and openhearted in many ways.


One thing that I do is limit the amount of news exposure that I get. I make sure that I know what’s going on via just headlines, but I don’t watch the news on TV because I’m very sensitive visually. We need to be disciplined and to stay informed in a way in which we’ll not be impacted as dramatically.


Also, rather than getting hopeless or despondent, ask yourself what your role might be in making the current situation better. I believe that we’re each put on the planet for a reason. And if you get in touch with what you’re here to do and start doing it even in small ways, you’ll help others.


Lastly, is it selfish to focus on our own happiness when the whole world is going through such a difficult time?


Focusing on your own happiness is the least selfish thing you can do because you contribute to the world around you when you're happier. I feel that one of the things I’m here to do is to help people recognize that they can live happier lives.


When we’re happier, we’re creating a better world because happiness—just like all our emotions—is contagious. Surround yourself as much as possible with people whose emotions you want to catch, and be the generator of positive feelings and affect your family and community by your happiness.


There’s a Chinese proverb that I think sums it up in a beautiful way: “When there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. When there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. When there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. And when there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”


My wish for every one of us is that we all find that light in our souls, and through that, we help create more peace here on our planet.


To learn more about Marci Shimoff, her work, and her mission, visit her website and make sure to check out Marci’s Your Year of Miracles program, showing you how to live a miraculous life.


For more information about Snjezana Ana Billian, visit her website and connect with her on LinkedIn & Instagram!


 

Snježana Ana Billian, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Snježana Ana Billian is the founder of Workmazing, the go-to career platform for people looking to leave a mark and do amazing work in the world. Workmazing's online summits are devoted to sharing thought-provoking feature interviews of people who are authorities in the field of leadership, happiness, money management, and relationships at work.

Ana is the co-author of the bestseller Inspired By The Passion Test – The 1 Tool For Discovering Your Passion And Purpose. She was featured in Business Insider, Thrive Global, Brainz Magazine, and other media outlets.


In the past decade, Ana has been leading numerous human resources programs for large-sized multinational corporations, helping executives and high-potential professionals step into more prominent roles. She graduated with a degree in Economics and holds multiple certifications in personal and leadership development.

Ana is, at heart, a citizen of the world. Born in Bosnia Herzegovina and having lived in Italy and the United States, she now spends her days in Germany with her husband Thomas and their son Tim.

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