Stress, productivity and happiness

I’d like to make an announcement here on the blog, that I, Patty Azzarello, am not productive every single day.

I was sick this week and failed to get all kinds of things done that I had hoped to.

It got me thinking about blog post I wrote awhile back called “Your Brain on Stress…

If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a read. In the article, I collected some fascinating and useful brain research on the topics of stress and happiness.

Overcoming the negative

The upshot of that research is that sadly, the default mode of the brain is negative.

So if you have a strategy of hoping for happiness — yet not doing anything specific about it — well, it’s not a strategy that is likely to make you happy.

I have always believed in investing in happiness, on purpose.

What I did not realize is that what I was doing was actively doing things to keep my brain out of the default negative mode.

Coping counts

A mentor once told me that a big part of success in an executive job is to cope, and to be OK. That was a real gift, because when things got bad, I realized that it was actually an expected part of the job to cope.

That really helped me for 2 reasons:

1. Because I felt like it was an achievement to just cope, AND
2. It got me in the habit of doing things on purpose to cope.

Actions to increase productivity and happiness

I am known for being a very productive person. I believe a reason for this is that I do things on purpose to make and keep myself OK.

Here are some I took from the studies noted the prior article that work for me:

Acknowledge that happiness is not the easy, default state. It requires effort.  Focus on things that make you happy or bring you fulfillment, and do them on purpose.  On purpose = actually schedule time in your life to do the things that fuel your energy.

Be careful of anger. The chemical process that makes you angry stays active in your system for 90 seconds, after that it’s up to you.  And the more you choose to stay angry, the more you stay in extreme stress, the more you encourage the already negative default mode of your brain settle in for the long haul.

When you need a break, try keeping your brain busy
with something instead of “zoning out”. Since even switching one stress for another stress has proven to be more restful than resting your brain, next time you need to de-stress, try something that is mentally challenging but fun for you, and see if you feel better than letting your brain fester in a negative “rest” state.

Happiness on Purpose

Finally, I thought this was said very well. This is from Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Eat, Pray, Love, describing something from one of her teachers:

…People universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you are fortunate enough.  But that’s not how happiness works.  Happiness is the consequence of personal effort, […] and once you have sustained a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it…

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About Patty
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.


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