Curiosity Podcast Transcript: The Psychology Of Happiness

Executive coach and happiness expert Stella Grizont explains on this podcast exactly how happiness works, why it matters, and the steps a person can take to find it. Grizont was one of the first graduate students in the world to receive a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Curiosity Podcast Transcript

Cody Gough:

I'm curious, why is being happy so important?

Stella Grizont:

When you experience more happiness, you're not just feeling good, but you're doing good, and you're flourishing on all cylinders, career, relationship, self. You're on an upward spiral, and you're growing. And you can either be growing and flourishing, or languishing. There's no like staying still.

Cody Gough:

Hi, I'm Cody Gough from curiosity.com. Today we're going to learn about applied positive psychology and where happiness comes from. Every week we explore what we don't know because curiosity makes you smarter. This is the Curiosity Podcast.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. Happiness is kind of a cheesy subject, right? I promise this episode is not going to sound like some kind of self help audio book ... not that there's anything wrong with those ... because today we're going to take a closer look at where happiness comes from, and the factors that scientifically play into our happiness. We'll also talk about a framework for figuring out where you fall short in your happiness spectrum, and I promise you'll learn something and it's not going to be cheesy. No matter how happy or unhappy you are, you will learn how you can utilize tools from the brand new field of applied positive psychology to enrich your life. My guest, Stella Grizont, is a leading expert in applied positive psychology, and she joins me now to explain. I'm here with Stella Grizont. SHe's an executive coach and a happiness expert. Talk to me about that.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah, well ... happiness expert has a lot of, I feel like, responsibility to it, and it doesn't mean that I'm walking around all the time with a big smile on my face. It just means that I've really studied the science of happiness, and what it means to live the good life, and I use those tools to the best of my ability, and apply them, and coach people in their lives in helping them come alive at work, and really recognize what it is that brings them to their highest self, to show up in a big way.

Cody Gough:

That makes sense. But you're not just a life coach, because-

Stella Grizont:

No.

Cody Gough:

... those have been around for a while. You said the word applied.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah.

Cody Gough:

I have to throw this out there, you were one of the first 150 people in the world to receive your masters in applied positive psychology. So talk about that.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. It's such a cool, emerging, new field. A lot of people will say to me like, "Positive psychology, as opposed to negative psychology?" And I say, "No, but kinda." Positive psychology is ... let's just put it this way, traditional psychology is a bit of a deficit model. It studies what's wrong with people and how do we get them from negative five to zero.

Cody Gough:

Got it.

Stella Grizont:

Okay? And so positive psychology asks just a different set of questions using the same empirical tools, which is like, well, not just how do we get people back to normal, but how do we help them flourish? So how do we get people from zero to plus five? What does it mean to live the life worth living? What does it mean to be our best self? To really just feel alive and on the edge? And so, that's what we study, and that's what I help people do.

Cody Gough:

There can, in certain places, be a stigma around therapy, let's say.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah.

Cody Gough:

Do you think that part of that is because, like you said, you start at that negative, and it's almost like some people perceive it as "Oh, there's something wrong with me, and that's why I would go to therapy," not that that's true, but there's that perception?

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. I think treating any kind of either mental illness, or just personal stuff, has a stigma, and that's very unfortunate because it keeps people from getting the support they need. And we're seeing that surface in so many domains, whether it's people who are not treated become violent, or people are just sabotaging themselves at work or in their relationships, and so ... nobody is born perfect. I always talk about like happiness doesn't happen by accident. It happens by design. It happens by intentional conscious choices, and we're not all born knowing how to do this stuff, and that's why it's so great that there's now resources and so many coaches out there, and the science of happiness, and positive psychology, where we can really start to learn and demystify what does it mean to live the good life?

Cody Gough:

So how are you different than the traditional life coach that's been around?

Stella Grizont:

I mean, I think it's one, about approach, and two, about tools. But at the end of the day, we're all just trying to support people in living their fullest life. I see it as there's infinite ways to that same destination. And so, I just happen to have this science, evidence-based tool set, but there's plenty of other coaches who are brilliant at what they do, and they have their own kind of way into it, and I developed my way into it because I've coached over 1,300 people at this point, across 17 countries. I've studied this. I've also worked with entrepreneurs. I've worked with Fortune 500, C-suite executives, and so I've just developed my own system, which I call the work happiness method, which is kind of of an inquiry into the self. 

I think a lot of people, when they come to the point where they think they need a coach, a life coach or a career coach, they think, "Okay, well what I want to do next?" Or, "How do I fix a certain problem?" And for me, before we make any big choices, I'm always ... I have approach to really get clear on well, who is it that you want to be? How is that you want to show up? And, what is the experience that you want to have? So a big mistake I see people doing is just trying to figure out what do I do next? And I think the better question to ask is how do I want to be? 

And David Cooperrider, who was one of my professors at the UPenn program, he has this ... I love this quote. He says, "The questions we ask determine the reality we create." "The questions we ask determine the reality we create." So if you just think about, in an organization where you're always asking, "Well, what's the problem we're trying to solve?" Versus, maybe, what are the strengths we want to enhance. Those two things will absolutely lead you to very different points of focus and so, to answer your question, what makes me different, I think I just really want to ask how is it that you want to be and show up in this world? Because there's actually multiple possibilities you haven't even explored yet because you've been asking the wrong question.

Cody Gough:

You've worked with Google and Johnson & Johnson, some really big, prestigious organizations. How do you determine who to work with?

Stella Grizont:

I think my ideal clients naturally gravitate towards me, so I've been blessed to be like on multiple media outlets and on MSNBC or on cool podcasts like this. And I think my ideal clients find me. And I'll tell you what they have in common. Usually, they're overachievers. So, they work really hard, they achieve a really great deal of success, but something just doesn't feel quite right or quite enough or they're starting to not recognize themselves. They're having maybe a little bit of an identity crisis or they're just like there's gotta be more to life than this, even though they've achieved a great deal or checked off a bunch of boxes on their to-do list. 

And then, there's always a sense of creativity in my clients that I find, even if they are finance consultant at one of the top firms, there's a sense of creativity. And when I talk about creativity, there's a recognition that we're all creative because we're all creating our own reality and there's a recognition of that or a missing sense of that amongst my clients and that they want to reignite that in their lives, rather than just keep kinda doing the same old, same old.

Cody Gough:

You can find on curiosity.com a list of some of the top happiest nations. And America, not really on that list.

Stella Grizont:

No.

Ashley Hamer:

Hey. Ashley here. In 2017, the World Happiness Report ranked the United States as only the world's 14th happiest country below places like Israel and Costa Rica. Norway got first. Why the low ranking? The report blames the US's languishing social support, personal freedoms, and perceived government and business corruption.

Cody Gough:

What is the main problem you see with people or what do you think a lot of people need to be better at?

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. That's such a good question. So, America has had kind of a flat, in terms of overall happiness, our growth has been flat, you could say. There's lots of factors. I think one big factor is that in America, we've been very focused on doing and success and achievement and less so on relationships and connection. I mean we see this when people move all around the world to focus on their career. And they leave behind family and friends and they have to start over. And achievement is important. 

In applied positive psychology, there's something called the Theory of Well-Being, which describes five pillars that contribute to this sense of aliveness and flourishing. And so, we kind of want to always work on all five of them. And you can remember it as PERMA. That's how you ... that's like an acronym. 

So one is positive emotion. So we want to experience things like love, appreciation, awe, serenity. Those are all positive emotions. So, that's important to kind of having a sense of flourishing. The second is engagement, which is being in the flow. It's like when you're just ... you lose track of time. You don't realize what's happening around you. You know, maybe it's like what happens when you play a guitar, you're in a good conversation. For some people, they can even get in the flow washing the dishes. That's not me, but that certainly happens for folks. The next is relationships, which is just about your sense of connection. Then there's meaning, which is about our sense of significance in this world, our ability to contribute to something bigger than us. And then the final is achievement or accomplishment. So that's PERMA: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement.

In America, we're overindexing on achievement. We are really trying ... like, you know, it's all about our job. What happens at a party? You ask one of the first questions, "So what is it you do for a living?" Right? And so ...

Cody Gough:

And that is unique to America. 

Stella Grizont:

That is very American. Right? And we work a lot of hours and our relationships suffer and people really matter. Chris Peterson, who is one of the co-founders of positive psychology, he always spoke about how people really matter. And we know that if you feel lonely, and being lonely doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. It doesn't mean you're less beautiful, less smart, less charismatic. But if you have the sensation of loneliness, the next morning, your cortisol levels are actually increased. Your stress hormones are heightened because you feel lonely.

Ashley Hamer:

It's true. That cortisol spike is why chronically lonely people tend to have higher blood pressure, react poorly to stressful situations, and are at greater risk of death than other people.

Stella Grizont:

And if you think about why this response happens, it's really an evolved kind of mechanism. You could think of it as imagine our caveman ancestors in the middle of the woods, right? If they were all alone, you could imagine that being a very stressful situation, right? They're probably sleeping with one eye open. And we even see today ... John Cacioppo, he's a leading researcher on people and loneliness. And he found that people actually, when they experience loneliness, sleep worse than people who aren't feeling lonely. So, when we feel isolated, when we don't feel connected to our friends and our family, or we don't feel a sense of just being seen, which can happen like ... you could be surrounded people you love and still not feel seen.

So, loneliness is purely subjective, but when you feel that way, it really is a detriment to your well-being. So when we think about metrics like overall happiness, I think what's happening in America is we're just not connecting on a real level. We're liking things on Facebook and we're texting. But in sociological terms, that's called social snacking. It's not the full meal. You're not getting really satisfied. You're not sitting at the Thanksgiving table and feasting on the abundance of love around you. You're getting like a pretzel. You know? And there's only so far that pretzel can take you. 

And so we've become very afraid, I think, to really have real conversations with people, to connect on a deep level because it makes us vulnerable. And texting is always easier than like calling someone up, but in that we're losing something. And I think in America, we have to find our way back to being face-to-face or to connecting on a real level.

Ashley Hamer:

If you think you successfully get across how you feel through text, think again. A 2005 study found that recipients of emails could only correctly identify sarcasm or seriousness about half the time. That's no better than chance.

Cody Gough:

It's interesting because it feels like on social media nowadays, people are expressing their political or religious views and some of those things that used to be considered a bit more intimate in our society, but that's not fulfilling that social meal that you talked about. That's still kind of a snacking for making ourselves maybe a bit more vulnerable?

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. It's interesting. I've struggled with how much to express and how on social media, especially with all this ... you know, with where we are in our political climate. And I think there are ... you can get real moments of connection, but I think what I see more is people ... there's a lot of otherness. It's so easy to judge online when you're not looking at someone. Over 80% of communication is nonverbal.

Cody Gough:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Hamer:

That percentage comes from a 1967 study by Albert Mehrabian that concluded communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and only 7% the actual words spoken. Some critics say that studies like these are weak because participants can easily that the researchers want them to focus on the nonverbal cues, but at any rate, tone and body language are definitely big parts of communication that don't come through on the Internet.

Stella Grizont:

And so we're just missing so much data when we're not looking at each other. And there's all these studies that show how, even with mirror neurons, I'm looking at you and I'm really connecting and we're like smiling and we're like nodding and we're like yes. And there's all this invisible data that we just miss when it's a text or it's a like. And there's a lot of biofeedback. When we're experiencing rapport with someone, for example, and we're walking, our steps tend to synchronize. Even our breath synchronizes.

Cody Gough:

Unconsciously?

Stella Grizont:

Unconsciously. And even, even, get this, when we experience love, our thoughts even synchronize. You can actually compare brain scans of people when they are experiencing moments of love, those brain scans will actually mirror each other. So someone's listening to a story, you'll actually begin to see the listener of a story anticipate the storyteller. So it's almost like where the storyteller's brain is being lit up, the listener's brain will actually go there sometimes, even in advance because they're so on ... they're literally on the same wavelength. 

So what happens when we're together and we're really vibing. We use that word, "vibe". I mean it's a literal thing and there's now all this cool research that talks about it. So, I think in America, we just have to like ... I know this sounds so simple or ridiculous or tripe, but we just gotta learn how to love each other and accept each other. And that could really heal a lot.

Cody Gough:

When you talk about that physiological reactions, what type of love? Romantic? 

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. So, Barbara Fredrickson, who's a leading research on positive emotion, has done some fascinating research on love. And she talks about how love is defined in terms of how the body expresses love. So what she did is she would study people and watch them and watch their brains and all their physiological signals to see what happens when there's love.

So she defined love by these three things. One, there's an exchange of positive emotion. Two, there's a physiological synchronicity. So your breath, your thoughts, your gate, your gestures. And three, there's an expression of care for the other person. So, "let me carry those bags for you" or "call me when you get home" or ... 

So the thing that I love about Barbara Fredrickson's definition of love, according to the body, not according to, let's say, rom-coms or whatever we think of as love. What I love about her research is that what she basically shows us is that we can get love from anywhere. I mean we can have a moment of love with the person bagging our groceries if we just strike up a great conversation. I mean have you ever had those moments where you're just like ... you just meet someone, it's like five minutes. But there's like a real ... and I'm not talking romantic love, necessarily. It's just like there's something real there.

Cody Gough:

Sure. Yeah. Once in a while.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. 

Cody Gough:

It's a rare thing.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. So I'm gonna challenge you to look for love where you don't expect it because sometimes it's there and we're just not recognizing it. And what Barbara Fredrickson says about love which is really interesting is that love and relationships are two different things. So, love occurs in moments. Just because we're in relationship doesn't mean we're always in love. I might not feel love, according to her definition, every single moment that I'm with my husband. Of course I love him and I'm committed to him, but there are certainly moments where my heart is flooding and then there's other times where I'm like, you know, I don't really like you right now.

Cody Gough:

I need you to take out the trash.

Stella Grizont:

Yes. Or why are the socks there again?

Cody Gough:

Right.

Stella Grizont:

And so what I appreciate about this is it really reflects our real experience and we have to work at love. We have to keep ourselves open to it and keep and appreciative glance and recognize or choose to be open to receiving the positive emotion. Choose to care.

Cody Gough:

When you talk about these moments of love, does it have to be with a human?

Stella Grizont:

No. That's a great question. It could be with a dog. It could be with your pet. It could be with an animal. So, absolutely.

Cody Gough:

What is the benefit, then, of being happy? Because we don't have to be happy all the time.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah, that's true. So, I want to define happiness. And so, when we talk about happiness, and ... in positive psychology terms, it's really about flourishing or well-being that we want to talk about because it's more than just happiness. And you're right. We don't have to be happy all the time. That's kind of when I ... when you introduced me, I'm like, hey, I try but it's really important not to actually be happy all the time, too, because, hey, life happens and we have to honor the negative emotions. And if we don't honor them, then bad stuff can kinda happen because those negative emotions are there to warn us or to alert us, to modify our behavior.

Ashley Hamer:

Lots of research shows that negative emotions can actually be pretty good for you. A 2005 study found that people in bad moods are less likely to remember false details when recalling a memory. And another study from 2011 showed that people in bad moods tended to have a fairer, less biased sense of judgment. And don't forget the classic brooding artist. There's a lot of evidence showing that negative emotions lead to greater creativity.

Stella Grizont:

They're as important as positive emotions. When we feel fear or sadness or loneliness, it's just a signal to adjust our behavior. If we feel loneliness, that means, hey, call a friend. If we feel fear, maybe that means get out of there. You shouldn't be here. If we feel disgust, that means probably shouldn't eat that moldy looking piece of fruit. So, negative emotions are there to help us survive. But positive emotions are there to help us thrive. And so, if you really want to live the life worth living, you can't just be focused on the bad stuff, but you have to be aware and accept it and use that information.

What I always say is if there's something negative happening in your life, you want to be able to look at it, acknowledge it, even say, "This is what I'm feeling right now." In fact, there's a cool piece of research where they had people going through an MRI machine and they asked a group of people what they were feeling and they asked another group ... they didn't ask them anything. And the people who were able to express their nervousness and anxiety, they were actually able to experience more ease faster than those who weren't able to express their emotions. 

So, when we're able to acknowledge our negative emotions, we actually process them faster and then can move forward versus resisting them or trying to escape them or not pay attention to them.

Cody Gough:

So is complaining good for us?

Stella Grizont:

Oh my God. I love that you brought that up.

So, complaining, to me, is not about expressing negative emotion. Complaining, to me, is about being that emotion. So, for example, if it's hot outside. I could say, "Oh, it's really hot out." Or I could be like, "Oh my God. It's so hot out." That's complaining. I would say the latter is complaining, where you're just suffering and the expression is a sense of suffering. Whereas I could acknowledge, you know, I'm uncomfortable. It's hot. But I'm not letting it take over me. And so I think it's about the energy that you allow or are becoming. So, you could say, "Yeah. I'm uncomfortable right now. Yeah it doesn't feel good, but this is where I'm at."

Cody Gough:

So, if it's about the energy, then if you're going out with coworkers and you're all at a bar or whatever, inevitably, anywhere you work, it doesn't matter how much you love you job. At some point, you and your work buddies are just gonna complain about something related to your job. But the energy behind that is a social energy, where you're connecting and that kind of thing. And so in that context, there's nothing wrong with that or negative about that, right?

Stella Grizont:

Well, I think it depends because it's a really slippery slope. Emotion is very contagious. And it is ... you're right. Complaining and gossiping has social value. I mean that's why we do it. It's like so easy for us to bond over something negative. But when you start to go there, negative ... all emotions are contagious. I mean there's great research all over the place on how groups catch emotion just like they catch the flu. And so, you kinda go on a downward spiral. 

So I do think it's helpful to say, "Yeah, I'm having a really tough time" or "Is Bob always this way in meetings or is it just me?" So it's one thing to discuss, but it's another thing to be like, "Do you believe that a-hole?" So it's really about the energetic quality, I think. 

And so you want to be careful because the way toxic work cultures develop is unconsciously. So when we're talking, or over the water cooler complaining about our boss, it's not like we're saying, "Yeah. I'm gonna take on Zac's negative energy and let his depression totally invade my consciousness." We're not saying that, but it can kinda start to creep in there unconsciously. And so, then, we start to kinda carry a little bit of a heavy negative energy with the other people we deal with. And that's kind of how it spreads.

So the only way to kind of, I think, truly flourish at work, especially in a toxic work culture, is you have to really know how you want to be. And it's kinda going back to what we talked about. The only real way to move through kind of any toxic or negative work energy or anywhere is to really be clear on what your vision is of what it means to live your most alive life or to be successful in a way that brings you joy and alive. Because, otherwise, your gonna find yourself spending a lot of energy trying to avoid the negative and run away from it instead of moving towards something that truly brings you happiness.

Cody Gough:

And that's the difference between being happy and flourishing, as you called it?

Stella Grizont:

Oh yeah. Okay. [crosstalk 00:27:08]

Cody Gough:

Is that the technical term?

Stella Grizont:

It's so good to talk to with you. I feel like I could talk for hours, so, okay, it's good you're keeping me focused. So, you know how I described the five pillars of well-being. 

Cody Gough:

PERMA.

Stella Grizont:

PERMA. So, meaning is different from positive emotion. Meaning is about having a sense of contributing to something bigger. So, for example, having children. There was a ... I think it was Time that did a whole article about how parents are less happy than people who are not parents. And everyone was like alarmed, like, "Oh my God." But I would say in my personal experience, especially at year one of having my daughter, I was not very happy. I was underslept, like lots of new stuff to adjust, and I wasn't very happy. But I was blessed. I mean I would look at my daughter and cry because I would just, oh my God, I was flooded with just love. But I wouldn't say that those were happy times. 

And so, I think that the nuance is that you could have a deep sense of meaning, but it doesn't always feel fun. And so that's why when you're talking about well-being, you have to have a sense of perspective around ... you know, okay, maybe my positive emotions aren't off the charts right now, but I'm feeling engaged in what I'm doing, I'm have a deep sense of meaning, I'm achieving stuff. So you kind of work at it and you have to be like, okay, so what's missing? Positive emotion? Alright. Maybe I just start practicing gratitude. Or what can I do to enhance one of these pillars that needs a little balancing.

Cody Gough:

To me, it's hard to self-diagnose where the problem is.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah.

Cody Gough:

I knew somebody once who said, "My sister's always got three things in her life. SHe's always got a relationship, her home situation roommate situation, and her job situation. And of the three, one always seems to be wrong, but she doesn't always know which one is wrong." So maybe you're really unhappy and you are unhappy with your job, but you think to yourself for whatever reason, "Oh. This is this person I'm dating. I need to get them out of my life so that I can be happy." And then you find it it's your job, later. Things like that where you can't really correctly ... I was bad at this in my twenties. Maybe other people are better at it, but I have found sometimes in life it's challenging to identify exactly what that problem is. So how do you start to diagnose yourself in that?

Stella Grizont:

Such a good question. So, in the Work-Happiness Method, which is the coaching program I had, one of the very first I have people do, and I'll happily give this to all of your listeners, it's an exercise that people do with me when they start coaching. It's called the Vision Generator and what I have people do is really get clear on how they want to be. And, again, I know I keep repeating myself, but that means, for example, I want to be creative and feel challenged or I want to be loved and feel a sense of home with those I'm surrounded or I want to feel like I'm constantly growing and making progress. Those are the things that we gotta get really clear on. 

What are our personal buttons that we need to press in order to feel like our most alive self? Maybe it's a sense of freedom, or maybe it's a sense of control, you know, whatever it is. We each have a unique combo. And we also prioritize them differently. So what I say is, generally, we have a consistent set of values but we are constantly changing the way we rank those values based on what happens in our life. So, for example, when I had my daughter, freedom had to move down in the ranks and well-being moved to number one because if I wasn't sleeping or taking care of myself, no one was happy. Okay, wasn't about me having time to myself. Wasn't about me onto my creative endeavors. It was survival. Stay healthy.

Cody Gough:

It was contagious, like you said.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. Yeah. So what I say to people in terms of ... I mean often people come to me for career coaching, like helping them to figure out how to end the dread of work or figure out what they really want to do with their lives. But what they really are doing is embarking on an inner journey to actually ask themselves, "What is it that I really, really, really want?" And that's why I have them do the Vision Generator first because that gets them asking what's that state of aliveness that is me, which entails your purpose, it entails your passions, it entails the conditions in which you thrive. So I have a lot of questions in there to help people think very holistically to really get a very holistic view of what does it mean for them to be in their most alive state.

For people that are listening, they can go to workhappinessmethod.com/vision.

Cody Gough:

We'll link to that in the show notes, by the way, so everybody can go there.

Stella Grizont:

And it's free. They can download it. And this is seriously, when we start to coach, this is the first thing I have people do because, then, what you're gonna start to get clues of is your value system from there. And that's when you can ask questions about your relationship or your job before you leave your job or get divorced or whatever it is. Decide to move to like Thailand. You want to really know what's underneath all this.

Cody Gough:

Do you ever run into a situation or do your clients run into situations where they maybe think one thing when they're completing this initial kind of assessment, but they don't know what they don't know. But like when I was younger, I had couple very flexible jobs, but I wasn't really making any money.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah.

Cody Gough:

I thought, "Wow. I've got my own schedule. This is really great. I'm eating ramen every night, but this is great." Then, I eventually got a more rigid job and it paid a lot better and suddenly, I can go out and eat tonight. I can order Thai food, if I'm feeling tired and I had little more flexibility. And I never would've thought to myself, "Yeah. I'll leave this flexibility for more money." But once I had the money, I realized, oh, actually, this is kinda doing it for me.

Ashley Hamer:

Good call, Cody. A June 2017 study found that people report greater feelings of well-being and life satisfaction after making time-saving purchases than after making material purchases. Things like paying for a house cleaner or getting takeout instead of cooking. 

Cody Gough:

So, do you ever run into that kind of thing where a client just doesn't know? The Thailand thing. I'm not gonna know if I'm happy if I move to Thailand or not, unless I move to Thailand. So, how do you get ahead of that.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. So that's why I ... so, because I've coached a lot of folks and I've developed kind of a model of making sure we're asking questions so that they're thinking through different aspects of their well-being. And so that, in the Vision Generator, I ask you a lot of questions and it's kind of a fill-in-the-blank, so it makes it really simple. 

And then, for folks I end up coaching, what we do is I help you get really clear on describing your values. And values are the guiding principles for how you behave or for the decisions you make so that you can experience that ultimate vision. So they're like ... they keep you on the right side of the road, you could say. Right? 

So then what we do is we say, well, freedom is really important to you. How might you experience freedom in your life right now? So before anybody makes any drastic changes, I'm always like let's start living this vision now. I'm gonna challenge you to do this now. And what people will discover is that, holy cow, there's like an abundance that they could actually amplify their joy and their sense of engagement and meaning and aliveness in their existing situation right. It's just they weren't seeing it before because they weren't asking the right questions. 

So when we have people ... when I get them to define their values, I then have them ask five questions of themselves every night. And so, three questions are around their values that they really want to amplify. So, for example, for one of my clients it's about connecting to others in a deeper way because she works as a consultant, she's traveling four days out of the week. She doesn't really feel like she's ... she's like working all the time, so she has to challenge herself to really connect with people. So one of her questions is in what ways did I have a deep connection with someone? Another question might be what way did I challenge myself or make myself uncomfortable? And then I like to add two more, which is what am I grateful for and how can I do better tomorrow? 

And so I ask my clients to do this. Eventually, it becomes so automated that they don't even have to ask themselves these questions. These are kind of guiding their decisions for the day, so they start to see opportunities where they didn't before. So my client will be like, "Oh, I'm working with this person and I've never heard their story. I'm gonna ask her their story because it's important for me to really connect."

So, once we become aware of what it is that drives us, then we realize there's all these micro moments for us to deepen it. And then, I say, "Okay. Now think about Thailand," or "Now, think about a new job" because your request and what you want to do with that information will be dramatically different once you start applying, once you start living it. Your most awesome life may be right there, but you're just not always seeing it.

Ashley Hamer:

All this big picture stuff really shows how important it is to have a sense of purpose in your life. Easier said than done, I know, but if you can find your guiding path, it'll go far beyond just making you happy. Research shows that people who have a sense of purpose score higher on tests of memory and executive function, are more resilient to stress, and even sleep more soundly.

Cody Gough:

One of my first jobs out of college, I worked at a Starbucks. And one of my coworkers, Jared, every time somebody came into Starbucks, he said, "How's your day going?" After they ordered their coffee, paid, whatever, he's grabbing the black coffee or making a drink, he always said, "Hey man. How's your day going?" Or "Hey, how's your day going?" And every single time, almost every single time, they would open up and start talking. And I think what was happening is sometimes that Starbucks visit in the morning or in the afternoon ... I wish Starbucks was paying me for this ... sometimes that visit was maybe the only time somebody asked them how was their day.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah.

Cody Gough:

That whole day. And I've started doing that occasionally when I walk into a coffee shop or if I'm at a checkout counter at just any retail establishment, just asking the person, "Hey, how's your day going?" Sometimes you strike up a conversation and end up with one of those moments that you talked about, those little temporary moments of love.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah.

Cody Gough:

And I'm not changing my behavior. I'm not changing anything I do throughout the day. It's just kind of a, again, an opportunity that you wouldn't have thought of before. 

Stella Grizont:

It's a tiny choice. It requires so little effort, but it just has to be a conscious choice, but once you realize, oh, these things are important to me, then you can start just exercising them consciously. So, I love that you brought it up when you're talking about Starbucks like my ... I got chills because I, actually, in my local Starbucks, now that I've moved to the burbs, I never used to go to Starbucks, now that's my place. And I see real community in my Starbucks, which I'm just ... it's just so special to witness that people knew each other by name and they are like "how's it going?" And the baristas are helping the customers with their non-profit campaign and like spreading the word. It's like there's just so much richness that's available to us if we just focus in on it. What you have to get clear on is what is that vision for you and then what are the guide posts, what are those values, what are those micro choices that you have to make on a daily basis to amplify, to make this day count for you.

Cody Gough:

There aren't that many places today in the world that are like a coffee shop where you can go and be with people. Didn't it used to be there were a lot more community-oriented locations and isn't that why, especially in America, we're losing some of that connection that you talked about with the actually getting in front of people and not just having our social snacks, as you called it?

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. Yeah. That's such a good point. So we know that since the '50s, 50% of the demise of community in America is due to actual television watching. People are like staying inside. They started to stay inside and just watch TV, rather than walk outside and kind of randomly meet a neighbor. And then we also know that the way that our neighborhoods have been built, suburbs, right? I don't know the last time I saw a neighbor outside my house. I just never see my neighbors. The way that we've designed our neighborhoods has made it also very difficult for us to randomly meet up. And so it used to be church that people would go to to find a sense a community or a synagogue or temple or whatever and people aren't as, maybe, dedicated to going to those religious centers anymore. 

And even when we go to a place like Starbucks, which they call the third place. It's not work, it's not home. It's a place where people meet and exchange ideas. Even Starbucks, what do you do? You see people working on their laptops or looking at their phones. And so, we're all carrying around mini TV's with us wherever we go, even in the subway. And so, the chance for random conversation or spontaneous moments of love just don't appear as easily as they used to.

Cody Gough:

The suburban architecture you talked about makes perfect sense. My old apartment building in Chicago and, when I do see my neighbors, the idea of them making eye contact with me or acknowledging my existence seems to petrify them. They run away. I've gotten the sense that people, even when they're not on their screens, in certain places, just don't want to interact. Do you think that's a cultural thing or where is that coming from?

Stella Grizont:

I think that is part of this new norm of like people are afraid of awkward moments. I don't think we have the same social skills that maybe we had 50 years ago. I mean, I can't say for certain, but ... I had the same thing happen to me in San Francisco, by the way. No one would look me in the eye in the elevator. I'd be like, "Hey, good morning," and I'd kind of have to like really crane my neck just to like, you know, establish some eye contact. And I was like, "What is going on?" But then I moved to Oakland across the bridge and I love my neighbors and we're still talking and we're good friends, so ... 

But I would say I think that this has to do with millennials, they've kind of grown up more comfortable on mobile or device than in person "hi". And so, it's a fear of the awkward. It is uncomfortable. It is awkward. What if your neighbor's not gonna say hi back and that's like a little rejection. And what if they don't come over? Or what if they come over and it's gonna be so bad and you kind of want them to leave?

And so, it's just so easy for us to retreat into assuming, "oh, I don't want to be a burden" or "oh, that might suck, so I'd rather not be there." And that's why I did a TEDxTalk once about play. And that was my original ... that kind of was why I want to study positive psychology at UPenn, in the first place, was to understand play and the dynamics of play. We, actually, as human beings are having that awkward moment, it's really about like I don't know what's gonna happen. And so we're kind of scared of that awkward moment. We don't know the result. And so when we have that fear of uncertainty, right, we just kind of choose to avoid it. 

But we also have, intrinsically built in, we are also wired to love uncertainty. And that comes in the form of novelty. I want to go travel to a place I've never been. I want to try a food I've never had before. So, again, it's about framing. So we could have a moment that could seem really scary or we could see it as an adventure. And that's why being playful is so important. And I talk about it in that TEDxTalk kind of having the play mindset, which is a little bit instead of "oh, I have to do this", "I get to do this." Or this is gonna suck. Hey, I don't know what's gonna happen, I wonder what's gonna happen, maybe I'm gonna be like totally surprised. So it's about being a little more light. We also tend to assume the worse because we have a negativity bias. Our brains naturally just ... they're like Velcro to any negative thought. Like we hold onto negative thoughts and that's all we can feel or see or think and that's an evolutionary response, again, from our wonderful caveman, cavewoman ancestors.

Cody Gough:

So that's been around forever?

Stella Grizont:

Well, it's been around since the folks who assumed the worst and paid attention to any possible threat in the middle of the wilderness. They tended to survive because they had heard a rustling in the bushes and they're like, "I'm gonna get out of here." Whereas, maybe, those who are a little bit more positive and optimistic, they're like, "Oh, let me go see what's behind the bushes," and then they get eaten. And so over time, those survivors passed on their genetic disposition and here we are.

Ashley Hamer:

Shocking, I know, but you can read all about negativity bias on the Curiosity app. 

Stella Grizont:

Just look at the news. We can't take our eyes off the negative news because we're always on alert. And the problem is that we're not always facing real threats. I mean what's happening on a global, yes, that is ... there are some real threats there. But in your office, when someone doesn't give you credit for your work. That's not like a survival moment, it just doesn't feel good.

Cody Gough:

Or walking up to a person in a bar.

Stella Grizont:

Exactly. Right?

Cody Gough:

Which is why online dating is so big because walking up to a stranger in a bar is the most terrifying thing some people can possibly imagine, myself included. Do you recommend improv classes to a lot of your clients?

Stella Grizont:

I love improv. There's so much wisdom in improv. I totally recommend it.

Cody Gough:

Because it ... you just said be in the moment and not know what to expect and that's exactly what those classes are. 

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. It's total play. Improv is total play. And it's a great skill to use, especially ... I love using play in really difficult situations because it enables you to see more possibility and have more positive outcomes when you're staying open instead of closed, which is what fear does to us. And improv helps you be in that moment and just build on it. Like, oh yeah, you're ... you don't want to have a drink with me? Okay. Like yes and alright, like, you know. Well, do you want to go outside? I don't know. I'm to good at picking people up at a bar, but ... yes. I think improv is an awesome tool, especially for anyone who kind of fears being on their feet or having awkward moments. It's really a muscle and we can all build it.

Ashley Hamer:

Did you hear her say "yes and" right there? If you're not familiar with improv, "yes and" is the rule of thumb that encourages performers to accept whatever someone else brings to the table, that's the "yes", and then build on it, that's the "and." It's pretty useful in everyday life, too. Try it for yourself.

Cody Gough:

That's pretty compelling. That's very compelling. Makes what you do sound extremely important, which it is very important.

Stella Grizont:

I think it is. Like what's the point if life sucks and you're resenting your work and you're resenting your relationships? Like what's the point? 

Cody Gough:

Great. Well, I just want to wrap up with the way we wrap up every episode, which is the Curiosity challenge. So we're gonna try to stump each other.

Stella Grizont:

Okay.

Cody Gough:

I mean not really try to stump each other. We're gonna have ... let me turn a negative into a positive. We have the opportunity to educate each other.

Stella Grizont:

Love it.

Cody Gough:

I like that better, anyway. I'll use that from now on.

So you taught me a lot about a lot of things, which is really great. I'm gonna try to teach you maybe one thing that you didn't. There's probably not that much, in terms of happiness, because you know a lot about this stuff. It has been scientifically proven that certain images can calm a person. Can you tell me what living in sight of this can make you happier? Like if you could see X from your window, what would make you happier?

Stella Grizont:

Oh, water.

Cody Gough:

You did know it. I knew you would know that one. 

Stella Grizont:

Because I really feel that's so important. I used to have a really amazing few of the San Francisco bay and I really felt much happier, so ...

Cody Gough:

Are you in sight of water, now?

Stella Grizont:

No, but I have a really beautiful yard, so I still see nature. But I do feel like water does something special.

Cody Gough:

It does something special and, in fact, according to ... and you can find this in the show notes, it's on curiosity.com ... it has been scientifically proven in a 2016 study researchers used anonymous answers from New Zealand's National Health Survey to compare people's mental health to how much green or blue space they can see from their Wellington homes and they found an association between a view of the ocean and lower psychological stress, even when accounting for income and crime.

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. I totally believe that. I always said to my husband, we need a view. It literally it feels like it's making me healthier. I always told him that, so ... 

Cody Gough:

That's so cool.

Stella Grizont:

I believe that. Yeah. Wait do I get to give you [crosstalk 00:50:01] an opportunity?

Cody Gough:

Now is ... yes.

Stella Grizont:

Okay. How many hearts does an octopus have?

Cody Gough:

This is a really good question.

Stella Grizont:

I'm kind of giving you an answer already because I'm saying plural.

Cody Gough:

Well, you ... I mean there's a lot of numbers above one. Not sure. I mean eight would probably be the cheap ... there's no way it's got eight. That doesn't make any sense. Let's go with four?

Stella Grizont:

Close. So it's actually three, which I just discovered last week thanks to my mother-in-law who took my daughter to the zoo and was telling her there's three ... an octopus has three hearts and it has nine brains. 

Cody Gough:

Nine?

Stella Grizont:

Yeah. I think it's so fascinating because, even when we think about the human body, there's all this new research bout how there's kind of a brain in our gut and in our heart because there's so many neurons in those areas. And so I'm just thinking like, wow, I wonder what that means for the intelligence of an octopus with like three hearts.

Ashley Hamer:

Octopuses are intelligent. They're so smart that the New England Aquarium actually has to give their octopuses a rotating selection of puzzles so they don't get bored. Also, they can edit their own genes. Yes, really. You can read about all of that on curiosity.com.

Cody Gough:

Yeah. A Time Lord only has two hearts. So, is that a particular curiosity of yours? Animals? Or just happen to be the fun fact that came up?

Stella Grizont:

Just came up. I'm just curious. Like I think that's ... any cool thing. I always love learning, so ...

Cody Gough:

Well, you taught us a whole lot, so thank you so much for being here with me. Again, [inaudible 00:51:44] talking to you. Stella Grizont, Executive Coach and Happiness Expert. Thanks so much for being here.

Stella Grizont:

Thank you. So awesome.

Cody Gough:

Before I wrap up this week. I've got some trivia for you. If you've been learning something new everyday on curiosity.com, then this is your chance to earn some extra credit. Stella talked about the pitfalls of social snacking, but being connected isn't always so bad. Here's your question. According to science, what's something you can do on social media right now that can lead to greater love, commitment, and satisfaction in your relationship with someone? The answer in just a minute.

I'd like to remind to check out the show notes to find lots of helpful links to learn more about Stella, applied positive psychology, and everything else we discussed today. There you can also find links to the Curiosity podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and everywhere else podcasts are found. And if you have any questions or comments, then please email us at podcast@curiosity.com. Shout out to 14 year old listener, Ruth. We got your email and we want to thank you so much for listening. Stay curious and someday we'll hopefully be talking about your latest scientific discovery.

If you've had a chance to rate or review us on iTunes or Stitcher, then thank you. If not, then, well, now's your chance. It's quick and painless and something you can finish by the time I'm done wrapping up this episode. Super appreciate it. 

Here at Curiosity, we cover a wide variety of topics every day and that brings us today's extra credit answer. Believe it or not, research has actually found that couples can feel greater love, commitment, and satisfaction in their relationship when they became Facebook official. Shocking, right? In two separate studies, researchers found that people who declared their relationship status on Facebook, quote, "report stronger romantic love toward their partner", unquote, and they also had fewer romantic alternatives, that is their eyes wandered less than those who didn't make things Facebook official. The easiest way to learn more about this and so much more is to download the Curiosity app for your Android or iOS device. 

Shout out to Ashley Hamer, editor extraordinaire, for her fast facts this week and thanks to you for listening. Extra special thanks and a virtual fist bump if you told a friend to check us out. That's all for this week for the Curiosity podcast. I'm Cody Gough.

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Written By Curiosity Staff August 15, 2017