When I learned of Harvard-trained happiness researcher Shawn Achor’s recommendations for training your brain to be more positive, I admit, I did a little eye-roll. I mean, watching your breath go in and out for two minutes a day?

I’ll get to that shortly (which is part of your morning ritual).

But who am I to argue with the New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage?

Achor says this about how our brains work:

If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage. Your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral, or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise.

That also means, according to Achor, that a more positive brain gives you a competitive advantage at work. He says the brain at this state can increase your productivity by 31 percent.

OK, now we’re on to something.

What if you could set your whole day to this “happiness advantage” with a simple routine that any busy professional could do in as little as 23 minutes every morning? Here’s how — the scientific way. Carpe diem!

1. Write down three acts of gratitude

What three new things are you grateful for? Write it down. For long-term effect, Achor says do it for 21 straight days. He says the reason this is so powerful is you’re training your mind to scan for positives instead of negatives. This activity is the fastest way to teach optimism. It will significantly improve your optimism even six months later, and raises your success rates significantly.

Time length: 2 minutes.

2. Journal one positive experience

Write in detail about one positive experience you’ve had during the past 24 hours. Bullet point each detail you can remember. According to Achor, this allows your brain to relive the experience, which teaches your brain that the positive behavior matters. It works, he says, since the brain can’t tell the difference between visualization and actual experience. In essence, you’ve just doubled the most meaningful experience in your brain. If you do this ritual every morning for 21 days, your brain reprograms with this trajectory of meaning running throughout your life. In fact, research found that patients suffering from chronic pain or disease who did this for six weeks in a row had dropped their pain medication by 50 percent six months later.

Time length: 2 minutes.

3. Exercise

Even if you hate exercise, Achor says that a short burst of fun cardio activity (think hula hoops, working in the garden, dancing, or a brisk walk with the dog) works wonders. The reason why exercise is so key to your morning routine is that it literally trains your brain to believe “my behavior matters,” which then carries (positively) into other activities throughout the day.

Time length: 15 minutes.

4. Meditation

5. Express kindness through a text or email


Read the explanation of the last two routines and Marcel’s parting thoughts in the original article.