SMaRT Strategies to Raise Well-Being and Happiness for Yourself and Your Team
Read Time: 9 minutes, 16 seconds
Wellness and happiness are more than the opposite of illness, stress, burnout, fear, and mistrust. They are the foundations of fulfillment in your intellectual, emotional, physical, social, financial, and community life.
Well-being is the state of being comfortable, happy, and healthy; with well-being, you find life satisfying, enjoy what you do, and find opportunities to share with others and grow. Happiness is a component of well-being, defined as a sense of pleasure and contentment, especially contentment with who you are and the choices you make. The feeling of happiness may come and go depending on circumstances; well-being may also fluctuate, but as a rule, it lasts longer because it is embedded in your sense of self.
SMaRT strategies help you expand your opportunities to experience well-being and happiness, with positive effects on your personal and work life and the people around you.
One of the components of well-being is self-awareness, being able to recognize what is and is not under your control, what is and is not your responsibility, and what you want from life. Researchers in Scotland identified ways to measure well-being using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS), which asks people to rate their response to 14 statements like:
- I’ve been optimistic about the future.
- I’ve the energy to spare.
- I’ve been able to make up my own mind about things.
- I’ve been feeling loved.
They worked from the premise that “mental well-being relates to a person’s psychological functioning, life-satisfaction and ability to develop and maintain mutually benefiting relationships. Psychological well-being includes the ability to maintain a sense of autonomy, self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, and self-esteem.”
In addition to the SMaRT strategies for increasing self-awareness, mindfulness, and decision-making, the following actions will help develop your well-being:
- Get a checkup. Make sure you are in good health, up to date with vaccinations, and aware of what you need to do for preventive care or treating any issues. If you are feeling stress or any of the physical and emotional symptoms of burnout and depression, seek help.
- Exercise. One of the biggest boosts to good health—and, therefore, well-being—is the regular exercise of any sort. If your exercise embraces mindfulness (for example, mindful yoga or mindful walking), you double the benefit.
- Accept your emotions. It is okay to not be happy; it is okay to be thrilled over simple things. Accepting your emotions as valid enables you to move on, perhaps by having a difficult conversation or changing jobs, or finding ways to repeat an experience that gives you joy.
- Do something new. Start a new hobby, revive an old passion, change up your routine, talk to a stranger—every time to venture into new territory, you increase the odds that you will find a way to increase your well-being.
- Practice belly breathing. Deep breathing is calming. In a comfortable seated or reclined position, put your hand on your belly and slowly breathe in through your nose so that your belly expands while your chest remains stationary. Purse your lips and slowly breathe out. Repeat 3 to 10 times.
TIP: Your sense of well-being is partly affected by genes, age, gender, and relationships. For example, younger and older adults have a greater sense of well-being than adults in middle age. But those statistics become irrelevant when you make an effort to increase your own well-being.
If you look for the origins of the word “happy,” you will find that in most languages, it is the exact same word used for “luck.” In ancient times, people believed that happiness was no more nor less than a lucky chance. One scientist cites modern research to define happiness as a good marriage and enough money and resources. Another theory has two types of happiness: hedonistic (enjoying temporary experiences) and eudaimonic (finding meaningful life purpose). Eudaimonic happiness involves finding your strengths and applying them.
All these differing definitions indicate that happiness is elusive even to researchers. However, most agree on the following strategies:
- Build good relationships. When you form connections with other people, love them, help them, and share with them, you experience happiness—but pay attention to the word “good” in “good relationships.”
- Find your strength and use it. Achieving something is rewarding; it builds confidence and gives you purpose, and the more you practice your strengths, the stronger they become. SMaRT strategies for developing a growth mindset are particularly relevant to this component of happiness.
- Improve your health. Optimism, satisfaction in your life, and a support system of other people—all components of happiness—reduce your stress and improve your health, and good health makes you happier.
- Earn sufficient money. You need money for food, shelter, healthcare, opportunities to practice your strengths, and the freedom to indulge yourself and others occasionally. However, there is a cross-over point where more money does not equal more happiness.
- Learn how to take. Happy people are comfortable with luck, success, gifts, and other good things that occur in their lives. They avoid falling prey to “imposter syndrome,” they know how to celebrate success and good fortune, and they make time for what they enjoy.
TIP: Psychological well-being is associate with having a purpose and working toward a goal. Under effective leaders, teams understand their goals, are ignited with purpose and feel a sense of accomplishment.
The Effect of Well-Being and Happiness on Leadership
In the last decade, the likelihood that companies would increase their budget for well-being and wellness rose from 33% to 77%–and this was pre-pandemic. Clearly, companies are recognizing how much they benefit from leaders who employees who feel happiness and well-being, in revenue, lower turnover and absenteeism, higher productivity, and lower health costs.
When you experience and promote well-being and happiness, you transform both your leadership style and your team. Well-being and happiness allow you to:
- Stop dwelling on past mistakes. You know how much better you function when you let go of negative thoughts.
- Be more accepting of new ideas. One method for increasing your openness to innovation is to use the 24X2 rule. Before criticizing an idea, spend 24 seconds, 24 minutes, or 24 hours considering why it might actually be good.
- Create a more engaged team. Your mood affects your team’s mood. If you are permanently disgruntled, put upon, and annoyed and practice passive-avoidant leadership, they feel discouraged, disengaged, and resentful. Luckily, happiness is also infectious.
- Be more productive. Well-being ensures that you are healthy, free of physical and emotional distraction, and able to perform at your best. The desire for happiness will lead you to seek a job that uses your strengths, excites you, and pays enough to cover your basic needs.
- Surround yourself with people—including your team—who contribute to your happiness and well-being. Happy people attract happy people and know the dangers of allowing toxic situations to continue without intervention.
- Save money. If you refuse to take a vacation, prioritize your own health, and manage your own time, you are headed for expensive health issues. Moreover, leaders who model well-being report that their organization’s medical costs improve an average of 4% more than in organizations where leaders are not role models.
TIP: To improve your team’s well-being, reducing stress and anxiety, provide them with adequate resources, guidance, and encouragement; allow team members more autonomy; and communicate clearly.
Your well-being and happiness as a leader have a direct effect on your team’s productivity and engagement. Even more important, strategies to increase your well-being and happiness result in lower stress, more energy, more satisfying relationships, and greater satisfaction in life and work.