In her new book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington urges us to expand our cultural notions of success beyond money and power, to also include our ability to create our own well-being. The beauty of this advice is that whereas money and power can take years - if not decades - to secure, you can secure well-being today. All it takes is a deepened respect for your emotional life.
If you're like many, you liken your emotional life to the weather: Hardly something you can control - it just happens. Yet the new science of emotions not only upends such resignation, it also gives you the reasons you'll want to strive to thrive. In short, if offers both "how to" and "why to."
If the emotional climate of your day-to-day life seems unchangeable, don't blame your DNA. While it's true that you inherited aspects of your emotional outlook from your parents, a large piece of it also reflects your daily activities and habits of mind. These can either coax well-being into your life or chase it away. For better or worse, many people's activities and habits tend to be pretty stable, creating the illusion of unchangeable emotional tendencies.
To secure the success of well-being today, then, the first step is to shift your activities and habits of mind. Fortunately, this requires no money and hardly any time. At the end of each day, for instance, take just a minute to reflect on the three most significant interactions you had with others during your day. Then consider how close or "in tune" you felt with these people.
Or, as you walk into work each day - or whenever you find yourself waiting - instead of checking your phone for updates, look around you. Select one person, then another, and silently wish each one to be happy. If the person you pick looks happy already, silently wish for her good fortune to continue. If he looks troubled, wish him peace. Offering silent wishes like this does more good than you might think, and there's no need to invoke the metaphysical. It conditions your mental habits to be more open and attuned to others, which increases your odds of creating genuine positive connections throughout your day. Well-being naturally follows.
For a still more powerful shift, try meditation. But not just any meditation, one particular practice turns out to be especially beneficial, namely, loving-kindness meditation. Honed over millennia and now backed by science, free audio guides to this practice live just clicks away at dozens of websites, including PositivityResonance.com. Devoting just 15-20 minutes to this activity 3-4 times a week is all it takes to seed the success of well-being.
What do you get for your efforts? Plenty. Scientific studies confirm that making small daily shifts like these to prioritize your heartfelt connections with others not only lifts your mood to enhance your well-being today, but also benefits you physically, by improving your heart health and your immune functioning next season. So even as you enjoy your newfound well-being today, you are also taking steps to lower your odds of having a heart attack, and increase your odds of living a long, healthy, and satisfying life.
Just like it takes money to make money, the more you thrive and connect, the easier thriving and connecting become. That's because physical health drives well-being just as well-being drives health. The causal arrow runs in both directions, creating the dynamics of an upward spiral that buoys you up to an ever more balanced and meaningful form of success. Yet there's poignancy to this dynamic too: Your capacity to thrive obeys the biological law of "use it or lose it." So choose it. Choose to take the reigns of your emotional life by devoting more minutes of your day to activities and habits that will coax well-being your way. Your success in life is in the balance.
Read more posts about Thrive from featured HuffPost contributors here.